645px bletilla striata2 Bletilla striata. Photography credit: KENPEI

Using Orchids as Medicine


by Anu Dharmani

Posted by Sys Admin 8 months ago.

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Though we all admire orchids for their beauty, but there is more to them then that. For centuries they have been used by locals/tribals as a source of medicine. Many ancient societies have literature that cites use of orchids for treating various ailments. Some of these are mentioned below.

Taking water decoction of the whole plant of Anoectochilus formosanus has been observed to prevents tumor activity (inhibit tumor growth in mice, especially in colon tumors). Tubers of Bletilla striata are peeled and sun-dried then either cut into slices or are powdered. These tubers should be collected using a non-metal tool during August till November. The powdered tubers can be used externally for treating various skin problems such as swellings, acne sores, boils and cracked skin of hands and feet. other use: take 6 grams of powdered tubers thrice daily to stop bleeding in the stomach and/or intestines. The initial bitter taste turns sweet after chewing for some time. Though, long term use of this is not recommended as it can get toxic.

The tubers of many Eulophia species that grow in India have a high mineral content and tribal people are known to use these regularly. Especially, Eulophia campestris tubers that are dried in sun and powdered, and then boiled with 40 parts of water or cooked with milk (1 tsp powder to 1 teacupful of milk) to treat phthisis, diabetes, chronic diarrhea and dysentery.

Dried and powdered plants of Aerides crispum are boiled in neem oil, then filtered. 2-3 drops of this oil put into ear once at night can cure earache. Taking a teaspoonful of powdered roots of Orchis latifolia cooked in a cup of milk, can cure diarrhea and dysentery as well as weakness. A paste of leaves of Vanda roxburghii when applied on whole body can bring down fever. The juice of pounded leaves can be used to cure otitis media. Leaves of Vanda tessellate can also be used similarly. The juice of the stem of Dendrobium ovatum obtained by hand-crushing can be taken to cure constipation and stomach ache.

Note: The medicinal usages mentioned above cannot be used in replacement of prescribed drugs. Please consult a qualified practitioner before starting the above mentioned herbal medicine.

1. Bulpitt C. J, et.al. 2007. The use of orchids in Chinese medicine. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dec; 100(12): 558–563.
2. Gutierrez R.M.P, 2010. Orchids: A review of uses in traditional medicine, its phytochemistry and pharmacology. Journal of the Medicinal Plants Research. Vol. 4(8): 592 – 638.

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