Objectives: A rich plant diversity is being supported by Himalayan mountain ecosystems including many endemic and endangered species that which has been used by the indigenous populations for traditional health care remedies for many years. These communities also depend on mountain resources for their livelihood in terms of collection and sale of medicinal plants and other basic requirements. A study on the important plant communities of scrub ecosystems was carried out with special aim of phytosociological evaluation, preparation of ethnobotanical, ethnomedicinal, ethnoveterinay and ethnocosmetic inventory and evaluation of conservation status of important medicinal plants.
Materials and methods: Data was collected by semi structured, structured interviews and questionnaire methods coupled with group meetings, field discussions on different topics with the people especially local vaids, households, herbal healers and pastoralists.
Results and discussion: Data collected from the present investigation indicate that 80 plants belonging to 38 families with Rosaceae the dominant family were exclusively used in traditional healthcare system. The knowledge on medicinal plant distribution, habitat, uses, part used and mode of preparation for use is like a prized ancient wisdom preserved within elders and women folk of the ethnic groups. Different degrees of threats were observed to different valuable medicinal plants during the period of investigation.
Conclusion: The people of the area are exclusively dependent on medicinal plants using traditional knowledge that provide them the best therapeutic and economic benefits. Such traditional knowledge could be valuable for developing local and regional conservation strategies for these fragile ecosystems. There is an urgent need to thoroughly analyze the secondary metabolite properties of such plants in order to validate their authenticity in the local health care systems. Recommendations are also given for monitoring and sustainable collection of medicinal plant resources so as to avoid their overexploitation and to preserve such dwindling plant wealth along with unique ecosystems.