Ethnobotanical Leaflets 11: 32-37. 2007.



Ethnomedicinal Plants Used by Indigenous Community in a Traditional Healthcare System


C. Kingston, B.S. Nisha, S. Kiruba1, 2 and S. Jeeva2, *


Research Centre in Botany, Scott Christian College, Nagercoil 629 003, Tamil Nadu, India

1Research Centre in Zoology, Scott Christian College, Nagercoil 629 003, Tamil Nadu, India

2Centre for Biological Research, Solomons Research Foundation, 2/92 Kamaraj Street, East Puthalam, Puthalam 629 602, Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu

*Ecology Laboratory, Centre for Advanced Studies in Botany, School of Life Sciences, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong 793 022, Meghalaya, India

E-mail: S Jeeva <[email protected]>


Issued 15 April 2007




The traditional health care system is quite prevalent in the rural areas of Kanyakumari district. The present study deals with enumeration of 25 plant species from 25 families, used as traditional medicine by local indigenous community of the area. The different parts of the plants are used to cure several kinds of illnesses. The leaf is predominantly used, and is followed by roots, tubers, and rhizomes. The indigenous community prefers these plants as home remedy against fever, leucorrhoea, rheumatism, headache, indigestion, etc.


Plants play significant role not only in our economy but also used as traditional medicines. Almost 75% of the medicinally important plant species grow in wild condition [1-6]. Kanyakumari district of Southern Western Ghats is one of the botanically rich areas of Indian peninsula. The richness and diversity of the medicinal flora of this region are largely due to the varied topography, tropical climate and heavy rainfall [7-10].


The present study was conducted in Kulasekharam of Kanyakumari district (8003 8035N and 77005 77036E), which is located in the lap of Western Ghats. This district covers an area of about 1684 sq km, surrounded by three Seas (Gulf of Mannar, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea), southern Western Ghats and plains of Kerala. The annual rainfall varies from 89 254 cm, and maximum and minimum temperatures were 240C 280C in winter and 260C 320C in summer respectively. Moisture content ranges from 65 to 75 % [11-13].


Rural people of the area have strong relations with their surrounding environment [14,15]. Therefore, the indigenous people have not forgotten their age-old ethnicity and traditions. Knowledge about medicinal plants, which are used in their daily life against various ailments, still lies with them. The present investigation highlights the age-old traditional knowledge about some medicinal plants used by the rural people of Kulasekharam as have remedy.



During field study, medicinal plants were screened with the help of traditional medicinal practitioner (TMP) and rural people, belonging to 'Nadar' communities mainly through interview. The medicinal use of plants was ascertained through distributing questionnaire among the TMP and age-old rural people actively engaged in ethnomedicinal practices. The plant species were collected and identified with the help of regional and local floras [16-20], and are preserved in the Herbarium of Botany Department (SCH), Scott Christian College, Nagercoil.


Results and discussion

Twenty-five plant species belonging to 23 families of angiosperms were enumerated. Of these, 64% are herbs, 20% shrubs, and 8% climbers and tree species each. Asclepiadaceae and Verbenaceae were the most speciose family represented by two species each, whereas, 21 families were monospecific. Leaf is predominantly used as a remedy for various ailments among the rural people (9 species), followed by whole plant (6 species), root (3 species), fruit, seeds and tubers (2 species) and rhizome. The reported plants are used to cure 16 kinds of diseases and/or illness. The medicinal importance of the plant species, family name (in parentheses), local name and plant parts used in various ailments are listed in table 1.


Of 25 plant species enumerated during present study, only 4 species were cultivated and the rest growing in wild condition and under coconut plantations. Invasion of exotic weeds, monoculture and over exploitation had resulted in low population of Acorus calamus, Aloe vera, Aristolochia indica, Clerodendrum inerme, Curculigo orchioides, Cyclea peltata and Hemidesmus indicus.


