Therapeutic Himalayan herbs: Folklore uses, bioactive phytochemicals, and biological activities of medicinal orchids used by Nomads


  • Bikarma Singh Botanic Garden Division, CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow 226001, Uttar Pradesh, India; Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR), Ghaziabad 201002, Uttar Pradesh, India


Distribution, Eco-taxonomy, Ethnobotany, Himalayas, Pharmacology


Natural products have bioactive properties which have been exploited for human and animal use for hundreds of years. Orchids are one of the largest, diverse, and most evolved groups of plants within monocot angiosperms. Different species under this category have been recognized as the most threatened plants due to poor seed germination, the need for endophytic mycorrhizal partners, and habitat destructions coupled with climate change. The majority of orchid taxa are known to have therapeutic potential due to the presence of bioactive substances, such as alkaloids, bibenzyls, phenanthrenes, phenanthrenequinones, glycosides, carbohydrates, flavonoids, and stilbenoids. In this study, twenty-eight indigenous Himalayan orchids were documented from six Himalayan states and one union territory of India viz., Acampe ochracea, Aerides odorata, A. multiflora, Anoectochilus setaceus, Arundina graminifolia, Bulbophyllum odoratissimum, Coelogyne corymbosa, C. punctulata, Crepidium acuminatum, Cymbidium aloifolium, C. elegans, Dendrobium densiflorum, D. fimbriatum, D. fugax, D. nobile, Eulophia graminea, Habenaria dentata, H. marginata, Herminium lanceum, Liparis nervosa, Papilionanthe teres, Phaius tankervilleae, Pholidota imbricata, P. pallida, Porpax muscicola, Rhynchostylis retusa, Vanda coerulea and V. cristata familiar to nomadic tribes for use as medicine in their daily life. Data collected on species identity and nomenclature, local names, uses, bioactive constituents, pharmacological bioactivities, and phenology are presented. These findings will help in preserving Himalayan traditional knowledge, conservation of endangered plants, and research and development associated with wild orchids or similar taxa elsewhere in the globe.