Bhaderwah: 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’.
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 launched the Aroma Mission to harness the benefits of essential oils from aromatic plants.
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 laboratories involved in the mission provide free quality planting material to small and marginal farmers.
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