In fact, the present study was the first attempt to explore medicinal plants of Kulasekharam area. The ethnobotanists have to pay much attention towards wealth of medicinal plants of this region. The declining population of some medicinal plants indicates threat of plant diversity. The conservation status of medicinal plants should be ascertained to find out the species facing danger. A good amount of data pertaining to diversity and distribution of medicinally important plants is required to formulate appropriate conservation strategy for conservation of plant wealth on sustained basis. Development and introduction of advance plantation technique, protection of natural regeneration and sustainable utilization could be the basic tool for conservation of such biological resources.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the traditional medicinal practitioners and local rural community for extending their helps during the field study. This effort is dedicated to a number of contributors belonging to various walks of life, for transmission of their knowledge on medicinally important plants.



1. Jeeva S, Mishra BP, Venugopal N, Laloo RC: Sacred forests: Traditional ecological heritage in Meghalaya. Journal of Scott Research Forum 2005, 1(1): 93-97.


2. Jeeva S, Anusuya R: Ancient ecological heritage of Meghalaya. Magnolia 2005, (3): 17-19.


3. Mishra BP, Jeeva S, Laloo RC: Sacred groves of Meghalaya: a traditional ecological heritage for in situ conservation of plant diversity. In: International Symposium on Integrated Management of Plant Diseases, organised by International Society for Conservation of Nature (ISCON) and Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS) in Botany, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India; 2005.



4. Mishra BP, Jeeva S, Laloo RC: Effect of fragmentation on plant diversity and community characteristics of the sacred groves of Meghalaya. In: 50th Annual Technical Session of Assam Science Society and National Conference on Current Trends of Research in Science and Technology, organised by Gauhati University, Guwhati, Assam, India; 2005: 107.


5. Jeeva S, Mishra BP, Venugopal N, Kharlukhi L, Laloo RC: Traditional knowledge and biodiversity conservation in the sacred groves of Meghalaya. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge 2006, 5(4): 563-568.


6. Laloo RC, Kharlukhi L, Jeeva S, Mishra BP: Status of medicinal plants in the disturbed and the undisturbed sacred forests of Meghalaya, northeast India: population structure and regeneration efficacy of some important tree species. Current Science 2006, 90(2): 225-232.


7. Jeeva S, Kiruba S, Mishra BP, Kingston C, Venugopal N, Laloo RC: Importance of weeds as a traditional medicine in Kanyakumari District, Southern Western Ghats. Journal of Swamy Botanical Club 2005, 22 (3&4): 71-76.


8. Jeeva S, Kiruba S, Mishra BP, Venugopal N, Regini GS, Das SSM, Laloo RC: Diversity of medicinally important plant species under coconut plantation in the coastal region of Cape Comorin. Flora and Fauna 2005, 11(2): 226-230.


9. Kiruba S, Mishra BP, Israel Stalin S, Jeeva S, Das SSM: Traditional pest management practices in Kanyakumari District, Southern Peninsular India. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge 2006, 5(1): 71-74.


10. Jeeva S, Kiruba S, Mishra BP, Venugopal N, Das SSM, Sukumaran S, Regini GS, Kingston C, Kavitha A, Raj ADS, Laloo RC: Weeds of Kanyakumari district and their value in rural life. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge 2006, 5(4): 501-509.


11. Kiruba S, Jeeva S, Das SSM: Enumeration of ethnoveterinary plants of Cape Comorin, Tamil Nadu. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge 2006, 5(4): 576-578.


12. Kiruba S, Jeeva S, Venugopal N, Das SSM, Regini GS, Laloo RC, Mishra BP: Ethnomedicinal herbs of Koonthakulam water bird sanctuary, Nellai, Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Non-Timber Forest Products 2006, 13(1): 25-27.


13. Prakash JW, Leena Suman L, Vidhya Devi MS, Berin Premila A, Asbin Anderson N, Veni P, Esakki G, Amutha M, Rajeev R, Bensar K, Jeeva S, Christhudhas Williams B, Regini GS, Das SSM: The medicinal plant diversity of Scott Christian College (Autonomous) Campus, Nagercoil, South Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Nature Conservation 2006, 18(1): 81-89.


