India, due to its unique variety of geographical and climatic factors, has a rich and varied flora of medicinal plants. No wonder that out of a total number of over 15,000 plant species in India, about 2,000 are known to have medicinal properties and some of them are used even as home remedies in the rural and remotest parts of our country (Arora, 1985).


The glimpses of Indian ethnobotany by Jain (1981) and the Bibliography of Ethnobotany by Jain (1964) form the first books of the subject in India. Of the several field workers in the tribal community of India, the noteworthy ones are Bedding (1925), (1927) and (1929) on the Santhal areas, Elwin (1943) in Central India, Gupta (1963) on Bihar, Shah and Joshi (1971) on the Kumaon Himalaya. Currently work is carried out under a Department of Environment (Govt. of India) supported co-ordinated project on ethnobiology, besides several Universities and institutions (Jain 1981, Jain and Rao 1983 and Jain 1964).  

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 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 with the relationship between medicinal plants and the total field of ethnobotany (Jain, 1997).

Ethnobotany in 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, ethnobotanists, botanists, linguists and ultimately to phytochemists and pharmacologists.

 The term “ethnobotany” has often been considered synonymous with “traditional medicine” or with “economic botany”. The scope, concepts and implications of ethnobotany have been expanding at a very fast rate (Schultes 1962, Jain, 1967, 1987 A&B).

During last 30 years, studies have proceeded along various lines such as the ethnobotany of specific tribes of certain region, of particular plant groups, diseases and along various other miscellenous subject or inter disciplinary approaches. Through organised study or research in ethnobotany is recent, many earlier publications contain valuable material of ethnobotanical importance. Ethnologies on tribes living in different parts of the world works on indigenous medicines and botany and sometimes even forestry and travel accounts contain data of ethnobotanical signifiance.

Organised study of ethnobotany is only about 4 decades old in India and during this period about 300 papers have been published on various aspects of ethnobotany. These papers describe plants used in medicine, food other material culture, like in building houses and a variety of tools. They also deal with magico-religious association like worship, taboo, offering and totems. In these publications there has not only been considerable narration of known uses and relationship but also duplication in reporting ethnobotanical studies on various sub-groups of the plants kingdom like on algae, fungi, bryophytes, pteridophytes, lichens etc are sub-disciplines and have been name ethnoalgology, ethnomycology, ethnobryology, ethnopteridology, ethnolichenology etc. Studies on special ascepts of botany like systems of classification, medicinal uses, palaeobotany, ecology, ethnomology of plant names etc are also sub-disciplines and have been termed as ethnotaxonomy, ethnomedicobotany, ethnoecology, palaeobotany etc. But when the inquiry in ethnobotany extends beyong ordinary realm of botany and has significant input of another branch of science like archeology or medicine, the work becomes inter disciplinary.

According to Schultes 1962 “Ethnobotany is the study of the relationship which exists between people of primitive societies and their environment. In more simple words, it is an anthropological approach to botany”.

The term is not new even to India . Kirtikar and Basu (1935) stated that the ancient Hindus should also be given the credit for cultivating what is now called ethnobotany.

Tree worship plays an important role in the religious history of Aryan race in India. The ancient Indian cultures flourished in the midst of dense forests. Sages and Rishis used to impart knowledge to students in their hermitages in dense forests. Since plants are the oldest associations of man, they are offered in worship of several deities. Plants are used for religious performances, among all races of mankind. In Buddhist literature many references of tree worship and tree culture are available (Chaudhary and Pal, 1997).

Plants have been an integral part of Indian life and culture and hence all aspects of folk literature, namely folk songs, folk tales and folk proverbs of our country have profuse reference to trees, shrubs, climbers and their flowers and fruits.

Folk songs : References to the trees and flowers are found profusely in folk song, particularly in songs of worship of plants. Folk songs in praise of Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris Schard. ex. J.C.Wendl), Basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn.), and Amaltas (Cassia fistula Linn.) are sung, believing these plants are the abode of several Gods and Goddess (Agarwal, 1997).

Flowers, fruits and plants as offerings : Religious songs have references to offering of flowers and fruits Palas (Butea monosperma O. Kuntze.), Kachnar (Bauhinia variegata Linn.), and Mahua (Madhuca indica Gmel.) etc bear flowers and fruits which are offered to Gods and Goddess to invoke blessings for the fulfiliment of wishes (Matiyani, 1957).

