An Interview with the “Friend of Herbs” - Dr. Marutha Malai Murugan. Ph.D., Innovative Herbal Agriculture Scientist

Despite the fact that the Herbal Medicines is not used by most of us, the main ingredients used by the majority of the drug industry constitutes herbs as the Chief key (and this is an undeniable truth). In the recent episode, the well known antiviral drug for H1NI (Swine Flu – Deadly virus) called ‘Tamiflu‘ comprises Illicium verum (Star anise) as the chief herbal ingredient that is estimated to reach $744.3 billion by 2027. 

Dr. Salai Marutha Malai Murugan. Ph.D., – an Innovative Herbal Agriculture Scientist of South Tamilnadu, whom I managed to interview is an amazing person who seems to know EVERYTHING about herbs. He is the founder and managing Director of 18 Herbs Organics since from 2010 onwards which is a Madurai, South India, based wellness company that produces 18 Herbs brand products. And also he is the Co-Founder of Siddha Mudra and Siddha Forest which plays a vital role on keeping a sound health among the millions across the globe. He has a vast experience in consulting on medicinal herbal plants, its cultivation, organic medicinal plant farming, setting up herbal extraction units. He has trained more than 40 Ayurvedha and Siddha Units to implement GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) Accreditation. He has also consulted various International NGO’s, Top Herbal Corporate Companies, Government bodies, UNDP Capital Projects of Tamilnadu Forest Department and MSME Govt., of India. 

He likes to say – “the more you give, the more you get. Only this must be done not on purpose, but from the heart.” 

In this interview, I tried to ask not only questions that concern me, but also your questions. To hear first hand about how to communicate with nature for your benefit based on other people’s experience.

Dr. Salai Marutha Malai Murugan’s Documents the Unknown fact about his Research on Madurai region of Tamilnadu – The Herbal Gateway of South India

The regions adjoining the Four highways from Tuticorin to Dindugal is much more unique for encapsulating the very rare herbs in that region. This was named as ‘Herbal Gateway of South India’, the most tremendous project formulated by Dr. Salai Marutha Malai Murugan. Ph.D., also recognized by Govt of Tamilnadu. And he has also developed the of Active principal Agriculture of Various medicinal plants (herbal source used mainly for molecular industries).

Dr. Salai Marutha Malai Murugan has found Madurai is a very unique region meant for its various rare medicinal herbs. “Madurai has to be well recognized and the potential of this place should has to be identified and can be praised as the ‘’Herbal Treasure of India’’, he said.  

“The Biggest unknown fact is, Madurai – ‘The Herbal Gateway of South India’ which trades more than 1000 Crore should consider as the deep pocket of herbal treasure”

The three great medicinal plants named Gloriosa Superba (செங்காந்தள் in Tamil), Vinca Rosia  (நித்திய கல்யாணி in Tamil) and Senna (அவுரி in Tamil) has been cultivated vastly in this region. And also more than 500 herbal species have been cultivated from the hilly zones of western ghats and Black cotton soil plains of Madurai. These invaluable herbs are being collected by local gatherers (mainly women and tribal people) of the region and supplied to the Indian Pharma Companies and also being exported to Western countries including Europe. Thus makes this region the real treasury for Ayush and Phyto-chemical Drug Industry.

Gloriosa Superba is having active molecules

Vinca Rosea has been used in Cancer Treating Drugs

Senna is having good laxative properties

Madurai, Dindugal, Virudhunagar and Tuticorin are the key regions for the Herbal Trade. Even the industry giants like Himalaya is also procuring the major herbal resource from these regions. Curculigo orchioides – Nilapannai, mainly collected by gatherers as a livelihood trade from black cotton soil of southern Tamilnadu, traded for its Aprhodisiac properties as “Herbal Viagra” combinations. Coleus forskohlii, a herbal crop in “Active principle agriculture” by Madurai – Natham region farmers with specialized cultivation techniques to enhance Forskliin percentage, famous as a “Anti-obesity drug” by major pharmas. Eclipta prostrate, a unique quality medicinal herbs traded around 750-1000 MT annually to ISM Industry, Eclipta is major ingredient in famous Liver – 52 capsules shares 100-125 crore in market. 

