Plants in folk medicines :- Herbs have been used in India since the time immemorial for curing diseases of man and his cattle . During the Vedic period ( 2000 B.C. – 800 B.C. ) ‘ Vrikshayurveda’ written by Parasar was a text-book for pre-medical students. In Europe, According to Arber (1938), the use of plants for curing diseases was advocated during the age of herbals which lasted from 1470 – 1670 A.D.
Phillipus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus of Hohen-hein , popularly known as Paracelsus ( 1493 – 1541 ) advocated the use of herbs for curing diseases . According to this Doctrine of Signatures, nature has put its Signature on plants and a liver – shaped plant ( Liver worts ) is a cure for the disease of liver , a heart shaped plant such as the betel leaf is a cure for a disease of heart and so on.
In India the science of medicinal plants has developed long before its advocacy in Europe by herbalits . Such famous names as Dhanvantri , Ashwini Kumar , Kashyap , Atri , Nagarjun , Sushrut etc . are well known in the field to require any introduction . For quite a long time the use of medicinal plants for curing disease was a family profession and the known but unwritten knowledge about medicinal herbs used to be passed from generation to generation in the family . However when no son was born to a learned Vaid ( Doctor ) , his entire knowledge about medicinal plants was lost to the world with his death . Even the written science of Ayurveda suffers from a serious lack of characterization of the medicinal herbs and a name like Antmul may be refered to so many different species .
The importance of herb in curing human disease was very much realized during the post independent era in India and this led to the organization of the Central Council for Research in Indian Medicine and Homeopathy to promote and co-ordinate research in Indian medicine .
Use of plants in folk medicines is much prevalent in Central India (Jain , 1963 , Jain and Tarafder , 1963 ) . More than 100 plants were reported to be commonly used in medicine in the district of Bastar ( Jain 1965 a ). Some plants are used singly whereas others are used in mixture. Similarly, certain plants were considered useful in only one disease whereas several had multiple uses . Distinct remedial properties used by the local inhabitants of Arakot Valley in the district Uttar Kashi are included in the list of medicinal plants . (Chopra et al. , 1958 ; Singh et al., 1983 ; Agarwal , 1986) Indigofera gerardiana R.Grah (Sakina) root paste is applied on the ulcer to remove the pus . The powder of dried leaves is stored with grains as insecticide (Bist et al. , 1988 ) . Many medicines reported by tribal of Bastar appear to be unknown or little known outside this community . Example :- Cassia tora Linn.(Panavar, Choeta ) : Tender leaves are eaten to prevent skin diseases .
The state of Madhya Pradesh has the largest concentration of tribal people ( 120 lakhs ) in the country . There are five well defined tribal zones in the state . The southern zone comprises parts of Drug and Rajnandgaon district . The south – eastern zone comprises of Ripur and Bastar district and is inhabited by tribals like Kamars , Bhunjias , Halbas , Bhaltras , Dhurwas , Muias , Parja , Gadba , Pando , Dorla , Biscon – horn Maria and the Hill Maria and the Gonds . In eastern region are Oraons , Korwas , Pandos , Dhanks . The central zone has Karwas, Gonds, Kols, Bharias. The western zone is the area of Bhills of various types and the pretty Bhilalas. (Maheshwari and Dwivedi, 1988). The tribals utilize a large number of plant species occouring in the Chhindwara district as herbal remedies in the various diseases and aliment (Jain 1963 and 1965a) . Jain (1963 , 1965a) have conducted studies on the ethnomedicinal uses of plants by the tribes of Madhya Pradesh .
Some of the other plants which are used in folk medicine are as follows :-
1. Abrus precatorius Linn.‘karjari’ ( Fabaceae ) :- In Kundi (Surguja) of Madhya Pradesh, the tribal people use the decocation prepared from fresh pods (50 gm.) three times daily in abortion .
2. Acacia catechu Willd. ‘khair’ ( Mimosaceae ) :- In Madhopur ( Raigarh ) of Madhya Pradesh the tribal people used, the heartwood is for making ‘kattha’ ; the later is used as a dye . The wood is also used as fire and timber (Maheshwari, Painuli, Diwivedi, 1997 ) . In Bihar , Santhal tribes make a paste of root and apply it on joints for seven days for rheumatism (Tarafdar and Chaudhari, 1997 ). Kols of Utter Pradesh use its leaves for blood dysentery .The extract of leaves is taken with milk ( Maheshwari and Singh , 1987 ) . It is also known as an astringent and for cough , sores and throat affection . It is also known as antiviral , anti-inflammatory , hepatoprotective and spasmolytic ( Chakravarthy et al. , 1983 ; Nirmal et al. , 1985 ; Rege et al. , 1984 )
3. Acacia chundra ( Rottl. ) Willd. Syn. Acacia sundra DC. ‘Kair’ ( Minosaceae ) :- Bhils , Nayakas and other tribal communities of Gujrat , use its wood for leucoderma . Paste of wood is applied locally ( Bhatt and Sabnis , 1987 ) .
