The Role of ethnobotany in relation to medicinal plants in India.
The Role of ethnobotany in relation to medicinal plants in India. Ethnobotany is usually defined as anthropological approach to botany. There are several methods of ethnobotanical research and those relevant to medicinal plants are archaeological search in literature, herbaria and the field studies. “Man, ever desirous of knowledge, has already explored many things, but more and greater still remains concealed; perhaps reserved for far distant generations, who shall prosecute the examination of their creator’s work in remote countries and make many discoveries for the pleasure and convenience of life…” The above quotation of Linneaus is the most appropriate to this chapter which deals with the relationship between medicinal plants and the total filed of ethnobotany. According to Schultes (1962), ethnobotany is “the study of the relationship which exists between people of primitive societies and their plant environment”. The term is not new even to India, Kirtikar and Basu (1935) stated”, The ancient Hindus should be given the credit for cultivating what is now called ethnobotany”. Ethnobotany, is totality, is virtually a new field of research, and if this field is investigated thoroughly and systematically, it will yield results of great value to the ethnologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, plant-geographers and pharmacologists etc. Though ethnobotany provides several approaches in plant researches, here only the resources which help in medicinal are plant-research mentioned. Archaeological resources India has a rich treasure of archaeological sculptures of antiquity, which can be of great value in tracing the plants which were used during early civilization. Sithole (1976) described about 40 such plants from bas reliefs on the gateways of the Great Stupa at Sanchi and the railing of Bharhut tupa, belonging to the first and second century B.C., respectively. Literature resources Our ancient literature can also be tapped for information on medicinal plants. No authentic record of any kind except a few archaeological sculptures of Mohenjo-Daro is available from the prevedic period in this country. But, Rigveda and Atharvaveda, which date back to 2000 to 1000 B.C. which are our oldest Vedic literature resources, contain valuable information regarding medicinal plants of that period. Sharma (1968-69) enlisted 248 botanical drugs which are mentioned mainly in Atharvaveda and Rigveda. Singh and Chunekar (1972) published a glossary of such medicinal plants, which have been mentioned in Charak Samhita, Sushurta Samhita and Ashtanga Hridiyam. Perhaps the outstanding example, at least in modern times of the use of the literature is the huge compilation of all anti-tumour plants, cited in old texts and local folk medicine from all over the world for screening purpose at Cancer Chemotherapy National Service Center (CCNSC) (Hartwell, 1967-71). Recently, checklists of Ayurvedic and Yunani treatises have been published (Anonymous 1962 and Tripathi et al, 1978). A list of some of the important Indian treatises is presented in Table 3. Indian treatises Authors Dates No. of medicinal plants included Herbarium Resources Herbarium sheets and field notes have also proved to be a good source of ethnobotanical data. The most outstanding example of this type of research is of Dr. Altschul, who searched about 2.5 million plant specimens in Harvard University Herbarium and from these 5,178 useful notes of drugs and food value were recorded (Altschul, 1973). Field Resources The plants have become the never ending source for new biodynamic compounds of potential therapeutic value. Ethnobotanist brings out from the field the suggestion as to which raw plant material may be tapped and for this, he gets clues from the tribals. Atkinson (1882) published 12 volumes of the Gazetteer of North West Provinces of India, three of which are concerned with the Kumaon and Garhwal Himalayan Region. Recently, the Central Councils for Research in Ayurveda, Siddha and Yunani conducted several medicobotanical surveys in some important ethnic and tribal regions of the country. It was found that the Nicobaris use the resinous wood of Canarium and Dipterocarpus spp. for repelling