India: van Rheede, Caius and Others

  • Eng Soon Teoh


Orchids have been employed as aphrodisiac, tonic or medicine in India for thousands of years. Their usage continues today. Knowledge of such usage was revealed to the West by the monumental plication of van Rheede who described the economic or botanically interesting plants of Malabar in 1703, and by Father Caius who wrote on medicinal orchids during the 1930s. However, their publications did not mention the use of orchids as aphrodisiac. Ethnobotanical studies on orchids continued after Indian independence and many studies drew attention to the use of orchids as aphrodisiac. Four orchids are included in Asthavarga, an aphrodisia preparation and tonic employed in Ayurveda. Some orchids with tubers (Eulophia and Dactylorhiza species) are also prized as aphrodisiacs and they can fetch extremely high prices in herbal markets. Given the possibility that a Flickingeria (Dendrobium) species might be the mythical Sangeevani (the Himalayan herb which restored life to mortally wounded Lakshmana in the Ramayana), a hundred truckloads of the orchid was imported from Nepal to prepare an aphrodisiac. Going beyond aphrodisiacs, 112 orchids with medicinal usage have been identified in India.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eng Soon Teoh
    • 1
  1. 1.SingaporeSingapore

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