by Jolanta Basnyet
I have always
been very fond of Nepal and fell in love with Nepalese essential oils
over a decade ago. During my first visit to Nepal in the late eighties,
I found Nepalese people very hospitable, genuine and courteous! I tried
to follow my friend’s advice on my first visit to Nepal. I was told
that I could bring the price down to almost half if I bargained. Well,
in India this system did work. I observed that prices in India were
usually inflated so much that it left the purchaser with a wide option
of bringing it down to almost half. However, in Nepal the situation
was not the same by any means. I tried to bargain the price for a beautifully
carved wooden window and after only my first attempt, I was told that
I can either pay the quoted price or leave the shop. Nepalese people
are proud and genuine.
It is therefore
understandable that my sentiment for Nepal and Nepalese people is growing
in affection and understanding with the passage of years and my experiences
as a therapist.
My main purpose
of this year’s visit to India and Nepal was to re-discover and explore
in greater depth the area of essential oils, the availability and quality
of natural raw materials for the extraction of essential oils and first
and foremost their efficacy when applied in treating different conditions.
I have achieved
my aim and purchased several essential oils directly from the processing
plant in the Tibetan Shangri-la. I have been using Tibetan essential
oils in our clinic in Preston for over a decade now. They can grow
hair, iron out wrinkles, sort out digestive problems such as diarrhoea
or irritable bowel syndrome and bring back to life a person suffering
from cardiac arrest or a heart attack. They are strong in action in
the same way as the herbs, from which they are extracted. They have
to be strong to survive the inclement conditions of the mountainous
region in their original indigenous habitat.
I was not surprised
when I found out that Nepalese oils were more valued regarding their
clinical application than their Indian counterparts. I was led to understand
that the market value of any of the Nepalese medicinal plants is higher
than the raw material from the Indian region. I decided to gain more
knowledge regarding the properties of essential oils and market situation
in the field of medicinal plants in India, Pakistan and Nepal.
My less important
item on the agenda was to relax in the warm weather and enjoy hospitality
of these two countries. And warm it was! With no rain for almost 12
weeks, the sun was scorching hot (nearly 40°C in the shade). However,
I was taken round the processing plant in Kathmandu with an abundance
of Nepalese hospitality.
and Management of Herbal Resources
I had stopped
in India to hold a meeting with Dr Karki, PhD. Dr Karki is the Regional
Program Co-ordinator for the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Program
in Asia. This programme is conducted by the International Development
Research Centre from their office in Delhi. In Kathmandu, I had the
pleasure of holding talks with Messrs Bhattarai and Bajracharya of
the Herbs Production & Processing Co Ltd and Dr Krishna Amatya – a
consultant of the Shambala Herbal & Aromatic Industry.
all over the world express their deep concern regarding the availability
of natural resources which serve as raw materials for the production
of natural homoeopathic and herbal remedies. We all have well founded
interests in complementary medicine, but the depletion of natural resources
is giving concern to scientists and therapists alike.
The problem is
two-fold. I find that the first and immediate concern is the fact that
we seem to have instigated many illnesses and diseases which originate
from a man-made source. These are the response of the human body to
chemical pollution, new cross-breeds of bacteria in hospitals and a
negative response to the effect of transplant operations which involve
animal matter being introduced into the body of a Homo Sapien. These
unusual diseases can also be caused by the ingestion of animal food
items carrying the infectious matter, which in turn can breed and affect
the human body and mind. The detrimental effect of BSE is a well known
fact, although it was fiercely denied at the time by farmers and scientists
important factor is that natural remedies and herbal or homoeopathic
medicine may not be as effective when confronted with man-made bacteria
and chemical pollution. The increasing number of reported and diagnosed
ME cases that I see in the clinic in Preston makes me think that pollution
in the air, in the water and in the food chain cause ME to become a
widely acceptable illness and although diagnosed and accepted in its
strange form, the pathology of it is still an enigma to the medical
and management of our natural resources such as herbs and medicinal
plants need to be put in a workable framework so that short and long-term
planning can be put into practice.
