GUWAHATI, Sept 23 – Rediscovery of a medicinal plant well known for its anti-cancer property in the rain forests of upper Assam after 98 years of its first collection has fuelled hopes of a new breakthrough in cancer cure.
The plant, Nothapodytes nimmonina (Mabberly), was found and collected by Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Jatin Sarma, Dr SK Borthakur, taxonomist of Gauhati University, and Sanjib Baruah, research scholar of the Botany Department, Gauhati University, in Upper Dehing reserve forest in Tinsukia district during their botanical exploration trips.
N nimmo-niana (Grah) Mabberly, formerly known as Nothapodytes foetida Sleumer and Mappia foetida Miers, is a small tree distributed throughout tropical America and Asia, and in parts of China and Sri Lanka. In India it is an endangered medicinal tree confined to the Western Ghats.
“We collected certain herbarium materials belonging to members of Icacinaceae, and a critical study and scrutiny of literature confirmed the specimen to be Nothapodytes nimmoniana,” Sarma said.
Botanist UN Kanjilal had collected two specimens of the plant in February 1914, bearing collection number 3,346 from Borjan under Makum Range of the then Lakhimpur district (now under Tinsukia district). The two specimens were deposited at the Assam Herbarium, Botanical Survey of India, Shillong, bearing accession numbers 5,136 and 5,137 respectively.
“The occurrence of Nothapodytes nimmoniana has been mentioned in Flora of Assam published by Kanjilal et al (1934 ), wherein it is mentioned that the plant was encountered only once in the field. Scrutiny of literature and herbarium search revealed that except the collection of Kanjilal deposited in Assam Herbarium, there are no other reports of occurrence or collection of the plant during the last 98 years either from Assam or from any other parts of the North-east,” Dr Borthakur said.
Sarma said they also looked for the plant at Borjan where Kanjilal had collected the plant but they could not find out even a single plant and even in Upper Dihing reserve forest the plant is very rare. He added that a few more species could soon add to the list of the newly-discovered plant species.