Festivals of trees and flowers : In Bundelkhand, at the time of the festival of Mamulian girls decorate the spiny, green branches of Babul (Acacia arabica Willd.) with colourful flowers. They offer various fruits to the trees for the fulfillment of their wishes (Sankrityayan and Upadhyaya, 1960).

Trees, plants, flowers and fruits in rite : Certain trees like Basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn.), Palas (Butea monosperma O.Kuntze.), Sandal wood (Santalum album Linn.) find a prominent place in songs sung in religious rites. On auspicious occasions, such as birth of babies, thread ceremonies, marriages and other religious functions, all have associations with mandaps made from bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris Schard. ex. J.C. Wendl) and plant culms, the paintings of floors with sandal (Santalum album Linn.) and the decoration of doors with mango leaves. In thread ceremonies Palas (Butea monosperma O.Kuntze.) is an essential item Uppadhyaya, 1960).

Good omens from trees and plants : On important occasions, when man feels that his efforts and work are enough to bring forth result, he begins to depend on good and bad omens and oracles and totems Anonymous (1959). To get leaves of peepal ( Ficus religiosa Linn.), to burn camphor in a sandalwood (Santalum album Linn.) lamp, to wear a garland of Basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn.), or to keep plants of basil and sandal wood in the house are symbols of wealth and religious faith. It is believed that if basils fruits are put on the head of a person at the time of death, he goes to heaven.

Taboos of certain trees and plants : It is considered bad to pluck flowers in afternoon. In Uttar Pradesh even folk songs for children prohibits the cutting of peepal (Ficus religiosa Linn.), banyan (Ficus bengalensis Linn.) and sandal (Santalum album Linn.) trees . In Kumoan , cutting of timber after sunset is believed to attract illness of children (Anonymous, 1959) .

Totems based on trees and flowers : Childless women do a number of totems for having a son . In Bhojpur, the offering of sesame (Sesamum indica Linn.), rice (Oryza sativa Linn.) etc to the sun near a river bank is a totem (Upadhyaya, 1960).

Tribal women offer many totems on bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris Schard. ex. J.C.Wendl) or babul (Acacia arabica Linn.) for successful completion of son’s marriage. The people of Oudh believe that if flowers of Ketaki (Pandanus fascicularis Linn.) and Palas (Butea monosperma O.Kuntze.) are touched to the body of a snake bitten person accompanied with some Mantras, he is cured .

Trees and flowers in decoration : The use of flowers in decorating hair is a speciality of Bihar, Gujrat and several other states. According to Gujrati folk songs Rama fell in love with Sita mainly due to the beautiful floral decoration of her hair.

Sandal (Santalum album Linn.), turmeric (Curcuma domestica Valeton.) and other plants are used in the formation of a paste for improving the complexion of a bride . Brides use sandal (Santalum album Linn.), rose (Rosa damascena Mill.) to perfume their body. References to the use of palas(Butea monosperma O.Kuntze.) for dying clothes are common in folk songs, particularly of Kumaon. In Bengali songs, references are made for decorating the walls of houses with straws of rice (Oryza sativa Linn.) and several flowers (Agarwal, 1997) .

Plants in similes and metaphors : Many plant names appear in similes and metaphors in Hindi literature e.g. the red lips of the beloved have been compared with red flowers of kachnar (Bauhinia variegata Linn.) and of the silk cotton tree.

In a Magahi song there is a mention of sandalwood (Santalum album Linn.) tree crying when the king takes Vanaprastha and becomes a Yogi. Aryani, 1965 stated that how beautiful is such personification of the qualities of plants and their parts in the human beings?

Folk proverbs : Things which cannot be remembered or explained easily are learnt, taught and emphasised through proverbs. A person who understands the tricks of the cunnings tell him that Tum dar dar Hum pat pat i.e. I will keep away from you.

Talking of very high prices, the proverb says “Chana chironji ho gaya, gehun ho gaya dakh” i.e. The gram become as expensive as chironji and wheat as grapes (Sahal, 1949).

