Cosmetic Ethnobotany Practiced by Tribal Women of Kashmir Himalayas


Cosmetic ethnobotany practiced by tribal women of Kashmir Himalayas

Shaheen H, Nazir J, Firdous SS, Khalid AU
Avicenna J Phytomed
2014 Jul;4(4):239-50
PubMed Central: PMC4110779
Poonch District, Azad Kashmir
Poonch District, Azad Kashmir (Source: Wikimedia Commons user Pahari Sahib)

Investigators from University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir Muzaffarabad and University of Poonch Rawalakot, Azad Jammu & Kashmir conducted a survey of cosmetic uses of plants by the tribal women in Poonch District, Azad Kashmir Pakistan.

Their study is the first to focus on cosmetic ethnobotany in the area. From the introduction:

“The tribal women population of Kashmir Himalayas is very laborious and dynamic; and by instinct conscious about cosmetic applications of local herbs. In male dominated, conservative religious mountain tribes, women are reluctant, discouraged and shy to discuss their cosmetic problems with doctors or family member. A tragedy of the modern time is that the precious cosmetic ethnobotanical knowledge is disappearing quickly. Due to the lack of interest and knowledge the younger generation prefers allopathic medicines and cosmetic products. Preservation of the values of plants can only be maintained with the help of the indigenous people who have used this knowledge for centuries. Although researchers have conducted a lot of work in the field of ethnobotany, yet its cosmetic aspect has never been focused in this area previously. The main objective of this research was to explore the cosmetic value of plants and make the new generation aware about it.”

Working with 310 female participants from 16 villages, the team documented 39 plants species being used for various cosmetic purposes including control of acne, hair growth, bad breath, facial spots, allergy and wrinkles, and for fairness and eye and lip care.

Citrus limon
Citrus limon (Source: Wikimedia Commons user Elena Chochkova)

Among the major plant species used for cosmetic purposes were Citrus limon, Lycopersicum esculentum, Mentha longifolia, Raphanus sativus, Rosa indica, Allium sativum and Allium cepa. The plant species and their cosmetic applications are detailed in tables.

The authors note a generational shift away from home-made ethnobotanical preparations toward commercial synthetic compounds. From the discussion:

“The women of the area prefer cosmetic ethnobotany because in the remote areas, women have no alternative choices, poverty and they have faith in plants and trust in the effectiveness of folk lore herbal remedies. These ethnomedicine are natural and beneficial for the health because there are no impurities in this type of medicines which are prepared by people themselves. Women also prefer ethnomedicine because allopathic medicines are expensive as compared to natural ethnomedicine.
“…Our results revealed that the older generation possessed sufficient knowledge about cosmetic herbs as compared to younger generation. The younger generation seemed to be involved in synthetic cosmetics inspired by intensive media campaigns and advertisements.”
“…there is further need of detailed and intensive investigations with particular reference to herbal cosmetics in Kashmir Himalayas. The rapid socioeconomic and cultural transformations in Himalayas have brought about changes in ecology and people plant interaction. The indigenous knowledge about local herbs is declining in several regions.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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