Medicinal Formulations of Kuch Healers in Bangladesh


Medicinal formulations of the Kuch tribe of Bangladesh

Rahmatullah M, Haque ME, Mondol MR, Hasan M, Aziz T, Jahan R, Seraj S
J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Jun;20(6):428-40
PubMed PMID: 24738615

Sherpur District of Bangladesh
Sherpur District of Bangladesh [source: Nafsadh, Wikimedia Commons]
Mohammed Rahmatullah and colleagues at the University of Development Alternative conducted an ethnomedicinal study to document medicinal formulations of tribal medicinal practitioners in the Kuch (also known as Koche or Koch) indigenous community of the Sherpur district of Bangladesh.

Interviews conducted with the help of a semi-structured questionnaire and guided field-walks resulted in documentation of 49 plants used in various preparations.

Justicia adhatoda
Justicia adhatoda [source: ShineB, Wikimedia Commons]
The team found similarity between use by Kuch healers and Indian traditional medicinal practice for 12 of the species: Justicia adhatoda, Acorus calamus, Costus speciosus, Mimosa pudica, Litsea glutinosa, Stephania glabra, Piper longum, Drynaria quercifolia, S. dulcis, Centella asiatica, Cissus quadrangularis, and Curcuma caesia.

The authors note the precarious existence of the community:

“The Kuch (otherwise known as Koche or Koch) tribe is a small indigenous community whose present territory includes primarily the Sherpur district and also scattered locations of the Rangpur, Dinajpur, Joypurhat, and Naogaon districts in northern Bangladesh. According to an 1872 population census, the tribal population numbered around 1 million and the tribe was then also present in the Pabna, Bogra, and Rajshahi districts of the country. In a population census conducted in 1913, the population was 156,000. The present population is estimated to be around 3000. Thus, there appears to have been a drastic decline in the tribal population in the last 140 years, which the Kuch attribute to frequent warfare and resulting moves to new areas. As result the tribe has had to adapt to their new places of residence, which is not easy because they face hostility from previous residents. Food shortage under these conditions leads to eventual decline in the economic status of the tribe, with consequent malnutrition, diseases, and mortality. In addition, the tribe faces continuous assimilation with the mainstream population….

“The Kuch, although they owned vast tracts of land in the past, are landless at present. They work as agricultural laborers in lands belonging to the mainstream Bengali-speaking population. As a consequence, their economic status is extremely poor. The men work in the fields and women supplement their family income by making various items from bamboo and selling them in the local village markets. Their main diet consists of rice consumed with dried fish and vegetables. Meat is primarily obtained from hunting rabbits, boars, and porcupines from forest areas. Fermented rice wine forms a major part of their diet and religious festivals. A favorite food is khaji or kanthamuri, which consists of steamed dried fish in combination with powdered rice and vegetables.”

The authors conclude that the medicinal plants of the Kuch tribe show potential for further scientific studies, particularly in research for treatments for malaria and, with limitations, diabetes.

Read the complete article at PubMed.

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