The Secret World of Herbs: In India (Episode 3)

Epoch Cinema
Epoch Cinema
September 4, 2021Cinemashare00

In India, herbs play an everyday role hardly equalled anywhere in the world. From the tropical green south to the mountains of the northern Himalayas, herbs lend fragrence to joss sticks and soaps, and flavor to the cuisine. And, above all, herbs heal. Six thousand varieties of plants are used in India, and most are harvested in the wild – where they are becoming depleted.

The ever rising need for herbal medicine for the subcontinent’s 1.3 billion inhabitants comes on top of the demand of its growing middle class for herbal-based cosmetics. As a result, certain herbs have become scarce, while others have already vanished entirely. Most of the herbs in India are harvested in the wild. The progress of first cultivation attempts is slow.

In India, the rural population, especially, needs affordable, well-tolerated medicine – medicine based on herbs. In Kerala, the film shows a family operation that hand-produces botanical medicine for the local market. High up in the Himalayas, we observe a village healer at work. The science of Ayurvedic medicine is five thousand years old. Today, interest in the ancient healing art is surging, not only in India. In Delhi’s Old Town, the film visits a wholesaler who supplies the booming global herb market, and we take a look inside the laboratories of the largest manufacturer of Ayurvedic medicines in the world. In Kerala, we meet a doctor employed at a small Ayurveda clinic, and in Nordern India, we join a student of Tibetan medicine on a hike up into the mountains, where she prepares for an exam in herbology.

The film presents a world of herbs shaped by the diverging forces of traditional wisdom and modern science, while introducing people who live with and off herbs. The rapid transition of Indian society poses a challenge – supply is ever outstripped by the demand for herbs. Healers and dealers, patients and doctors are all dependent on the success of Indian attempts to preserve its diversity of herbs.

Brahmi, or Indian pennywort, stimulates the mind and prevents depression. Tulsi, or holy basil, helps with so many ailments that Indians call it “the incomparable”. And Indian valerian, which grows only in the high mountains, induces an inner calm.

A film by Rolf Lambert

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2016     46 min.     PG     English, French, German    

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