Dr. Marutha malai Murugan reveals, why the region of Madurai is considered as an unique herbal resource 

  • Presence of Western Ghat herbal sourcing region.
  • Vast Non- Forest collection fields as herbal supply.
  • Herbal diversity in this region.
  • More than 10000 herbal collectors in Forest and Non forest herbal region.
  • Experienced Traditional Herbal Gatherers, for example some gathering groups are doing the
  • Collection activities in their fifth generations (Natham Tribal Groups).
  • Unique Traditional Herbal Traders and most of them are doing traditionally more than 100 years and have good traditional pharma knowledge about 400-450.
  • Well connected transport and logistics with other states.
  • Strategically associated with herbal exporting port Tuticorin.
  • Cheap skilled workers for herbal processing such as drying and seperation of adulterant species (Kai Parthal – Tamil. It requires specific skills).  
  • Supported by well organized Rain fed herbal cultivation areas of Cassia – Cassia Senna (7,000 acres), vinca Rosea – Nithya Kalyani (4000 acres), Gloriosa Superba (500 acres) in the rain fed cultivation region of South Tamilnadu.
  • Good procurement mechanism with other herbal growing region and also importing some drugs from Turkey and China.

“Good knowledge by traders on raw material Viz., collection season, Species purity, Stage, Moisture content, Foreign matter, Color, packing and bailing, Moisture content, Alkaloid Content, Legal Clearances, Packaging method” he said.  

How long have you been studying herbs when you realized that your calling was to be an herbalist?

I am a Herbal Agricultural Scientist having an extensive knowledge on identification of herbs, herbal farming, herbal extraction and herbal formulations. In my Agricultural graduation days, I have written a book called “Flora of killikulam”(a monograph of economic importance) which reveals 462 plant species and also rare endangered herbal species of South Tamilnadu. Still it has been considered as a reference book for all plant lovers and botanical researchers. I worked for 22 years at the Open Academy of Plant Science in the laboratory of plant resources, Sustainable cultivation and the unique way of commercialization of plant resources. I have studied how the concentration of active substances in the plant changes depending on the season, the time and place of harvesting, and the method of drying. It is even important whether they collected it before the dew disappears, or after.

Let me give you an example: Linden flowers, adonis grass, foxglove leaves contain a maximum of alkaloids until the morning dew disappears, and after 16 hours – 10-20 times less. This is a very good medicine for cardiac arrhythmia, now sold in pharmacies. And since I knew medicinal plants, active ingredients, the next step was to use them practically. It’s natural. If you know how it works, why not use it?

What is it like to be an herbalist in today’s world? How much is in demand now?

Herbalists are different, like every person on Earth – they bring something to or take something away from this world. And it will rightly be said that everyone receives according to his merits. Charlatans are misleading for those who want to be deceived, real herbal healers will definitely help someone.

After all, everything has a place to be in this world, just like pharmaceutical companies, whose activities are periodically “on debate” by traditional healing. But after all, every particle, even of this system, brings something into this world. Here in India and china, both modern and traditional medicine are very well combined. In rest of the world, something is beginning to revive, but until there is a change in concepts in the systems, the study of their correct meaning, until then people themselves will find it difficult to make some kind of choice.

Whether it is difficult in such conditions to engage in herbalism or healing – one can understand if we also proceed from the fact that – whether a person himself has taken responsibility for his life. If he realized that modern medicine no longer helps him, and he is looking for answers from nature, from those who touch him more gently, then he will find answers to questions – if he is ready to accept the answer.

It is very difficult to talk about the demand for such a profession as a herbalist. In theory, it would be nice if most people understood this themselves. How to put yourself in order, what herbs grow in the area where they live, what are they for? But if we are trying to delegate part of the responsibility, then you need to understand why you need a herbalist. Then a real herbalist who does his work from the heart will always be in demand. In fact, this applies to any profession. Live without adultery – that is, do any business with love and you will be happy.

What herbs can be used by a modern, simple person, a person of the civilized world, living in a city, but striving for the knowledge of nature and plants in general?

