The Institute of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine (IAAM) of Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts initiated the ‘Ayurveda Medicinal Plant Website’ in 2008. This website (http://www.instituteofayurveda.org/plants/) provides details of the more commonly used Medicinal Plants of Sri Lanka in the practice of Ayurveda.
The primary purpose is to disseminate information to medical professionals including Ayurveda physicians, academia, students and also to the wider public. This website made the visible first attempt to collate information on the medicinal plants that grow in Sri Lanka’s diverse ecological zones. The database covers plants used in all of Sri Lankan medicinal systems, four of which have been adopted and practiced over centuries, namely, Deshiya Chikitsa, Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani. Deshiya Chikitsa originated in various regions of Sri Lanka which include the forest medicines used by the aborigines as well. It offers plant-based preparations for treatment. Ayurveda, India’s traditional health care system is based mainly on the use of plants, minerals, animal products, diet and exercise. Siddha, India’s oldest system of medicine which originated in South india, is based on ancient medicinal practice and spiritual disciplines. This system has been adopted by the northern regions of Sri Lanka. Unani medicine is the Perso Arabic systems which originated in Greece and was practiced in Mughal India and the Muslims culture in South East Asia. It is based on the teachings of the Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen. It involves the use of herbal medicines, dietary practices and alternative therapies.
The website will help medical practitioners identify correctly, the plants they use when preparing medicines. We also hope to raise awareness of the medicinal value of these plants, encouraging the public to protect them and promote the conservation of medicinal plants, particularly in Sri Lanka.
The project forms part of Barberyn’s on-going initiative to preserve those plants that form the foundation of Ayurveda. To address this objective, Barberyn is growing medicinal plants in six locations which are designated in the Map to the right.
We envision that the number of growing locations will expand in the future to include the hill country and dry zones of the Northern and Eastern provinces.
- Weligama - Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts – in the intermediate zone.
- Beruwala - Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts - in the intermediate zone.
- Didduwa - riverine island - in the wet zone
- Batukandakale forest - in the wet zone
- Ovita and Imbuladeniya - small plantations in the wet zone
- Meegama – in the wet zone
- Dunagaha – SEL Ayurvedic Plant Research Center, Western Province in the wet Zone - NEW
The information presented herein is a work in progress. As of 16th December, 2020, we had listed 1,348 plants. However, these data are being continuously updated with revisions, new information and additional images.
The website allows users to search using Sinhala, Tamil, Sanskrit, English or Scientific names. Alternatively, users may submit text searches for other terms employed in descriptions of the plants or their medicinal uses.
We welcome you to this exciting project and look forward to learning and sharing ideas regarding the amazing medicinal treasures present on the island of Sri Lanka.
Steps in Preparing the Website:
- Making a list of Ayurveda medicinal plants
- Choosing the most commonly used medicinal plants of Sri Lanka, and searching for their scientific names, the families they belong to, and their common English names along with their Sinhala (local) names from published literature and databases.
- Finding the English names is a time-consuming task as most plants did not have English names designated to them, or they were not readily available in the standard texts.
- Keeping up with changes as this will be an on-going project evolving with time.
- Arranging the list of plants in alphabetical order.
Giving medicinal plants a ‘status’
- Giving each species of plants a ‘status’, [i.e., endemic, native, naturalized exotic, only under cultivation]
- Checking the status with great care, using the information already available on medicinal plants in Sri Lanka.
Checking the edible nature of plants
On completion of the above, we checked on the edible nature for each species.
Taking photographs of medicinal plants
- Our main objective for this task was to show the key features which are used in the identification of any particular ‘species’ of plants, bearing in mind to show the artistic value of the photographs in relation to the natural beauty of the plants.
- Priority had to be given to the ‘growth habit’ of each plant.
- Concentrating on this fact meant that we needed to take photographs showing three of the taxonomically most important features pertaining to each species; these being:
- The nature of the plants
- The flowers
- The fruits
- This involved taking around fifteen photographs for each species of which three of the best can be chosen to satisfy each of the above criteria.