4. Albizzia lebbek Benth.‘ khairi’ ( Mimosaceae ) :- Fresh decoction is used three times daily in stomach troubles and dysentery in Bihar by many tribes.
5. Alysicarpus vaginalis Linn. DC. ‘Davai’ ( Papilionaceae ) :- It is known for cough . Santhals of Santhal Pargana in Bihar use its root as an antifertility agent ( Goel et al. , 1984 ) .
6. Atylosia scarabaeoides Benth. ‘Banherwa’ ( Papilionaceae ) :- In Raigarh (Aeppu) of Madhya Pradesh the tribal people use the plant decoction ( 100 ml.) as a tonic after delivery . The fresh leaf paste is applied on swellings of leg . The pod are also eaten for this purpose ( Maheshwari, Painuli, Diwivedi, 1997 ). In Bihar tribal people make plant or root into a paste and mixe with coconut oil to apply on head for fifteen days to check falling hairs to cure baldness (Tarafdar and Chaudhari, 1997 ).
7. Atylosia volubilis Blanco. ‘Gamble’ ( Papilionaceae ) :- Inhabitants of Orissa use its root for mumps . The root is made into a paste and applied locally ( Saxena et al. , 1981 ) .
8. Bauhinia purpurea Linn. ‘Khairwal’ (Caesalpiniaceae):- In Raigarh ( Sisrangha) the tribal people used the stem bark decoction (50 ml.) three times daily in body pain and fever . The young leaves and buds are cooked as food ( Maheshwari, Painuli, Diwivedi, 1997 ) . Santhals , Bhumij , Birhors and Kherias of West Bengal apply paste of its bark on sores of small-pox ( Jain and De , 1966 ) . Nagas of Nagaland use its bark for curring cancerous growth in stomach ( locally known as ‘Chapo’ ) . Paste of bark is given in internally ( Rao and Jamir , 1982a and 1982b ) . Among the inhabitants of Dharmpuri Forest Division in Tamil Nadu , the leaf – paste of this plant mixed with milk (latex) of Jatropha curcas is administered to cure jaundice ( Apparanantham and Chelladurai , 1986 ) . It is also known as anthelmintic , diuretic , astringent , carminative and for diarrhoea .
9. Bauhinia vahlii Wight and Arn.‘Sehar’( Caesalpiniaceae ) :- In Sisrangha (Raigarh) of Madhya Pradesh the Korwa tribal people make the root paste and mixed with jaggery and ghee and used it in bone fracture . Seeds are roasted and eaten . Leaves are used for making plates by korwa tribe.
10. Bauhinia variegata Linn. ‘Guiral’ ( Caesalpiniaceae ) :- It is known as astringent , carminative , alterative , anthelmintic , antidote to snake poison and laxative and used for dysentery , diarrhoea , skin disease , ulcer , piles and leprosy . Inhabitants of Garhwal Himalayas use its bark for malaria ( Negi et al. , 1985 ) .
11. Butea monosperma O Kuntze.‘Palas’ ( Fabaceae ) :- The Oraon and Korwa tribes of Madhya Pradesh make the root decoction and used it in urinary troubles . The bark decoction is used in loose motions. Andh , Bhil , Gond, Halba , Kokna , Korku and Malhar tribes of Khandala region in Maharashtra use its flowers for urinary complaints . Fresh or dried flowers are crushed and mixed with water . One cup of extract is given for proper urination ( Ved Prakash and Mehrotra , 1987 ) . Santals of Santal pargana in Bihar use its roots for tuberculosis ( Goel et al ., 1984 ) . It is also known as depurative , aphrodisiac , astringent , anthelmintic , rubifacient , antidote to snake bite and it is also used for diarrhoea , piles , tumours , dysentery and herpes .
12. Caesalpinia pulcherrima (Linn.) Swartz. ‘Puraiphul’ (Caesalpiniaceae) :- It is used as an abortifacient , febrifuge , purgative , emmenagogue , tonic , stimulant and for asthama , bronchitis and malerial fever . Kondh , Bhumij and Saora tribes of Orissa use the decocation of its fresh seeds for pain in gums due to inflammation . Seeds and some common salts are made into a paste and applied on ring worm ( Chaudhary et al., 1975 ) . It is also used as tonic , purgative , stimulant , abortifacient , emmenagogue , febrifuge and also used for bronchitis , asthama and malerial fever .