Dr Karki was concerned
mainly with the area of India and Pakistan because India is one of
the largest suppliers of raw materials world-wide. India exports significant
quantities of raw materials to other countries. Some of these exports
are associated with traditional medicine. However, India’s comparative
advantage in producing materials for export has not, as yet, been exploited
to the full.
During our conversation,
Dr Karki emphasised the fact that with the exception of a limited number
of plant species, the production base relies mainly on materials harvested
from the wild. Current practices are unsustainable and many studies
have shown rapid depletion of the natural resource base. This problem
is further compounded by the inequitable nature of the harvesting and
marketing of the plants, thereby perpetuating impoverishment for those
charged with stewarding and gathering the resource. Evidence points
to a limited number of people profiting in dramatic disproportion to
India and Pakistan are known to be storehouses of biological diversity.
They need to focus on sustaining the resource base of medicinal plants.
Efforts to relieve pressure on wild plants through cultivation have
made a good start but have a long way to go. This is a complex issue
by virtue of the sheer numbers of plant species and the need for sustainable
propagation, suitable agronomic practices, the selection of superior
genotypes and linking production to people.
I was informed would need to be looked at from the point of view of
the resource base, the use of medicinal plants at the local level,
marketing channels, exports, the domestic drug production sector and
co-ordination efforts as well as the dissipation of informative material.
After all, almost 75 per cent of raw materials in the pharmaceutical
industry utilises natural medicinal plant matter.
In Nepal, Dr Bhattarai
agreed that most of the available data regarding the formal sectors
are in aggregate form and such statistics supply little information
about how the market actually works; they rely solely on market price
as an indicator of value. Much more attention therefore needs to be
given to the socio-institutional context of the market in the geographical
area of the Indian Sub-Continent.
We have to realise
that, according to the World Health Organisation, over 80 per cent
of the world’s population relies on traditional forms of medicine,
largely plant-based, to meet primary health care needs. In India alone,
the collection and processing of medicinal plants and plant products
contributes at least 35 million man days each year to the national
economy, as a source of both full and part-time employment. Microstudies
suggest that a large number of those employed are women. In recognition
of the significance of the sub-sector, and the fact that it is largely
undocumented, the World Bank and the IDRC Medicinal Plants Network
(IMPN) agreed to produce a report on the medicinal plants sector in
this part of the world.
Dr Bhattarai –
General Manager – informed me that The Herb Production & Processing
Co Ltd in Kathmandu involves about 600 families in the cultivation
and processing business as outgrowers for the company. Also, the company
grows the natural medicinal plant material in private farms in the
Kathmandu valley and beyond and the company has a production unit in
every farm and also in the private sector growers’ vicinity. In total,
I was advised that HPPCL employs 160 staff and about 5000 herbs collectors.
The report suggests
that despite a wealth of resources – biological, human and financial
– being available, the lack of a co-ordinated approach which considers
sustainable and equitable development in the short-term as well as
long-term goals for the sub-sector, has resulted in the under-utilisation
and over- exploitation of the valuable plant resources.
I have purchased
several Nepalese essential oils and brought further samples of essential
oils as well as raw material for laboratory testing. One of the interesting
Nepalese essential oils is Rhododendron. This plant is a national symbol
in Nepal. Rhododendron anthopogon grows in Nepal at an altitude of
4300-4000 m. It is harvested in several regions in Nepal. Anthopogon
oil, as it is usually referred to in Nepal, is obtained by steam distillation
of the aerial part of this shrub. It is a fluid liquid of pale yellow
colour and sweet-herbal, faintly balsamic aroma. The physico-chemical
properties of Anthopogon oil in terms of acid number is 1.54 to 4.06
and Ester number is 5.40 to 25.92. Due to altitudinal and regional
variations some oils are soluble in 95% alcohol and some are not. Rhododendron
can be used in gouty rheumatic conditions. The essential oil is a stimulant
and affects fibrous tissue, bones and nervous system. I was informed
that it works on people who are sensitive to windy and stormy wet weather
when usually any disorder they suffer from will display aggravated
symptoms. We shall start using this essential oil in the clinic, but
would like to know much more about it.
