Ethnobotanical Leaflets 14: 136-60, 2010.
Traditional Knowledge on Medicinal Plants Used by the Irula Tribe of Hasanur Hills, Erode District, Tamil Nadu, India
P. Revathi and T. Parimelazhagan*
Department of Botany, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, 641 046, India
*Corresponding author E-mail: [email protected]
Issued: Ferbuary 01, 2010
An ethnobotanical survey was carried out among the ethnic groups (Irula) in Hasanur Hills (Southern Western Ghats). The tribal communities of Irulas nurture rich knowledge about medicinal plants and its uses. Therefore, we have done an exhaustive ethnobotanical survey in this area. In this present investigation, it is observed that the tribals use 70 wild valuable plant species belonging to 42 families were identified with relevant information and documented in this paper with regard to their botanical name, family, local name, parts used and utilization by the local tribal people for different human ailments. The common diseases treated by the herbal practitioner were asthma, digestive problems, paralyzes, skin diseases and diabetes.
Keywords: Hasanur Hills; Irulas; Medicinal plants; Traditional use.
Plants have been used in traditional medicine for several thousand years. The knowledge of medicinal plants has been accumulated in the course of many centuries based on different medicinal systems such as Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha. In India, it is reported that traditional healers use 2500 plant species and 100 species of plants serve as regular sources of medicine (Pei, 2001).
During last few decades there has been an increasing in the study of medicinal plants and their traditional use in different parts of the world (Lev, 2006). Herbal remedies are considered the oldest forms of health care known to mankind on this earth. Prior to the development of modern medicine, the traditional systems of medicine that have evolved over the centuries within various communities, are still maintained as a great traditional knowledge base in herbal medicines (Mukherjee and Wahil, 2006). Traditionally, this treasure of knowledge has been passed on orally from generation to generation without any written document (Perumal Samy and Ignacimuthu, 2000) and is still retained by various indigenous groups around the world.
Documenting the indigenous knowledge through ethnobotanical studies is important for the conservation and utilization of biological resources. Ethnobotanical survey has been found to be one of the reliable approaches to drug discovery (Fabricant and Farnsworth, 2001). Several active compounds have been discovered from plants on the basis of ethnobotanical information and used directly as patented drugs (Carney et al., 1999). As indigenous cultures are closely maintained by the tribal and other forest dwellers throughout the world, the ethnobotanical investigation is a prerequisite for any developmental planning concerned with the welfare of tribal and their environment. It is an urgent, necessity to record as quickly as possible all information about plants and the role of tribes in conserving them. The main focus of the present study is to ascertain the detailed information on the use of plants and their therapeutic practices among Irula tribals of Hasanur Hills, Tamil Nadu.
An ethnobotanical survey was carried out in Hasanur Hill area, which is found in Sathyamangalam forest sanctuary, Erode District, Tamil Nadu (Fig 1). Sathyamangalam forest is a part of Western Ghats covered with mixed deciduous vegetation. The Hasanur Hill is situated at 933 meters above the sea level with a total area of 4532.53 ha. It lies 77342 N longitudes and 114016 latitude. It includes almost all types of vegetations and one river named Binahanalli. The ethnobotanical survey was carried out among local population and the tribe called Irulas living in this area. The tribal community was met in their residential areas. The field visit was conducted several times to the study area.
Ethnobotanical data were collected according to the methodology suggested by Jain (1964) through questionnaire (Appendix A), interviews and discussions among tribal practitioners in their local language. Our questionnaire allowed descriptive response on the plant prescribed, such as part of the plant used, medicinal uses, and detailed information about mode of preparation (i.e., decoction, paste, powder and juice) form of usage either fresh or dried and mixtures of other plants used as ingredients.
There were 23 informant between the ages of 35 to 68 in the study area. Among them 5 were farmers and 18 were regular herbal practitioners. They were accompanied us to the forest area where they showed us plants that are used in their traditional medicines
The collected plant specimens were carefully identified with the help of experts in the Botanical Survey of India, Coimbatore. The specimens were properly processed and finally deposited in the herbarium of Department of Botany, Bharathiar University. Details regarding their uses, medicinal importance, mode of administration and their local names were recorded. The Flora of Presidency of Madras was used to ascertain the nomenclature. Data are tabulated with plant name along with family, local name, parts used, method of preparation and utility (Table 1).