It is good when a person has studied the area in which he lives, that is, those herbs that grow around him. Because they are his practical teachers. And there is no point in going somewhere around the world with the motivation to buy herbs there, and then get treated here, since everything we need is already under our feet. Therefore, first of all, let a person study what is growing around him. For a more correct systematization of knowledge, you can use different sources – the Internet, paper reference books, books on Pharmacognosy (there is a classic system for identifying plants, harvesting and drying them). And when everything is already done by you, then you can already look for a herbalist (herbalist), who will already help to structure your information, help to weed out the unnecessary. Again, you need to understand – what is the motivation of your interests, such will be the answer from nature. In ancient times, they said that you are a herbalist, a healer – if you have the Gift from God, the Universal Knowledge. But from experience I can say that if a person is open-hearted, unselfishly moving towards Nature and he has pure and sincere aspirations for Knowledge, it will come to him.

Everything here needs to be approached comprehensively. To take and be treated with some kind of grass means to do nothing. The system is needed. If your body is in order (you support it physically, all organs are in place, proper nutrition), you are emotionally balanced, then herbs can be considered as prevention. If not in order, then we bring it into balance from different sides – and the herbs will be like one of the helpers, and not the cornerstone.

How should one treat plants? How to collect herbs, pick flowers, maybe there are some rituals?

If we talk about the attitude to flora and fauna, then my observations here are all individual. But often people believe that there is no feedback between man and Nature – like she is silent. Nothing like this. And even if you do not hear voices in your ears, knowledge in verbal form, Nature can also speak to you in another language.

If a person has not determined the motivation for collecting herbs, then basically he will have feedback with the plant through conflict. If we consider a plant as part of all life on the planet – then if you just want to pluck it – it can answer you and we won’t always like it – basically a person gets sick. That is, the plant considers a person without motivation – as an aggressor. Well, even if we briefly make an analogy of the interaction of people with each other, we can see this in our society. If we do not find a common language, if we do not clearly define the motivation for our approach to a person, then basically there will be a lack of understanding or a conflict.

It is the same with plants, only on a more subtle, sensual level. Again, it all depends on the worldview of a person and on his sensitivity. Therefore, everyone who really studies the plant world develops his own safety technique when working with plants. If we talk about my experience, then, as I already said, firstly, I determine the motivation when collecting a plant.

Plants are living beings and ask them for forgiveness when collecting, I communicate in such a way as to convey to them that now they are becoming food for me and I will someday become part of the earth and will feed them, so I ask for mutual help, and I read a prayer in which there is an appeal as to equals, and a request to help me, and thanksgiving. And this is with every plant, with every grass to which I bend down and bow when collecting. Secondly, you need to be concentrated, not scattered when collecting, if you already came for herbs, then be with them and words and actions and thoughts, and not somewhere far away, with your pressing problems. And thirdly, I read a prayer that I choose myself, it also helps to remain whole during the collection.

What would you like to say to people who want to be closer to nature?

The natural world is unusual, often unpredictable, it is changeable, and sometimes incomprehensible to us. Only by developing sensitivity, the ability to use it, the awareness of what you are doing, helps to reach a slightly different level of relationships. Perhaps then something new will open up. And again, do not forget the world we live in today. Try to understand what kind of historical period it is. How to adapt to a constantly changing world. Action and thinking from the heart helps in this. And I want everyone to start doing their own thing. What you like, what you can do from the heart. Determining what you can do on average is better than everyone else – bring it to perfection and you are already becoming happy. You are with a part of this world. And I have already said a lot about herbs. You can add something else, before you go somewhere far – find out, but have you studied your region?

Your unique message for our readers

True herbalism is a real art, a whole science of slow steps. It is wrong to think that anyone who has acquired a book of folk recipes, a set of herbs from a pharmacy and is ready to give everyone “authoritative” recommendations leading to “complete healing” can become a herbalist.

True herbalism does not like to shout loudly about itself. Perhaps this is due to the unique experience of continuous communication with nature, which does not tolerate bragging, fuss, noise and haste. Nature opens up to those who know how to be silent, listen and peer into its hidden, but endless life. She generously shares her gifts and secrets with those who will never violate her harmonious order, who will never bring death or destruction into her world, and who will never take anything superfluous for themselves. 

We must learn to love flora – the heart of our Mother Earth, that in turn paves the way to save it and also to protect the most endangered rare plant species! 

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Categories: Health

Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I've been writing articles for more than 12 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I'm currently writing for many websites and newspapers. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. All my years as a computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. You can contact me on our forum or by email at [email protected].