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The Hunt for the Mythical Indian Herb Sanjivani



A magical panacea that glows in the dark and can even revive the death sounds like the stuff of myth, which it is -- Hindu mythology, to be precise. But could it be more Surendra Singh Negi, minister for alternative medicine in the Indian state Uttarakhand, thinks the myth may be based on a real herb that has a "special fragrant smell" and even a sheen that "lights up the night."

via NY Times:

Sanjivani is the stuff of myth: an herb that glows in the dark and has the power to revive the dying, wrenching them back from the fog of unconsciousness. In the Ramayana, a sacred Hindu epic, the herb is used to resuscitate both the god-hero Rama and his younger brother Lakshmana.

Could it really exist? A government minister in the Indian state of Uttarakhand wants to mount an expedition to find out.

Surendra Singh Negi is the state’s minister for alternative medicine, and he says he is worried that continued forest fires in the Himalayas may be wiping out rare and valuable plant life. You can tell that the hills of Uttarakhand are abundant in medicinal plants, he says, from the fragrant smoke that the fires give off.

Medicinal herbs are central to the traditional practice of ayurvedic medicine in India. But little has been done to scientifically study and preserve the medicinal herbs of the Himalayas, Mr. Negi says. So he has proposed spending 250 million rupees ($3.75 million) of tax money to send a team of ayurvedic practitioners into the mountains.

Mayaram Uniyal, the state’s ayurvedic adviser, says an herb that could be the real-life version of the legendary sanjivani has been seen growing on the slopes of Dunagiri, a mountain in northern Uttarakhand.

“It has a special fragrant smell, with unmatched sheen, and lights up in the night,” Mr. Uniyal said. “Both its flowers and milk are yellow. The herb is used extensively by the local shepherds when someone is unconscious, in pain or even under stress.”

Read the full article here.