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Healing Plants of Ettimadai Campus

From pre-historic times, plants have been an inseparable part of human life; plants were used for food, shelter, clothing, medicine for curing diseases and for ensuring well-being. Almost all branches of medicine used plants directly or their extracts to cure diseases. Of the 15,000 plants found in India, about 2,500 have medicinal properties. Of these, only 540 species are currently used for making herbal medicines.

Healing Plants of Ettimadai Campus is a booklet that contains information about species found in Amrita’s Ettimadai Campus and those that are suitable for the area. The source of inspiration for this compilation was a research project on ex-situ conservation, cultivation and propagation of medicinal plants funded by National Medicinal Board, Government of India.

Medicinal plants in and around the Amrita campus were documented by exploratory surveys and added to the list. The list of plants is not exhaustive. However, for a novice, this booklet is an excellent source of information on medicinal plants that can inspire one to learn more about them.

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R&D Work On Medical Plants

Since its inception in 2004, the Center for Environmental Studies has continually strived to promote research in biodiversity conservation, medicinal plants, eco-restoration and waste management.

Around 160 species of medicinal plants were collected and evaluated for their sustainability in semi-arid regions; a collection is maintained in the Center’s nursery. This was done as part of a project funded by the National Medicinal Plant Board under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Department of AYUSH.

Nursery and field trials were conducted in two zones — a humid zone at Walayar and a semi-arid zone in Ettimadai — for testing the suitability of plants for these two agro-climatic and soil conditions. Species suited to semi-arid conditions were identified and planted on campus. Selected species were propagated in large numbers and distributed to farmers in the village for cultivation as well.

A multi-story garden was subsequently developed with medicinal trees inter-cropped with medicinal shrubs, herbs and twining plants. With over 80 plant species, this garden continues to serve as a model for cultivation of medicinal plants in semi-arid regions.

R & D in Medicinal Plants is the compilation of all these activities of the Center.

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Organic Agriculture Activities

We never used any chemical fertilizers or pesticides”, states Dr. Aravindakshan, Director of the Amrita Center for Environmental Sciences, while narrating themiraculous transformation of Ettimadai Campus from a semi-arid region, ten years ago, to the the lush-green campus that it is, today.

In these times, when chemicals have become the order of the day, Dr. Aravind’s statement may come as a pleasant surprise to many. It is a fact that the Amrita campus proudly stands apart in being a chemical-free zone, having only used organic fertilizers right from the early stages of its inception.

On this campus, gardening, tree planting, cultivation of vegetables, medicinal plants, coconut, banana, and others are all carried out with organic fertilizers which are comprised of cow dung, goat and poultry droppings, compost and vermi-compost. By converting organic waste generated on campus into vermi-compost and using it for agriculture, the campus has set an example in waste management. Insect traps circumvent the need for chemical pesticides.

The Center encourages farmers in the adjacent village to practice organic agriculture, as well. It aims to promote cultivation practices that are effective and environment-friendly. Organic Agriculture Activities is the compilation of all these activities of the Center.

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Blossoms of the Desert

In 1998, I joined the Amrita Institutions at Ettimadai. In October 1997, I came to campus and met Br. Abhayamrita Chaitanya. Swamiji told me that he was looking for a horticulturist to take charge of campus development and landscaping activities. I had completed several projects in landscaping, both for public and private institutions, and had derived immense satisfaction from them. I saw an opportunity to serve Amma in a practical way resolved to begin soon.

After the work began, there were several hurdles. I was all alone; there were no skilled laborers with me. We did not entrust the work to a contractor. As the landscaping and tree planting progressed, however, there was a visible change in the look of the campus. There was a need to complete the task fast, since a proposal had been submitted to the UGC for Amrita becoming a “deemed to be University”. In the year 2000, we were able to complete the work. The campus landscape had become serene and beautiful.

One day, in November 2002, I received a phone call from Amritapuri. Amma wanted to see me, I was told. When I arrived in Amritapuri, and met Amma, she appreciated the work that I was doing at Ettimadai and asked me to go to AIMS in Cochin and plant some trees there. She gave me an apple as prasadam and asked me to sit near her. Since then, I have been fortunate to receive Amma’s darshan many times; and each time Amma has talked to me about nature and the need to preserve nature. Amma refers to me asPrakriti and University Mon (Son).


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