American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 3(2): 165-171, 2009
© 2009, American Eurasian Network for Scientific Information This is a refereed journal and all articles are professionally screened and reviewed
Medicinal plants of the Garo tribe inhabiting the Madhupur forest region of Bangladesh
Md. Manzur-ul-Kadir Mia, Mohammad Fahim Kadir, Md. Shahadat Hossan, Mohammed Rahmatullah
Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Development Alternative Dhanmondi, Dhak a-1205, Bangladesh
Md. Manzur-ul-Kadir Mia, Mohammad Fahim Kadir, Md. Shahadat Hossan, Mohammed Rahmatullah.; Medicinal plants of the Garo tribe inhabiting the Madhupur forest region of Bangladesh, Am.-Eurasian J. Sustain. Agric., 3(2): 165-171, 2009
The Garos were once a nomadic tribe of the Bod o g ro u p o f M o ngoloids now living in different areas of Bangladesh and in the adjacent states of India. Garos are very conservative in their outlook. Among Garos, the people who treat and cure patients by folk medicines are considered persons with supernatural power and therefore, enjoy respect and honor in the community. These persons are named khamal or kamal. Khamals usually possess a very good knowledge of the properties of medicinal plants, which because of the forest regions that they inhabit, can be very diverse in nature. We undertook an ethnobotanical survey among the Garo tribal healers to gather information on ailments that are common amongst the Garos and the medicinal plant formulations, which are used to treat these ailments. Detailed information was collected from the healers as to plants, ailments, formulations, and dosages. The names of 65 plants distributed in to 43 families were obtained from the tribal healers inhabiting the Madhupur region in Bangladesh. The plants (with ailments treated or properties given within parenthesis) include Andrographis paniculata (fever, headache, vertigo), Justicia gendarussa (wounds), Achyranthes aspera (abortifacient), Amaranthus spinosus (boils), Lannea coromandelica (seminal problems), Mangifera indica (dysentery), Alstonia scholaris (leucorrhea), Holarrhena antidysenterica (dysentery, liver troubles, helminthiasis), Rauwolfia serpentina (malaria, spleen diseases), Amorphophallus campanulatus (rheumatism), Typhonium trilobatum (cattle ulcer), Hemidesmus indicus (rheumatism, joint pain), Aloe sp. (helminthiasis, male sexual ailments), Artemisia nilagirica (stomach pain), Oroxylum indicum (jaundice, swelling), Bombax ceiba (gonorrhea), Garuga pinnata (stomachic), Terminalia chebula (stomachic), Eupatorium odoratum (wounds), Gnaphalium luteo-album (bone fractures), Mikania cordata (gastric pain, ulcer, fresh wounds and cuts), Wedelia chinensis (vomiting), Evolvulus nummularius (edema), Costus speciosus (inflammation of eye), Momordica charantia (chicken pox), Cuscuta reflexa (jaundice, helminthiasis), Dioscorea belophylla (astringent), Euphorbia hirta (spermatorrhea), Eleutherine plicata (headache, diarrhea), Hyptis suaveolens (gonorrhea), Litsea sp. (fever, stomachic, seminal weakness), Cassia alata (skin diseases), Cassia fistula (cracking of skin, helminthiasis, dysentery of cattle), Abrus precatorius (debility), Erythrina variegata (piles), Punica granatum (dysentery), Hibiscus rosa sinensis (stomach upset, dysentery), Sida acuta (asthma, bronchitis), Aphanamixis polystachya (skin diseases), Stephania japonica (indigestion, mucus in stools), Tinospora cordifolia (helminthiasis, rheumatism, chicken pox), Ficus benghalensis(aphrodisiac),Ficus rumphii (debility), Streblus asper (dysuria,dysentery),Moringa oleifera (nasal catarrh, decreased eyesight, bone fractures, sores), Careya arborea (burns, wounds,cuts,fractures, body pains), Boerhaavia repens (seminal weakness), Oxalis corniculata (indigestion in cattle), Piper longum (tuberculosis), Asparagus acerosa (seminal weakness, stomach trouble, gonorrhea), Paederia foetida (stomach ailments), Randia sp. (skin diseases), Citrus sp. (kidney stones), Scoparia dulcis (dysentery), Smilax sp. (to ease childbirth), Physalis minima (flatulence, stomachic), Solanum indicum (skin diseases, small pox), Abroma augusta (gonorrhea, leucorrhea, constipation, menstrual troubles), Centella asiatica (indigestion, stomach infection), Clerodendrum indicum (skin rash), Clerodendrum viscosum (colic pain), Vitex negundo (rheumatism),
Corresponding Author: Md. Manzur-ul-Kadir Mia, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Development Alternative Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205, Bangladesh
The Garos were once a nomadic tribe of the Bodo group of Mongoloids now living in different areas of Bangladesh and in the adjacent states of India. Garos are very conservative in their outlook. Among Garos, the people who treat and cure patients by folk medicines are considered persons with supernatural power and therefore, enjoy respect and honor in the community. These persons are named khamal or kamal. Khamals usually possess a very good knowledge of the properties of medicinal plants, which because of the forest regions that they inhabit, can be very diverse in nature. We undertook an ethnobotanical survey among the Garo tribal healers to gather information on ailments that are common amongst the Garos and the medicinal plant formulations, which are used to treat these ailments.