The vast knowledge of plant utility, geographical occurrence and biology and phenology in whatever crude manner the man understood them, resulting in such an association with them that the plants entered his folklore, idioms and phraseology. Scores of examples of this can be picked up from Indian folk literature. Plants have been used to characterize the different region of the states also. For example:

Aonla , aonla Mewar

Bawul , bawul Marwar

Here plants are used to distinguish Mewar from Marwar. English rendering would be Cassia auriculata Linn. Characterizes Mewar, whereas Acacia nilotica Indica. characterizes Marwar.

Below is the statement of Raja Bheem where he uses names of plants to distinguish his own land from that of his enemies in Rajasthan.

“Wherever the Aonla (Cassia auriculata Dell.) put forth its yellow blossom, the land is of right ours; we want nothing more, let them enjoy their stunted Babuls (Acacia nilotica Indica.), their Kureels (Capparis deciduas), the aak (Calotropis procera) but give us our sacred Peepal (Ficus religiosa Linn.) and the Aonla of the border .” [ English rendering by Todd , (1829) ]

Folk tales : Like songs and folk proverbs, the folk tales also have references to the association of plants with good and bad omens. They discuss the resemblance of human beings with birth and several other characteristics of plants.

In the story of Tulsi, it is said that when Sati Vrinda cursed Vishnu and made him a black stone (which the Hindus call Shaligram) then Vishnu also cursed Vrinda and made her the Tulsi - the plant Basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn.). About the Peepal ( Ficus religiosa Linn.) and Palas (Butea monosperma O. Kuntze.), it is said that once Parvati became angry with Vishnu and Brahma and cursed them. The result was that the first Peepal (Ficus religiosa Linn. ) tree was created from the body of Vishnu and the first Palas (Butea monosperma O. Kuntze.) tree was created from the body of Brahma ( Chaturvedi , 1965 ).

Some folk tales refer to the help rendered by plants to their dear ones whom they seemed to recognize according to folk tales of Malva. Sonabai took refuge on a sandalwood (Santalum album Linn.) tree to save her chastity. On her prayers the tree grew higher and higher protecting her from her oppressors. Finally the tree split concealing Sonabai and thus saved her honour.

Thus, from the very ancient times, Indian folk life has not only been including trees, plants and flowers as members of their own family but has also found in them the image of God (Jain, 1958). It is for this reason that the songs, tales and other expressions are replete with deep affection for trees and plants .

Plants used as cosmetics :- Every plant existing on this planet has economic qualities either edible, medicinal or commercial (Kaushik , 1988). The plants used in cosmetics donot merely enhance beauty but have definite medicinal value also (Sharma, 1979). They are being tested since time immemorial and proved to have side benefits in place of adverse effect generally produced by synthetic and chemical based harmful products (Parashar, 1965). A number of plants may be processed in cosmetics which are in great demand in India and abroad likely (Upadhayaya, 1985) For Chunekar , 1969 ; Nandkarni , 1975 , Acacia concinna DC. Vern. Shikakai ; Pods are blended into shampoo and hair cleanser with Sapindus mukorossi Gaertn Vern. Ritha to promote hair growth and to stop hair splitting, falling and dandruff.

Fibre : Cordage , garments , sacks , mats , shawls , coarse cloths , and ropes also used for tying rafts and dragging elephant etc are made from fibres bark of Acacia senegal Willd.(Kumta), slender twigs of A. nilotica Indica. , Butea monosperma O. Kuntze, (Palas), bark of Erythrina suberosa Roxb. (Pangra) and E.varigata orientalis Merr.(Parijate) (Mittre, 1997) Bauhinia vahlii W.and A. ( Siadi ) (Caesalpiniaceae) is the most commonly used plant. Its bark provides very strong fiber and this fiber is put to multifarious uses (Jain et al, 1973).

Agricultural implements : Tool handles, axes, shafts, pounders, mortars, wheels, carts , ploughs , yokes and for sugar and oil pressers are made from the wood of the following Acacia nilotica Indica. , Albizziz spp.(Siris) , Cassia fistula Linn (Amaltas), Pongamia pinnata Pierre., (Karanj) , Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb. (Bijsal) and P. santalinus Linn (Rakta Chandan) , Pamarindus indica , Xylia nylocarpa .

