The history of therapeutic use of plant parts is as old as that of human civilization. The traditional system of Medicine, using natural products, was in vogue for many millennia, until about hundred years or so ago, when synthetic drugs, with their apparently miraculous, efficient and quick remedial effects, came into use to alter Pharmacotherapy drastically. Traditional knowledge and indigenous practices were forced to take back-seat and much of those were lost due to absence of methodical documentation exercise. However, during the last several decades, the unwelcome and sometimes severely harmful side-effects, as well as drug resistance and other complications arising out of the administration of many synthetic drugs have been realised. Consequently, the need to look back towards the age-old traditional practices and efficacy of plant based products has been urgently felt. In the recent past, the prevalent health care system has witnessed a marked paradigm shift, greater emphasis being put on products of natural origin.
Meanwhile, the enormous growth of human population and resultant anthropogenic activities have continued to destroy biodiversity and natural vegetation at an ever increasing rate, critically endangering numerous species of plants and making many totally extinct. Besides, some plants, well known to have medicinal properties are facing threat also because of their indiscriminate and unscientific over exploitation from natural sources to meet the ever-growing market demand.
Realising the folly of our short-sightedness, various organizations, individual visionaries, researchers and environmental activists have come forward with their endeavour, skill and dedication to reverse the trend by initiating conservation strategies in right earnest. As a result, many surveys, documentation and data base preparation work, as well as awareness creation programmes have been implemented. Numerous books, compendiums, monographs, research articles etc. encompassing various aspects of these issues have been published. But, in spite of all these efforts, sensitisation of the common people, who matter most, could not be achieved to the desired extent and the level of general awareness still remains very low.
We strongly feel that, regardless of the most sincere efforts of the academicians and scholars, these plants will remain threatened and become rarer, unless NGO-s and individuals having close proximity to the village community of their locality engage themselves in the process of awareness generation at the ground level.
With the conviction that, the involvement of the common people is absolutely necessary for furtherance of the mission of protecting the medicinal plants of each and every locality, a group of persons, with varied educational and occupational background, christened as "Thinking Laymen", having very little or no expertise in the subject, yet concerned about the importance of these apparently useless, unfancied and neglected plants, occurring around us, in preserving biodiversity and ecological balance, has voluntarily taken up the task of compilation of relevant data on the Medicinal Plants of Bengal.
The state of West Bengal, on account of its divergent physiographic regions ranging from the saline Coastal area to the Himalayan hills and agroclimatic features varying from Tropical Dry Humid to Subtropical per Humid zones, is bestowed with rich repository of medicinal plants. Though many of these plants are cultivated, the great majority exists in the wild, mainly in forested areas. But, quite a large number of them occur around human habitation and are mostly threatened.
The "Thinking Laymen" intend to devote their energy and resources towards awareness generation and conservation of these plants. They will also strive to inspire farmers, wherever possible, to cultivate medicinal plants as a non-conventional crop for the amelioration of their economic status.
The effort is purely philanthropic and the compilation of the database will provide an easily accessible pool of reliable information to conservationists, researchers, educationists, users and practitioners of traditional medicine, cultivators, NGO-s and persons keen to spread awareness among the people, at the ground level, regarding the great import and potential, these plants hold.
The "Laymen" will feel amply rewarded and honoured if experts and scholars in the subject extend their helping hand with suggestions and guidance and share the valuable information lying at their disposal allowing incorporation into this database. No other reward seems worth the effort and is not looked forward to. Viewers are welcome to point out any mistake/error that may have occurred due to inadvertence or otherwise. Every bit of assistance from any corner will be thankfully acknowledged and duly put on record.
Anybody interested in taking part in the voluntary work as a member of the group can click the Membership Request window and follow the subsequent instructions.
The database will remain under continuous reconstruction and updating as more and more information on medicinal plants of Bengal will continue to be available. Individual plant database files contain taxonomy data, ethno botanical data, uses in traditional and modern medicine, phytochemical information, agricultural practices etc. and are linked through various menus and pages to enable viewers to search the needed information easily. Viewers can have access to more detailed information about a plant, including scholarly articles, through "Google Search" simply by selecting the scientific name of the plant and then right clicking on it. Similarly information about a family can be obtained through "Google Search" by navigating in the same manner, through the "Family-wise List" in the Home Page (or, searching Wikipedia by typing the family name in the Family Description Bar at the top of the "Family-wise List" ). For viewers, not so conversant with botanical lexicon a Glossary of Botanical Terms, with their meaning has been added. A list of Rare, Threatened and Endangered Plants has also been included, so that special attention can be paid towards their conservation.
The viewers can use information provided in this database only for non-commercial, educative awareness generation purposes and not to treat, cure or prevent any disease and no medical claim can be made. The "Thinking Laymen" do not claim any proprietary right to information compiled in this database. All rights belong to the original researchers, authors or publishers from whose work the information has been obtained and we acknowledge our indebtedness to all of them. However, the pictures uploaded in this website, unless otherwise indicated, belongs to the "Thiking Laymen" and are copyrighted. Any one using the pictures or any information available here must properly acknowledge it by prominently mentioning the name of the website "www.thinkinglaymen.org.in".