Out of curiosity, schoolteacher Jahangir Alam Shah planted Basok – a medicinal shrub – on his three acres of mango orchard in Naogaon, just to gauge its effectiveness in preventing pests.
His experiment proved to be a resounding success. The bitter leaves of the evergreen bushy shrubs was a hut with drug manufacturers.
Jahangir claimed his orchard in the Barind tract is the first commercial cultivation of Basok – meaning aromatic in Bengali.
Jahangir is a teacher of Rajshahi Collegiate School and is also involved in agri-research and writing. He said the Basok (Adhatoda Vasica, or Malabar Nut) leaf is used to make herbal medicines.
It is used to loosen chest congestion, open the breathing tubes, and treat spasms. The leaf is also used to treat upper airway infections, common colds, coughs, asthma, and tuberculosis.
Jahangir bought 7,000 saplings at Tk5 each from a Gaibandha farmer. He planted mango trees and Basok saplings together.
The large mango trees provide the medicinal plants with shade and thrive in dry, moisture-laden, jungle-like land.
Jahangir said Basok prefers moist, well-drained, reasonably fertile soil, though it can withstand some drought. It will not be able to withstand waterlogging.
According to the schoolteacher, cattle avoid these plants owing to their bitter taste, hence they require little care.
When asked about the commercial value of Basok, Jahangir said leaves of the Basok shrub are dried and then sold. Drug manufacturers, including ACI and Square, collect the leaves from growers.
The leaves can be plucked thrice a year, and for many years at a stretch. The price per kilogram of dried Basok leaves is Tk45-50.
In other words, since the plants do not require any fertilizer or pesticide, a one-time investment of Tk 7,000 on saplings could potentially earn Tk3.5 lakh a year.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) Rajshahi, this is the first commercial cultivation of Basok in Rajshahi. However, the medicinal shrub is occasionally grown in private homes.
Rajshahi DAE Deputy Director, Shamsul Haque said low-cost Basok cultivation on a commercial scale has immense profit potential, and the shrubs may be grown in mango orchards.
Basok is a medicinal plant native to Asia widely used in Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine. The whole plant or its roots, leaves, bark and flowers are used in various herbal preparations.