Monday, December 22, 2014

Medicines from the Wilderness

A few minutes walk from my ancestral home in Mundur, Palakkad is the "Ayurveda Raw Drugs Collection Centre". It has been here for decades and I have walked past it many many times without casting a glance in that direction. On my recent trip back home, I was curious to go in and take a look.


I walked in with my father. The warehouse had heaps and heaps of dry leaves, stems, barks, roots stacked up to the ceiling. These raw materials are dried, powdered and sent to the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy in Coimbatore where they are mixed and processed to make Ayurvedic medicines to treat all kinds of ailments. The staff at the center revealed to us the potency of these wild medicines when compared to their farmed local varieties. All local, insipid varieties are rejected. Wild black peppers and gooseberries I learnt are very high in medicinal value. 

A native community of medicine men leave early in the morning in small groups to collect these materials. They climb up the mountains and walk all over the wild forested areas and return late afternoon carrying large bundles on their head. These men are experts in identifying medicinal herbs and they know the landscape like the palm of their hands. 

Later in the evening, as I was talking to my paternal aunt about my visit and she told me about the extraordinary health of these men. The daily physical labor and the scent of the medicinal herbs in the pure mountain air was enough to keep them in the peak of health upto a ripe old age.

We are steadily losing these wild areas to cultivation and massive clearing for so called rural development. The key to our health lies deep inside the untouched wilderness. When the wilderness is lost, the ancient medicines and cures will be lost forever. We must preserve and protect the wilderness. The destiny of the wilderness is the destiny of mankind!

"In wilderness is the preservation of the world" - Henry David Thoreau 

"In God's wildness lies the hope of the world - the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness" - John Muir

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