- A thorough knowledge of these plants with regard to their natural habitat and their flowering seasons were required for this task as they are found in various parts of the country and their flowering patterns vary considerably. Another important fact is that, plants are identified by different ‘common Sinhala names’ (common local names) according to the geographical locations where they are found growing naturally.
Writing the botanical description
- In order to ensure the accuracy of our research, several publications had to be referred to in respect of each individual plant. More specifically, the key features described had to compare well with the photographs taken for each plant.
- The key objective for this task was to take great care in matching the photographs according to the morphology of the plant thereby making sure the correct scientific name designated corresponds with the plants’ English name and the Sinhala (local) name.
Describing the Ayurveda Usage
- This information was researched by the team of Ayurveda Doctors at Barberyn’s Institute of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine. The knowledge of these professionals was supplemented by traditional physicians each of whom has worked in this field for many years and continue to support this project.
- The Ayurveda usage and the parts of plants used in medication have been documented alongside the morphological descriptions of the plants in the website.
Construction of the website
The website has been constructed and maintained by Ayurveda Resorts of Barberyn with the hope that
this would be a valuable resource for Ayurveda practitioners, academics and people interested in health as well as in eco-conservation.
This website is the first of its kind to be produced in Sri Lanka and is bound to have an infinite number of uses in different fields, not only for its botanical value, but also in preservation of bio-diversity and eco-systems, and in the teaching and practicing Ayurveda medicine.
In 2008 the initial project team comprised of: Professor L.P. Jayatissa, Botanical Consultant, Head, Department of Botany, University of Ruhuna, Mr. Dilipa Narada Sripal, Assistant Taxonomist, Department of Botany, University of Ruhuna; Dr. Mangala Kumara, Ayurveda Physician, Institute of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine, Barberyn; and Ms. Kumarini Samarasuriya, serving as Project Coordinator.
While Ms. Samarasuriya provides overall coordination and leadership for the project, the physicians and researchers of Barberyn’s Institute of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine (IAAM) continue with the ongoing research, particularly the Ayurveda aspects of the project. The Barberyn web team which developed the web site, will continue to maintain it.
The project is a labor of love amongst a group of like-minded people with a deep interest in Ayurveda and Botany who saw the need and the opportunity to work together to preserve and nurture the medicinal plants that have been thriving abundantly in Sri Lanka, but are now deemed to be threatened with extinction due to human interference, climate change and natural disasters.
In 2016 the project began an exchange programme with the “Medicinal Plant Names Services” (MPNS) initiative at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London (www.kew.org/mpns). The Barberyn project shared with Kew the names of the 1,348 Sri Lankan medicinal plants at that point collated. The MPNS undertook to check the validity of the scientific names employed, to update these to reflect an authoritative modern global plant taxonomy and point their users to this website. This exercise also enhanced the integrity of our data and led to discussions of further potential improvements.
Barberyn held a series of workshops from 28th – 3rd May 2018 in Weligama. Dr Bob Allkin, that leads the MPNS initiative at Kew, took part along with the entire Sri Lankan project team. One objective was to help assess the international significance and potential external links for Barberyn’s Ayurveda Medicinal Plant Database (AMPD) so that the latter could benefit from data available about the plants held elsewhere. A second aim was to review the underlying data structures employed in AMPD and suggest how these might be improved to further our dissemination goals. Finally, we discussed closer collaboration between AMPD and MPNS.
The Barberyn project management decided to establish a Herbarium to house a reference collection of plant materials representative of the plants seen and collected on field trips and above all as reference material for the plants being grown in the Barberyn medicinal plant gardens. The Herbarium is being created according to specifications established in international standards. The Herbarium is currently housed in the premises of Sirivilasa, the ancestral home of the Rodrigo family at Panadura, now functioning as the Institute of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine (IAAM).