13. Cassia auriculata Linn. ‘Anwal , Avaram’ ( Caesalpiniaceae ) :- Inhabitants of Maharashtra use its root extract for rheumatism pain . The root are mixed with Maytenus emarginatus roots . ( Sharma and Mehrotra , 1984 ). Tribals of Eastern Rajasthan use the extract of its seeds for asthama ( Singh and Pandey , 1980 ) . In India it is used as astringent and anthelmintic , used for urinary complaints , skin affection , diabetes , and ophthalmia .
14. Cassia occidentalis Linn.‘Dhendheni’ ( Caesalpiniaceae ) :- In Kundi (Surgiya) of Madhya Pradesh the tribal people use the twigs as tooth brush .
15. Cassia sophera Linn. ‘Raw Asan’ (Caesalpiniaceae ) :- Bhoxa of U.P. use its leaves for piles . The leaf paste with Neem oil is applied locally, it relieves itching and pain ( Singh , 1988 ) . In India it is used as diuretic, purgative and antidote to snake bite and used for ring worm and bronchitis.
16. Cassia tora Linn. ‘Panavar’( Caesalpiniaceae ) :- In Raigarh (Aeppu) of Madhya Pradesh the tribal people make the seed powder and mixed with tea and is used 2-3 times daily in cough , headache and fever. The young leaves are cooked as vegetable (Maheshwari , Painuli, Diwivedi, 1997). In Madhya Pradesh the tribals of Ambikapur district take stem and seeds in equal quantities are boiled in water and filtered by tribals and about 100 ml filtrate taken orally twice a day for 5 to 10 days as an anti-asthamatic drug (Jain and Singh 1997). In Bihar the Oraon and Khond tribes, make root into a paste and along with the powder prepared from the horns of a cow, give orally once daily in high fever and to a patient who are unable to speak and hear(Tarafdar and Chaudhari, 1997). In India it is used as laxative, antidote to snake bite and purgative. It is used for skin affection, itches and ring worm.
17. Clitoria ternatea Linn. ‘Aparajit’ (Papilionaceae) :- Inhabitants of Dhasan valley in Bundelkhand region of Utter Pradesh apply the powdered root externally for the treatment of gotire . It is also useful against leprosy ( Saxena and Vyas , 1983 ) . In India it is also useed as cathartic , diuretic and antidote against snake bite .
18. Crotolaria alata Ham. ‘Gunghra’ ( Papilionaceae ) :- In Gamharia (Raigarh) of Madhya Pradesh the Oraon tribal people use to rub the paste of the whole plant on the body for curing joints and muscular pains . The root decoction 50 ml. is used 5 times daily in scorpion stings and in snake bite ( Maheshwari, Painuli, Diwivedi, 1997 ).
19. Crotolaria albida Heyne. ‘Banmethi’ ( Papilionaceae ) :- The tribes of Ambikapur in Madhya Pradesh use give about 2 gm.powdered root twice a day to a victim of snake bite (Jain and Singh, 1997).
20. Crotolaria bialata Heyne.‘ Murgijori’ (Papilionaceae) :- The Kurmi Mahato tribes of Bihar use root paste three times for nine days in discharge of blood with urine (Tarafdar and Choudhari, 1997).
21. Crotolaria pallida Dry. Syn. C.Striata DC. ‘Thankur’ Papilionaceae) :- Mikirs of Assam take about 20 ml. extract of leaves in early morning to kill intestinal worms ( Jain and Borthakur, 1980 ).
22. Crotolaria semialata Linn. ‘Gulabi’(Papilionaceae) :- The Kurmi tribes of Madhya Pradesh use about half tea spoon powdered root for malarial fever (Jain and Singh, 1997).
23. Crotolaria sericea Retz ‘Ghurhiti’ (Papilionaceae):- The tribes of Ambikapur , use the roots of this plant and Byttneria herbaceae Roxb.They are powdered and 2 gm. of this powder is used for curing gonorrhoea (Jain and Singh, 1997).
24. Crotolaria spectabilis Retz ‘Sonokai’(Papilionaceae) :-In Bihar Oraon and Khond tribes used plant paste in rheumatism twice daily for fifteen days . The patient should take it with an empty stomach one hour before his meal . Another method of tribal use is the fresh plant swept over the body of a patient three times daily for fifteen days (Tarafdar and Chaudhari, 1997).
25. Crotolaria prostrata Rottl. ‘Bilaiban’ (Papilionaceae):-Oraon and Korwa tribes of Madhya Pradesh made the twigs into pieces and used in nabhi treatment .
26. Desmodium gyroides (Lamk.) DC. ( Papilionaceae ) :- Inhabitants of Hazaribagh district of Bihar use its whole plant to promote conceptions . The plant is made into paste with 4 leaves of Ocimum sanctum ( scared Tulsi ) , put in a banana and given to a lady for conception ( Tarafdar , 1983 ) .
27. Desmodium motorium DC. ‘Jugni’ (Papilionaceae):- . In Gamharia (Raigarh) of Madhya Pradesh the leaves are used for hypnotizing tribal women in the treatment of diseases by the tribal people.
