Kerala forests are rich with a variety of medicinal plants that usually find its way to several ayurvedic medicines. From down south Agastyarkoodam to northern Nilamboor, there are different forests, which provide a rich supply of Kerala medicinal plants. The relative absence of side-effects also makes medicinal plants in Kerala forests a special attraction.
Medicinal plants in India counts to more than 2500. More than 1500 species of medicinal plants can be found in Western Ghats. The other belt in India with high concentration of medicinal plants is the heights of Himalayas. Medicinal plants are extremely sensitive to climate. The tropical medicinal plants you find in Kerala cannot be found elsewhere in the world. They are all confined to specific locations..
Kerala has different schemes to protect the medicinal plants and also to cultivate such plants on a large scale to sustain the supply. Now a concerted move is on to protect the natural supply of medicinal plants and to deliver to the global demands of medicinal plants from Kerala forests. Here are some of the important medicinal plants of kerala and its cultivation aspects along with its uses.
In Kerala about 28.90% of the total land area is covered by forests. The total forest area may be around 11,125.59 sq.km which comes under reserve forests, proposed reserve and the vested forest. The forest area in Kerala is near the Western Ghats which lies in the border of the state. Of the total recorded forest area, the actual forest area is just 9400 sq.km.
The forest area of Kerala is spread over the Western Ghats which is one of the world's hot spots of bio-diversity. It is rich in a wide variety of rare and endangered flora and fauna. The forest area in the southern districts of Kerala constitutes about 51% and the remaining percent is in the central and northern districts. The main districts which are covered by forests are Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts. The district with no area under forest is Alappuzha.
The government has taken various steps for conserving the forest and wildlife. They have already banned the cutting down of trees in 1983. With the help of organizations such as World Bank, the government has also started various programmes for afforestation of the forests which includes Community afforestation, compensatory afforestation and general forestry programmes.
There are 5 National Parks in Kerala namely Silent Valley National Park, Eravikulam National Park, Paampadum Shola National Park, Aanamudi Shola National Park and Mathikettaan Shola National Park. There are also 11 Wild life Sanctuaries, 2 Bird Sanctuary and a Tiger Reserve called the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala. During the 19th century about 75% of Kerala was covered by forest which was then reduced to 50% by 20th century. To avoid this degradation of forests, a large area of forest has been brought under Reserve Forest.
Kerala has a variety of vegetation and forest types. The different forest types of Kerala are Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests, Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests, Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests, Mountain Sub Tropical, Rolling Grasslands, Shola Forest, Thorny Scrub Forest, high Sholas etc. As there are a wide variety of forest types, it helps in the growth of a rich variety of flora. The trees of the Tropical Dense Evergreen Forests include White Pine, Punnappa, Bhadraksham, Palai, Maravuri, Vayana etc. The trees in Moist Deciduous Forest include Teak, Maruthi, Karimaruthi, Rosewood, Vengal, Chadachi, Mazhukanjiram etc. Besides these trees there are also many species of flowering, medicinal and non-flowering plants.