Is Hemp Cultivation in India Really Feasible – A Billion Dollar Question?

We need to overcome plethora of challenges before dreaming of successful hemp industry. Dr Vasudha Pant, PhD, writes

Cannabis: Other than marijuana

Precisely in the current scenario of climate change, resilience of cannabis is unbeatable as it grows widely by itself. The common perception associated with cannabis is linked to its narcotic property that succeeded in surpassing its other benefits making it untouchable largely for policy makers. However, with renewed interest, awareness and various activities including research revived around the plant and now it is called future trillion dollar industry.  Due to lack of awareness and research India is far behind the global players like China, Israel, Canada, USA and others.

Central Asia has been accepted as the homeland of Cannabis. Yet, due to its widespread availability it is also proposed to be indigenous to India specifically to Himalayan region. Although this Indian origin theory is inconclusive, the antiquity of Cannabis has been pushed back to the latter half of the 3rd millennium BC in Western India. From there it travelled all across India and multiple uses of Cannabis were explored and it became the part and parcel of culture in some regions. In Uttarakhand until recently it was part of sustenance for small farmers who cultivated it for seed production, fiber, medicine and for recreation to some extent and people here consumed seeds all through colder months. Yet we are miles away from having a clear cut policy on its cultivation and facilitate a farmer friendly guideline to boost cannabis based economy.

Indian cultivars are proposed to be of the indica origin and said to contain high percentage of THC and while sativa cultivars are low in THC it has been used to develop hemp varieties with low THC content (<.3%) and multiple industrial implications. Such cultivars have been either naturally identified or bred in research fields to produce low THC. Over the years of research dedication and selective breeding internationally (excluding India) hemp cultivars have been developed suited to their environment, climatic condition, uses, different ratios of terpenoids and cannabinoids, THC content, fiber quality, seed quality, oil quality, yield etc. significant research has been dedicated to optimize agronomic practices. As a result all the details are available on availability of quality seeds, cultivation practices, seed rate required per acre for sowing with varied purpose of fiber cultivation, seed production for seed products or oil production suited for researching countries. These practices do not assure their suitability for varied Indian climatic conditions.

Coming back to the Indian efforts towards the smoothening of the process to enter into the trillion dollar global hemp industry, even Section 10 of the NDPS Act, 1985 empowers the State Governments to provide license for cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. Medicinal use of cannabis has so far been extremely limited so State Governments have actually not been licensing cultivation of cannabis whereas cultivation shall be permitted for research including trials of various varieties of cannabis. ‘Bhang’ a popular drink is  not prepared from cannabis resin or from flowering tops, hence not covered under the NDPS Act, 1985. Production and sale of this drink is permitted by many State Governments. Using resin or flowering tops shall be punishable under relevant provisions of the NDPS Act, 1985.

Now, we need to understand cannabis is not only marijuana or medicine. It is the source of fiber, seed oil, protein rich seeds, source of raw material for construction and many more. It is something that rural communities as well as industry can jump at as soon as the clarity on production issues is sorted. Realizing the potential of traditional cultivation of cannabis in hills of Uttarakhand, the state of Uttarakhand became the first Indian state to legalize cannabis cultivation in 2015. Farmers across Uttarakhand can grow industrial hemp for seed and fiber, except for farmers in Terai and Bhabhar regions on getting license from the district administration. Whether or not the government had allowed it, people in the region have been growing hemp from generations unknown. Majority of them are still so ignorant about the government laws they are still cultivating it without hitch as they were growing it in their small patches of land comprising of one or few nalis (1 nali = approximately 200 m2). The standing crop is being destructed by excise department whenever they come to know of such cultivation. This destruction is illogical to the people here as profuse wild growth of cannabis can be witnessed everywhere. For the individual farmers who grow it on a very small scale it is financially unviable as well as impractical to go through tiresome process of licence seeking. People in the region are aware of the seed quality and cultivation practices. Undoubtedly they will be quite willing to grow hemp on larger scale owing to the problems of animal menace and low productivity of conventional crops being faced by them. I don’t think open permission of cannabis cultivation will be misused to grow cannabis for marijuana. Even with the restrictions people are smoking and Delhi and Mumbai has the largest number of consumers. Majority of patients coming to the ‘Nasha Mukti Kendra’ being run by district administration in Almora are addicted of smack.

If Government has real will to introduce hemp cultivation in not only in Uttarakhand but pan India and be a player in global hemp industry with a mark urgent need is to do strong research with the local indigenous seed material (germplasm) of cannabis. Why do we need to restrict the THC content to .3%?

We have misunderstood cannabis legally and industrially in India. That’s why India is still not strongly present in the map of hemp producing countries with limited production in Uttarakhand. There is an increasing awareness of its fibers, seeds  and other products that calls for the open discussions and breaking of taboo associated with it.

Recommendations/policy suggestions by the sub groups for other natural fibers, the subgroup proposed ‘Focus Fiber Focus State approach’. Under this approach Uttarakhand was identified for hemp fiber along with nettle fiber. Subgroup also recommended undertaking of research and development program on raw material resources for breeding, standardization of nursery practices, fiber extraction technology. It also recommended a 5 year pilot program under cluster approach for the hemp fiber at the selected state. However such efforts at desired scale are still lacking and we are nowhere in the hemp fiber production map.

Even after 5 years of Uttarakhand hemp policy in 2015, the negligible socio-economic-agricultural impact of hemp on the ground is the resultant of unclear and impractical policy.  Like any other agro based business module the holistic approach for cannabis also includes research on seed development, cultivation practices, availability of raw material, development strategies, identification and transfer of best practices, creation of necessary infrastructure, implementation of program, documentation and standardization of practices gained, capacity building/training, that will pave the way for long term mission of having visibility and grabbing a share in global hemp industry. Hemp is primarily cultivated in Almora, Chamoli, and Nainital (excluding tarai and bhabhar) districts of Uttarakhand. Under focus fiber focus state approach recommendation in National fiber policy 2010, Uttarakhand had been identified for hemp fiber. Yet the data on how much area the hemp cultivation is taking place  

UK, Germany, Switzerland, Austria legalized the hemp cultivation since 1990. However Canada and Australia legalized it since 1998. China, Russia, Hungary never prohibited its cultivation. A number of countries have moved further to legalize the cultivation not only for medicinal but for recreational use also. We have not been able to move towards evaluation of our cannabis genetic material and develop seed for desired quality. While illegalizing cannabis in India still seems a long way, several firms are looking positively towards hemp to create businesses around it and eager to be a part of the global movement but unfortunately because of our indecisiveness the industry people are disappointed, the raw material is still largely imported and in negligible quantity comes from Uttarakhand, the only state to have legalized the hemp cultivation for industrial purposes. To make raw material available in desired quantity to the industry we need to develop our own varieties suitable to our climatic conditions and cultivate them as we cannot look at the option of only exporting cannabis raw material. It has to be indigenously developed for varied requirements.

If Government has real will to introduce hemp cultivation in not only in Uttarakhand but pan India and be a player in global hemp industry with a mark urgent need is to do strong research with the local indigenous seed material (germplasm) of cannabis. Why do we need to restrict the THC content to .3%? Evaluation of germplasm may result in low THC containing lines suitable to local environment. Those low THC lines may be identified/developed for cultivation. This local seed material can be cultivated in open condition whereas the imported seed material is not suitable for climatic conditions and moreover cultivation of these seeds in restricted artificial condition is beyond the capacity of small farmers of the hills. There’s some research on hemp and cannabis going on in UP, Uttarakhand and J&K as far as my knowledge is concerned yet it is not enough for the scale required. Looking at the size of fragmented land holdings, making quality seed available at reasonable price in hills for the small farmers is responsibility of the government if the initiative of hemp cultivation is for the development of locals. There are many ways to organize such farmers

Documentation of Cannabis cultivation hotspots in India particularly from Uttrakhand is required as cannabis cultivation is also an agricultural process that involves skills and science, which they have been doing for thousands of years. Somehow there is nothing about the cultivation and cultivators in India. Biggest fear among people having interest in commercial cultivation of bhang is that Europeans and west are seriously working to destroy the Native bhang of India to be specific Himalayan Bhang.

Current need is to treat cannabis as cash crop instead of a plant that will ruin and finish the generations. The trend of drug abuse is changing in hills and turning towards drugs other than bhang. Cannabis had always been here in fields as well as in wild but alcohol had been a bigger curse here. People are more than willing to cultivate hemp, there is no dearth of industrialists ready to enter the hemp business, provided there is clarity on the issues of licensing, availability of quality seed, suitable cultivation practices, low cultivation inputs and policies related to product development, transportation of raw material as well as products, licensing issues for products developed. FSSAI does not entertain hemp based food products under FSSAI nor AYUSH provides license to the hemp products.  

