Plants of desert have medicinal value.
Out of the total 4,20,000 flowering plants reported from the world
Govaerts, 2001) more than 50,000 are used for medicinal purposes
(Schippmann, Leaman and Cunninghan, 2002). In India, more than 43% of the total flowering plants are reported to be of medicinal importance (Pushpangdan, 1995). Utilization of plants for medicinal purposes in India has been documented long back in ancient literature (Charak, 1996; Tulsidas, 1631 Samvat). However, organized studies in this direction were initiated in 1956 (Rao, 1996) and off late such studies are gaining recognition and popularity due to loss of traditional knowledge and declining plant population. Right from it’s beginning, the documentation of traditional knowledge especially on the medicinal uses of plants, has provided many important drugs of the modern day (Anon, 1994; Cox and Ballick, 1994; Fabricant and Farnsworth, 2001). Even today this area holds much more hidden treasure as almost 80% of the human population in developing countries is dependent
on plant resources for healthcare (Farnsworth, Akerele and Bingel, 1985). In the rural areas of Churu, plants are the major source of local medicine for their well being. Ethnobotanical studies in Rajasthan was conduced earlier (Trivedi, 2000 and 2002; Sharma, 2002; Joshi, 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1995; Singh and Pandey, 1980, 1983 and 1998; Mishra and Kumar, 2000), however, information on the uses of plants as traditional medicines has not been documented from different sectors of the district. Keeping this in view, the present study was initiated, with an aim to document the knowledge of folklore on the utilization of medicinal plants in
rural areas of Churu district.
1.1. Study site Churu district lies between 27° 24' to 29°00' N latitude and 73°51' to 75°41 E longitude, occupying an area of about 13,858 km2 (Fig. 1). The district is a part of the Thar Desert in India, situated 400 m above the sea level. The district is well known for huge diurnal and seasonal temperature
variations from –3°C in winters to 50°C in summers with shifting sand dunes, erratic and scantly rainfall, high wind velocity, having thorny and poor vegetation. The sandy soil and bright sunlight are the two important
natural resources abundantly available in this region, which are responsible for the development of the desert vegetation having variable medicinal properties. Generally the folk people are well acquainted with these medicinal properties (Jain, 1991; Kaushik and Dhiman, 2000).
The study reveals that more than 80% of the rural people depend for
their primary healthcare on folk medicine, mainly of plant origin. According to survey the people of Churu district use 68 different plants belonging to 33 families for curing various ailments, out of which 32 were herbs, 16 shrubs, 13 trees, 11 climbers and twinners. The study has brought to light some 188 folk recipes, used currently by the traditional healers of various cultures in
Churu district of Rajasthan for curing or alleviating different diseases and conditions. In most of the case (31%), leaves were used for curing ailment
followed by roots, seeds and whole plant (Fig.2). Flowers, gum and latex
were the least used plant parts. The usual methods of applications are as
decoction, paste and powder. These are administered internally (57%) or
applied externally (43%). Most of the recipes (70%) include only one plant,
however many preparations are the combination of several herbs. The
information on scientific name, local name of the plant, family of the plant,
plant part used to cure and mode of administration has been provided in
These plants were used for curing a total of 78 diseases ranging from
simple stomach-ache to highly complicated male and female disorders. They
treated even jaundice and kidney stones. Maximum numbers of plants were
used for curing fever and rheumatism followed by piles, diarrhea and
dysentery, asthma and ulcer (Fig.3). It was also found that a single plant
might be used for curing many ailments such as Citrullus colocynthis, which
is used for curing rheumatism, paronychia, amenorrhoea and constipation.
Similarly, Tecomella undulata is used against syphilis and leucorrhoea.
During the survey, it was observed that a large number of plants are
used for curing female disorders compared to males. This can be attributed
to the fact that unlike men, women are hesitant to disclose their
gynecological problems and therefore find treatment in the community itself.
Besides they are full time busy in household jobs as well as in farms.
It was also found that people are hesitant to disclose their knowledge. It is this knowledge that provides them recognition in the society and hence they do not want to share it. In the most of the cases, it was found that this knowledge has been orally transferred from one generation to other and at each level a bit of it has been lost.
Joshi, P., 1993. 'Tribal remedies against Snakebite and scorpion stings in
Rajasthan'. In: Singh, V.K. and Goril, J.N. (Eds.), Glimpses in plant
Research, Vol. 10 : Medicinal plants – New vistas in Research. New
Delhi, Today and Tomorrows, Printers and Publishers, pp. 23-30.
Joshi, P., 1995. Ethnobotany of the Primitive tribes in Rajasthan. Printwell
Kaushik, P., Dhiman, A.K., 2000. Medicinal plants and raw drugs of India.
Bishan Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, Dehradun.
Kritikar, K.R., Basu, B.D., 1981. Indian medicinal plant. Vol. 1-11, oriental
Martin, G.J., 1995. Ethnobotany : A methods manual. Chapman and Hall,
Mishra, A., Kumar, A., 2000. Medicinally important trees of Rajasthan. Int.
Table 1 : Inventory of local knowledge regarding medicinal plants of Churu district in the Thar desert, India.
(Local name and Family are
given in parenthesis)
Part used Disease cured
by the plant
Mode of Administration Use (%) Status Abundance*
Acacia nilotica Delile
Sore throat and
Powder of bark is applied
externally in ulcers.
The decoction of the bark is used
as a gargle.
An infusion of tender leaves is
The decoction of its pods is
47 W 4
Acacia senegal Willd
Gum inflammation of
Gum is used internally in
inflammation of intestinal mucosa
and externally to cover inflammed
surfaces as burns, sore nipples and
4 W 4
Leaves Scabies The decotion of leaves mixed with
common salt is applied to scabies
7 W 3
Achyranthrus aspera Linn.
A pinch of root powder in
combination with pepper and
honey is given in cough.
Powdered roots mixed with honey
are given internally.
11 W 4
Aerva tomentosa Forssk
(Bui, Buida, Amaranthaceae)
Flowers, seeds headache,
Woolly seeds stuffed in pillows
relieve headache and protective
Decoction of flowers and seeds
applied externally against
15 W 3
Albizia lebbeck (Linn.) Benth. Leaves, bark Night blindness Leaf juice is used as eye drop for 3 W