Flower power

Rhododendron is a health freak's delight

By Anil P Joshi & Namami Sharma
Published: Thursday 30 June 2005

Flower power

-- The Rhododendron tree is a poet's inspiration and a health freak's delight. It enjoys the status of being the state flower of Nepal, Sikkim, Uttaranchal, and the us states of Washington and West Virginia. Around 110 species of the evergreen tree are found in India. The flowers of most species are extremely popular owing to their medicinal properties. They contain ursolic acid and quercitrin, which have anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. A concoction of the flowers helps fight diarrhoea and dysentery. The leaves and flowers of R barbatum contain andromedotoxin -- a substance that helps reduce blood pressure. R companulatum leaves can be used as a cure for diseases like chronic rheumatism, syphilis and sciatica. Furthermore, they can be mixed with tobacco and used as a snuff to cure hemicranias and cold. Leaves of R indicum are a good source of vitamin c. Leaves and flowers of R ponticum possess narcotic properties; they can help combat gout and rheumatism.

The wood of the tree is used for making dishware and boxes. The leaves are used as insecticide. The flowers are used for ornamental and religious purposes. They also yield an aromatic oil, which is used for making perfumes and incense.

Many people in hilly regions collect Rhododendron flowers, used for manufacturing bottled juice. Market trend shows there is a large gap in the demand-supply chain. This is mainly due to unscientific methods of harvesting and processing. The gap has led to adulteration, marring the popularity of Rhododendron.

Anil P Joshi and Namami Sharma work with the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation, a non-governmental organisation based in Rudraprayag

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