Hemp business in India is not going to be cake-walk in near future. Some of challenges before remain:

  • Ambiguous hemp policy
  • Lack of research on indigenous seed development and cultivation practices
  • Availability of quality seeds to the cultivators at reasonable price
  • Lack of information and secrecy of work being done by people related to cannabis is a big issue. Nobody knows what is actually happening on the ground or the things are still speculative.
  • No data on how imported seeds have performed in Indian conditions
  • Time taking process of licensing
  • Fear among people for monopolization of hemp cultivation by big players especially by outsiders
  • Divided opinion on protection of rights of small farmers and industry
  • Bridging the communication gap among the public and convincing them of its good intentions.

A challenge that needs attention is to bring a website in that clearly outlines the following key aspects

  • hemp policy, on-going research, cultivation practices, seed availability with price, performance of imported seeds in Indian geographical conditions,
  • district-wise details of granted hemp licenses with area under cultivation and intended uses, details of industries active or looking towards state for raw material with purchase and requirements, products being developed with raw material purchased from here,
  • details of value addition being done at source itself, traditional knowledge and information sharing related  to hemp business.

The Author can be contacted on or Tweet @PantVasudha

Reservoir of nutrition: The stinging nettle

Could nettle be the popular source of nutrition for vegans in future? Dr Vasudha Pant writes

Nettle plant full of stings

You need not to keep a distance from its consumption particularly if you are a wellness freak as on heating or blanching its stinging property gets dissipated and makes it suitable to be used as green leafy vegetable, soup, pesto, omelette etc. Best way to consume nettle is to use it fresh from the surrounding however it can be used in dry or frozen form as fresh nettle is not available everywhere. In the dried forms anyway fear of stings has already gone.

‘Medicine is not health care, food is health care’ (Martin and Li, 2017) signifies the assimilation of nutritional plants in our diet. As global population surges and the challenge of food and nutritional security threaten to become a crisis, the agriculture sector is desperately in need of alternative nutritive crops. Traditional societies still use wild plants for food that are rich in nutrition and play a significant role in well – being. Significance of the wild food plant increases more with global estimate that 1.02 billion people are undernourished and malnutrition is a major health burden in developing countries. Another reason of worry is that lifestyle diseases are on rise globally. Earlier this was concerned with affluent societies residing in western world but now the situation has changed and these diseases now account for majority (53%) of deaths and disabilities in developing world. To take the burgeoning challenge head on we need to take a clue from traditional diets. One of such plant is stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) that had been popular in earlier times and once again gaining popularity because of its health benefits.

The whole plant is covered with tiny hair like structures that gives it a fearful appearance and on direct encounter (body touch) with the plant by mistake, no one dares to touch it again. Yet the people in Himalayan region being aware of its medicinal value flog their body or painful joints for the relief and also sometimes consume it as green leafy vegetable.  Not only the reservoir of medicinal properties, nettle is also a plant with amazing nutritional composition. For a person who is experiencing its touch for the first time need not to be afraid of some miss happening as despite of giving some redness/rashes and irritation it does not harm. You need not to keep a distance from its consumption particularly if you are a wellness freak as on heating or blanching its stinging property gets dissipated and makes it suitable to be used as green leafy vegetable, soup, pesto, omelette etc. Best way to consume nettle is to use it fresh from the surrounding however it can be used in dry or frozen form as fresh nettle is not available everywhere. In the dried forms anyway fear of stings has already gone.

Scientific literature is full of research on its medicinal properties yet the research available on its food value and product development is limited particularly in India where malnutrition is big challenge. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that in the world as whole 10.7%, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2016. The 2017 Global Nutrition Report finds that the world cannot afford not to act on nutrition. Close to 42.5 per cent of Indian children suffer from malnutrition. The World Bank estimates that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of children suffering from malnutrition. India ranked 94 among 107 nations in the Global Hunger Index 2020 and is in the ‘serious’ hunger category.

Hunger, malnutrition and increasing number of people suffering from lifestyle diseases point towards our lack of awareness of natural plant resources available in our surrounding that have potential to deal many of the problems if not all.  

Our body needs macro or major minerals and micro or trace minerals along with protein for good health. Both of these groups of minerals are equally important however micro or trace minerals are required in very small quantity. Calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), phosphorous (P), potassium (K), chloride (Cl), sodium (Na), sulfur (S) are the macro elements that our body needs. Iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), iodine (I), selenium (Sn), chromium (Cr), manganese (Mn), fluoride (F ) and molybdenum (Mo) are the micro-nutrients required by the body. Nickle (Ni), silicon and cobalt(Co) are some other trace elements that we need in very minute quantity. Our body uses minerals for keeping our bones, muscles, heart, and brain working properly. Minerals are also important for making enzymes and hormones. Different types of food that we eat are source of these minerals. This is the purpose of balanced diet to provide us with optimum amount of minerals.

On the back drop of traditional use of nettle as green leafy vegetables by locals in Uttarakhand and other parts of the world we at Green Hills Trust Almora with the support of Govind Ballabh Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment and Sustainable Development, Almora, started working on nutritional potential of stinging nettle locally known as ‘shishuna’. To our amusement in a thorough laboratory testing of dried nettle leaves we reached to conclusion that nettle is rich source of not only minerals but also protein. On dry weight basis it contained approximately 30% of the protein and almost all macro and micro elements required by body. Nettle leaves are good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper and sodium. It can supply considerable amount of amino acids as it contained all 20 amino acids including 9 essential amino acids.  Testing of the other elements is under process. The mean nutritional value  including large number of samples collected are presented in following table:

Table- Nutrient content of dried nettle leaves

 UnitsTest valuesRDA (mg)Maximum daily limit of nettle consumption to meet RDA
Macro- Elements
Calciummg/kg47035.07100021.26 Limiting factor
Vitamin Amcg/kg15.5690057840.62
Vitamin Cmcg/kg5.08400007874014.75

The table is indicating if we need 2000 Kcal energy per day than protein requirement of 6gm in a day can be met by consumption of 20 gm dry Nettle. In addition this quantity of nettle can substantiate almost entire quantity of calcium and iron, 40% of magnesium, 30% of manganese, along with other minerals and vitamins required by the body.

Paneer and egg both are great source of protein. 100 grams of paneer has around 14 grams of protein and it can provide approx. 50% of calcium requirement but can contribute insignificantly for iron. While one whole boiled egg has around 7 grams of protein but it can provide only 2% of calcium and 3% of iron required by body. Vegans exclude even both of these from their diet. Thus nettle can be great source of nutrition particularly for the vegans. Nettle is needed to be investigated in detail so that they can be used to fulfill the nutritional demand of ever growing population. The local government should pay attention to such valuable multipurpose species and a thorough sincere strategy need to be devised. It can be a low cost and easily accessible substitute to human diets and source of livelihood for rural with product development.

The Author can be contacted on or Tweet @PantVasudha

Medical Cannabis: What We Need To Do Right Now!

Dr. Vasudha Pant, PhD writes

Map showing the current legal status of Cannabis

Gone are the days when Cannabis growers were identified as hippies who remain high with their own produce. Today’s cannabis grower is part of a vibrant, white collard future multi-billion dollar industry that is expected to  create revolution in different spheres of life as varied as construction, clothing, food, health, wellbeing and recreation. Construction, clothing and food aspects are already being reaped by many countries like China, Canada, USA etc. as industrial hemp cultivation for these purposes has been legalized there few years back. Economic results have been quite encouraging wherever this step was taken forward.

In India hemp cultivation is still in it’s nascent stage. Uttarakhand is the first state where hemp cultivation was legalized in 2018. However, its economic impact is still negligible. Though the expectations from its medical implications are quite high, cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and recreational purpose is still in its infancy anywhere in the world. Legality of medical and recreational uses varies with the country.  

Recreational cannabis use is legal fully or with restrictions for personal use or decriminalized in Uruguay, Canada, South Africa, Austria, The Netherlands, Chile and Georgia. However many  countries have allowed cannabis for medicinal purposes: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland to name a few.

Australia had been at the forefront of research and commercialization of medical marijuana. Cultivation of cannabis was legalized in 2014 in Uruguay but in 2017 it became completely legal to buy it for both medical and personal use by the people of age 18 years and above from regular pharmacies with official registration with the government. In the October 2018, Canada followed the same path and became the second country after Uruguay to allow the use of cannabis not only for medical reasons but also for recreational purposes.

In USA, California was the first state that allowed the legal use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996. Currently, the medical use of cannabis is legal here in 33 states, and weed is legal or decriminalized for recreational use in 27 states.

Recreational cannabis use is legal fully or with restrictions for personal use or decriminalized in Uruguay, Canada, South Africa, Austria, The Netherlands, Chile and Georgia. However many  countries have allowed cannabis for medicinal purposes: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland to name a few.

Among 374000 accepted and described plant species in the world Cannabis is the only known plant that produces Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the principal psychoactive constituent. First isolated and elucidated in 1969 by Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, it is one of the more than 100 cannabinoids identified in cannabis. Another equally significant cannabinoid is the Cannabidiol (CBD). It is recognized as a nonpsychoactive phytocannabinoid.  Cannabis is not only THC and CBD rather it has extensive number of pharmacological and biochemical compounds, of which only a minority are understood, so many potential therapeutic uses likely remain undiscovered but they must be working synergistically to create its therapeutic uses.

