Traditional use of Medicinal Plants Among the Rural Communities of Churu District in the Thar Desert, India
The study reveals that in absence of modern health facility, people in the area depend on plants for medicinal purposes. The general information shows 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 25 were herbs, 16 shrubs, 13 trees, 7 ephemerals and 11 climbers and twinners. In most of the case (31%), leaves were used for curing ailment followed by roots, seeds and whole pant (Fig.2). Flowers, Gum and latex were the least used plant parts. 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 table 1. The active principle of some of the plants and their medicinal properties that are known in literature has also been added to the table 1. These plants were use for curing a total of 78 diseases ranging from simple stomach-ache to highly complicated male and female disorders. Even jaundice and kidney stones were treated by them. Maximum number of plants were used for curing fever and rheumatism followed by piles, diarrhoea and dysentery, asthma and ulcer (Fig.3). It is also found that a single plant may 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 siphilis and leucorrhoea. 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. The people themselves say that, compared to them their forefathers knew much more. It was also found that the local people are concerned about the degradation of medicinal plants in wild. Due to recent shift towards herbal medicines the pressures on the plant resources in nature have increased and the market is also fast expending. DISCUSSION Many of the plants that are used by the local people in Churu district find mention in ancient medicinal literature and are also used in different medicinal systems such as, the Ayurveda and Unani. For example Citrullus colocynthis that is used by the local people for curing rheumatism and leucoderma finds mention in Ayurveda for curing the same diseases. It is one of the main ingredients of 'Narayan Churna' and 'Sukhvirechani vati' ayurvedic medicines. In Unani system of medicine it is used for curing 'kala-azar' (25). Similarly Momordica charantia, which the local people use for piles and blood diseases is also used for curing asthma, ulcers and bronchitis in Ayurveda. In Unani it is used for curing syphilis and rheumatism (26). 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. The use of plants in medicine is booming up. Now in the European and developed countries also people are returning to nature. Use of traditional medicine is the mainstay of primary healthcare, virtually in all developing countries. The reasons for the frequent use of traditional medicine being (i). The strong association of people with local flora and their traditional knowledge regarding plant use, (ii) easy availability of local medicinal plants, (iii) poor access to allopathic drugs and (iv) lower economic profile of the rural people. CONCLUSION It can be concluded from the study that the district has highly specialized xerophytic vegetation and has great potential for cultivation of xerophytic medicinal herbs. Biodiversity in the district is under the perpetual stress of drought and unsustainable use. The rural people of Churu district inherit a rich traditional knowledge and documentation of this knowledge and documentation of this knowledge has provided novel information from the area. This will not only provide recognition of this undocumented knowledge but will also help in conservation of such rare, gradually vanishing important desert species. It will also provide new pharmacological dimensions for better health of the human being regarding many ailments.