Ethnobotanical Leaflets 11: 280-290. 2007.
Evolutionary Medicine Of Kani Tribal’s Botanical Knowledge In Agasthiayamalai Biosphere Reserve, South India
A. John De Britto* and R. Mahesh
PG & Research Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology
St.Xavier’s College (Autonomous) Tirunelveli – 627 002, Tamilnadu, India
*E-mail: : Tel: 0462-2560813; Fax: 0462-2561765.
Issued 30 December 2007
Agasthiayamalai Biosphere Reserve in Tirunelveli zones have had five Kani tribal settlement surveys of ethnomedicinal utilization with more than 480 species of which only 70 species are been reported during the field study 2006-2007. Collected ancestral knowledge was documented in database format by the software Visual Basic 6.0 and M.S Access. Kani tribes reveal that they are capable of treating various diseases. Exploitation and documentation of traditional medicine is essential for the future. Such study will be useful to understand the role and importance of the tribal botanical knowledge in the conservation of medicinal plants of this area.
Key: Agasthiayamalai, Kani tribes, Software, Medicinal plants.
The most ancient and celebrated treatises on Hindu medicine are no doubt the Ayurveda. India also possesses a great heritage of other ancient systems of medicine such as Siddha, Unani and Homeopathy. Nearly 2500 species of plants are used in one way or other by some of these systems. In addition to these traditional systems, there also exists in India a vast knowledge of tribal and folk medicine, which utilize around 7500 species of plants as medicine. Some of the ethno botanically important species have also provided leads for production of modern drugs by pharmaceutical companies. It is estimated that in India 90% of the prescriptions contain plant products. Ayurvedic and other traditional system of Indian medicines fully depend on wild plants for preparation of drugs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 80% of the population of developing countries still rely on traditional medicines, mostly plant drugs, for their primary health care needs. Demand for medicinal plant is increasing in both developing and developed countries due to growing recognition of natural products being non-toxic, having no side-effects, easily available at affordable prices. The medicinal plant sector has traditionally occupied an important position in the socio cultural, spiritual and medicinal area of rural and tribal families (WHO., 2002- 2005).
India is known for ancient civilizations and deep-rooted traditions. It is also known for its rich diversity, both cultural as well as biological (Ravikumar et al., 2000). Totally 427 tribal communities are in India (Kala., 2005) having 36 states of Tamilnadu with scheduled tribes. The different ethnic groups settled throughout this place have their own way of life style even in using the plant resources.
Bioprospecting is the search of useful products derived from bioresources. The useful products may be chemical compounds, genes, micro & macro organisms and other valuable products that are useful in medicinal, industrial, agricultural and food sectors. Traditional medicine is also known as “Evolutionary medicine.” (Pamplona roger., 2000).
v This study focuses on the collection of primary data relevant to the experience of the Kani tribes of the Agasthiyamalai especially in the region of Tirunelveli.
v To establish a database of the plants used by Kani tribes with special reference to their indigenous traditional knowledge.
v To create awareness to the local communities about the conservation strategies of these valuable genetic resources.
Agasthiayamalai Biosphere Reserve (Kalakakad Mundanturai Tiger Reserve-Map 1) located in Tirunelveli zones have Kani tribes practicing traditional medicine were interviewed in five settlements (Figure 1), Servalar, Agasthiar Kanikudiyiruppu, Mayilar, Periyamayilar and Inchikuzhi (Henry et al., 1984). The native plants used for the preparation of crude drugs and their administrations along with doses were recorded through 15 field trips carried out in 52 days during 2006-2007 academic year. Plant voucher specimens were matched, deposited (Diane Bridson and Leonard forman., 1992) in Xavier’s College Herbarium (XCH)-Tirunelveli. Plants were identified by using relevant floras (Gamble., 1935 & 1994; Gopalan and Henry., 2000; Mohanan and Sivadasan., 2002; Nair and Nayar., 1986 & 1987). Collected information was documented in software using Visual Basic 6.0 and MS Access.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Plants have been used as traditional medicine for several thousand years. Traditional knowledge is a divine gift to humanity. Tribal’s, even today, depend on wild plants and animals for their livelihood. Kani tribals are primarily a semi-romantic community and originated from Kerala. They have slowly shifted and settled in the forest of Tirunelveli region. The ethnomedicinal survey held on tribal doctors suggest they use 70 species. The ethnomedicines of the species are arranged in alphabetical order. The database includes the Botanical name, Family, Vernacular name (Viswanathan et al., 2006), Habit, Description, Parts used, Ethnobotanical use, Ethnomedicinal use, Herbal formulation, Dosage and Pictures of the plants. Sample software screens (Figure 2) and Medicinal Plants (Table 1) are given. Identity and their various indigenous technological knowledge are also presented here (Figure 3).
Traditional knowledge is not protected within the patent system as it stands today. So, it needs for us to protect the biological traditional knowledge. The “turmeric case” highlights the problems faced by India in preventing bio-piracy. The recording of traditional knowledge seeks to reduce the possibility of bio-piracy, but looks to future legislation to effectively protect the rights of the people. Some important structural changes based on sound legal footing are proposed, which can be easily incorporated within the present database, and would go a long way in preventing bio-piracy and protecting the interests of the knowledge-holders (Sangeeta Udgaonkar., 2002).
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The present population has little knowledge about the medicinal plants of the area because most of the knowledgeable, older persons have passed away and the younger ones are not as informed of traditional methods. However, as in the past, some empirical knowledge of medicinal plants among the tribes continues to be developed and transmitted orally from one generation to the next. The deterioration of the wild flora of this area is to be blamed on population pressure, forest fires, overgrazing, and browsing.
Ministry of Environment and forests in Government of India, is acknowledged for the financial support for this research work.
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Map 1. Area of the study
Figure 1. Kani tribal settlements
Figure 2. Sample software screens
Figure 3. Indigenous technological knowledge
Table 1. Medicinal Plants used as Ethnomedicine.