Fig. 1 Location map for the ethnobotanical survey of the folk medicinal plants in Hasanur Hills.
The result of this study have revealed 70 plant species belonging to 42 families that are used for various purposes by herbalists, traditional healers and tribal people of Hasanur Hills (Table 1). Seed and tender twigs were recorded as the least used plant parts. However, leaves were found most frequently used part and constituting 45% followed by root (14%), fruit (10%), and bark (8%) (Fig.2). Maximum use of leaves medicinal purpose indicates either these plants are easily availability or they may have strong medicinal properties.
The methods of preparation fall into seven categories. The plant parts applied as a paste (44%), boiled (14%), decoction (12%), juice extracted from the fresh plant parts (7%), powder made from dried plant parts (7%), Fumigate (4%), Infusion (3%), and others (9%) (Fig.3). Paste is the main methods of preparation, either for oral or for external administration. The underground parts viz. roots, rhizomes, tubers, etc. were preferably harvested either at the time of senescence or before dormancy break to retain maximum potency of crude drug.
The mode of administration of these formulations is concerned about 41 preparations were prescribed to consume orally and 26 formulations were reported for external use only. Largest number of remedies are skin diseases (29%) followed by digestive problems (27%), respiratory disorders (17%), diabetes (5%), paralyze (7%), genital disorders (10%), snake bite (3%), toothache (2%) (Fig.4). Common health ailments in the study area were skin problems such as wounds, boils, psoriasis and the larger number of the remedies were used to treat these ailments. Common medicinal plants such as Achyranthus aspera, Lantana camera, Indigofera aspalathoides, Terminalia bellarica are used for skin diseases.
Among the plants surveyed, Ocimum basilicum, Adhatoda vasica are used frequently for the preparation of medicines for the treatment of respiratory disorders. The result showed that Cassia tora, Solanum xanthocarpum are weeds, which is used as a vegetable. Fruits of Flacourtia ramontchi, Zyzyphus oenoplia, and root of Hemidesmus indicus are used as edible by the tribal people. The tribal people mostly eat vegetables of leafy varieties which grown as wild weeds.
Fig. 2. Plant parts used by Irula tribes for various ailments.
Fig. 3. Drug preparation methods for various ailments.
Fig. 4. Percentage of the plants having different pharmacological actions
Table 1. Medicinal Plants used by Irula Tribe of Hasanur Hills, Erode District, Tamil Nadu.
Herbal remedies are considered the oldest forms of health care known to mankind on this earth. Prior to the development of modern medicine, the traditional systems of medicine that have evolved over the centuries within various communities, are still maintained as a great traditional knowledge base in herbal medicines (Mukherjee and Wahil, 2006). Traditionally, this treasure of knowledge has been passed on orally from generation to generation without any written document (Perumal samy and Ignacimuthu, 2000) and is still retained by various indigenous groups around the world. People use more than one plant either separately or mixed together. They mix several plants as ingredients to cure diseases immediately. Generally, fresh part of the plant is used for the preparation of medicine. When fresh plant parts are not used as simple drugs and some plants are used with some other plant parts. The information collected from this study is in agreement with the previous reports (Jain, 2001; Sandhya et al., 2006; Ganesan et al., 2004; Udayan et al., 2005; Mahapatra and Panda, 2002).
From this survey herbs (46%) were found to be most used plants followed by shrubs (26%), trees (14%) and climber (14%) in descending order. Many Species of the family Euphorbiaceae, Fabaceae, Solanceae and Asteraceae are frequently used in this study area. The first two families contribute to 10 remedies; the information is showed.
The parts of the plant used for medicinal purposes are leaves, root, stem, fruits, the complete aerial parts, the whole plant, barks (root and stem) and flowers. However, leaves were found most frequently used part.
