Ethnomedicinal Knowledge of the Indigenous People of Malda District, West Bengal


Indigenous knowledge of plants in local healthcare management practices by tribal people of Malda district, India

Saha MR, Sarker DD, Kar P, Gupta PS, Sen A
J Intercult Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Oct-Dec;3(4):179-85
PubMed Central PMC4576813

Malda District, West Bengal, India
Malda District, West Bengal, India [Source: GDibyendu, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from the University of North Bengal conducted an ethnobotanical study aimed at exploring the indigenous knowledge of native tribes on the utilization of wild plant species for local healthcare management in Malda district of West Bengal.

From the Introduction:

“The region is covered with plentiful natural vegetation, which makes it verdant. River beds, ponds, marshy land etc. are good habitats for the wetland undergrowth. Most of the remote villages are covered by jungles, which consist chiefly of thorny scrub bush and large trees showing wide distribution of flora. The soil of the western region of the district is particularly suited to the growth of mulberry and mango, for which Malda has become famous. Various ethnic communities, including Santala, Rajbanshi, Namasudre, Polia, Oraon, Mundas, Malpaharias etc. are the inhabitants of this region. Of these Santala, Oraon is different from others due to their unique culture and tradition. They are quite popular to treat several types of local ailments of human and veterinary purposes.”

Consulting with traditional healers and practitioners, the team documented 53 medicinal plants frequently used to treat 44 types of ailments.

Andrographis paniculata
Andrographis paniculata [Source: J.M. Garg, Wikimedia Commons]
Predominant among the most important medicinal plants used in the treatment of several diseases are Andrographis paniculata, Amaranthus spinosus, Alstonia scholaris, Cuscuta reflexa, Jatropha gossypiifolia, Caesalpinia crista, Tamarindus indica and Sida rhombifolia.

Azoospermia was the most commonly treated disease, followed by different types of pains, ankle sprain, diabetes, dysentery, inflammation, menstrual disorder, rheumatism, skin disorders and leucorrhea.

This first study of ethnomedicinal knowledge of the ethnic people of Malda district could be a crucial first step toward the conservation of cultural traditions and biodiversity in the region:

“Now-a-days the traditional knowledge is in the way of erosion due to environmental degradation, deforestation, agricultural expansion and population pressure. Traditional knowledge of medicinal plants and their use by indigenous cultures are not only useful for conservation of cultural traditions and biodiversity but also for community healthcare and drug development at present and in the future. Therefore, recording of indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants is an urgent task.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Medicinal Plants Used by Traditional Healers in Zimbabwe for the Treatment of Malaria


Medicinal plants used by traditional healers for the treatment of malaria in the Chipinge district in Zimbabwe

Ngarivhume T, Van’t Klooster CI, de Jong JT, Van der Westhuizen JH
J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Jan 15;159:224-37
PubMed PMID 25449454

Researchers at Walter Sisulu University, University of Amsterdam and University of the Free State conducted an explorative ethnobotanical survey of the Chipinge district in Zimbabwe to document how malaria is conceptualized and diagnosed by traditional healers from the Ndau people, and to record the medicinal plants used in the prevention and treatment of malaria, their mode of preparation and administration.

Cassia abbreviata
Cassia abbreviata [Source: Jeppestown, Wikimedia Commons]
Based on interviews with 14 traditional healers from four villages (selected with the assistance of the headman of the Muzite area and a representative of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association), the team identified 28 plants used by the healers to manage malaria. Cassia abbreviata was the species cited most often, followed by Aristolochia albida and Toddalia asiatica.

The traditional healers, while aware of the pitfalls of appropriation, chose to work with the investigators:

“The healers were aware of the possibility of unfair bioprospecting practices from institutions such as pharmaceutical companies and were concerned about legal protection of their intellectual property and a possible lack of proper compensation, similar to the findings described by Uprety et al. (2012) amongst the aborigines of Canada. We were thus surprised by the absence of significant resistance from the healers to supply us with traditional knowledge and plant material. We attribute this to the involvement of the local headman and ZINATHA and the prior informed-consent forms that explained the objectives, benefits, risks and general procedures of the survey in Shona before the start of the project.”

In their conclusion, the authors suggest priorities for further research and development:

“The data gathered in this survey could assist in identifying plant species and extraction methods to develop herbal drugs against malaria in Zimbabwe. The most widely used plants for the treatment of malaria reported in this study such as Cassia abbreviata and Aristolochia albida should be prioritized for further research. In vitro screening programmes, based on this and other ethnobotanical study results, could be important in validating the traditional use of herbal remedies and for providing leads in the search for new active principles…. Scientific validation of herbal medicine may eventually lead to more widespread use of traditional medicines in cheaper health care systems, as in India and China, provided that thorough toxicological investigations, clinical studies and randomized controlled trials are carried out. African traditional knowledge and medicine thus have the potential to play a large role in primary healthcare, particularly in poor and isolated rural areas. This underscores the value of traditional knowledge and the need to collect and preserve traditional health practices.”

Read the complete article at PubMed.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Antimicrobial Activity of Medicinal Plants Used in South Central Ethiopia


In vitro antimicrobial activity of plants used in traditional medicine in Gurage and Silti Zones, south central Ethiopia

Teka A, Rondevaldova J, Asfaw Z, Demissew S, Van Damme P, Kokoska L, Vanhove W
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Aug 18;15:286
PubMed Central PMC4539890

Investigators at Ghent University, Addis Ababa University and Czech University of Life Sciences Prague conducted in vitro antimicrobial analysis of medicinal plant species selected according to their traditional medicinal uses in south central Ethiopia.

From the Background:

“Numerous biochemical compounds obtained from medicinal plants possess important antimicrobial properties. Application of these compounds is preferred over synthetic drugs as they have long been used in traditional medicine and are considered safe to humans. New and effective antimicrobials identified from plants can consequently be considered in development of new drugs to combat problems associated with drug resistance. Using effective plant extracts to control human diseases has the additional advantage of low production cost, minimal environmental damage and higher accessibility to rural communities. Hence, medicinal plants are expected to be the future alternative source of new antimicrobial products.”

Based on use reports of local informants and traditional herbalists from the study area for treatment of ailments caused by microbial agents, the team selected 15 plant species for analysis: Apodytes dimidiata, Asparagus africanus, Bersama abyssinica, Cucumis ficifolius, Gladiolous abyssinicus, Guizotia schimperi, Lippia adoensis, Olinia rochetiana, Pavonia urens, Premna schimperi, Pittosporum viridiflorum, Polygala sadebeckiana, Sida rhombifolia, Solanum incanum and Thunbergia ruspolii.

The in vitro analysis found that A. africanus, G. schimperi, L. adoensis and P. schimperi were active against Candida albicans, Enterococcus faecalis and Staphylococcus aureus. In particular, strong antibacterial activity was observed for G. schimperi extract against 17 resistant and sensitive Staphylococcus strains, at a concentration comparable to standard antibiotics.

The authors recommend that the usefulness of these plants, in particular G. schimperi, should be confirmed through further phytochemical and toxicity analyses.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.