mosquitoes and as a torch. In the Nilgiris, the decoction of Bambusa arundinacea is used as an abortifacient (Ragunathan, 1976). Comparative study of the Ethnobotanical Resources Ethnobotany becomes a more important and interesting subject when its study reaches a point when the results are studied comparatively. For example, Ficus religiosa and Ficus racemosa are among the most important sacred as well as medicinal plants of antiquity. In Atharvaveda, Ficus racemosa is attributed the property of increasing the number of domestic cattle, giving virility and strength of its wearer, add to the fertility of his land and growth of the fruits. In Charak Samhita there are about 23 references of Ficus religiosa corresponding to medicinal and other properties. A few therapeutic uses described there are : in fever, in rheumatism, in urinary troubles, in spermatorrhoea, in pile and in dysentery (Vidyalankar, 1959). Schultes (1963) rightly stated, “Our challenge is to salvage some of the modern medico-botanical lore before it becomes for ever entombed with the cultures that give it birth”. Kirtikar and Basu (1935) stated, “The only way to illumine the whole field of native therapeutics is to survey it in small tracts and sift the value of those drugs peculiar to each province… There is wide feeling that there is beneficence in the scheme of nature which provides in every country, suitable remedies on the spot for the ill to which humanity is locally most prone. Very little has been done so far to incorporate in the practice of physicians in the country the medicines which in India nature scatters broadcast from her lap”. Wild medicinal plants in Indian Folk Life-A Historical Perspective Pats of over 3500 wild species are used to cure ailments in man and his domesticated animals : Table-4 S. No. Ailments Plant used 1. For wounds and as disinfectant. Panicum anidotale, Artemisia maritima 2. Bronchisl troubles. Bulbs of Urginea indica 3. Blood purification and promoting lochial discharge. Mollugo cerviana 4. Urinary troubles. Glinus lotoides 5. For swellings. Root paste of Corallocarpus epigaeus 6. As tonics Neurada procumbens and Colchium luteum, seeds of Mimosa hamata root of Asparagus recemosus 7. Pneumonia Achyranthus aspera 8. Diarrhoea Podophyllum hexandrun; Salvia aegyptiaca 9. Chest pain Cuscuta hyalina 10. Rheumatism Carum carvi, Inula racemosa 11. Gastritis and fever Achillea millaefolia 12. Spleen disorders Capparis spinosa 13. Hyperacidity Nepeta lingibracteata 14. Skin diseases Ranunculus hirtellus 15. Conjunctivitis Thalictum minus Plants in folk medicine of the Himalaya The Himalayan ranges are inhabited by a large tribal population, often with their distinct way of life, traditions, dialects and cultural heritage. The Himalaya have bestowed them with vast, varied and even endemic plants. The tribals have learnt to utilize local herbs for different ailments after centuries of trials, often at the risk of loss of human life. Many tribal beliefs forbid them to unravel the virtues of the plants to outside world. But, it is also true that till recent little concerted effort had been made to document this knowledge by detailed ethnobotanical surveys. Some folkore medicines of the region have proved efficaceous after detailed pharmacological and clinical trials. Rauvolfia serpentina roots are a classical example. Coptis teeta is another plant which has given encouraging results. The oil of seed kernel of Hydnocarpus kurzii, from upper Assam and Tripura hills, has proved useful in the treatment of leprosy and skin diseases. The roots of Nardostachys grandiflore have provided a safe sedative. Use of plants in folk medicine by tribals of Central India. Use of plants in folk medicine is very prevalent in Central India (Jain, 1963, Jain and Tarafder, 1963). More than one hundred plants were reported to be commonly used in medicine in the district of Bastar (Jain, 1965). 