Kalmegh or Andrographis Paniculata a medicinal herb of Acanthaceae family, is one of the 32 medicinal plants in high demand all over the world. The plant is abundantly found in the agency areas of Visakhapatnam and East Godavari districts. The rich potential of the medicinal resource could not be tapped until recently for want of technical know-how and absence of market linkages. Locally it is also called as ‘nilavembu and adavi mirchi’. It is a herb used in siddha and ayurvedic medicine for multi-clinical applications. Kalmegh grows erect to a height of 30 to 100 cm in moist and shady places. The slender stem is dark green. It is an erect annual herb extremely bitter in taste in all parts of the plant body. It is native to India, China and Southeast Asia. The square stem has wings on the angles of new growth and is enlarged at the nodes while the small flowers are borne on a spreading panicle. It is widely cultivated in Asia. The above ground parts are collected in the fall. The genetic variability of the species has been examined. The plant is known in north-eastern India as Maha-tita, literally “king of bitters” and also known as Buhi-neem meaning ‘neem of the ground’ since the plant, though being a small annual herb, has a similar strong bitter taste as that of large neem tree. It is known for its exceptional ability to protect the liver, brain and heart, the three major organs that embody the body, heart and spirit complex of shaman ritualistic medicine. Recent findings indicated that the application of Kalmeg properties resulted in shortened duration and reduced symptoms of cold. A mere 3-6 grams of the dried herb when used daily, showed a marked reduction in cold symptoms whether eaten raw or made into tea. The plant extract also has anti-typhoid and anti-fungal properties and is also reported to possess anti-hepatoxic, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties to mention a few. Its general use as an immuno-stimulant agent in upper respiratory tract infections and HIV infection and decoction of the plant as a blood purifier is also well known. The herb has been primarily used for liver complaints and to reduce fevers in the traditional medicines of India and China as well as for bitter tonic properties. The potential of andrographolides as an anti-cancer agent is being investigated. Recently 3,160 kg of Kalmegh had been procured and sold to Bangalore based firm, Natural Remedies Private Limited, by Adavithalli Girijan Mahila MAC society of Chintapaka village in Ananthagiri mandal in the district. The tribal farmers could get Rs.27.50 per kg. The society is planning to give bonus to the Kalmegh collectors. Kovel Foundation, an NGO was instrumental in the training of tribal people in scientific collection and processing packaging practices and on harvesting and post-harvesting practices.
Source : The Hindu