Starting in the prehistoric age through the millennia, cannabis has taken a fascinating journey as evidenced in ancient literature, traditional pharmacopeia and customs, legal and frequently used status to illegal in last few decades, driven by political and social factors rather than by science. The medicinal use of C. indica for both acute and preventive headache treatment was subsequently advocated by many prominent physicians through the 19th and early decades of the 20th centuries. In western medicine the use of cannabis was introduced by the work of William B. Shaughnessy (an Irish physician) and Jacqes-Joseph Moreau (a French psychiatrist) in the mid 19th century who described positive effect of cannabis including hashish on pain, vomiting, convulsions, rheumatism, tetanus and mental abilities (Daris et al 2019).  Despite of its illegal status, as per the estimate of WHO about 147 million people, 2.5% of the world population, consumes cannabis annually.

Currently the knowledge on physiological and clinical effects of THC and CBD the primarily studied cannabinoids is building up and presents a rationale for their combination in pharmaceutical preparations. They can interact with endocannabinoid system and thus affect the development/progression of diseases. Cannabinoid medicines, as modulators of the endocannabinoid system, offer novel therapeutic options for the treatment not only for patients who do not respond to conventional therapies, but also for patients who prefer to try cannabis as a first treatment option. The purpose is not only to seek medicines to prevent and cure the disease but also to make life more comfortable for people with serious illness. Supporting literature suggests a role for medicinal cannabis and cannabinoids in varied ailments. Despite the limitations and concerns associated with THC treatment, there are many studies regarding THC’s potential as an anti-cancer therapy: breast cancer, leukemia, lung cancer, myeloma, hepatocellular Carcinoma, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, endometrial and cervical cancers, oral cancer; headache disorders including migraine and cluster headache. THC has also been shown to protect the brain from various neuronal disorders and improve the symptoms of neuro-degeneration.

It is interesting to note that researches suggest the higher potency of the CBD rich Cannabis extracts over purified CBD. It may be related to other plant compounds acting synergistically to CBD. Other than having direct benefits in ailments CBD has also been demonstrated to reduce some undesirable effects of THC on administration to patients including intoxication, sedation and tachycardia. This synergistic effect providing evidence for clinical efficacy and safety for cannabis based extracts in treatment of spasticity, central pain and lower urinary tract symptoms in multiple sclerosis, as well as sleep disturbances, peripheral neuropathic pain, rheumatoid arthritis and intractable cancer pain with the administration of higher doses of THC. In some cases significant decrease in pain among those patients smoking cannabis has also been observed. It may be as bioavailability after ingesting is only about 25% as compared to inhaling it. Ethan Russo, a neurologist and director of research and development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute in Prague has evidently suggested that certain compounds could enhance and heighten the therapeutic effects of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

Recently, there has been an increase in prescription of medicinal cannabis among minors and by parents seeking an alternative route to allopathic medications has been observed. However, with some initial positive results in the use of cannabis in treating different disorders in children including cancer, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, unfortunately no conclusive benefits were demonstrated. It is significant to note that ‘of more than 20,000 papers published in recent times, only 6% of the studies look at the potential benefits of cannabis, while all the rest investigate potential harm, leading to an inherent bias and a profoundly distorted view’ as the majority of information regarding adverse effects reported with cannabis use come from studies and case reports primarily evaluating recreational users, rather than from controlled therapeutic clinical studies.

With growing support for its multitude of medicinal uses, the stigma of cannabis seems to be fading away slowly, and there has been a dramatic push for legalizing medicinal cannabis and research.  On the wake of opening up of new market avenues in various spheres and with increasing pressure from the public the cannabis is going to be introduced to society sooner or later. The question remains are we as society have really grown so responsibly to explore and work with this plant to reap the benefits?

I certainly believe that cannabis has it medicinal uses as it has been the part of traditional medicine system in varied parts of the world and Ayurved in India. Phytocannabinoids from cannabis have a promising therapeutic potential for many diseases.  The policies that prevent us from using the healing potential of this plant needs to be challenged.

The Author can be contacted on or Tweet @PantVasudha


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बिच्छू बूटी (शिशुना, stinging nettle)- एक बहुपयोगी जंगली पौधा

Every Himalayan child who has been traumatised by the bite of this somewhat vicious plant will definitely be surprised to know that it can be of any use to humans besides causing unspeakable misery. Dr Vasudha Pant writes

प्रत्येक हिमालई बच्चा जो बचपन में इस पौधे से भयभीत हुआ है इसके अनगिनत गुणों को जान कर आश्चर्य चकित रह जाएगा- डा वसुधा पंत

बिच्छू बूटी का पौधा

सम्पूर्ण हिमालई क्षेत्र में पारंपरिक रूप से बिच्छू बूटी को सब्जी के रूप में अथवा कई तरह से प्रयोग में लाया जाता रहा है| आर्थराइटिस अथवा जोड़ों के दर्द से पीड़ित व्यक्तियों को इसकी छोटी काँटों से भारी टहनी के द्वारा शरीर के प्रभावित हिस्से पर मारते हुए आज भी देखा जा सकता है। बिच्छू बूटी एक बहुपयोगी पौधा है जिसका प्रयोग खाने के लिए, दवाई के रूप में, रेशे के लिए, ऑर्गनीक खेती में खाद तथा कई प्रकार के कीड़ों को फल से दूर रखने के लिए किया जा सकता है।

उत्तराखंड जैव विविधता की धनी भूमि है। इसमें पाई जाने वाली जैव विविधता मानव उपयोगी एवं वातावरण उपयोगी गुणों की खान को समेटे हुए है। ऐसा माना जाता है की विश्व में ढाई से तीन लाख पौधों की प्रजातियाँ उपलब्ध हैं और उनमें से केवल 150-200 ही मनुष्य के द्वारा उपयोग में लाई जाती हैं। मशीनीकरण के बढ़ने के साथ साथ जैसे जैसे मनुष्य प्रकृति से दूरी बनाता गया वैसे वैसे उसके भोजन की विविधता भी संकुचित होती गई  जिसका सम्मिलित प्रभाव उसके संकुचित होते गए विचार एवं भावनाओं में भी परिलक्षित होता है। आज उसके भोजन का 75% केवल 12 पादप प्रजातियों एवं पाँच जीव जातियों में सिमट चुका है। यह वर्तमान समय की आवश्यकता है कि हम पूर्व में बहुतायत से उपयोग में आने वाले परंतु वर्तमान में उपेक्षित पौधों के बारे में जाने एवं मानव एवं पर्यावरण हित में उनका उपयोग करें।  

उत्तराखंड की पादप विविधता का एक ऐसा नायाब पौधा है बिच्छू घास या बिच्छू बूटी जिसे लोकल भाषा में शिशुना कहा जाता है, पूरी तरह से बहुत महीन काँटों (stings) से भरा होता है। हर मनुष्य उससे दूरी बनाकर  रखना चाहता है और गलती से भी उसे छूने की गलती नहीं करता। आर्टिक डायोका (Urtica dioica) इसका वैज्ञानिक नाम है और अंग्रेजी में इसका प्रचलित नाम स्टिंगिंग नैटल है। कुमाऊँ में यह शिशुन के नाम से जाना जाता है जबकि संस्कृत में इसे वृषछिया शाका के नाम से जानते हैं। पूरे पौधे पर फैले हुए छोटे छोटे रेशे (trichomes) जो की त्वचा में छूते ही टूट जाते हैं, कई तरह के रसायनों जैसे ऐसीटाइल कॉलिन, फॉर्मिक ऐसिड, हिस्टा माइन, सेरोटोनिन आदि से भरे होते हैं और यह रसायन त्वचा को छेदता हुआ शरीर में प्रवेश कर जाता है, जो शरीर में खुजली और जलन पैदा करता है। परंतु सुखाने अथवा गरम करने से यह गुण स्वतः ही समाप्त हो जाता है और इसके मुलायम पत्तों और कोपलों को हरी पत्ते दार सब्जी के रूप में इस्तेमाल करने के उपयुक्त बनाता है|

सम्पूर्ण हिमालई क्षेत्र में पारंपरिक रूप से बिच्छू बूटी को सब्जी के रूप में अथवा कई तरह से प्रयोग में लाया जाता रहा है| आर्थराइटिस अथवा जोड़ों के दर्द से पीड़ित व्यक्तियों को इसकी छोटी काँटों से भारी टहनी के द्वारा शरीर के प्रभावित हिस्से पर मारते हुए आज भी देखा जा सकता है। बिच्छू बूटी एक बहुपयोगी पौधा है जिसका प्रयोग खाने के लिए, दवाई के रूप में, रेशे के लिए, ऑर्गनीक खेती में खाद तथा कई प्रकार के कीड़ों को फल से दूर रखने के लिए किया जा सकता है।