28. Desmodium pulchellum Benth. ‘Jat salpar’ (Papilionaceae):- In Bihar , Bihar tribal people made root into a paste and mixed with sugar candy . This is prescribed to a patient suffering from burning sensation in the abdomen or chest once in the morning on an empty stomach and another dose in the evening. (Tarafdar and Chaudhri, 1997).
29. Desmodium triflorum DC. ‘Ban’ (Papilionaceae):- In Basantpur (Surguja) of Madhya Pradesh , the plant decoction 30ml. is used three times daily in wormicide by the tribal people .
30. Entada pursaetha DC. ssp. sinohimalyenesis Grierson and Long. Syn. E.scandens Auct. ‘Pangra’ ( Mimosaceae ) :- Inhabitants of Sikkim apply the paste of its kernel locally to cure mumps (Hajra and Chakraborthy, 1981). Gond, Halba and Maria tribes of Abujmarh area in Madhya Pradesh use the paste of the seeds for curing paralysis. The paste is rubbed on the affected part 3-4 times a day (Roy and Chaturvedi, 1987).
31. Flemingia chappar Ham. ‘Salpan’ (Papilionaceae):- In Bihar the people of santhal tribes use 1 to 2 drops of juice extracted from pressed seeds put in the eyes as a remedy in eye troubles and to remove cataract . In Madhya Pradesh the Flemingia chappar Ham. is known as ‘Galphule’, in Gamharia (Raigarh) of Madhya Pradesh, the leaf juice mixed with seven drops of mustard oil and a little amount of jaggery is used in eye pain by the tribal people .
32. Flemingia congesta Roxb. ‘Mahadeokama’ ( Papilionaceae ) :- In Gamharia (Raigarh) of Madhya Pradesh , the root decoction 50 ml. is administered orally three times daily in spermatorrhoea by the tribal people.
33. Indigofera cassiodies Rotle ex DC ‘Jhilla’ ( Papilionaceae ):- The Kusmi tribal people of Madhya Pradesh use the root of the plant powdered with bark of Tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon Roxb. ) and half teaspoonful powder prescribed to women for preventing conception ( Jain and Singh , 1997 ) .
34. Indigofera linnaei Ali. ‘Runkhadi’ (Papilionaceae) :- Inhabitants of Gujrat and South East Rajasthan take about 10 gm. fresh juice of whole plant , mixed with curd and give once a day (or if needed twice) to cure diarrhea . Rice with such curd should be taken as a diet during treatment and no sugar or salt should be used in the diet (Audichya, et al., 1983).
35. Lavlav purpureus Linn. ‘Sem’ :- In Surguja of Madhya Pradesh, the pods are used as vegetable. The seed powder is used two times daily in scorpion stings by the Kusmi tribal people.
36. Neptunia triquetra Bent. ‘Lajalu’ ( Mimosaceae ) :- Kols, Gonds, Lodhs and Gujars of Banda district in Uttar Pradesh give extract of its root for for dysentery (Saxena and Vyas, 1981).
37. Pongamia pinnata syn. P. glabra ‘Karanj’ (Papilionaceae) :- In Dharamiagarh (Raigarh) of Madhya Pradesh, the tribal people extract oil from seeds and use in skin diseases. The seed powder is used three times daily in piles. The young pods are used as vegetable.
38. Rhynchosia minima DC. ‘Bankurthe’ (Papilionaceae) :- In Gamharia (Raigarh) of Madhya Pradesh, the whole plant is boiled in water and the same is used for bath by the tribal women after delivery for body care.
39. Tephrosia purpurea Pers. ‘Darkurthe’ ‘Bankurthi’ (Papilionaceae) :- In Gamharia (Raigarh) of Madhya Pradesh, the fresh root 50 gm. is mixed with root of Diospyros melanoxylon and Phoenix acaulis in equal quantity and the resultant liquor is used in stomach pain. Some times the root of Zizphus mauritiana and Hetropogon contoitus are also mixed and used (Maheshwari, Painuli and Dwivedi, 1997).
40. Terminalia alata Heyne. Ex Roth. ‘Asan, Sain, Saj’(Combretaceae) :- The tribal people of tribe Khond in Bihar use 2 to 3 leaves from a fresh twig made into a paste and given three times a day for one day in vomiting and loose motion (Tarafdar and Chaudhari, 1997).
41. Uraria lagopoides DC. ‘chakulia’ (Papilionaceae) :- The root decoction is used three times daily for one week in stomach troubles .
42. Uraria picta Desv. ‘Chirikenda’ ‘Tohari’ (Papilionaceae) :- In Ambikapur district of Madhya Pradesh, the root extract is given twice a day for 3-4 days to cure snake bite.