Sikkim – Home To Rhododendron Herb, Linked With COVID-19 Treatment 

 

  • Sujal Pradhan, NET Correspondent, Sikkim 

The recent claim made by the researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) of identifying phytochemicals in the petals of a Himalayan plant – Rhododendron which could potentially treat COVID-19 infection seems to be boon for the northeastern state of Sikkim.

Locally termed as ‘Gurans’, Rhododendron is the state tree of Sikkim. The tiny Himalayan state hosts around 38 species of Rhododendrons – found at a height of 1,700-5,500 metres.

According to local populace, Rhododendron are utilized to treat various ailments like – diarrhoea, headache, inflammation, bacterial and fungal infections, fever, constipation, bronchitis and asthma. Whereas, its leaves possess effective antioxidant activity.

The Director-in-charge of Regional Ayurveda Research Institute (RARI), Sikkim Dr. Shriprakash shared “Sikkim will benefit if the research further excels and gets approved for trial as Sikkim has a huge quantity of Rhododendron and what we felt is more research in concerned field is required, government can also shift their focus along this area, so that it can be developed further which will not only benefit medically but economically.”

Dr Shriprakash also stated that “a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Forest department is already in process for considering the potential herbs and medicinal plants available in the state. We already had one meeting so once we sign the MoU we will start research work to explore the potential s of medicinal plants and flowers after in future we will also conduct clinical trials if everything goes well.”

According to biologists of IIT Mandi “We had some knowledge about the medicinal plants and started documenting phytochemical molecules of rare and endangered plants growing in the Himalayas. Initially, the idea was to create a library which will be useful for future therapeutic purposes, food industry, nutrition purposes, etc. But it was during the 2020 lockdown forced by the Covid-19 pandemic that we decided to look deeper at those molecules that were already documented,” said biologists who has been involved in studying rare and endangered plants in the Himalayas since 2019. Their study was also published in the journal ‘Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics’.

Its worthy to note that the northeastern state of Sikkim capitalizes on the flowering season of Rhododendrons by organizing cultural events which further enhances its tourist edge.