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’ – 8035’N and 77005’ – 77036’E), 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.
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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.
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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.