खाद्य पदार्थ के रूप में मानव द्वारा इसके प्रयोग का वर्णन पहली सदी में मिलता है। यह पौधा एशिया, उत्तरी अमेरिका, उत्तरी अफ्रीका में पाया जाता है। उत्तराखंड में यह लगभग 1200-3000 मीटर की ऊंचाई तक पाया जा सकता है| यह एक बहुत पौष्टिक पौधा है जो भोज्य के रूप में हमें प्रचुर मात्र में प्रोटीन, विटामिन सी, आयरन, कैलसियम, मैगनिसियम प्रदान करता है। इसके साथ ही यह विटामिन ए , बी 1, बी 2, के एवं सूक्ष्म तत्व जैसे कापर, जिंक, मैंगनीज तथा कोबाल्ट जो की मनुष्य के लिए आवश्यक है प्रदान करता है| इसके पत्तों तथा तनों में पाई जाने वाली प्रोटीन एवं खनिज तत्वों की मात्रा इसे पोषण का अच्छा श्रोत है जिसे उचित प्रक्रिया द्वारा मनुष्य द्वारा उपयोग में लाया जा सकता है। साथ ही पशुओं के चारे में पौष्टिकता बढ़ाने के लिए इसका प्रयोग किया जा सकता है| वैज्ञानिकों द्वारा करी गई रिसर्च से पता चला है की पालक, लाई एवं पारसले की तुलना में इससे दुगना प्रोटीन पाया जाता है| बिच्छू बूटी में अमीनो ऐसिड भी प्रचुरता से पाए जाते हैं। वैज्ञानिकों द्वारा शोध के आधार पर यह कहा गया है की यह बादाम, कॉमन बीन्स और चिकन से बेहतर आवश्यक अमीनो ऐसीड्स का श्रोत है। इनके अतिरिक्त यह मनुष्य के शरीर के पोषण के लिए आवश्यक फैटी ऐसीड्स, कैरोटीन, फीनॉलिक कम्पाउंड्स भी प्रदान करता है। विश्व प्रसिद्ध हर्बल मेडिसिन के अनुसार चाय के रूप में बिच्छू बूटी बहुत लाभप्रद है।

कई रोगों के उपचार के लिए भी इसका उपयोग विश्व के कई देशों में किया जाता रहा है। उपचार के लिए बिच्छू घास के अनेक टिंचर, मरहम, इत्यादिक प्रयोग ऐलर्जी, किडनी की पथरी, ऐनिमिया, मधुमेह, बुखार, ब्रॉनकाइटीस, प्लूरएसी, आर्थराइटिस, रह्यूमेटिक आर्थराइटिस, इत्यादि में आज भी किया जाता है। शरीर में यूरिक ऐसिड की अधिक मात्र होने से जोड़ों में सूजन एवं दर्द बढ़ जाता है। हर्बल मेडिसिन के अनुसार बिच्छू बूटी की चाय पीने से इसमें आराम मिलता है। कई बीमारियों में बिच्छू बूटी के उपयोग का वैज्ञानिक शोधों के द्वारा पुष्टीकरण भी किया जा रहा है। एक संपूरक (सप्लीमेंट) के रूप में इसका प्रयोग एंटीऑक्सीडेंट की तरह कार्य करता है और बहुत प्रभावी है। बिच्छू बूटी के पत्ते का उपयोग शरीर में कोलेस्ट्रॉल की मात्रा को भी नियंत्रित करता है साथ ही लिवर की कार्य क्षमता को भी बढ़ाता है।

बढ़ती उम्र के साथ पुरुषों में प्रोसट्रेट ग्रन्थि से जुड़ी समस्या काफी बढ़ जाती है और यूरिन कंट्रोल नहीं हो पाती है। कई युरोपियन देशों में इन बीमारिओ के लिए हर्बल दवाइयों का प्रयोग किया जाता है उनमें 80% में इसका प्रयोग होता है।

बिच्छू बूटी का यह स्वास्थ्यकारी गुण इसमें उपस्थित फाइटो केमिकल्स जैसे लिग्नाइड्स, फैटी ऐसीड्स, स्टेरॉइड्स, पॉली सेकराइड्स, ग्लायकोप्रोटीन  , टेनिन आदि के कारण होता है। इसके बीजों का उपयोग किडनी की बीमारी में बहुत लाभप्रद है|

शोधपत्रों के अध्ययन से ज्ञात होता है की विश्व में कई देशों में इसका प्रयोग अनेक बीमारिऑ में किया जा रहा है। और वैज्ञानिक रिसर्च भी की जा रही है, परंतु भारत में इसका उपयोग कुछ कम किया जा रहा है।  हालांकि हिमालई क्षेत्रों में भी यह बहुतायत से पाया जाता है, परंतु अभी तक यह शोधारथियों का ध्यान कृषि एवं अन्य आर्थिक क्रियाकलापों के लिए आकर्षित नहीं कर पाया है। आवश्यकता है हम लोग भी इस पौधे के गुणों को पहचाने और उचित रिसर्च के साथ जलवायु परिवर्तन के संदर्भ में पर्यावरण संरक्षण, एवं सतत विकास के लिए इस अमूल्य पौधे का उपयोग करें।

The Author can be contacted on or Tweet @PantVasudha


Vasudha Pant. 2019. Himalayan Stinging Nettle: Rich Source of Protein and Minerals. The Journal of Ethnobiology and Traditional Medicine. Photon 130, 1487-1509

Vasudha Pant and R.C.Sundriyal. 2016. Nutritional and therapeutic efficacy of Stinging Nettle- A review. Journal of Ethnobiology and Traditional Medicine. Photon 126 (2016) 1240-1254

Rafajlovska, V., Kavrakovski, Z, Simonovska, J, Srbinoska, M. 2013. Determination Of Protein And Mineral Contents. In: Stinging Nettle Quality Of Life.  4(1-2):26-30.

Rutto L. K., Yixiang Xu, Elizabeth Ramirez,  and Michael Brandt. 2013. Mineral Properties and Dietary Value of Raw and Processed Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.). International Journal of Food Science.

Saklani,S. and Chandra,S. 2012.  In Vitro Antimicrobial Activity, Nutritional Profile And Phytochemical Screening of Garhwal Himalaya Medicinal Plant – Urtica Dioica. Volume 12, Issue 2, January – February.

Waren, P.  2006 .101 Uses for Stinging Nettles. Wildeye United Kingdom. P50.

जलवायु परिवर्तन के सन्दर्भ में पारंपरिक खेती की सार्थकता

We need to understand the biodiversity at the root of traditional mixed farming and find the solution for hill agriculture leaving behind the arrogance of agriculture development. Dr Vasudha Pant PhD writes.

मिश्रित खेती का उदाहरण

हम केवल पर्वतीय क्षेत्र की खेती और किसान की ही बात करें तो पाएंगे कि स्थिति बहुत भयावह है और तुरंत इस दिशा में ठोस प्रयासों की आवश्यकता है| क्योंकि इसका असर प्रदेश की सम्पूर्ण जनता पर तो पड़ेगा ही परन्तु इसके दबाव में पहाड़ के गाँव में निवास करने वाले गरीब किसानों की बेहतर जिंदगी की परिकल्पना को बुरी तरह धक्का लगेगा और सुरक्षित खेती के अभाव में सरकार द्वारा चलाये जा रहे गरीबी उन्मूलन, बेहतर स्वास्थ्य, सामाजिक सुरक्षा, सर्वशिक्षा  व अन्य विकास कार्यक्रमों पर बुरा असर पड़ेगा|

आज के समय में उत्तराखंड में ही नहीं बल्कि सम्पूर्ण देश-विदेश में  जलवायु परिवर्तन एवं सतत विकास वैज्ञानिक मंचों और सामाजिक गोष्ठियों के सबसे चर्चित विषय हैं और हों भी क्यों न? इनका सीधा सम्बन्ध मनुष्य के अस्तित्व से जुड़ा हुआ है| प्रख्यात पर्यावरण विद नोबेल पुरस्कार विजेता अलगोर के मुताबिक जलवायु परिवर्तन का असर दुनिया के मौसम में खतरनाक बदलाव पैदा करेगा| यदि हम अलगोर एवं अन्य पर्यावरण विदों की मानें तो मौसम की कठोरता  अनियमित वर्षा चक्र, लम्बे शुष्क दौर, पानी की कमी, सूखे की तीव्रता, कभी सूखा, कभी बाढ़, बहुत गर्म अथवा बहुत सर्द हवाएं, तीव्र एवं लम्बी गर्मी के रूप में सामने आयेगी| उत्तराखंड में सन २०१३ की केदारनाथ की त्रासदी व आये दिन बादलों के फटने से होने वाली अन्य त्रासदियाँ इसी जलवायु परिवर्तन का दृश्य रूप हैं| मौसम की अनियमितता फसल चक्र को प्रभावित कर रही है| यदि हम पिछले वर्ष यानि २०१५-१६ की शीत ऋतू को ही लें तो ज्ञात होता है की पूरी शीत ऋतू बगैर बारिश के निकल गई जिसकी वजह से रबी की फसल नकारात्मक रूप से प्रभावित रही|

