A Tryst with Medical Science of the Past

On the warm, fresh morning of 23th June, 2015 a bunch of excited 2nd year science students boarded the CJC bus along with their teachers, Mr. Santhosh and Mrs. Preethi. We were going on a field visit organised by the Science Forum to the Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions. The bus buzzed with excitment as we settled and attendance was taken. At 8.50 am, the bus left the college campus and the wonderful journey began.

After travelling for about an hour, we reached the Foundation at precisely 10 am. The lush green institute with a touch of modernity looked welcoming. We crinkled our noses as a mild stench of ayurvedic medicines greeted us at the entrance. The campus has blocks named after Indian scientists who had contribution to medicine like Charaka, Vyasa, Gargi, etc. We were directed to the Patanjali block where we were welcomed by Mr. Sumukha, our tour coordinator. We were taken to a class and given an introduction about the institute.

FRLHT is an institute that tries to build a bridge between the ancient and modern system of medicine. It focuses on revival of ancestral knowledge of medicine for benefit of the people. India has a rich history of expertise in medical knowledge through the ages. Most of this heritage is being lost and western methods are taking over. FRLHT tries to revive this ancient sacred knowledge which has immense potential in the modern world. The foundation was established in 1993 and has since, worked on the conservation of medicinal plants,, research on their uses and methods to provides service to people.

Then, we were shown the database at FRLHT which has information about nearly 8361 medicinal plants including their distribution, medicinal use, vernacular names, trade information, etc. Such databases are confidential to avoid threat and over exploitation of these miraculous plants. We were made aware about the various threats to these plants and the efforts made to save the many vulnerable and endangered species.

After being introduced to the place, we were taken to the Herbarium were plant species were dried, processed and stored for research and reference. We looked around in amazement at the vast collection of specimens. Mrs. Noor told us that there were about 1500 species of plants in that Herbarium alone. Plants from the tallest peaks in Himalayas and Kashmir, to the plants in the warm shores of Kanyakumari. We wandered around in the Herbarium astounded by its richness.

At 1, we entered the cafeteria as our empty stomachs grumbled with hunger. The enticing aroma of the food tingled our noses. What was amazing was the waste management system to avoid the wastage of food. After the meal, we put the food waste in one bin and placed the our plates neatly in the other tray. We came out of the cafeteria and were greeted by cool, stinging drops of water as it started drizzling. The rain stopped after a few minutes filling the air with the sweet smell of wet mud. The raindrops glittered like jewels on the green plants as we were shown around the place. Every single plant there, was of medical importance. An elderly man explained to us about each plant grown there. We smelled some crushed leaves, tasted some others and marveled at the facts that were revealed to us. Each plant could wonders to the human body. Some of us took specimens of some of the plants. Everyone captured most of them either in their cameras or in their books. For about an hour we learned various properties of the medicinal plants.

After the tour was over, we had tea with biscuits and then, we were taken to the FRLHT hospital. It was a very posh and hygienic edifice. It is an integrated hospital with fusion of ancient and modern techniques. The patients are diagnosed using modern technology and treated with ancient methods like Ayurveda. After various parts of the hospital we bid goodbye to the tour coordinator and retired to the bus. We reached the college the college at about 5pm with our brain fuller than before.

To sum it all, it was a wonderful experience- a trip to remind us of the sacred knowledge of ancient and incredible India that is being lost today. It makes one truly proud of Indian culture and medicinal heritage after listening about such wonderful findings in Indian history. We hope that we get a chance to learn more about such things and have many such beautiful experiences !

Chaitali Shah

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