Some Important Medicinal Plants of Cold Desert Regions of District Kinnaur of Himachal Pradesh State in India: Their uses and Chemical Ingredients

Research Article

J Plant Chem and Ecophysiol. 2016; 1(2): 1009.

Some Important Medicinal Plants of Cold Desert Regions of District Kinnaur of Himachal Pradesh State in India: Their Uses and Chemical Ingredients

Verma RK and Tewari VP*

Himalayan Forest Research Institute Conifer Campus, India

*Corresponding author: Tewari VP, Himalayan Forest Research Institute Conifer Campus, Shimla, India

Received: May 10, 2016; Accepted: June 09, 2016; Published: June 10, 2016


Himalayan region including cold deserts has the richest medicinal plant resource of India. More than 50% medicinal plants traditionally used in India come from the Himalayan region. During the field studies of cold deserts of Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, India about 113 plants of medicinal value were documented. This article highlighted the information on habitat, plant parts used, uses and chemical ingredient of 22 most important medicinal plant species. Out of 22 plant species, 11 i.e. Aconitum heterophyllum, Arnebia euchroma, Betula utilis, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Ephedra gerardiana, Hippophae rhamnoides, Hyssopus officinalis, Hyoscyamus niger, Jurinea dolomiaea, Picrorhiza kurroo, Rhododendron campanulatum fall in the category of threatened plants. The rarity in these medicinal plants is due to habitat alteration, narrow range of distribution, over grazing and over harvesting. The better conservation of natural resources can be done by inclusion of a section on the conservation of rare and endangered medicinal plants in the wild life protection act, promotion of community based conservation, In-situ conservation through the establishment of nature reserves, Ex-situ conservation through tissue culture and developing medicinal plant nurseries.

Keywords: Cold deserts; Medicinal plants; Habitat; Chemical ingredients; Himachal pradesh


Himalayas, one of the largest and youngest mountain chains in the world, cover roughly 10% of India total land surface. The diverse climate and the varied environmental conditions of Himalayas support diverse habitat and ecosystems with equally diverse life forms. It provides an important habitat to the flora and fauna including 9,000 species of angiosperms and hence, is considered as the hot spot of biodiversity [1]. There are about 3,470 species considered exclusively endemic to the Himalayas [2].

Medicinal plants have been used as a major source of therapeutic agents by man for thousands of years. India is a one of the richest medicinal plant resources of the world. This vast wealth is widely distributed in different parts of the country having specific phytogeographical entities. In India, out of 17,000 species of flowering plants about 17% are considered to be of medicinal value [3]. As per an estimate, out of over 1600 species of medicinal plants traditionally used in India, more than 50% species come from the Himalayan region [4]. The World Health Organization has estimated that some 80% of the developing world relied on their traditional medicines and that of these 85% use plants or their extracts as the active substance [5]. Earlier, only the local people used these plants resources for their own consumption, but in recent years there has been a sudden rise in the demand of herbal products and plant based drugs across the world resulting in the heavy exploitation of medicinal plants.

The cold deserts in India have been formed primarily due to the rain shadow effect of the towering main Himalayan mountain wall and its offshoot ranges those run in an accurate shape from the Indus gap in north west to the Brahmaputra gap in the north east. In India, the cold deserts mainly occur in Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir, Spiti valley of Lahaul & Spiti district and Pooh sub division of Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh with some area falling in the state of Uttarakhand and North- east region of India with a total geographical area of about 1,26,400 km2. The total geographical area under cold deserts in Himachal Pradesh is about 11,000 km2, out of which 3,400 km2 lies in Kinnaur district [2]. Human pressure on natural ecosystems is intensifying, some being incompatible with survival of certain species of plant. The assessment of medicinal plant wealth in this harsh cold arid belt may provide a key for their conservation. Keeping these facts in view attempts were made to documents the medicinal plants, their uses and chemical ingredients found in cold desert of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh.

Description of study areas

Kinnaur is located in the North-Eastern part of Himachal Pradesh and it shares its Eastern boundary with Tibet. The Zanskar Mountains form the international frontier between Kinnaur and Tibet. Kinnaur is a tribal area of Himachal Pradesh in true style. It consists of very high mountains, deep valleys or gorges, glaciers and rivers. The river Satluj, which is the main river draining this district, divides it into two unequal parts. The district has a number of valleys varying in altitude from 1000 m to 5000 m [6]. Most of the areas in Kinnaur have a temperate climate due to its high elevation. The lower parts of the Satluj valley and the Baspa valley receive monsoon rains. The upper areas of the Kinnaur mainly Pooh sub division fall in the rain shadow area. These areas are considered to be cold desert areas and having climate similar to that of Tibet. Accordingly, study was conducted in different areas of cold deserts of Pooh sub division of district Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh (Table 1, Figure 1).