Dyes : Dyes are also obtained from flowers of Butea monosperma O. Kuntze. (Palas) , Caesalpinia sappana Linn. (Bakam) and leaves of Tectona grandes. Red dyes from Caesalpinia coriaria Willd. (Divi-divi.) . Indian ink is prepared from the bark and leaves of Terminalia catappa Linn. Blue dyes from leaves of Indigofera tinctoria Linn.(Neel) and the root of Petrocarpus santalinus Linn. (Rakta Chandan) ( Jain , 1997 ) .

Manure : Leaves of Derris indica Benth.(Karanja) and Pongamia pinnata Pierre. (Karanj) are used for rice fields . Leaves of Derris indica Benth . (Karanja) for sugar cane fields . Sesbania cannabiana Poir.(Jayanti), Cyamopsis tetragonoloba Taub (Guar) , Vigna unguiculata Walb (Lobia) are the other wild plants of which leaves are used as manure .

Biodiversity control Crabs in Paddy : Farmers in Gujrat use crushed flowers of Butea monosperma O Kuntze.( Palas ) to drive away crabs in paddy field .

Khejiri ( Prosopis cineraria Linn.) is most common tree in the Thar desert of Rajasthan . They are grown all over the crop fields . Crops like millets, moth ( Phaseolus aconitifolius Jacq.),Curry beans ( Phaseolus lunatus Linn.), moong (Phaseolus mungo Linn.) leaves and oil seeds grown well in combination with it . Recent researches indicate that it brings up moisture and nutrients from underground soil for crop grown above . The leguminous plants or trees in field also fix nitrogen by nitrogen fixing bacteria in the root nodules and green manure to the soil by their leaf fall .

Protection for clothes from insect :- Leaves of Trigonella foenum - graecum Linn.(Methi) are placed with clothes to protect them from insects .

Oil from wild plants :- Oil used as luminant and cooking medium is obtained from seeds of Derris indica Benth.( Karanja ).

Incense and perfumes :- Being fragrant , Sandal ( Santalum album Linn.) and wood is burnt in temples .

For brushing teeths :- Twings , wood , bark of Indigofera oblogifolia , Acacia nilotica spp. and A. indica are used for brushing teeth .

Substitute for betelnut :- The vegetable lime used in Ceylon in betels is obtained by burning the bark of Terminalis alata Heyne . ex.Roth.(Asan , Sain , Saj ).

Charcol plants :- Charcol of Acacia catechu Willd. (Katha)is used in iron smelting Gold and silver smithy :- The stem of Abrus precatorius Linn.(Chrimiti)is used by jewellers to increase adhesion while soldring delicate ornament

Sacred plants : A few trees such as Santalum album , held sacred by Hindus . Dried inflorescence of Prosopis cineraria Linn. ( Khejiri ) is held sacred by the Vaishnavas . Achyranthes aspera Linn. ( Chirchiri )is used scared payees in Rajastan desert .

To wrap tobacco : Leaves of Bauhinia racemosa Lam.(Mawal ,Ashta)and B.vahlii Wight. and Arn. ( Mahul )are used .

As cooling screens in hot weather : Screens are prepared from Alhagi pseudo-alhagi Linn.(Javasa)

Marking of the foreheads by Hindus .

Paste of sandalwood ( Santalum album Linn.) and shikakai ( Acacia concinna DC. Vern. ) shikakai is used .

Unconventional cultivars or wild plants used as cereals :- Seeds of Amaranthus hybridus and Amaranthus cruentus var paniculata are made into flour and eaten in Coimbatore district and by the Nilgiri Badagas who also cultivate it , seeds of Vigna trilobata are eaten by the poor people and bread made from seeds of Vigna mungo is used in religious ceremonies .

Other material cultures :- Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb. (Bijsal) ( Papilionaceae ) provides gums useful for medicines and industries . The local tribal usually collect gums for contractors . A number of timbers are used for making instruments particularly Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb. ( Bijsal ) ( Papilionaceae ) and Terminalia alata for drums (Jain, 1965a ).

Feeds and fodders for domestic animals:

(A). Birds and poultry: Seeds of Cannabis sativa .