Common health ailments in the study area were skin problems. Kani tribals in Tirunelveli Hills of Tamil Nadu were using 14 plants for the treatment of skin problems (Ayyanar & Ignacimuthu, 2005). Tribals of Uttar Karnataka district used 52 herbal preparations from 31 plants for skin diseases, a nearest state of Tamil Nadu (Harsha et al., 2003) and people of Eastern Cape Province, South Africa used 38 plant species for the treatment of wounds (Grierson and Afolayan, 1999).
Several studies have enumerated the plants used for wound healing and skin diseases in various parts of the world (Chah et al., 2006; Ayyanar and Ignacimuthu, 2005; Harsha et al., 2003). Ghorbani (2005) reported 16 plant species that were used for respiratory diseases and 48 plants for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders in north Iran. Safety and efficacy of the treatment for respiratory tract infections were reviewed (Coon and Ernst, 2004). Traditional healers of Kancheepuram district used nine plant species to treat stomach problems among them 3 plants to treat stomachache and 6 plants to cure digestive problems (Chellaiah et al., 2006). Muthukumarasamy et al., (2003) has reported the use of 21 medicinal plants from 20 families to treat gastro-intestinal complaints by using paliyar community.
The tribal people of Western Madhya Pradesh of India used 13 plants for the treatment of Jaundice (Samvatsar and Diwanji, 2000). In the present study on Phyllanthus amarus and Eclipta prostrate were used for the treatment of jaundice. Spilanthes acmella was used to treat toothache. Syzygium cumini, Santalum album and Ficus retusa are reported to treat diabetes. It is in agreement with earlier reports in the treatment of oral diseases (Tapsoba and Deschampus, 2006; Hebbar et al., 2004). Andrographis paniculata, Catheranthus roseus and Gymnema sylvestre were used to treat diabetes by the local traditional healers (Chellaiah et al., 2006). The tribal people of Sikkim and Darjeeling Himalayan region in India utilized 37 species of plants belonging to 28 different families as antidiabetic agents (Chherti et al., 2005).
In this present study ten remedies were used to alleviate problems of the respiratory system. Among the plants surveyed, Ocimum basilicum, Adhatoda vasica are used frequently for the preparation of medicines for the treatment of respiratory disorders. Whereas, 14 remedies were used to alleviate the respiratory problems, among the plants surveyed, Adhatoda zeylanica and Vitex negundo are used frequently (Ignacimuthu et al., 2006).
From our survey of ethnomedicinal plants, the results obtained confirm the therapeutic potency of some plants used in traditional medicine. In addition, these results form a good basis for selection of potential plant species for further phytochemical and pharmacological investigation. The leaf paste of Zizyphus mauritiana along with the leaves of Ailanthes excelsa is taken internally as well as topically to treat paralyzes. Andrographis paniculata is used to treat poison bites; Leaf juice of Mukia maderaspatana with gingelly oil is applied topically on the head before taking bath to cure Asthma. Leaf and fruit powder of Euphorbia hirta is mixed with cows milk and taken orally to treat Leucorrhoea, Leucas aspera (headache and snakebite) and Cardiospermum helicacabum (Arthiritis) also documented.
The data collected shows that majority of the remedies are taken orally. Herbal medicines prescribed by tribal people are either preparation based on single plant or a combination of several plant parts. Most of the reported preparations are drawn from a single plant; mixtures are used rarely. The fresh plant parts are used for the preparation of medicine. When fresh plant parts are unavailable, dried parts are also used. Generally, the people of the study area still have a strong belief in the efficacy and success of herbal medicine. The results of the present study provide evidence that medicinal plants continue to play an important role in the healthcare system of this tribal community.
This study provides an ethnobotanical data of the medicinal plants used by the tribal people of Irulas to cure different diseases. Moreover, this study will promote a practical use of botanicals and must be continued focusing on its pharmacological validation. Further detailed exploration and collection of ethnobotanical information, chemical studies and screening for medicinal properties will provide cost effective and reliable source of medicine for the welfare of humanity.
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