Indian scientists have found a “wonder herb” that can regulate the immune system, help adapt to the mountain environment like Himalayas and, above all, protect from radioactivity. The Leh-based lab of the DRDO, the world’s highest agro-animal research laboratory, has been studying this wonder plant for more than a decade.
“Rhodiola“(binomial name :-Rhodiola rosea), a herb found in the cold and highland climate like in the peaks of the Himalayas where sustaining life is a challenge in itself. This herb has led the country’s leading scientists to wonder if it is the end to the quest for sanjeevani, the mythical herb that gave renewed life to Ram’s brother Lakshman in the epic Ramayana.
R. rosea (Genus :- Rhodiola) grows in cold regions of the world, including much of the Arctic. The leafy parts of the plant were used as vegetable by locals. In local language it is called as ‘Solo’ in Ladakh, the qualities of Rhodiola were largely unknown so far. Several shoots grow from the same thick root. Shoots may reach 5 to 35 cm in height. R. rosea is dioecious (having separate female and male plants).
However, research by the Leh-based Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) is exploring the therapeutic values of the herb. Scientists have identified about 140 chemical compounds in the subterranean portions of R. rosea. Rhodiola roots contain phenols,rosavin, rosin, rosarin, organic acids, terpenoids, phenol-carbonic acids and their derivatives, flavonoids, anthraquinones, and alkaloids.
According to Mr. R.B. Srivastava, Director, DIHAR, “Rhodiola is a wonder plant that has immuno-modulatory [enhancing immune], adaptogenic [adapting to difficult climatic condition] and radio-protecting abilities due to presence of secondary metabolites and photoactive compounds unique to the plant”. It can reduced the effects of gamma radiation used in bombs in biochemical warfare.
The research team thinks that, its adaptogenic qualities can help the soldiers in adjusting to the low pressure, low oxygen environment, the plant has also been found to have anti-depressant and appetiser properties. Researchers suggests that R. rosea may enhance the detoxification of many toxic heavy metals. The herb is found in U.S, China Europe and a few other parts of the world where the researchers are working upon it.