(B). Cattle : Petrocarus marsupuim Roxb (Bijasal), Vigna lobata Walp.(Lobia) in Rajasthan , M.P. , Maharashtra .

(C). Camel :Leaves of Acacia nilotica Indica. (Babul)

(D). Horses : Melilotus indica All. (Banmethi), Medicago sativa Linn.(Alfalfa).

(E). Sheep : Indigofera oblongifolia Forsk. (Raktapala).

(F). Goats : Indigofera cordifolia Linn (Surmainil), leaves of Prosopis cineearia Linn. (Chaunkra), Pithecelobuim dulce Benth. (Dakhani babul, Vilati imli) and Acacia nilotica Indica. (Babul).

Ethnomedicine is here taken to mean knowledge and practice that have survived only folklore in certain human societies , particularly among the primitive and rural societies . This is a world wide interest in folkores about medicinal herbs for lead to new sources of drugs . Study of folkfores fall within the discipline of ethnobotany .

Ethnopharmacology is a multi disciplinary area of research based on botany , chemistry , pharmacology , archaeology , anthropology , history etc and is contributing to the search for new natural products with one or other biological activities .

The classical botanical source , originally employed as a native remedy has yielded a number of pharmacologic agents . A large number of modern medicinal properties are known to possess one or other medicinal properties and are in use in the Indigenous system of medicines.

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.

Saxena and Shukla, 1971 have published a list of 275 species of medicinal plants used by Bharia tribes of Patalkot, Chhinwara district of Madhya Pradesh. Some of these plants of family Fabaceae are as follows :-

1. Acacia catechu Willd. ‘Khair’ (Mimoeaceae) :- The bark decoction is taken in the morning and evening for 3 days in stomachache .

2. Bauhinia vahlli W. and A. ‘Mahul’ (Caesalpiniaceae) :- Root decoction is taken 3 times a day for 4 days in fever.

3. Bauhinia variegata Linn. ‘Kachnar’ (Caesalpiniaceae) :- The bark decoction is administered orally for 15 days twice a day in tubercular glands. The flower powder is used 3 times a day for 10 days in haemorrhage.

4. Butea monosperma O.Kuntze. ‘Palas , Tesu’ (Paplionaceae):- Flowers and seeds are mixed in a decoction and used 2 times a day as wormicide. The bark decoction is used once a day for 1 month as tonic in piles.

5. Cassia fistula Linn. ‘Jhagdo’ (Caesalpiniaceae) :- The fruit pulp is used 2 times a day for 3 days as a laxative in fever.

6. Cassia tora Linn. ‘Chirota’ (Caesalpiniaceae) :- The seed paste is used twice a day for 3 days in the treatment of ring worm and itch. The crushed seeds are taken with water 2 times a day for 1 week in cough.

7. Indigofera cassioides Rottl. DC. ‘Jhinipatti’ (Paplionaceae) :- Leaf fumes are inhaled by cattle in the morning and evening for 1 week to cure body pain. The leaf paste is used twice a day for 1 week in healing of wounds in animals.

Some of the edible Plants :- The tribal of Central India raise a number of agricultural crops. Most of them practice agricultural crops now, but they do supplement their food with a number of wild edible plants, particularly in times of scarcity (Jain, 1964). Depending upon the nature of different species, the tribals consume fruits, seeds or grains, leaves, roots or tubers, stem or bark, flowers as well as whole plant. The whole plant and their products are used variously such as vegetables, raw fruits (desert), nut, beverages or drinks, pickles, oil-seeds, grain or condiments (Jain, 1997).

Some of the plants eaten by Gonds and Santhals tribe of central India are not widely known to be edible. Example of few such plants are given here :-

1. Bauhinia purpurea Linn. ‘Koinar’ (Caesalpiniaceae) :- Leaves are used as vegetable.

2. Bauhinia vahlii W.and A. ‘Sadi’ (Caesalpiniaceae) :- All over the region seeds are roasted and eaten.

3. Indigofera pulchella Roxb. ‘Jhiler’ (Papilionaceae) :- Flowers cooked and eaten as vegetables.

4. Xylia xylocarpa Benth. ‘Irul’ (Mimosaceae) :- Seeds from unripe fruits are used as vegetables (Jain, 1997).