Author (Pankaj Kumar, Bushan Kumar, Kanwaljeet Singh, Sumeet Gairola)
Astavarga is a group of eight important medicinal plants used in Ayurveda found in Indian Himalayan region between an altitude of 800 and 4000 m asl. These plants are used in variety of Ayurvedic formulations such as Chyavanprasha. Due to scarcity of these plants in wild, non-existing cultivation practices and confusing vernacular names there is widespread problem of adulteration or substitution of these plants with cheaper unrelated plants. Dried underground parts of these plants are used for medicinal purpose, due to which identification of raw drug material is very difficult. Out of the eight plant species of Astavarga group, six plant species were selected for the present study i.e., Habeneria intermedia, Habeneria edgeworthii, Malaxis muscifera, Crepedium acuminatum, Polygonatum verticillatum and Polygonatum cirrhifolium. Extensive literature review was conducted to compile information about habit, habitat, distribution, plant part used, RET status and substitutes of the selected plant species. Authentic specimens were collected from different locations of Western Himalaya India. Duly identified voucher specimens were submitted to the Janaki Ammal Herbarium (RRLH) at CSIR-IIIM, Jammu. Macroscopic and microscopic characters of the plant parts use as a drug of the selected plant species were studied in detail. They were characterised morphologically in terms of size, shape, colour, texture, external appearance and other distinguishing morphological features. Transverse sections were observed under compound light microscope and powder study was done with main focus on starch grains and calcium oxalate crystals in the cells. The size and shape of starch grains and calcium oxalate crystals can be helpful in identifying some of the studied species. For example, in case of pseudobulbs of C. acuminatum raphids are present and starch grains are absent, whereas in M. muscifera raphids are absent and starch grains are present. Difference in starch grain size and raphid length may be taken as a key characters for identification of H. intermedia and H. edgeworthii.