Kashmir: a treasure of forest herbs

Many of these herbs have medicinal value and are used in the treatment of both common and serious ailments

By Raja Muzaffar Bhat
Published: Tuesday 24 November 2015

Jammu and Kashmir is home to several medicinal herbs which have been traditionally used by forest-dwelling communities and other ethnic groups (Credit: Thinkstock)

Kashmir, called "Paradise on Earth" by Mughal emperor Akbar, is famous for scenic lakes, snow clad mountains, alpine meadows and pastures. But the state is also considered as a treasure trove of herbs which have high medicinal and edible value. These herbs are of great significance to the manufacturing of ayurvedic and unani medicines. Researchers have not fully explored the herbal wealth of Kashmir and a lot needs to be done in this field.

In an attempt to create awareness about them, the Department of Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing of Jammu and Kashmir government, in association with Centre for Conservation of Culture & Heritage (CCCH) and Institute of Hotel Management Srinagar, organised the first ever "Forest Food Festival" on October 4, 2015, in Srinagar. The uses of more than 100 herbs were demonstrated to people. Some 35 dishes were also prepared using the herbs.

Forest and food

"Ann poshi teli, Yeli van poshi" is a famous quote by Kashmir’s 14th century Sufi saint, Sheikh ul Alam. This quote reflects the age-old understanding of the link between forests (van) and food productivity (ann) as forests are repositories of wild relatives of our food crops. It can also be linked to the wild habitat of flower pollinators such as bees, butterflies, beetles and birds. Soil health determines groundwater recharge. Vegetation on mountain slopes checks accelerated rainwater runoff, controlling flash floods and preventing droughts to sustain agriculture and food production.

With recent occurrences such as unprecedented cloudbursts, flash floods, unseasonal hailstorms, damage to orchard flowering and failure of healthy food crops, people are being compelled to adapt to changing seasonal extremes and mitigate the severity of climate change impacts.

The use of edible herbs by forest-dwelling rural communities and other ethnic groups is diminishing due to rapid land use changes, widespread invasion of exotic weeds, proliferation of invasive species in all disturbed soils and displacement of traditional edible plants like Dandelion, Purslane, Senna, Teasel, Nepal Dock, edible Campion, Starwort, Venus comb, Henbit, Adder's tongue, Medick, Paklana vine and Meadow Buttercup. Edible plants in forests have promising potential for innovative value addition and need to be cultivated outside forests so as to serve the twin purpose of biodiversity conservation and sustainable wild edible product usage.

Medicinal value of Kashmiri herbs

Existing research has shown that wild herds which grow in abundance in the forests and villages of Kashmir have a lot of medicinal value. Research conducted by Ghulam Mohammad Mir and Suchit A John from Sam Higginbottom Institute of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences, Allahabad (SHIATS Allahabad) in Pulwama tehsil of South Kashmir details some wild herbs and their medicinal value.

Information was collected mostly from local herb dealers (hakims) during field trips from March to June 2011. This information was rechecked and verified through discussions with hakims and at the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM). The paper was then published in the Journal of Medicinal Plant Studies.

Some herbs and their medicinal value are listed below:

Adiantum cappilus veneris

Local name: Gautheer

Family: Adiantaceae

Habit: Herb

Status: Vulnerable

Uses: Paste of the plant made with ghee is applied as a hair tonic. Extract of the plant is taken for stomach pain and as an expectorant.


Aesculus indica

Local name: Handoon

Family: Sapindaceae

Habit: Tree

Status: Rare

Uses: Extract of the leaves is used to treat fever. The seed oil is used for healthy hair and for treatment of headaches.


Allium sativum

Local name: Roohun

Family: Alliaceae

Habit: Herb

Status: Secure

Uses: Cloves are rubbed on bald portions for hair growth. Cloves are eaten raw or mixed with vegetables as spice for high blood pressure and obesity.


Anagallis arvensis

Local name: Chari Saben

Family: Primulaceae

Habit: Herb

Status: Rare

Uses: For ulcers, crushed plant is applied on affected areas. Extract of rhizome is given for sore throat and as an expectorant.


Arisaema jacquemontii

Local name: Hapet Gogej

Family: Aracaceae

Habit: Herb

Status: Rare

Uses: For muscle strength, ground rhizome is mixed with brassica oil to use for massage. For boils and blisters, dried root or tuber is powdered, mixed with oil and applied on the affected part.


Artmisia absinithium

Local name: Tethwan

Family: Astraceae

Habit: Herb

Status: Vulnerable

Uses: For abdominal pain, extract of the whole plant is taken in small doses. It is also used for chronic fever and gout.


Asperagus recemosus

Local name: Satavar

Family: Asparagaceae

Habit: Herb

Status: Endangered

Uses: For burning sensation of skin, the paste of fresh leaves is applied.

Details about more herbs can be found here.

Edible wild herbs, on the other hand, include Hand (Taraxacum officinale), Wopalhak (Dipsacus innermis), Ubaj (Rumex nepalensis), Prezdar (Eremurus himailicus), Nunar (Portulaca oleracea), Suchal (Malva neglecta), Koku (Stelleria media). They must be grown commercially as they have a lot of nutritional value and can be used in meals.

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