फसल चक्र के प्रभावित होने से पहाड़ों में खाद्य सुरक्षा खतरे में पड़ रही है| कई पादप प्रजातियाँ विलुप्ति के कगार पर हैं जिससे जैव विविधता घटने की संभावना बढ़ रही है| जलवायु परिवर्तन की विभीषिका से होने वाले यदि अन्य प्रभावों को एक तरफ छोड़ते हुए हम केवल पर्वतीय क्षेत्र की खेती और किसान की ही बात करें तो पाएंगे कि स्थिति बहुत भयावह है और तुरंत इस दिशा में ठोस प्रयासों की आवश्यकता है| क्योंकि इसका असर प्रदेश की सम्पूर्ण जनता पर तो पड़ेगा ही परन्तु इसके दबाव में पहाड़ के गाँव में निवास करने वाले गरीब किसानों की बेहतर जिंदगी की परिकल्पना को बुरी तरह धक्का लगेगा और सुरक्षित खेती के अभाव में सरकार द्वारा चलाये जा रहे गरीबी उन्मूलन, बेहतर स्वास्थ्य, सामाजिक सुरक्षा, सर्वशिक्षा  व अन्य विकास कार्यक्रमों पर बुरा असर पड़ेगा|

समय है हम पलट कर अपने पुरखों के द्वारा विरासत में दी गई खेती के तरीकों और उससे जुडी हुई अन्य विधाओं के खजाने को टटोलें और आज की आवश्यकता के अनुरूप उसका इस्तेमाल करें| पिछले ५-६ दशकों में विकास की दौड़ और खेती की पैदावार बढाने का ऐसा दौर आया कि बगैर अपनी विरासत के महत्व को समझे हमने भी इस दौड़ में शामिल होने की कोशिश की परन्तु वांछित सफलता हाथ न लगने पर खेती से ही विमुख होने लगे|

उत्तराखंड हिमालयी जैव विविधता  क्षेत्र के अंतर्गत आता है और यही विविधता यहाँ की खेती, अनाजों, दालों, सब्जिओं, तिलहनों, यहाँ के खानपान, यहाँ की संस्कृति में भी मिलती है| पारंपरिक अनाज और उनके बीज और भोगोलिक समझ यहाँ की खेती की बुनियाद हुआ करती थी. परन्तु पिछली सदी के कृषि विकास में इन अनाजों को आर्थिक दृष्टि से उपयोगी न मानते हुए उचित स्थान न मिलने के कारण ये अनाज धीरे धीरे हाशिये पर जाते रहे और इनमें से कुछ तो किसान की खाद्य टोकरी से गायब ही हो गए| मंडुआ, मदिरा, चिन, ज्वार, कौणी एवं यहाँ के मुख्य मोटे अनाज हैं जो अपने आप में गुणवत्ता का प्रचुर भंडार हैं| इन परंपरागत फसलों को खेत में उगाने की अपनी अनूठी विधा भी प्रचलित है जो बारहनाजा के नाम से जानी जाती है| बारहनाजा यानि की मिश्रित खेती| इस विधा में में मौसम, जलवायु एवं स्थान के आधार पर १२ या उससे अधिक मुख्यतया मोटे अनाजों, दालों, तिलहनो के बीजों को एक साथ मिलाकर खरीफ फसल में एक साथ बोया जाता है| यह विदित हो की पहाड़ की कृषि मुख्यतया वर्षा के जल पर ही निर्भर है और इस हिसाब से खरीफ की फसल यहाँ की मुख्या फसल है| इस पद्धति के द्वारा किसान की हरसंभव कोशिश रहती है कि उसके परिवार को उचित पोषण मिले और विपरीत मौसम में भी उसकी खाद्य सुरक्षा पर ज्यादा असर न पड़े यानि की फसल पूर्णतया बर्बाद न हो| कुछ स्थानों पर बारहनाजा के अलावा सतनजा या पच्नाजा के रूप में भी मिश्रित खेती की प्रथा रही है| नाम कोई भी हो उद्देश्य एक ही रहा है कि विपरीत परिस्थितियौं में भी किसान को अकाल की सी स्थिति का सामना न करना पड़े| अनुकूल परिस्थिति न मिलने पर यदि कुछ एक फसलें पैदावार न भी दें तो भी किसान को अपने भरण पोषण के लिए कुछ तो मिल सके| मिश्रित खेती की परम्परा उत्तराखंड ही नहीं समूचे देश में खाद्य सुरक्षा और उचित पोषण देने के लिए विभिन्न नामों से जानी जाती रही है| विविधता से भरी यह पद्धति एक ओर तो किसान की खाद्य सुरक्षा प्रदान करती है तो दूसरी ओर खेती व पशुपालन के पारंपरिक रिश्ते को भी मजबूत करती है और पारिस्थितिक संतुलन भी बनती है| मोटे अनाज और तिलहन यदि जमीं की उर्वरता लेते हैं तो दालें नाइट्रोजन फिक्सिंग के माध्यम से जमीन की उर्वरता भी बढाती भी हैं| एक ही खेत में रामदाने जैसी कुछ चौड़ी पत्ति वाली फसलों के होने से तेज बारिश की धारा सीधे जमीन पर नहीं पहुँच पाती  है जिससे उपरी सतह की उपजाऊ मृदा का कटान नहीं होता है और वह बहने से बच जाती है|

ऐटकिनसन के हिमालयन गैजेटियर में पहाड़ों की संपन्न कृषि का उल्लेख मिलता है जिससे यह भी ज्ञात होता है कि उत्तराखंड के पहाड़ों से अनाजों, दालों, मसलों, घी इत्यादि का निर्यात तराई-भाभर के लिए किया जाता था| यहाँ के लोग इन चीजों को बेचने भाबर कि मंडियों में जाते थे और बदले में नमक, गुड़ व कपडा आदि लाते थे| आर्थिक आत्मनिर्भरता, प्रचुर प्राकृतिक सम्पदा के कारण ही यहाँ के लोगों की सांस्कृतिक एवं वैचारिक सोच काफी संपन्न थी| यह वैचारिक सम्पन्नता अपने अधिकारों की रक्षा के लिए उठाये गए आन्दोलनों के रूप में समय समय पर सामने आती रही है| हर माह कृषि से सम्बंधित मनाये जाने वाला कोई न कोई त्यौहार यहाँ की सांस्कृतिक सम्पन्नता और यहाँ के निवासियों कि आजीविका के लिए कृषि से घनिष्टता को भी दर्शाती है| मिश्रित खेती के रूप में अपनाई गई पद्धति यहाँ के निवासियों द्वारा अपनी भौगोलिक परिस्थिति को समझते हुए पारिस्थितिक संतुलन के लिए बुना गया मजबूत तानाबाना है| यह हमारे पुरखों द्वारा इजात की गई स्वस्थ, समृद्ध और स्वावलंबी खेती की ऐसी विधा है जो आज के दिन-ब-दिन तीव्र होते जलवायु परिवर्तन के परिप्रेक्ष्य में अपना एक महत्वपूर्ण स्थान रखती है| जहां आधुनिक खेती बीज, खाद, पानी, कीटनाशकों के लिए बाजार पर निर्भर करती है जिसके लिए किसान को अधिक पूँजी भी लगानी पड़ती है वहीँ पारंपरिक खेती हर लिहाज से आत्मनिर्भर है| चूँकि इन पारंपरिक बीजों में खेतों में बीमारी और कीटों का भी प्रकोप नगण्य होता है तो हानिकारक रसायन भी हमारे भोजन और वातावरण में नहीं फैलते हैं|

पारंपरिक कृषि खेतों में मौसम की किसी भी तीव्रता को झेलने में ज्यादा सक्षम होती है तो मिश्रित खेत से शून्य पैदावार के जोखिम को भी कम करती है| जो कि किसान को खाद्य सुरक्षा भी प्रदान करती है| जरूरत है खासकर पहाड़ों के सन्दर्भ में अपने कृषि विकास के दंभ को छोड़कर पारंपरिक खेती के मूल में निहित जैवविविधता एवं वैज्ञानिक सोच को समझें और आज के परिप्रेक्ष्य में इसमें निदान ढूंढें|

The Author can be contacted on or Tweet @PantVasudha

This article was originally published in Hindi newspaper Uttarakhand Janadesh (5-11 September 2016).

Hemp Fiber: The Perfect Sustainable Choice

It is high time we focus on a resilient local plant for the industrial development of the Himalayan Region. Dr. Vasudha Pant, PhD writes

Hemp fiber and cloth. Courtesy Cheli Arts Nainital

Researchers around the world have successfully reduced hemp’s content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in order to abide by strict statutory requirements for cultivation (<.3% of THC) of hemp which is being cultivated in USA, Europe, Canada, China etc as industrial hemp. However no such focus was placed in India.

