India is known as the largest producer of aromatic medicinal herbs in the world. The country has a rich geographical heritage to draw from. With five different biomes stretching over more than 1.2 million square miles, flora grow in many diverse habitats, including deserts, grasslands, forests, wetlands, coastal areas, and marine environments. These plants are used for many purposes in India: for medicine, culinary seasoning, and for decoration.
Of more than 45,000 different plant species in India, more than 15,000 have medicinal uses. Approximately 7,000 of these plants are used in Ayurveda, with 700 in traditional Unani medicine, 600 in traditional Siddha medicine, and 30 in modern medicine.
Ayurvedic medicine is the oldest system of medicine worldwide, dating back 6,500 years. It focuses on holistic health in a “science of life”. It relies heavily upon herbs native to India to address mental, physical, and spiritual complaints. About 65 percent of the population of India uses Ayurveda and medicinal plants. Most herbs are gathered in the wild.
Herbs are also an important source of culinary flavoring found in Indian cooking. Spicy curries are now enjoyed throughout the world. Flavors that were once coveted throughout history, such as cloves (Syzygium aromaticum), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), and nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) are now readily available in global cuisine.
Herbs are also used for decorative purposes in India. Henna is commonly applied for Hindu and Sikh wedding ceremonies and as a hair dye. The tilaka mark of auspiciousness worn on many foreheads is often made of sandalwood or red turmeric paste.
Indian Herb List –