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. Many medicinal uses reported by tribals of Bastar appeared to be unknown or little- known outside their community. Examples of a few such plants are given below: Cassia tora (Charota) : Tender leaves eaten to prevent skin diseases. Combretum decandrum (Ainti) : Oil from seeds applied on eczema. Flacourtia indica (Kakai) : Bark applied on eczema. Nyctanthes arbortristis (Harsingar) : The inflorescence and young fruits pounded in water; this is used for relieving cough. Polygonum plebejum (Chatibhaji) : The plant eaten as a vegetable to promote lactation. An Ethno-Medico-Botanical survey of Ambikapur District, M.P. – Ethno-Medico-botanical surveys of tribal area of Ambikapur distt. M.P. were conducted during 1990 and 1991 and folk-lore information on forty medicinal plants was recorded with the help of Corwa, Oraon and Pando tribes. The Tribals are living in Asad, Dindo, Kusmi, Mainpat, Janakpur, Sonhat and Rampur forests of Ambikapur district. Some noteworty plant species which are used in the treatment of various diseases are Boerhavia diffusa (Elephantiasis), Hemidesmus indicus (Stomach ulcer), Indigofera cassioides (Antifertility agent), Leea macrophylla (Chest pain). Ricinus comunis (Antifertility agent) A list of these plants has been given along with their family name, local name, mode of administration, preparation of medicine and dosages. 1. Achyranthes aspera L. (Amaranthaceae) ‘CHIRCHITA’ About 50g root crushed with 10g Sonth (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) and Bach (Acorus calamus L.) half teaspoonful powder with two teaspoonful honey is prescribed for 3-4 days for leucorrhoea. 2. Asparagus racemosus Willd. (Liliaceae) “SATAWARI” Root paste is applied locally on joint pain. 3. Boerhavia diffusa L. (Nyctaginaceae) “PUNARNAVA” About half teaspoonful root juice taken for seven days for paralysis. 4. Calotropis procera (Ait.)R.Br. (Asclepiadaceae) “AAK”. Latex of the plant with mustard oil is boiled and applied locally for bodyache. 5. Hemidesmus indicus (L.) R.Br. (Asclepiadaceae) “Anantmul” Fresh roots crushed with 8-10 black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) About 2g powder given orally on empty stomach for 7 days for stomach ulcer. 6. Madhuca longifolia (Koen.) Macb. (Sapotaceae) “MAHUA” About half teaspoonful powdered root of tender plant taken for abdominal pain. 7. Ziziphus mauritiana Lam. (Rhamnaceae) “BER” About 10 g root, 25g Kali musli (Curculigo orchioides Gaertn.) and 5g sonth (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) powdered with butter oil and made into pills; two pills given twice a day for asthma. Less known medicinal uses of plants among the tribals of Hazaribagh district of Bihar. The main tribes of Hazaribagh district are : Santhal, Munda, Bedia, Karmali, Oraon, Mahali, Birhor and Khond. The district has a hilly terrain, thick forest occupy nearly 46 percent of the total area. Hazaribagh district in Bihar was selected for ethnobotanical studies as it is within the tribal belt of India. Out of the total population of over three million, the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are over 10 percent (Chari, 1975). A list of plants has been given with their tribal names, locality of collection and Tribal uses. 1. Acacia catechu Get-langhan (Santhal) – Locality. Lavalong (Chatra) : Root made into a paste and applied on the joints for seven days for rheumatism. 2. Cassia tora Chakar (Oraon) ; Chakunda (Khond) – Locality. Singhani (Hazaribagh town) : Root made into a paste and along with the powder prepared from the horn of a cow, given orally once daily in high fever and to a patient who is unable to speak and hear. 3. Hibiscus rosa – sinensis Urhul (Santhal) – Locality. Chatra : Flower bud made into a paste which is prescribed in impotency, once daily on an empty stomach for seven days. 4. Terminalia alata Karaka (Khond) ; Aswan (Hindi) – Locality Singhani (Hazaribagh Town) : Two to three leaves from a fresh twig made into a paste and given three times a day for one day in vomiting and loose motions. 