Mark Twain once said, “Naked people have little or no influence in the society”. Great emphasis has been laid on the significance of clothing since the beginning of civilization. The theories of exactly how and when the use of tree leaves, tree bark, animal skin etc as human body cover started being replaced by the natural fiber woven cloth is still an unsolved mystery. The archaeologists and archaeobotanists have been busy digging out the facts for more than a century deciphering our way towards civilization in prehistory, however most of their effort is still focused on major food plants. Prehistory is the period that begins with the appearance of the human being, about five million years ago, and finishes with the invention of writing, about 6,000 years ago. Fibre crops have received less attention, despite their inclusion by Gordon Childe (1892-1957) ‘one of the first scholars to describe the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture’ as part of his Neolithic revolution concept. The Neolithic Revolution, also called the Agricultural Revolution, marked the transition in human history from hunter-gatherers to agricultural settlements and early civilization. Lack of much evidence on beginning of use of cloth is unavoidable as natural fibers being perishable in nature are difficult to be recovered in archaeological excavations. Yet the recovery of spindle whorls and needles are taken as artifactual indicator for cloth spinning. It is nevertheless important to consider the fiber crops that had additional significance of creating trade and economic surplus. Among fiber crops in historical perspective much significance has been laid on flax (linseed) and cotton.

Archaeobotanical recognition of both these fiber crops relies mainly on preservation of charred seeds. Earliest evidences in Indian subcontinent have been received from Mehrgarh (6000-4500 BC), Mohenjodaro (2600-2000 BC), Harappa (2600-1900 BC), Kunal-Haryana (2500-2000 BC), Senuwar-UttarPradesh (1300-600 BC) and many more.

It seems due to dominance of cotton and flax in modern economy and association of hemp with just narcotics its multiple uses lagged behind and it did not receive required attention in scientific explorations. Recent archaeological finds have indicated the use of bhang also by prehistoric societies in India. Earliest finding of cannabis is known since the Mature Harappan (2500-2200 BC) times from Kunal, Haryana (Saraswat and Pokharia 2003) along with Gossypium arborium/ herbacium. In Ganga valley its presence is later in time frame. Limited evidence for cannabis in the form of burnt seed and charcoal comes from Senuwar 1300-600 BC (Saraswat 2004). Referring from cotton and flax evidences in the form of charred seeds from these sites it may be emphasized yet inconclusively that cannabis was being used either as grain or oil seed or fiber. However from Badanital the picture is clearer. Badanital is a small lake located in the upper catchment area of the Ganges in Garhwal Himalaya, northern India. The pollen record from Badanital provides evidence for cultivation of cannabis since c. 1300/1000 BC. It is interesting to note that intense local retting of hemp c. 500 BC–AD 1050 in Badanital area by the presence of high percentages of Cannabis type and Humulus/Cannabis type pollen. Water retting may be taken as indicative of use of hemp fiber for textile weaving from such an old time. Traditionally its fiber is used to weave cloth, bags, thread, ropes etc. According to villagers, fiber from male plant (known as fulang) is strong and durable. Weaving all these limited information together indicates the prehistoric use of cannabis for seeds, fiber and oil. However, it seems in later period it became associated majorly with source of recreation only and cotton became major source of fiber.  

In the nineteenth century, the first synthetic fiber Rayon was invented with cellulose material of plant that was cheaper in comparison with natural fiber. French chemist Hilaire de Chardonnet was the first one to produce artificial silk commercially in 1889 and later came to known as father of Rayon industry. Miracle fiber nylon was invented with in the September 1931 at the research laboratory of DuPont Company. Nylon is completely synthetic fiber obtained from petrochemicals and it has many more uses other than clothing. After that many more combinations of mixing natural fiber with synthetic fibers evolved. All these synthetic fibers became fashion trends.

With the obvious drawbacks of the overuse of synthetic chemical based commodities becoming more and more evident it is the right time to go back to healthier alternatives. Cannabis plant grows up to 1.2–4.5m and 2-3 cm in diameter. The inner girth is surrounded by core, and the outer layer is the bast fiber and it is attached to the inner layer by pectin which is a glue-like substance. These fibers are used in rope, textiles, garden mulch, an assortment of building material and animal bedding. In recent developments, it is used to fabricate different composites. Researchers around the world have successfully reduced hemp’s content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in order to abide by strict statutory requirements for cultivation (<.3% of THC) of hemp which is being cultivated in USA, Europe, Canada, China etc as industrial hemp however no such focus was placed in India. Recently industrial use of Hemp fiber is increasingly becoming mainstream. Hemp fibre has excellent mechanical strength and good insulation properties. Carbon, glass and fibers are extensively used in aerospace, automotive, construction, and sporting industries, etc. however owing to their disadvantages recently researchers are studying on the other natural fiber-reinforced composites which are eco-friendly, biodegradable, have better properties and cost effective so that they can replace synthetic fibers in various applications. These composites are rapidly replacing petroleum based composites in automotive, electrical, construction, and building industries. Hemp holds promise for that and clearly indicated by increasing number of researches involving hemp fiber composites over last few years.

The applications of natural fibre composites in the automotive sector can be traced as far back as the early 1940s, when Henry Ford produced the first composite components in a car using hemp fibre. The next referred application was in the 1950s, with the production of the body of the East German Trabant. Studies indicate that natural fibre composites can contribute to a cost reduction of 20% and weight reduction of 30% of an automotive part. Some of the world’s largest automobile companies – Mercedes, BMW etc – have been mandated by the EU to utilize energy crops such as Hemp as composite material for the paneling of their automobiles.

Outside of the automotive sector, hemp fiber is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, paper, insulation, and biofuel. Hemp hurd (having short woody fiber) provides better insulation and can be packaged easily between the building materials. Hempcrete,a mixture of hemp hurds and lime product, is being used as a building material.

Although Canada has multiplied its hemp cultivation and USA has also entered the race yet China remains the world’s largest producer and exporter of hemp paper and textiles. In China paper is made with hemp pulp containing the whole stalk of both bast and hurd fibers in their natural percentages for paper-making. It is also used to strengthen other fibers that would otherwise not be strong enough on their own to make paper. Generally, between 5% and 25% hemp content is common in paper used domestically in China; but 100% hemp content is used for very thin specialty paper and currency.

In this whole scenario of use, research, production and export of hemp fiber India stands nowhere. Despite being a natural plant of most of India we have yet not been able to decide on a clear policy of hemp production and product development. The time is now or never to focus on hemp as a high income-climate resilient plant in the already ticking time-bomb of climate change.

The Author can be contacted on or Tweet @PantVasudha


  1. Demske, D., Tarasov, P.E., Leipe,C., Kotlia, B.S., Joshi, L.M. and Long, T. 2016.  Record of vegetation, climate change, human impact and retting of hemp in Garhwal Himalaya (India) during the past 4600 years. Holocene 1-15.
  2. Peças, P., Carvalho, H., Salman, H and Leite,M. 2018. Natural Fibre Composites and Their Applications: A Review. J. Compos. Sci. 2018, 2, 66; doi:10.3390/jcs2040066.
  3. Saraswat, K.S. 2004. Plant economy of early farming communities. In: Early Farming Communities of the Kaimur. Vol. II. (Ed) B.P. Singh, Publication Scheme, Jaipur. pp 416-535
  4. Saraswat, K.S. and A.K. Pokharia 2003. Palaeobotanical Investigations and Early Harappan Kunal. Pragdhara 13: 105-139.
  5. Thyavihalli Girijappa YG, Mavinkere Rangappa S, Parameswaranpillai J and Siengchin S (2019) Natural Fibers as Sustainable and Renewable Resource for Development of Eco-Friendly Composites: A Comprehensive Review. Front. Mater. 6:226. doi: 10.3389/fmats.2019.00226

Cannabis Seed Oil and Its Many Uses

Sorry, but getting stoned is not one of them. Dr. Vasudha Pant, PhD write

Hemp Seed oil. Courtesy: www.sosorganics Photo by:

Who amongst us is not scared of obesity? It is a complex condition involving serious medical, social and psychological dimensions that affects virtually all age and socioeconomic groups globally and threatens to overwhelm both developed and developing countries. The health issues related to the deregulation of several organ systems and molecular pathways, including adipose tissue, liver, pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, the central nervous system, and genetics. Once considered the problem of affluent, evidently overweight and obesity are now on the rise in low- and middle-income countries also. World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that obesity is a growing problem in all regions of the world, even among traditionally lean Asian populations. The worldwide prevalence of obesity nearly tripled between 1975 and 2016. Overall, about 13% of the world’s adult population was obese in 2016. According to medical journal The Lancet in 2016, 30 million Indians were obese. This number is expected to pass 70 million by 2025. Situation is worrisome and there is still no consensus on whether obesity is a disease. However if immediate action is not taken, millions will suffer from an array of serious health disorders. Obesity is a preventable situation that can be treated through proper diet and exercise.

Fresh, cold-pressed hempseed oil from good quality seed typically offers a sweet nutty flavor from volatile terpenes present in the oil.

