In the high, hostile peaks of the Himalayas where sustaining life is a challenge in itself, scientists say they have found a “wonder herb” that can regulate the immune system, help adapt to the mountain environment and, above all, protect from radioactivity.
Rhodiola, a herb found in the cold and highland climate, 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.
Locally called ‘Solo’ in Ladakh, the qualities of Rhodiola were largely unknown so far. The leafy parts of the plant were used as vegetable by locals. However, research by the Leh-based Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) is exploring the therapeutic values of the herb.
“Rhodiola is a wonder plant that has immunomodulatory [enhancing immune], adaptogenic [adapting to difficult climatic condition] and radio-protecting abilities due to presence of secondary metabolites and phytoactive compounds unique to the plant,” R.B. Srivastava, Director, DIHAR, told IANS.
Mr. Srivastava said the herb can mitigate the effects of gamma radiation used in bombs in biochemical warfare. 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. “While 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,” said Mr. Srivastava.