A further joint team workshop was held in Weligama with Dr Bob Allkin to review progress toward addressing the findings of the 2018 workshops. We also discussed in more detail the procedures involved in the two- way data exchange between AMPD and MPNS in as efficient and as useful a way as possible.
Concerns addressed were:
- precision of the scientific names employed in AMPD
- the lack of scientific synonymy in AMPD currently limiting our ability to find published data concerning plants of interest and the ability of our users to find information in the AMPD database
- the rate at which plant systematics and classifications are changing as new molecular evidence points to alternative evolutionary pathways.
As a result of these discussions, it was decided for MPNS to revalidate the scientific names employed in AMPD providing both the full scientific name and author (to avoid ambiguity) and for MPNS to further enrich the AMPD database with all scientific synonyms for its plants. Further design decisions were taken and, for example, the project team and management agreed to include the following additional data to AMPD and our website:
- Tamil name
- Sanskrit name
- Conservation status as per IUCN list 2012 of Sri Lanka (most up to date list of today)
Subsequent discussions included consideration of depositing duplicates of the specimens housed in the Barberyn Herbarium with the National Herbarium in Peradeniya. This would bring our material to the attention of a wider botanical community and facilitate maintenance of the identification of plants.
Our special thanks to:
- Dr P.M. Chandrasiri, Consultant Physician Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts.
- Physicians of Barberyn’s Institute of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine and the physicians of Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts who worked on this project for several years, in particular Dr Athma Karunathilake, Dr Sudharma Umayangani, Dr Sanjeevani and Dr. Indika, Dr.Chaturanga Ranasingha, Dr Chamal Thenuwara and late Dr. Dahanayake.
- Associate Professor Piyal A. Marasinghe, Formerly Scientific Officer in Charge of the Medicinal Plant Research Institute, Haldummulla for his contribution in providing information on medicinal plants.
- The internet team comprising of Dr. Andreas Koestler for his guidance and input in structuring and preparing the website, to Keerati Tunthasuwatana and Natty Mendhaka for their expertise and implementation, together with Sameera Sandaruwan for their technical support
- Mr. T P G Aruna Yasapalitha and Dr Sanjeeva Ranasinghe for accompanying us on the field trips to Polonnaruwa and sharing their knowledge of the valuable medicinal plants in the remote areas around the north central province.
- Mr. Pradeep Rajatewa for supplying his images.
- The contributions of the Directors of the Forest Conservation Departments in Colombo and Galle and the field Guides for facilitating field trips.
- Dr. George Silva from Michigan State University, USA for his constructive suggestions on the contents of the website
- Ms. Anujanie Gunerathne for researching and providing additional Tamil, Sanskrit and English names
A ‘Contact Us’ page has been created in the website to enable readers to forward their enquiries related to plants and Ayurveda usages. These enquiries are handled by Ms. Kumarini Samarasuriya, the project coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. Responses could be expected within a week.
Information about plants and areas visited:
- Scientific name
- Local name
- English name
- Family name
- Edible parts
- Ayurveda usages
- Parts used in treatment
- Related medicinal properties
Numerous field trips were made by the project team to obtain first-hand knowledge and images of the plants.
Areas visited were:
Plans for the future:
- Polonnaruwa / Minneriya
- Neluwa / Sinharaja adaviya
- Berliya / Kanneliya
- Dereniyagala / Sitawake
To widen the utility of the AMPD and website we have decided to include the following additional information in the near future:
- All the local names used for a single plant regionally (vernacular names)
- A list of the plants commonly mistaken/confused with each plant in our database (whether they are themselves medicinal or not)
- Plants substituted for medicinal plants be that intentionally or by mistake.
- The reference source for the information provided
- Increase test locations
This project continues to benefit from the direction and unreserved commitment of Mrs. Geetha Karandawala, Director, Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts and the Institute of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine and the support of Mr. Manick Rodrigo, the Managing Director. The entire cost of this project to date was borne by Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts. We appreciate very much for their commitment for continuous support.