Inclusion of balanced essential fatty acids in diet is being proposed for prevention of obesity. Essential fatty acids are those that cannot be synthesized by the body and is therefore essential to the diet. Two main fatty acids essential in the diet are omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Both of them are polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). A high omega-6 fatty acid intake and a high omega-6/omega-3 ratio are associated with weight gain, whereas a high omega-3 fatty acid intake decreases the risk for weight gain. Lowering the LA/ALA ratio in animals prevents overweight and obesity. A balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio 1–2/1 is one of the most important dietary factors in the prevention of obesity.

In the traditional Japanese and Mediterranean societies where the incidence of coronary heart disease was historically low diets contained n-6/n-3 ratio to be some­where between 2:1 and 3:1.

Which brings us to the richness and tradition of hemp oil, in Kumaun region of Uttarakhand traditionally its oil was popular for cooking and as replacement of ghee (clarified butter) however now it is hardly used for these purposes but still in use for massage of arthritis patients. Fresh, cold-pressed hempseed oil from good quality seed typically offers a sweet nutty flavor from volatile terpenes present in the oil.  Traditionally for oil extraction seeds are crushed and roasted slightly and immediately ground in ukhal (traditionally a shallow hole is made on ground and crushing is done with a light wooden log). In between water is added slowly and ground till it takes a form of fine dough.  The oil is extracted by pressing this dough in a shallow plate in the sun. It gives a naturally dark coloured oil.  In Russia, ‘black’ oil has been pressed from hempseed and used as a substitute for more expensive (and less healthy) sources of dietary fat, such as butter and hydrogenated margarines. The natural dark color of hempseed oil is from chlorophyll within the mature seed, which can hasten auto-oxidation of oil that is exposed to light. Such a long history and a variety of uses over a large geographic area, and throughout so many different cultures, are all strong reminders of hempseed’s utility as a useful source of nutrition.

Researches on hemp seed oil is more than a century old when linoleic acid (LA) was first identified (as “sativinsäure” or “sativic acid”) (Von Hazura, 1887) as the main compo­nent of hempseed oil. Studies show hempseed oil is rich in essential fatty acids with 55% LA and 20% ALA. In addition, significant amounts of their respective metabolic products are found: the presence of γ-linolenic acid (GLA, 18:3n-6) ranges from 1 to 4%, and stearidonic acid (SDA, 18:4n-3) oc­curs at about 0.5 to 2%. The significance of hemp seed oil is at its best as hardly any other industrial vegetable seed oil can claim to have such high amounts of both essential fatty acids, in addition to their deriatives GLA and SDA.

Daily consumption of 3 to 5 tablespoons of hemp oil is sufficient to provide required quantity of LA and ALA to a 2500 calorie/day diet. Now it is being recommended that n6:n3 PUFA ratio should be nearly 3:1 to 1:1 (Kim et al., 2007). Fortunately the n-6/n-3 ratio in most commercial hempseed oils is typically near 2.5:1 When diets are supplemented with omega-6 and omega-3 PUFA in the recommended ratio, numerous benefits to health are achieved, including but not limited to greater resistance to cancer, inflammation, and blood clotting. A general increase in metabolism and lowering of overall blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure has also been observed.

It is paradox of hempseed oil the property (unsaturation) that makes it priced, nutritious, healthy and perfect oil for consumption makes it chemically unstable also making it prone to oxidation. Light and high chlorophyll content in unrefined oil also accelerates oxidation making it unpalatable and unhealthy for consumption. 

The cannabis seed is rich in digestible proteins and oil, making it a nutritionally complete food source that also exhibits several active pharmacological properties. It undoubtedly has a massive potential to attract a variety of markets and consumers. For a healthy life it is essential that every effort is made to decrease the omega-6 fatty acids in the diet, while increasing the omega-3 fatty acid intake. This can be accomplished simply by incorporating rich hemp oils in one’s diet.

The Author can be contacted on or Tweet @PantVasudha



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Contrary to the myths prevalent in the modern stoner culture, the seed is not really useless. Dr. Vasudha Pant, PhD writes

Cannabis seeds

Humans evolved while constantly interacting with plants. This human-plant interaction bestowed upon human the knowledge base to identify and use various plant parts as food, medicine and fiber or for aesthetic. Greater dependence upon certain plants led to their domestication that in turn advanced the process of civilization and cultural development. Therefore, it’s clear that plants have been a significant part of indigenous human cultures for thousands of year. They have always been essential as they contribute important proteins, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. This treasure trove of knowledge embedded in the each culture is unique to each region and continues to live on. This knowledge has evolved since times immemorial and continues changing, adding and adapting new discoveries and methods.

Traditional use of hemp seed in cuisine of Kumaun region is still very popular.  People purchase the seeds and store them for the entire year. These are used to enhance the taste and nutritional quality of food. It is used in many forms. Dried seeds are ground with water and hemp milk is extracted by sieving as the seed coat is hard. This milk is used for making gravy of variety of vegetables

In the last few decades have seen us make tremendous leaps in Ethnobotany. Oxford dictionary defines it as the study of a region’s plants and their practical uses for food, medicine, religion and any other purpose through traditional knowledge of local culture and people. Jain elaborates it as the ‘total natural and traditional relationship and interaction between man and his surrounding plant wealth’ whereas Wickens defines ethno botany as the study of useful plants prior to commercial exploitation and eventual domestication. In fact, ethnobotany is the first knowledge of plants which humans acquired by sheer necessity, intuition, observation and experimentation. This knowledge encompasses both wild and cultivated species and is rooted in observation, relationship, needs and traditional ways of knowing.

Cannabis seems to be one of the oldest crops that have contributed to origin and development of agriculture. Scanty archaeobotanical studies have taken back antiquity of Cannabis in India to the third millennium BC in India yet the results are inadequate to decipher its use as seed. Here the ethnobotany comes into play and cannabis seed uses can be explored focusing on specific regions. This information regarding the traditional uses of seed can easily be utilized in transforming the rural economy. 

Traditional use of hemp seed in cuisine of Kumaun region is still very popular.  People purchase the seeds and store them for the entire year. These are used to enhance the taste and nutritional quality of food. It is used in many forms. Dried seeds are ground with water and hemp milk is extracted by sieving as the seed coat is hard. This milk is used for making gravy of variety of vegetables specially gaderi (Colocasia esculenta), pinalu (Colocasia himalensis), cabbage, radish, cauliflower, lahi, urad (Vigna mungo) dal nuggets (badi), etc. Roasted and ground seeds are used to make a variety of chutneys with lemon. Roasted seeds are also eaten with roasted rice known as Khajia chawal. A popular winter delicacy and comfort food of Kumaon, Nimbu saan (lemon and radish salad with curd, recipe will be up soon!) is prepared using peeled and cut into half to one inch size bada nimbu (Citrus limon), radish, roasted and ground hemp seeds, curd, sugar, salt, green chillies and coriander leaves. The  popular winter ritual includes making, and eating this salad in groups while sitting and enjoying the balmy winter sun. It is popular among all age groups of men and women and my personal favourite. Another Kumaoni delicacy is using ground roasted hemp seed with cooked yellow pumpkin along with lemon and jaggery. Cannabis seed infused salt commonly known as ‘bhang ka namak’ is the pride of every Kumaoni kitchen and tastes almost divine.

After a long ban due to the illicit narcotic business hemp is again being recognized as a plant with multiple industrial uses as food and fiber. In India indigenous cannabis cultivation is still banned. However, China never banned industrial hemp. In 2015, France led the hemp seed production with 59 % of global share followed by China that produced approximately 44000 metric tons annually accounting for 38 percent of the total global share. Chile, South Korea, The Netherlands and Australia were some other major hemp seed producers. Since then, total area under hemp cultivation is continuously increasing. In 2020, the scenario is very different. For last many years China alone produces 70% of hemp which includes seed and other industrial products.  Most of China’s hemp seed is roasted for domestic snacks and oil, nearly 40% of it is exported to other countries. Canada, USA, France, Chile and North Korea are next in the of the leading hemp producers. Interestingly, USA entered the list with the introduction of The Farm Bill in 2018.

Hemp seed had been in use since unknown generations traditionally throughout Asia and now past two decades researchers are using modern techniques to go back to this knowledge and bring its uses as food to the masses. However we do not witness such research in India. During the last decade of 20th century hemp seed gained much attention as nutritious seed in Canada and USA resulting in hempseed and hempseed food products that have become available to the general public in these countries. In China, roasted hempseed is still sold as snacks by street vendors. Over the past few years, modern science has finally begun to catch up with this ancient knowledge through its own methodologies. Unlike soybean hempseed and egg white have been shown lacking the anti-nutritional trypsin-inhibiting factor. This means that, like egg white, a greater proportion of the protein found in hempseed is digestible and available for absorption. Authenticating the hemp seed use in traditional systems, modern research shows that hemp seed is a rich source of valuable oil with unique nutritional properties that make it a natural superfood, one of the most nutritionally complete food. The seeds are a rich source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamins and unsaturated fats easily digestible by our body. Hemp seed is rich in vitamin E comprising of alpha tocopherol and gamma tocopherol. With its antihypertensive property hemp protein hydrolysates may be used as active ingredients to formulate antihypertensive functional foods and nutraceuticals. Hemp seed protein could have the ability of antifatigue and improve the immunomodulation effect. Significance of hempseed protein increases due to its exceptional content of sulfur-containing amino acids i.e., methionine and cystine. They are part of essential amino acids that can not be synthesized by body. Both methionine and cysteine play critical roles in cell metabolism.  They play critical roles in protein synthesis, structure, and function and vital for many critical functions in body.

