Medicinal Plants

Documentation of Sacred Groves in the Parinche valley as part of an ethnobotanical survey

Digital equivalent of herbarium sheet for Guava

Development of new antibiotics has not kept pace with the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Until recently each time an antibiotic lost its effectiveness there was another magic bullet on the pharmacist’s shelf, but now that shelf is almost empty.

In the wake of these facts mainstream medicine is becoming increasingly receptive to the use of antimicrobial and other drugs derived from plants. The research on traditional herbal medicines is gaining an upper hand in the therapeutic market in India. However, detailed evaluation of this research reveals that majority of the studies are restricted to chronic and metabolic disorders and infectious diseases with a global impact, rather than the common man’s diseases including diarrhoea, acute respiratory tract infections, etc.

In 2002, the Foundation initiated research on evaluation of medicinal plants, the prime aim being application of the research on plants for primary health care for use by resource poor communities. Diverting from the conventional approach of utilizing the plants for their antimicrobial activity, the Foundation has been instrumental in developing an innovative approach of assaying the medicinal plants by targeting host-parasite interaction, in lieu of direct killing of the bacteria.

Through the ground work performed on diarrhoeal diseases, the Foundation has gained experience in understanding the requisites of deliverables for the field i.e. designing of a formulation for a given symptom encompassing diverse causative agents and variations in plant material.

The same approach has been extended to the study of plants with anti-TB activity.

Anti-diarrhoeal studies

Based on an ethnobotanical survey of Parinche valley, near Pune, Maharashtra (Tetali et al., 2009) combined with literature review and discussions with ethnobotanists and ayurvedic practitioners, FMR selected six plants for preclinical screening for antidiarrhoeal activity (funded by DST). Amongst these plants, Psidiumguajava leaves (PGL) were found to be the most efficacious.

In-vitro studies demonstrated the antirotaviral and limited antibacterial effect of aqueous decoction of PGL (Birdi et al., 2011). Use of bioassays innovatively, targeting diarrhoeal pathogenesis showed the inhibitory effect of the PGL decoction on bacterial colonization to epithelial cells and production and binding of bacterial enterotoxins (Birdi et al., 2010). This was further supported by the results obtained in Project 1. In addition, no advantage was observed by using a mixture of PGL and A. marmelos decoction.

Hence further studies were undertaken with PGL extract alone.

Whilst PGL could have been popularized as a self help measure, our experience revealed that even village communities preferred a single dose formulation (SDF) rather than preparation of a decoction (Project 1).

The next phase of the work thus concentrated on development of an SDF. Corpus funds of the FMR were utilized to demonstrate the in-vivo efficacy of the guava leaf extract (Project 3) and correlating the metabolic profile of mouse bio fluids to the antidiarrhoeal activity of guava leaves (Project 4).

The preliminary studies were also undertaken in two further areas viz., preparation of a 50% hydroalcoholic extract and its standardization (Project 2) followed by development of SDF (Project 5).


Dr. Elaine Holmes, Imperial College, London

Dr. Rama Jayasundar, AIIMS, New Delhi

Dr. V. Alvaro, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa

Dr. Ram Vishwakarma, Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu

Dr. HB. Singh, Mittal Ayurvedic College, Mumbai

Dr. Subarna Roy, Regional Medical Centre, Belgaum.

Dr. Prakash B Behere, Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Wardha.

Dr. Vaishali Kuchewar, Mahatma Gandhi Ayurvedic College, Hospital & Research Centre, Salod.

Key Events

 Workshop on “Approaches towards evaluation of medicine plants prior to clinical trials” at Yaswantarao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA), Pune on 8th November 2006

Lecture cum discussion “From Plant Products to Modern Medicines” by Dr. Jan Karlsen, Head Department of Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmacy, University of Oslo, Norway and Senior Technical Expert to WHO, UNIDO at Indian International Centre, New Delhi on 28th February 2008 at FMR, Mumbai on 1st March 2008.

A talk on “Potential of Metabolomics as a tool for modernization of Traditional Medicine” by Prof. Elaine Holmes, Imperial College, London was arranged in New Delhi on 30th August 2012 and in Mumbai on 3rd September 2012.

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