Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 6(19), pp. 3522-3524, 23 May, 2012
Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/JMPR
ISSN 1996-0875 ©2012 Academic Journals
Dactylorhiza hatagirea: A high value medicinal orchid
Shreekar Pant* and Tsewang Rinchen
Conservation Ecology Laboratory, Centre for Biodiversity Studies, School of Biosciences and Biotechnology,
BGSB University, Rajouri-185 131, Jammu and Kashmir, India.
Accepted 3 April, 2012
The family Orchidaceae, best represented by the species Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soo, is known
worldwide for its manifold uses. It is widely used to cure various diseases like dysentery, diarrhoea,
chronic fever, cough, stomachache, wounds, cuts, burns, fractures, general weakness, etc., and widely
used in modern medicine. Therefore, an attempt has been made to assess the medicinal potential of the
species both in traditional as well as in modern medicine system. These properties are supposed to be
cured by different active compounds present in the plant. This paper provides the relevant information
about medicinal properties of the high value medicinal orchid.
Key words: Dactylorhiza hatagirea, orchid, medicinal potential.
Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soo belongs to the family
Orchidaceae. The plant is native and near endemic to
Indian Himalayan region (Badola and Aitken, 2003;
Samant et al., 1998; Ved et al., 2003). Its distribution
extends to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet and
Bhutan. In India, it is reported from Jammu and Kashmir,
Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal
Pradesh (Samant et al., 2001; Dhar and Kachroo, 1983;
Aswal and Mehrotra, 1994; Hajra and Balodi, 1995).
Generally, it is widely and narrowly distributed at an
altitudinal ranges between 2500 to 5000 m amsl in open
grassy slopes and alpine meadows (Bhatt et al., 2005). It
is commonly known as panja, salam-panja, hath-panja or
hatajari in Uttarakhand; salem panja in Kashmir and
wanglak or angulagpa in various parts of Ladakh.
Generally, the plant is a perennial herb, up to 60 to 70 cm
in height, having palmately lobed, divided root tubers with
broadly lanceolate leaves arranged more or less along
the stem and purple flowers, but some time white (Figure
The plant tubers of D. hatagirea contain a glucoside, a
*Corresponding author. E-mail: email@example.com.
bitter substance, starch, mucilage, albumen, a trace of
volatile oil and ash (Dutta and Karn, 2007). Chemically,
dactylorhins A to E, dactyloses A and B and lipids, etc.,
are found as major constituents.
According to Ranpal (2009), rhizomatous part of D.
hatagirea has shown resistance against all Gram positive
and Gram negative bacteria, but its aerial part has shown
limited resistance against some bacteria. Zonation of
inhibitions (ZOIs) between the two parts of D. hatagirea,
the rhizome part is more effective than the aerial part
against all tested organisms, except Escherichia coli.
Further, it is interesting to note that E. coli, one of the
very resistant bacteria to synthetic drugs, was found to be
very susceptible to the extract of this plant. This finding is
distinctive from the folkloric uses D. hatagirea. Hence,
this plant can be a potential source for evolving newer
antimicrobial compounds for treating dysentery caused
by E. coli.
As per Thakur and Dixit (2007), the herb shows the
effectiveness in improving and preventing the
functionality of sexual organ and may be helpful in
improving the sexual behavior and performance also. The
results also corroborate the hype that the plant is capable
of being nominated as herbal cure for sexual dysfunction.
There is also, sufficient evidence that the plant increase
testosterone level in adult male rats. Clinical data on
Pant and Rinchen 3523
Figure 1. The plant of D. hatagirea.
testosterone also suggest that a slightly increased level
of testosterone in adult males results in an increased
sexual desire and arousability (Bancroft, 2005).
