Anantnag| Taxus baccata- is a species of evergreen tree in the conifer family, native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and Kashmir. It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may now be known as common yew, English yew, or European yew. In Kashmir it is found in Botapathri Gulmarg , Duksum Verinag and in South Kashmir’s Langalbal Pahalgam and and so on. The Gujjars of J&K who have been using Taxus leaves and bark since times immemorial for its pain-relieving and therapeutic properties, call it “Posteel””.
Taxus baccata has gained importance in medicinal use, both in Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine. The plant kingdom is the most vital to human welfare and is extensively exploited for countless purposes but medicinal use of plants is of high importance as they have been by far the most important source of medicine for people throughout human history. Traditional uses of medicinal plants against different ailments play a significant role in meeting the primary health care needs of the local people especially rural communities. The information on traditional uses of plants could serve as a useful source for pharmacologists, botanists and to those interested in the development of alternative therapies. Being phyto geographically located , the Kashmir valley often referred to as a ‘Earthly Paradise’ well-known around the planet is endowed with a filled diversity of medicinal plants. Medicinal plants represent and contribute substantially to human health. Use of medicinal plants by Kashmiri People has a long history. The traditional Hakims and healers utilise different parts of the plants as remedies for different ailments.
Researchers have documented 1,123 medicinal plants growing in Jammu and Kashmir. It is well known that Jammu and Kashmir harbour rich biodiversity, including diverse medicinal flora. And among such vast medicinal plants one is ” TAXUS BACCATA”. Taxus baccata has gained importance in medicinal use, both in Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine. DFO Lidder Forest division, Dr Mehraj Ud Din while talking to Kashmir Horizon about the Taxus Baccata said that it is very easy plant to grow, it withstands the pressures of cold and heat in shady and sunny situations, wet and dry soils, exposure . The plant thrives in almost all soils, acidic or alkaline, as long as it is well-drained. Modern research has shown that plants contain the substance Taxol in their shoots. Taxol has shown exciting potential as an anti-cancer drug, he said.
Dr Mehraj further said that though the plant is easy to cultivate but the non availability of seeds makes it difficult to enhance it’s growth, adding therein that though forest department has started to cultivate this type of plant but it needs to be done on larger Scale.The need is to preserve the rarest of the rare plant so to fully utilise its true value besides a general awareness is need of the hour, he ‘said. Taxus Baccata which has a promising potential to be a capable source of anticancer drug- taxol, needs to be given special attention and protection. Besides timber is excellent and resistant to decay. However, instead the already limited numbers of individuals of this species with restricted distribution are diminishing day by day due to one or the other reasons. The extraction of many medicinal plants is banned in Jammu and Kashmir. However, smugglers get around this by sending local men and women to the forests to pick the plants, as well as wood and dried leaves. This makes it difficult for forest guards to identify wrongdoing. Taxus , a rare tree found in the Himalayan foothills, is fast disappearing because of large-scale illegal felling for an anti-cancer drug made from its leaves and bark. The tree parts are allegedly smuggled to laboratories in the US, Germany and other Western countries involved in research on taxol, a resinous substance extracted from Taxus. Taxus species have been threatened due to their small population size, slow germination from seed, slow propagation, narrow range, overgrazing, high value, climate change, and habitat loss. Currently, little information is available regarding the size and status of Taxus populations . The bark of 6 mature trees is required for getting one dose of paclitaxel. Trees are being damaged extensively by bark peeling, but also by lopping and grazing. Collectively, these activities, along with poor regeneration, are responsible for the fast decline .This species is now classified as ‘endangered’ .