Wonder shrub

Print edition : March 11, 2011

The sea-buckthorn plant. - DRDO

SEA-BUCKTHORN is a wonder plant. Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Environment and Forests, was so captivated by it that he lost little time in meeting K. Kasturirangan, member of the Planning Commission, to get approval for a Rs.25-crore pilot project to cultivate it in the trans-Himalayan region. He learnt about it at a national conference on the sea-buckthorn organised on November 26, 2010, by the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, a laboratory in New Delhi of the DRDO.

A hardy plant, the sea-buckthorn grows in sub-zero temperatures and where there is low water availability. The project will be a forerunner to a Rs.500-crore National Mission on Sea-buckthorn, under the aegis of the DRDO, as part of the Green India Mission. Plans are afoot to cultivate the plant first on 11,500 hectares in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. Ultimately, it will be cultivated on 50,000 ha in Ladakh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh.

Every part of the sea-buckthorn plant has a use. Its leaves can be used to make herbal tea. Its fruit can be used to make juice, biscuits, jam, jelly and sauce. Eight industries market this juice under different brand names. Its root nodules have nitrogen-fixing properties and thus enrich the soil. The roots stabilise the soil in the trans-Himalayan region and help ward off landslips. The DRDO has developed an anti-ultraviolet ray cream from oil extracted from its seed. The plant has anti-ageing, antioxidant and flavonoid properties and can quench gamma radiation. It has wound-healing properties.

The Union government has a major programme called Charak' to use the wisdom of herbal medicines. It focusses on three plants: sea-buckthorn, Podophyllum and Rhodiola, said W. Selvamurthy, Chief Controller (Life Sciences), DRDO. A phytochemical analysis of the sea-buckthorn fruit revealed that it contains C and E. In vitro and in vivo studies of its fruits and leaves showed that the plant's cells were protected against chromium toxicity, he said.

T.S. Subramanian
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