Since the time immemorial, this species is used in
various Indian medicine system, that is, Ayurveda,
Siddha and Unani, and also, in some Traditional
medicinal systems, that is, Amchi medicinal system. It is
widely used to cure dysentery, diarrhoea, chronic fever,
cough, stomachache, wounds, cuts, burns, fractures and
general weakness, particularly in debilitated women after
delivery and to increase regenerative fluids. Tubers of D.
hatagirea are rich in starch, mucilage, sugar, phosphate,
chloride and glucoside-loroglossin (CSIR, 1996). In
Uttarakhand D. hatagirea is also used in bone fracture
(Kala et al., 2004). The tubers of D. hatagirea are known
to yield a high quality ‘Salep’ which is extensively used in
local medicine as nervine tonic for its astringent and
aphrodisiac properties (Vij et al., 1992; Lal et al., 2004;
Baral and Kurmi, 2006). This is also well supported by
our survey conducted in Ladakh, where high quality of
‘Salep’ is used as farinaceous food, expectorant,
aphrodisiac and as nervine tonic. Local inhabitants collect
the roots, dried and then grind it and take with milk to
increase vigourness. Besides its medicinal importance,
salep obtained from the tubers of D. hatagirea, is used as
a sizing material in silk industry.
D. hatagirea has been categorized as critically
endangered species (CAMP status), critically rare (IUCN
status) and is listed under Appendix II of CITES (Kala,
2000; Samant et al., 2001). Besides these, being an
orchid, Dactylorhiza can be considered inherently slow
growing and poorly regenerating species, because of
pollinator specificity and requirement for mycorrhizal
association (Bhatt et al., 2005). Due to its high medicinal
and edible value, the species has great demand in
national and international market (Badola and Pal, 2002;
Olsen and Helles, 1997). Furthermore, extraction of the
raw material from its wild population is the only source for
meeting the market demand. According to a report, the
annual demand of this species is approximately 5000
tons (Kala, 2004). This leads to over-exploitation of the
species from wild. Local inhabitants collect this high value
medicinal plant for illegal trading. The local inhabitants
could collect Rs. 100 to 200 per kg of dried roots of
3524 J. Med. Plants Res.
D. hatagirea. For 1 kg of dried roots, 90 to 100 mature
plants are exploited. As a result, so many areas are there
where D. hatagirea is present in abundance, but now, a
few individuals of this species are seen. This indicates
that if the casual factors continue to operate, this species
may become extinct within a few years.
During the survey, it was also observed that local
inhabitants carry their livestock in the higher regions of
the valley for grazing. This is another level of disturbance,
because due to the grazing and trampling, the under-
ground part of the D. hatagirea get exposed or removed.
These levels of disturbances, like grazing pressure, over
exploitation and unawareness of proper procedure of
collection and propagation, etc., are the other major
factors for declining this species from its natural habitats.
D. hatagirea is generally used as nervine tonic for its
astringent and aphrodisiac properties, and it is widely
used to cure dysentery, diarrhoea, chronic fever, cough,
stomachache, wounds, cuts, burns, fractures and general
weakness, particularly in debilitated women after delivery
and to increase regenerative fluids. Recent research
shows a promising result against E. coli and clinical trial
shows that the herb is also used to increase testosterone
level and also help to increase sexual desire. The main
aim of this article is to focus on the medicinal potential of
such dawdling medicinal orchid and suggest that future
research should be conducted in a manner to keep in
mind the properties of such wonder herb, while
analyzing/isolating/characterizing the active principle(s)
compounds present in it. In the same time, we should
also try to identify the active compound responsible for
each and every property, and identify if they act singly or
in combination with other compounds present in the
wonder herb. Furthermore, keeping in view the demand
and status of this species, it is necessary that further
research is needed to overcome these problems and also
to promote cultivation, propagation, awareness and
conservation of this species through people participation
and of course through various conservation methods like,
in-situ and ex-situ.
The authors are thankful to the authorities of BGSB
University for providing facilities and also to the local
inhabitants for sharing valuable knowledge. The Ministry
of Environment and Forests (File no.No.8/22/08-
CS/BR/48) is greatly acknowledged for financial help.
The authors greatly acknowledge the anonymous
reviewers for their valuable comments.
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