Xanthoxylum essential oil has many aromatherapeutic uses. It is commonly
known as Prickly Ash. The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation
of the dried fruits of Xanthoxylum armatum. It is a fluid liquid in
appearance and of light yellow colour. Nepalese Xanthoxylum essential
oil has a refreshing, pleasant and spicy aroma. The oil is rich in
linalool, and also contains limonene, methyl cinnamate and cineole.
It possesses strong anti-infectious characteristics with a sedative
effect on the body. It is commonly used for arthritic conditions. The
oil is considered to be carminative and stomachic. However, the most
effective action of this oil is within the circulatory system. It works
well on chilblains, cramp in the legs, varicose veins and varicose
ulcers. Due to its stimulating effect upon the lymphatic system, circulation
and mucous membranes, it can play an important role in clinical aromatherapy.
The Curcuma Zedoaria
essential oil is produced from the rhizomes of Curcuma zedoaria Roscoe.
In Nepal, this oil is better known as Sathi. The oil is viscous and
of golden yellow colour. It has a warm-spicy, woody and camphoraceous
cineolic odour. It has pronounced effect on the digestive system. It
is a known stimulant and carminative. It can be applied directly to
bruises to speed up healing.
However, one of
the most used in the clinic essential oil is the essential oil of Jatamansi
(Spikenard) which is obtained by steam distillation of dried rhizomes
of Nardostachys jatamansi D.C.
It is a slightly
viscous liquid in appearance and varies from amber to deep blue or
greenish blue colour. The aroma of Jatamansi oil is lingering, heavy,
sweet-woody and spicy-animal when used in treatment.
In clinical aromatherapy,
Jatamansi oil can be employed in the treatment of epilepsy, hysteria
and in many varieties of convulsive affections. It is used in cases
of heart palpitations (even as a substitute for Valerian). At the Preston
clinic, this oil is being used successfully in intestinal colic and
nervous disorders. Its antispasmodic characteristics are unsurpassed.
Clinical aroma- therapists do appreciate Jatamansi’s properties as
a diuretic, carminative, stomachic and laxative (excellent when used
over time in cases of chronic constipation). Tibetan herbalists use
Jatamansi oil for the purpose of hair growth and colour restoration.
The results are more than rewarding as many patients in our clinic
would testify. This essential oil shows excellent results in combating
baldness and grey hair.
grows in the Himalayan regions at the altitude of 4300-5100 m. The
raw material for the extraction of this oil is prized if it is harvested
in the Nepalese range of mountains. Its name derives from the Tamil
language. The herb is used in tribal medicine for incurable skin conditions
and is believed to contain anti-ageing properties.
One of our patients
used Jatamansi oil when her husband, suffering from high blood pressure,
collapsed at home. She could not feel his pulse and he became unconscious.
Waiting for the ambulance, she tried to think how to help her husband.
In a trauma of the circumstance, she ran to the bathroom cabinet and
took the Jatamansi oil. She started to massage her husband and let
him smell the oil on a tissue. When the ambulance arrived, her husband
was sitting on the carpet propped up comfortably against the wall.
He later fully recovered in hospital. This anecdotal evidence is well
documented on our patient’s file.
The above information
is only a fraction of knowledge I have gained by visiting India and
Nepal this year. I decided to share my experience and my fascination
for the countries of the Indian Sub-Continent and the range of their
natural medicines, and particularly so for the Himalayan Kingdom and
its interesting flora.
And so it is Namaste!
A Nepalese greeting which conveys my wishes for peace of mind and body.
About the Author:
is the Principal of the Lancashire Holistic College and proprietor
of the Natural Health Centre in Preston. She holds bona fide professional
qualifications in the fields of Body Massage, Aromatherapy, and
Reflexology. She is also qualified and fully trained as an Osteopath.
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