Medicinal Plants Used by Balti People in Pakistan’s Shigar Valley


Medicinal plants used by inhabitants of the Shigar Valley, Baltistan region of Karakorum range-Pakistan

Abbas Z, Khan SM, Alam J, Khan SW, Abbasi AM
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Sep 25;13(1):53
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5613401

Skardu, Shigar Valley, Pakistan
Skardu, Shigar Valley, Pakistan [Photo: Rizwan Saeed, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators at Hazara University, Quaid-i-Azam University, Karakoram International University, and COMSATS conducted an ethnobotanical study to document medicinal uses of plant species by the inhabitants of the Shigar Valley in the Karakorum Range of Northern Pakistan. This is the first such study in the region, which is home to ethnic Balti people of Tibetan descent:

“Baltistan is an archetypal mountainous region of the Northern Pakistan with average altitude of 3555 m above sea level. Historically, it has often been referred as “Western Tibet” or ‘Little Tibet’. The territories of the Baltistan region lie sparsely at acclivities and in deep mountains of Karakorum and Himalaya with unique landscape, climate, flora and fauna. However, remoteness, difficult access and inadequate funding may be the major handicaps to conduct field survey in these areas. Only few workers have conducted ethnobotanical survey in some parts of Northern Pakistan. Therefore, very limited ethno-botanical literature is available in the region. Shigar valley is located in the Karakorum Ranges, and is the home of various peaks (including K2), glaciers and hot springs, which have always been the most preferred tracking places for visitors across the country and abroad. Ethno-botany is a recently introduced and rapidly flourishing field in this region, and is gaining adequate attention by researchers. Although, various ethnobotanical surveys have be conducted in different parts of Pakistan. However, Northern parts of country are still poorly explored. Therefore, present survey aimed to provide the first inventory on ethno-pharmacological application of medicinal plant species used by the inhabitants of Balti community of Shigar valley, Karakorum Mountains-Pakistan.”

Allium carolinianum
Allium carolinianum [Photo: Sherpaworld, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with local respondents, the team identified 84 medicinal plant species used primarily to treat abdominal, respiratory, and skin ailments. Commonly used plants included Allium carolinianum, Hippophe rhamnoides, Tanacetum falconeri, and Thymus linearis. Roughly a quarter of the species were identified for medicinal uses for the first time and included Aconitum violoceum, Arnebia guttata, Biebersteinia odora, Clematis alpina, Corydalis adiantifolia, Hedysarum falconeri, and Saussurea simpsoniana.

The authors found the results to be significant for scientific purposes, as well as for conservation and cultural/economic development:

“Present study illustrated diverse medicinal flora in the territories of Gilgit-Baltistan mountains. The exclusive alliance of medicinal plants, mountain restricted distribution and high level disagreement in traditional uses corroborate the significance of this study. Being the first inventory on medicinal flora of Shigar valley, present study offers baseline data for researchers, particularly interested in high mountains phyto-diversity and related traditional knowledge. The sub-alpine species in environs are practicable for conservation and cultivation. The abundance of medicinal plant species in the study area could enhance the economic status of local communities by marketing and sustainable utilization. Local inhabitants can make their home gardens or micro park system of medicinally important species on their own land.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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