Materials and Methods
Extensive interviews were conducted of the Garo traditional healers with the help of a semi-structured questionnaire. The basic method followed was the guided field work as mentioned by Martin (1995) and Maundu (1995).
Plant specimens were photographed as well as collected, pressed and dried in the field. Local names of the plants were obtained from the informant and d o u b le -checked with other members of the community. Plant specimens were identified at the Bangladesh National Herbarium, where voucher specimens were deposited.
Results and Discussion
Plants and their distribution into families
Information on 65 plants used by the Garos was collected. These plants are distributed into 43 families. The Compositae and Leguminosae families represented the largest families of plants used by the Garos, four plants being distributed each in the above two families. Three plants each belonged to the Moraceae, Rubiaceae and Verbenaceae families. The results are summarized in Table 1.
Plant parts used and ailments
Leaves formed the part of the plant most frequently used followed by roots and barks. Of the manifold uses of whole plants or plant parts, leaves were used as remedy for 22 ailments, roots for 19 ailments, barks for 10 ailments and stems for 8 ailments. Whole plants were used for 8 ailments, while seeds were used for 4 ailments only. The flowers of any plant were not used by the Garos.
The majority of plant uses were to treat gastrointestinal disorders like dysentery, diarrhea, helminthiasis, and piles. A total of 25 plants were used as remedy for such disorders. Amongst other ailments treated, 9 plants were used to treat skin disorders (boils, itches, sores), 6 plants were used to treat reproductive tract disorders (seminal problems or as aphrodisiac), 4 plants each were used as remedy for wounds, rheumatism, gonorrhea, and bone fractures, 3 plants were used to treat hepatic problems like jaundice, and 2 plants each were used to treat fevers, urinary tract disorders like leucorrhea, chicken pox, debility, and respiratory tract disorders like asthma, bronchitis and tonsillitis.The Garo traditional healers also have plants to treat edema, malaria, kidney stones, eye inflammation, and tuberculosis. Three plants, namely Cassia fistula, Oxalis corniculata, and Typhonium trilobatum are used by the Garos to treat diseases of cattle.
Andrographis paniculata which is used by the Garos as remedy for fever has been shown in scientific studies to have antiviral properties and antimicrobialactivities (Wiart et al., 2005; Singha et al., 2003). Conceivably, this could justify the use of this plant in bacterial and viral fevers. The abortifacient activity of Achyranthes aspera, used by the Garos as such, has been similarly validated by modern scientific evidence (Pakrashi and Bhattacharya,
Am.-Eurasian J. Sustain. Agric., 3(2): 165-171, 2009 167
1977; Shibeshi et al., 2006). Holarrhena antidysenterica, used by the Punica granatum is used by the Garos against dysentery. The plant is used in Mexican traditional medicine to treat gastrointestinal disorders and its antibacterial and anti-parasitical properties have been validated (Calzada et al., 2006; Alanís et al., 2005). Garos for dysentery has been shown to contain alkaloids having antidiarrheal effects (Kavitha et al., 2004). Amorphophallus campanulatus, the tubers of which are used by the Garos to treat rheumatis m, is kn o wn to have analgesic properties (Shilpi et al., 2005). Hemidesmus indicus, which is also used by the Garos to treat rheumatism, reportedly possess antinociceptive activities (Verma et al., 2005). Thus the use of these two plants might be to lessen rheumatic pain. A similar effect may be also behind the use of leaves of Vitex negundo, used by the Garos to treat rheumatism. The leaves have been reported to demonstrate antiinflammatory and analgesic activities (Dharmasiri et al., 2003; Gupta and Tandon, 2005; Tandon and Gupta, 2006).
Table 1: Medicinal plants used by the Garo tribe inhabiting the Madhupur forest region of Bangladesh
The importance of any ethnomedicinal survey lies in the potential discovery of plants, which may through proper scientific investigations may yield novel compounds to treat both old and emerging diseases. From that point of view, the plants obtained from the Garos are important, more so, because the indigenous uses of a number of plants for specific ailments have been validated by scientific studies. Other plants, for which uses have not been validated, need to be studied quickly for the forest region inhabited by the Garos is dwindling fast with consequence loss or endangerment of plant species. Also, the traditional medicinal knowledge of the Garos is being lost with every passing day, as the Garos lose their ethnic customs and become more assimilated into the general population.
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