Rural folk are largely simple people. Their needs and wants are limited. Their lifestyles are simple and devoid of stress. They are more in tune with Nature. So their health problems are less complicated as compared to that of city-dwellers. Their robust health may be because of their dependence on the myriad natural plant remedies for most of their ailments.
The villagers may not know it but their plant remedies are chock-full of phytochemicals, the plants’ own defense mechanisms. These phytochemicals have incredible and innumerable beneficial properties. They protect from diseases. They cure illnesses and mend injuries. They resolve health problems and strengthen bodies' immune systems.
One such remedy is that of an endangered Himalayan plant called Potentilla fulgens. This plant is one species among about 500 species of the genus Potentilla, or cinquefoils, of the rose family Rosaceae. Potentilla fulgens is also one of the thousands of medicinal plants that populate the forests of India. Commonly called the Himalayan Cinquefoil this plant has of late attracted a good amount of interest in the scientific community.
Potentilla fulgens grows wild in Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Northeast India, including Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. They thrive in moist regions in temperate and alpine Himalayan upper ranges between 1800m to 4350m. They love heavy soils, grow well on rocky grasslands or under shades of Rhododendrons.
Potentilla fulgens grow from 15 cm to 75 cm in height. Their roots are woody and stocky, with palmate leaves in a pinnate (alternate) arrangement on either side of the stem. Flowers are small and yellow, 1-2 cm in diameter. Flowering is during June-July and fruiting happens in July-August. By September the leaves start to age and fall.
In Meghalaya, the plants have a symbiotic relationship with an endophytic fungus called Penicillin verruculosum that lives within its healthy tissues. This way the plant protects the fungus from herbivores while the fungus aids its abundant growth despite heavy rainfall. Potentilla fulgens is well known in the Ayurvedic, Tibetan and Chinese systems of medicine. It is also widely used in traditional and indigenous medicine because of its wide therapeutic value.
Potentilla Fulgens is known by various names. They are commonly called: English – Cinquefoil, Hindi – Bajradanti, Nepali – Dentamanjari, Tibetan – San ge Zil pa, Khasi – Lynniang, Lynniangbru, Langning or Langsning.
Traditional societies partake of the plant either in raw form, dried or powdered, or both. Every part of the plant is used, including the root peel which has anti-cancer properties. Its total edibility makes it safe as a remedy.
It's because of the plant's main phytochemical compounds — the polyphenols and flavonoids and other bio-active phytochemicals. The polyphenolic compounds have anti-cancer properties. They interfere with the proteins present in cancer cells and inhibit the growth of the cells. The flavonoids also demonstrate cell toxicity (cytotoxicity) on cancer cells besides being anti-oxidant with high free-radical scavenging properties.
Some important polyphenolic compounds and their properties:
Other compounds are catechin, ellagic acid, kaempferol and quercetin. Polyphenols are also anti-oxidants and free radical scavengers. They form stable compounds with metal ions, proteins and polysaccharides.
This seemingly ugly looking root has incredible curative properties. Scientists attribute these properties to the synergistic action of the plant’s high total phenolic content (TPC) and its other bio-active components. Scientific studies have revealed many therapeutic benefits of P.fulgens.
Some of them are:
Potentilla fulgens holds the promise of valuable substances with therapeutic value. Realizing this, scientists have also called for more detailed studies to draw out the full potential of the plant.
The plant's medicinal properties have resulted in its rampant harvesting from its wild habitat. It is now in the list of endangered plants of the world. Fortunately, there is some effort by governments to protect this precious herb (and many other valuable plants) through gene pool conservation. This brings hope for the future generations' medicinal remedy needs. If it works for the indigenous tribes people, it will work for everyone else too.
A piece of the root in the everyday diet should do no harm but great good. Potentilla fulgens surely can be one root to root out your health problem!
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