Doubts have been raised regarding the presence of THC in hemp seeds, however the seeds do not contain any THC whatsoever. This character does not express in seeds. In some cases small quantity of THC might be found in the seeds. That may be because of remnants of flowering as the seed is enclosed in brackets that are the source of THC. This can be removed by simply washing the seeds.

 Ethnobotany thus has relevance with problems of nutrition, health care, social customs, mythological association, cottage industries, economic upliftment, conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of plant resources. We need to take a lesson from China that has a zero tolerance approach to marijuana (along with numerous other drugs), yet surprisingly it is the world’s largest producer of hemp, and also the world’s largest exporter of hemp products.


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  4. Malomo, A.S.,  Onuh, O.J., Girgih,A.T.,and Aluko, E.R. 2015. Structural and Antihypertensive Properties of Enzymatic Hemp Seed Protein Hydrolysates. Nutrients, 7, 7616-7632.
  5. Girgih, A.T., Udenigwe, C.C., Li, H. et al. Kinetics of Enzyme Inhibition and Antihypertensive Effects of Hemp Seed (Cannabis sativa L.) Protein Hydrolysates. J Am Oil Chem Soc (2011) 88: 1767

Know Thy Nettle: What You Might (or Might Not) Have Known About The Stinging Nettle

The sting of the nettle dissipates with drying or cooking making it suitable, even delicious to eat, writes Dr Vasudha Pant, PhD

Nettle leaves: Serrated, pointed and with stings

Ever wondered why plants have their own kingdom? Living organisms can be found everywhere on the planet Earth that have been divided into large groups known as kingdoms on the basis of their affinity. All living things were traditionally placed into one of two groups, plants and animals. This classification may date back to Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC). Broadly, biologist Whitaker (1969) suggested five kingdoms: Monera, Protista, Fungi, Animalia and Plantae for the classification of all living beings. Interestingly, debate over whether plants are living beings or nonliving is still on. Our understanding of plant kingdom has changed overtime. Prof. Schultz of the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia, has spent four decades investigating the interaction between plants and insects. He describes plants to be as alive as any animal, and – like animals – they exhibit behaviour. Similarly Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s book ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ is an equally amazing work that throws light upon physical, emotional and spiritual relation between man and plant.

Irrespective of how we view it, every single organism on Earth depends on plants for survival.  Scientists at the Royal Botanical Garden, Kew have reported 390,000 known plant species in the world of which approximately 369,400 are flowering. With probably many more yet to be discovered! These include both land and sea plants. There are so many different kinds of plants all around us. Even without the knowledge of taxonomy a layman can put each plant into different groups. Yet it is not simple to study them authoritatively without classifying them systematically. All of these plants are classified under the Plant Kingdom. It is a basic group of natural objects that includes all living and extinct plants. This vast plant kingdom is further divided as per following representation:


Species is the smallest unit of this classification.

Back to the plant of our interest today, the stinging nettle. The true nettles belong to the family Urticaceae, also known as the Nettle Family. The Nettle Family is found worldwide and consists of about 45 genera (plural of genus) and 700-1000 species. Of all these species Urtica dioica or common nettle is most common. Vernacular name of the plant are Bichu Butti in Hindi and Vrishchhiyaa shaaka in Sanskrit. In local Kumauni language, nettle is known as ‘shishun’, besides many other names in various parts of Uttarakhand. In other parts of the world many other names are popular locally. In order to stay reader friendly, we’ll stick with nettle.

Language/CountryPopular namesReference
Latin nameUrtica dioïca
English namesNettle; Common nettle; Stinging nettle; Tall nettle; Slender nettle; Greater nettleSaid et al 2015
French namesOrtie dioïque; Grande ortie; Ortie piquante; Ortie élevée.Said et al  2015
Arabic namesHourriga; KerrassSaid et al 2015
Spanish namesOrtiga; Ortiga gran; Ortiga grossa; Ortiga major; Ortiga inayor.Said et al 2015
German namesBrennesslbatter; Brennessel-kraut; Nesslkraut; HaarnesselkrautSaid et al 2015
Kenyan namesThabai” (Kikuyu), “Isambakhuku” (Luhya) and “Isalu’ (Wanga)Juma et al 2015a
Mexican nameOrtigaFragoso et al 2008
Turkydalagan, dizlagan, agdalak, and isirgiOtles and Yalcin 2012
Iran   Gazaneh Asgarpanah and Mohajerani 2012
HindiBichchhu, Bichchhu bootiKhare 2007, Chopra et al 1956
Assamese ( in India)Chorat
SanskritVrishchhiyaa‑shaakaKhare 2007, Chopra et al 1956
UnaniAnjuraaKhare 2007, Chopra et al 1956
Kumauni (Uttarakhand in IndiaShishun 
Common names of Urtica dioica L.

Nettle is a perennial wild herb that can grow at an altitude ranging from 1200-3000 m (Wealth of India 1998) and can be found growing in common land and waste land, gardens, farmers field (as weed), hedges of the terraced fields and so on. It is a robust plant and can grow up to 2 m or more in height. The plant has opposite, heart shaped, finely-toothed leaves. The plant got its name as stinging nettle because its leaves and stems are covered by sharp small needle like hair that gives severe sting on touch.

These stinging hair known as trichome, consist of an elongate cell, 1 to 8 mm long, atop a multicellular pedestal. In many other plant species also other than nettles these trichomes have been attained as result of natural selection as an effective defense system either against whether vagaries or as protection against herbivore insects and large herbivorous animals. Interesting to note is that herbivore damaged nettles regrow with higher densities of trichomes meaning stronger defense mechanism.  Like hollow glass tubes these stings are filled with a cocktail of chemicals. Stinging chemicals include histamine, acetylcholine and serotonin and also formic acid, moroidin, leukotrienes. Formic acid is same as found in the sting of bees and ant. On contacting human skin, these spines penetrate our skin, their tips break off and this mixture is released beneath the surface of the skin and we feel pain or stinging sensation which may last for even more than 12 h. The nettle was greatly esteemed by Dioscorides a Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author of De materia medica, who provided detailed descriptions of its uses. Writing in his “Contrafayt Kreuterbuch” in 1532, doctor and botanist Otto Brunfels comments: “Could there be anything as trifling or as despised as a nettle? What could be as beloved as a hyacinth, a narcissi or a lily – and yet, the nettle surpasses them all.” The burning property of the nettle dissipates by heat enabling the young shoots of the Nettle to be eaten as fresh or dry.

Want to avoid being stung by nettle. It is advisable either to roll down your sleeves or put on garden gloves to collect leaves for use. However I prefer to use long sleeve gloves usually reserved for bee keeping. Interestingly, you can find people flogging their body parts particularly joints with nettle shoot for relief from arthritic pain. And it seems to work for them that reasons to use it again and again for relief.

From July to September small, greenish-white female flowers appear in clusters at leaf axils; male flowers appear on different plants as groups of diagonally upright strands at the top of the plant. They are wind pollinated and produce small seeds enclosed in the dried sepals.

 Flowering and fruiting time is from June to October. Flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by wind.

The generic name Urtica is derived from the Latin urere meaning to irritate by burning, in reference to the burning sensation obtained from its stinging hairs. The specific epithet dioica refers to its dioecious nature. The common name nettle has its root in the ancient Proto-Indo-European word ned meaning to twist or knot, reflecting the early use of the plant as a source of fibre (Harper, 2015). However, there is speculation that the name nettle comes from the Anglo-Saxon word noedl meaning needle. Nettle plants are erect with extensive, brightly yellow- coloured rhizome or stolon systems, stems to about 2 m tall, leaves in opposite pairs, broadly ovate to lanceolate meaning pointed at the end, leaf margins serrated, leaf tip acute or acuminate. Inflorescences are axillary, spike-like, many-flowered, flowers small, green and unisexual. In dioica species pistillate (female) and staminate (male) flowers are almost always on different plants, The fruits are tiny and light and readily carried by the wind.

Nettle stings can be quite nasty. So it is advisable to either roll down your sleeves or put on garden gloves to collect leaves for use. However I prefer to use long sleeve gloves used for bee keeping. But strangely you can find people flogging their body parts particularly joints with nettle shoot for relief from arthritic pain. And it seems to work for them that reasons to use it again and again for relief.

Nettles are considered weeds due to their rapid growth and soil coverage. However, there are economic and ecological reasons for cultivating stinging nettles. 

The Author can be contacted on or Tweet @PantVasudha