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With its rich heritage of plant wealth, India is rightly eulogized as 'the meadow of medicinal plants' and has found a place among the 12-mega biodiversity centers of the world. India boasts of around 8000 species of medicinal plants most of which are liberally employed in the traditional mode of Indian medicine known 'Ayurveda' or the science of life. This branch of medicine, which originated in India 5000 years ago, is the oldest and most holistic medical system existing today.

Ancient texts on Ayurveda and other Indian literature mention the use of these medicinal plants in treating various forms of ailments. The study of the Charaka and Susrutha Samhita ancient ayurvedic texts, reveal that Mucuna was used in the treatment of a disease called 'kampavata', the clinical symptoms of which bear an uncanny resemblance to Parkinson's disease. Mucuna pruriens is a natural source of the amino acid L-DOPA, used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Other plant sources of L-DOPA are some members of the bean family, such as the broad bean (Vicia faba).

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 80 percent of the world's population relies upon traditional medicine for its primary health care needs. Modern pharmacology also meets a quarter of its needs from medicinal plants in the form of synthetic analogues or lab-produced copies of natural plant ingredients. Modern times are witnessing the resurgence of alternative systems of medicine due to their negligible side effects, a gentler and more holistic approach, and cheaper costs.



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