14. Kingston C, Jeeva S, Shajini RS, Febreena G Lyndem, Jasmine T Sawian, Laloo RC, Mishra BP: Anti-venom drugs used by indigenous community in tradition

al healthcare system. Journal of Nature Conservation 2006, 18(1): 137-143.


15. Kingston C, Mishra BP, Nisha BS, Jeeva S, Livingstone C, Laloo RC: Diversity and distribution of economically important plants in traditional homegardens of Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu, Southern Peninsular India. Journal of Nature Conservation 2006, 18(1): 41-54.


16. Gamble JS: The Flora of the Presidency of Madras. Ad Lard and Sons Limited, London; 1935.


17. Gamble JS, Fischer CEC: Flora of the Presidency of Madras (Vol. 1 3). Ad Lord and Sons Limited, London; 1956.


18. Henry AN, Chitra V, Balakrishnan NP: Flora of Tamil Nadu, India (Series 1: Vol. 2). Botanical Survey of India, Southern Circle, Coimbatore; 1989.


19. Matthew KM: The Flora of the Tamil Nadu Carnatic. The Rapinat Herbarium, St. Joseph's College, Thiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, India; 1983.


20. Matthew KM: The flora of the Palani Hills South India (Vol. 3). The Rapinat Herbarium, St. Joseph's College, Thiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, India; 1999.



Table 1. Plants used as traditional medicines.


S. No

Plant species


Local name

Medicinal uses of plant parts used as medicine

















Acorus calamus Linn.


Aegle marmelos Linn. Corr.


Aloe vera (Linn.) Burm. f.


Anisomeles malabarica (Linn.) R. Br. ex Sims.

Aristolochia indica Linn.

Carrisa carandas Linn.


Cassytha filiformis Linn.


Clerodendron inerme Gaertn.

Curcuma longa Linn.

































Roots are ground with coconut husk juice and applied near the ear to reduce swellings.

Leaf juice is boiled with coconut oil and massaged on the head for headache.

Leaf extract is boiled along with gingili oil and applied against rheumatism.

Leaf juice is given to children in fever during teeth formation.

Root paste is used as an antidote against poison.

Leaf extract is mixed with coconut milk and taken orally as an antidote against poison.

Plant paste is mixed with honey and taken orally to get relief from leucorrhoea.

Crushed leaves are boiled with coconut oil and applied on head to cure headache.

Rhizome paste is applied externally on the face to remove pimples.


















Curculigo orchioides Gaertn.


Cyclea peltata (Lam.) Hook. f. & Thoms.

Cyperus rotundus Linn.


Elephantopus scaber Linn.


Evolvulus alsinoides Linn.


Hemidesmus indicus R. Br.

Lippia nodiflora Rich.


Myristica fragrans Hoult.

Pavonia odorata Willd.


































Tuber extract is mixed with cow milk and used to cure leucorrhoea.

Leaf paste is applied over the chest to cure chest pain.


Dried tubers are made into paste, mixed with honey and taken orally to cure leucorrhoea.

Decoction of the root is given orally against rheumatism.

Whole plant is pounded with cow milk and taken orally in indigestion.

Leaf juice is used in leucorrhoea.

Decoction of the whole plant is given orally to cure leucorrhoea.

Seeds are used as a medicine in fever.

Leaves along with the leaves of Cuminum cyminum are taken in equal quantity and made into paste using honey and taken orally against rheumatism.













Polygala javana DC.


Punica granatum Linn.


Ricinus communis Linn.


Sida cordifolia Linn.

Solanum nigrum Linn.


Tribulus terrestris Linn.



























Whole plant is pounded with urine and given orally as an antidote against snakebite.

Young fruits are made into decoction using goat milk and should be taken orally for diarrhoea.

Seeds are pounded with neem oil and applied externally to cure pimples.

Leaves are chewed to cure toothache.

Young fruits are cooked and eaten to cure cough and abdominal diseases.

Whole plant is medicinal. Decoction of this plant with Coriandrum sativum is taken orally for heart diseases.