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CSIR Scientists Looking Into Lavender’s Medicinal Properties

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BHADERWAH, June 7 (PTI): The ‘purple revolution’ that started with farmers planting lavender in the picturesque slopes of this Jammu and Kashmir town is gathering steam with scientists at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine studying the medicinal properties of the aromatic, flowering plants.

Scientists at the Jammu-based institute are focusing on the residue left behind after oil is extracted from the flower using a steam distillation process known as ‘marc’.

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This could be a game changer for the many farmers of what has come to be known as ‘Lavender Valley’, named after the rows of purple-tinted blossoms colouring the hilly slopes of this town.

“Lavender oil already fetches farmers Rs 10,000 per litre, but we are now focussing on some value-addition interventions and also studies on the waste of the oil extraction process,” Zabeer Ahmed, Director of the CSIR-IIIM, told PTI here.

Farmers in this idyllic town surrounded by the Sonbain and the Ashapati glaciers in the Himalayan ranges have embraced lavender farming with gusto since 2017 when the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) launched the Aroma Mission to harness the benefits of essential oils from aromatic plants.

Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh, who represents Udhampur in the Lok Sabha, has been steering lavender cultivation in this region by ensuring timely supply of plants and processing facilities to the farmers.

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Lavender oil has a calming effect and is a stress buster, besides being used in perfumes and cosmetics. The CSIR-IIIM has also tied up with the Hyderabad-based CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology to study the use of lavender oil in treating sleep disorders.

“We are trying to isolate and characterise what kind of molecules are present in the marc. Our scientists have isolated a couple of molecules. These molecules are new. We are doing bioactivity such as anti-cancer activity on these molecules,” Ahmed said.

“The kind of molecules we are getting from the marc, definitely some new finding may be there in the future,” he said.

The health benefits of ‘marc’, if proved effective, could turn out to be a money spinner for the farmers.

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The other byproduct of the steam distillation process is hydrosol, or lavender-scented water, which can be used in making room sprays, bathroom fresheners and body sprays. Even dried stalks of lavender flowers have a good market as they retain their fragrance for two years.

Besides lavender, the Aroma Mission aims to inject scientific research and development into the cultivation of aromatic plants such as rose, lemon grass, rosemary and wild marigold.

The CSIR-IIIM introduced lavender and provided more than 30 lakh free plants to the farmers of different districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

The institute was also instrumental in providing an end-to-end technology package for cultivation, processing, value addition, and marketing of the lavender crop to the farmers.

It has also installed 45 fixed and five mobile distillation units at different locations across Jammu and Kashmir to support farmers in processing their produce.

Lavender oil production by farmers in Bhaderwah has witnessed a five-fold increase from 300 litres in 2019 to 1,500 litres in 2022, an official said.

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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