Traditional Pharmacopoeia of the Monpa

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Ethnobotany of the Monpa ethnic group at Arunachal Pradesh, India

Nima D Namsa, Manabendra Mandal, Sumpam Tangjang & Subhash C Manda
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed
2011 Oct 14;7:31
PubMed Central: PMC3206407
Arunachal Pradesh, India
Arunachal Pradesh, India (Source: CC-by-sa PlaneMad/Wikimedia)

Researchers from Tezpur University, Indian Institute of Science, Mahatma Gandhi University and Jadavpur University conducted field research with members of the indigenous Kalaktang Monpa community to document “the uses of plants in traditional herbal medicine for human and veterinary ailments, and those used for dietary supplements, religious purpose, local beverage, and plants used to poison fish and wild animals.”

The first author, Nima D Namsa, grew up and belonged to the Monpa community and knows the language and some of the traditional plants used by the local people.

The team documented 50 plants species used for treating human and veterinary ailments, and highlighted several of these species, including the following:

Gymnocladus assamicus is a critically rare and endangered species used as disinfectant for cleaning wounds and parasites like leeches and lice on livestocks…. Some of the edible plants recorded in this study were known for their treatment against high blood pressure ([Clerodendrum] colebrookianum), diabetes mellitus (Momordica charantia), and intestinal parasitic worms like round and tape worms (Lindera neesiana, Solanum etiopicum, and Solanum indicum)…. Three plant species (Derris scandens, Aesculus assamica, and Polygonum hydropiper) were frequently used to poison fish during the month of June-July every year and the underground tuber of [Aconitum ferox] is widely used in arrow poisoning to kill ferocious animals like bear, wild pigs, gaur and deer. The most frequently cited plant species; Buddleja asiatica and Hedyotis scandens were used as common growth supplements during the preparation of fermentation starter cultures.”

Tables detail the ethnobotanical uses of the plants documented in the study area, and compare indigenous plant use with pharmacological properties of reported medicinal plants.

From the conclusion:

“There was no written document of traditional healing knowledge and transmission to the future generation take place only through oral communication. The immediate and serious threat to the local medical practice in the study area seems to have come from the increasing influence of modernization, deforestation due to anthropogenic activities and migration of the younger generations to urban areas leaving a gap in the cultural beliefs and practices of indigenous society. However, there was a potential threat to the medicinal flora of the area as a result of the increasing trend of shifting cultivation (annual clearing of forest) and cultural changes signaling the need for serious efforts to create public awareness so that the appropriate measures are taken to conserve the suitable environments required to protect the medicinal plants in the natural ecosystems. More detailed ethnopharmacological investigations need to be conducted in this area particularly in regard to conservation strategies and sustainable use of medicinal plants.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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