5. Xeromphis spinosa Dudri (Munda) ; Nisawala (Birhor) – Locality. Dhajadhari Pahar (Koderma) : Stem bark made into a paste and mixed with goat’s milk and country liquour. This is prescribed in rheumatism once daily on an empty stomach for 15 days. Ethnobotanical Notes on. The Miris of Assam Plains The Miris are a tribe living in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam. The plants used for medicine are : (i) Ageratum conyzoides (Namin-ing) :- Leaves and fruits used to prevent bleeding. (ii) Calotropis gigantea (Akon) : The milky juice used as purgative; leaves after crushing are applied on the burn injury or swelling; the bark of the root given for dysentery. (iii) Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi): Leaves used for cold and cough. (iv) Piper longum (Piplu) : Root used in improving digestion. (v) Polygonum strigosum (Bihalangani): Leaves used for skin diseases. Plants In The Folklore And Folk Life of The Karbis of Assam The Karbis are a tribe inhabiting the mountainous regions of Assam. More than 350 plants are related with the folklore and folk life of the Karbis. The knowledge of medicinal uses of plants is well-developed among the Karbis. More than two hundred fifty plants are used by them for medicinal purposes. But the knowledge is confined chiefly to the medicinemen. However, a good number of these plants are also used in the Karbi household when the local medicineman is not available. These plants grow mostly near the villages and do not necessitate and complicated technique in applying them. A number of plants employed in common ailments are listed in Table 5: Botanical Name Local Name Parts used and preparation Disease and method of administration Medicinal plants in the life of the Garos of Meghalaya. Although nowadays patent allopathic medicines are sold in their weekly markets by quack-doctors, the Garos look for many wild plants for their medicinal use. Some of the important plants used for medicine are : (i) Cassia fistula (Soneru) : Pulp of the fruit used as purgative. (ii) Ficus fistulosa (Tabi) : Used for headache. (iii) Rubus rugosus (Thekhi-sambok) : Fruit juice used for curing fistula. (iv) Stauranthera umbrosa (Sukum saplax) : Plant juice used for curing boils. (v) Stephania japonica (Kharkha) : Juice of roots administered to heart patients. MEDICINAL PLANTS USED BY DIFFERENT TRIBES OF ORISSA (i) Aristolochia indica Panairi (Oriya) ; Locality Bhubneshwar : Root (3 g) made into paste and given twice daily for treatment of diarrhoea. (ii) Borreria articularis Solaganthi (Oriya); Locality. Udaigiri : Juice of leaves mixed with little salt poured in eyes in conjunctivitis and other eye diseases. (iii) Croton roxburghii Dev Chandan (Oriya); Locality. Udaigiri : Decoction of the bark (10g), rhizome of Ramkedar (Zingiber montanum), black pepper and Nimba chhatu given in cholera and diarrhoea. (iv) Leucas aspera Gayas (Oriya); Locality. Adava : The leaf paste fried and applied on the forehead to relieve pain. (v) Shorea robusta Salua (Oriya); Locality. Ganjam : Small quantity (5g) of powdered jhuna (resin) taken with hot milk to relieve chest pain and stomachache. Native Medicinal Uses Of Plants By The Asurs of Netarhat Plateau (Bihar). The Asurs live and enjoy the life amidst nature in the pat areas of Netarhat plateau within Chotanagpur division of south Bihar, collecting tubers, roots, fruits, flowers, leaves, honey and gums from the forest and using them in a variety of ways. The native uses of medicinal plants by the Asurs are listed here: (i) Satawar : In fever due to heat, the root of Satawar and the root of Putri are ground with water and the decoction is orally administered. (ii) Asan : The bark is brunt and mixed with Til oil, and is used for curing itsh. (iii) Siris : The bark, leaves and fruit are boiled together, and the infusion is given in cases of anaemia. (iv) Asog : The leaves are boiled and the infusions taken medicinally for curing jaundice. (v) Rakatphar : The root in ground fine and applied as a thick plaster to reduce the swelling of dropsy. (vi) Sinduar : The leaves of Sinduar are applied on the body for curing dropsy. HERBAL REMEDIES AMONG “HO” TRIBE IN BIHAR The use of 32 plants (in 25 folk – role claims) employed for curing 17 diseases (and one as tonic) among the “Ho” tribe of Bihar is reported. These folk-lore claims with their related data are presented in a tabular form. The following abbreviations are used LF : Leaf ; PL : Whole plant; RH : Rhizome ; RT : Root ; SB : Stem bark. Table – 6 S. No. Botanical name & family Tribal name of plant Part used Mode of adm. Disease Local Some common medicinal plants used by the different folks in Andaman and Nicobar Islands (i) Body Pains : Adenia penangiana (ii) Cough : Premna serratifolia (iii) Cuts and wounds : Morinda citrifolia (iv) Fever : Desmodium unbellatum (v) Headache : Hernandia peltata (vi) Gynaecological disorders : Donax connaeformis (vii) Miscellaneous medicinal use : Thespesia populnea (viii) Stomach pains : Aegie marmelos Folklore Medico – Botany of Rural Khasi and Jaintia Tribes in Meghalaya. In this region, there are 100 species of plants in 81 genera and 46 families, having medicinal virtues and which are commonly used, especially, by the rural tribals of Khasi and Jaintia hills. Meghalaya has three major tribes, viz., the Khasis, Jaintias and Garos. In the list that follows, the botanical name of the medicinal plant is given first, followed, wherever possible, by vernacular names, the locality (loc) of collection and uses. (i) Ageratum conyzoides Loc. Sohkha : During typhoid fever and high body temperature, a paste made from leaves, ginger and mustard seed is placed on skull, over the position of the brain, to bring down the temperature of the patient. Loc. Mawmluh : Whole plant is pounded, boiled and the solution is used in massaging body swelling, tumours, etc.; (ii) Azadirachta indica Neem – loc. Byrnihat : or diarrhoea and dysentery, leaver along with barks of Aegle marmelos, Shorea robusta and leaves of Phlogacanthus thyrsiflorus are mixed together with a few more plants, boiled, stored in a bottle and taken when attacked with the disease. (iii) Commelina paludosa Patugia-loc. Kudeng : whole plant ground with ginger and tabacoo leaves applied on insect stings. (iv) Holmskioldia sanguinea Loc. Lailad : Juice of roots taken to relieve fever. (v) Sonerila maculata Loc. Lailad : Roots boiled and taken for stomach ailments. ETHNO-MEDICO PLANTS OF HADOTI PLATEAU (S.E. RAJASTHAN) Ethnobotanical studies in Rajasthan were conducted by Singh and Pandey (1980), Joshi (1981, 1982, 1989, 1991 and 1995), Katewa and Arora (1997), Singh (1999) and Dadhich and Sharma (2002). The medicinal plants used for remedial purposes have been enumerated in alphabetical order along with their local names, families, localily, phenology and plant drug therapy. 1. Acacia nilotica (L). Willd. (Mimosaceae) Babool or Barodi kikar. A moderate – sized tree, pinnae 4-9 pairs, stipular thorns long, heads yellow, pods stalked. Loc. Jhirniya Flowering and Fruiting : October – February. Medicinal Use : Comparatively younger and softer twigs of the tree are used for massage of gums and cleansing of teeth. Paste of stem bark is applied locally for abdominal pain. 2. Azadirachta indica (A.Juss.) (Meliaceae). Neem or Neemda. A large evergreen tree. Leaves compound, leaflets, sub-opposite. Flowers white in panicles, drupes oval oblong, yellow when ripe. Loc. Khasa radi, Jhalawar Flowering and Fruiting : March-August Medicinal Use : The tree has got widespread medicinal value in the locality; fresh leaves are chewed, as blood purifier. Paste of leaves is utilised for the treatment of skin diseases. 3. Butea monosperma (Lamk.) Taub. (Fabaceae) Khankera Palas. A medium sized deciduous tree, leaflets three rhomboid, flowers orange red showy, pods flat. Loc. Jhirniya Medicinal Use : The seeds are crushed into powder. This powder is mixed with lemon juice and applied thrice a day on ringworm for seven days and is said to be efficacious. 4. Calotropis procera (Ait.) R. Br. (Asclepiadaceae) Ankda. A large erect lactiferous shrub. Leaves ovate obovate, flowers purple white, follicles recurved. Loc. Talai Flowering and Fruiting : Most part of the year. Medicinal Use : Two drops of latex from fresh leaves of the plant are applied on the nails of both the toes. This practice is repeated for three days, twice a day. Absolutely effective in treatment of conjunctivitis (eye flu). 5. Ocimum canum L. (Lamiaceae) Bantulsi An erect branching herb, leaves ovate-lanceolate. Flowers pinkish white, nutlets black pitted. Loc. – Lotiajhir Flowering and Fruiting : August-February Medicinal Use : This plant is very useful for the tribals of the area, mostly used for the treatment of diversified ailments but specifically the hot poultice of leaves and inflorescence is applied on the right side of the abdomen to cure appendix pain. The poultice is applied twice for three days. Table-7 Ethno-medicinal Plants of Rajasthan, (India). Name Family Local Name Official organ Medicinal Property How Adm. Ailment Tribe