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A comparative analysis of medicinal plants used by several tribes of Chittagong Hill Tracts region, Bangladesh to treat helminthic infections.


Helminthiasis is infestation of the gastrointestinal tract with one or more types of parasitic worms. The worms can be roundworms like Ascaris lumbricoides, whipworms like Trichuris trichiura, hookworms like Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale, pinworms like Enterobius vermicularis or other species of worms. Bangladesh is a developing country with a substantial section of the population living under poverty, along with lack of proper sanitation facilities and suitable quality drinking water. As a result helminthic infections are prevalent throughout the country. Rural, urban slum and tribal population are the most affected, since they are the most vulnerable section caused by insanitary conditions and lack of maintenance of proper hygiene. A high rate of infection (36.2%) of fasciolopsiasis (caused by the worm Fasciolopsis buski) was observed in a study conducted in children in rural Bangladesh (Rahman, K.M., 1981). Stool surveys conducted on 1,668 children aged 2-10 years in 27 villages within Dhaka district revealed an endemic prevalence of Fasciolopsis buski infections (Gilman, R.H., 1982). Giardia intestinalis and Trichuris trichiura infections have also been observed in children of Dhaka, which is the capital city of Bangladesh (Hall, A. and K.S. Anwar, 1991). Prevalence of Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, and hookworm has been also reported in randomized community samples of children aged 2-8 years in rural Bangladesh (Mascie-Taylor, C.G., 1999). Ascaris lumbricoides infestation has also been observed in a poor urban community in Bangladesh (Hall, A., 1999). The prevalence of Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, and hookworm has been reported to be respectively, 78%, 65% and 4% in a study conducted with 123 rural Bangladeshi children aged 2-5 years (Northrop-Clewes, C.A., 2001).

We have been conducting ethnomedicinal surveys among the tribal people and various regions of Bangladesh for the last few years (Hossan, M.S., 2010; Nawaz, A.H.M.M., 2009; Rahmatullah, M., 2010; Rahmatullah, M., 2009; Rahmatullah, M., 2009). Our surveys indicated that helminthic infections are quite common among the tribal population. Bangladesh has a number of tribes who mainly reside in the southeastern, northern, and north-central districts. Among them, the southeastern part of Bangladesh, known as Chittagong Hill Tracts is home to a large number of tribes including the Chak, Chakma, Marma, Murong, Rakhain, and Tonchonga tribes. The knowledge of indigenous people can be quite extensive including the climate, ecosystem, and the local flora and fauna. What is particularly important is their knowledge of medicinal plants, a knowledge which has been acquired through centuries of medicinal plant usage for treatment of various ailments. It has been pointed out that in many instances the sources of modern medicines have been plants used in indigenous cultures (Cotton, C.M., 1996). The average success rate of obtaining new medicines from botanical sources is one in 125 (McCaleb, R.S., 1997), whereas the comparative rate of success of obtaining useful medicines from synthetic chemicals is about one in 10,000 (Chadwick, D.J. and J. Marsh, (eds), 1994). The primary objective of this study was to conduct an ethnomedicinal survey among several tribes of Chittagong Hill Tracts region to learn more about use of medicinal plants for treatment of helminthic infections. Such knowledge can prove useful to modern medicine for discovery of newer and safer drugs.

Materials and Methods

The survey was conducted among the tribal traditional healers of the Chak, Chakma, Marma, Murong, Rakhain, and Tonchonga tribes who live in the two districts of Bandarban and Khagrachari in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of Bangladesh. Informed consent was obtained of the tribal medical practitioners (TMPs) of various tribes prior to the survey. Surveys were conducted with the help of a semi-structured questionnaire and the guided field-walk method as described by Martin (1995) and Maundu (1995). In this method, the TMPs took the interviewers to places from where they collected their medicinal plants, pointed out the plants and described their uses and provided their local names. All plant specimens were collected on the spot, dried and brought back to the Bangladesh National Herbarium, Dhaka for complete identification.


A total of 10 plants distributed into 8 families were found to be used by the six surveyed tribes of Chittagong Hill Tracts region. The Fabaceae family contributed the maximum number of three plants. Other plant families used by the TMPs were the Acathaceae, Arecaceae, Bromeliaceae, Malvaceae, Polygonaceae, Rutaceae, and Verbenaceae families. The results are summarized in Table 1.

Among the ten plants used by the six tribes surveyed Ananas comosus (L.) Merr. was found to be in common usage by the Chak, Chakma, Rakhain, and Tonchonga tribes. Cassia alata L. was used by both the Chakma and the Murong tribe, while Erythrina variegata L. was used in common by the Chakma, Marma, and Murong tribes. However, the mode of use varied between tribes or as in the case of Ananas comosus, two different modes of use were observed in the Chakma tribe. Apart from one mode of use in the Chakma tribe, where Ananas comosus was used in combination with Areca catechu L. and Erythrina variegata, in all other cases, a single plant was used for treatment of helminthic infections. Powdered plant part, juice extracted from plant part or water in which a plant part was soaked was the usual mode of formulation and administered orally. One exception was the case of Cassia fistula L., where crushed bark was mixed with molasses prior to administration. Molasses was possibly used as a binding agent in this case, for following mixing with molasses the bark-molasses combination was dried and made into pills prior to administration.

Leaves formed the part of the plant used predominantly in the formulations and accounted for 52.6% of the total uses. Leaves were followed by barks (21.1%), roots (15.8%), and flowers and fruits (5.3% each). It is interesting that whole plants, seeds or stems did not form a part of the formulations of all six tribes surveyed. Several instances were observed where a combination of two plant parts was administered as treatment for helminthic infections. A combination of leaves and roots of Cassia alata was used by the Chakma tribe; a combination of leaves and flowers of Hibiscus rosa sinensis L. was used by the Rakhain tribe; a combination of leaves and roots of Polygonum hydropiper L. was used by the Marma tribe; and a combination of leaves and roots of Clerodendrum viscosum Vent. was also used by the Rakhain tribe.


The pharmacological activities of different phytochemicals present within the plant decide whether the plant may be useful in treatment of any specific ailment or multiple ailments. A partial list of phytochemicals present in some of the plants used by the various tribes for treatment of helminthic infestations is provided in Table 2. The list has been compiled from a search of Duke's database (Duke, J.A., 1992) and other published sources (referenced within Table 2). One or more phytochemicals may potentially possess anthelmintic activity; however, detailed scientific studies need to be carried out.

Justicia adhatoda L. has been reported to be commonly used in the indigenous medicinal system of Naga tribes in India for curing intestinal worm infections. Its efficacy has been demonstrated using Hymenolepis diminuta-rat experimental model (Yadav, A.K. and V. Tangpu, 2008). A combination of pumpkin seeds and aqueous extract of Areca catechu L. nuts reportedly demonstrated promising results in heterophyiasis (infection caused by Heterophyes heterophyes) in puppy dogs (Mahmoud, L.H., 2002). The same combination also demonstrated promising results in infections with Taenia saginata (Chung, W.C. and B.C. Ko, 1976) and tapeworms (Feng, L.C., 1956). Other plants need to be studied, but since they have been used with success by the tribal people of Chittagong Hill Tracts for centuries, they present considerable potential for discovery of new medicines for treatment of helminthic infections, which are prevalent worldwide.


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(1) Mohammed Rahmatullah, (1) Rownak Jahan, (1) Md. Shahadat Hossan, (1) Syeda Seraj, Md. (1) Mahbubur Rahman, (1) Anita Rani Chowdhury, (1) Z.U.M. Emdad Ullah Miajee, (1) Dilruba Nasrin, (1) Zubaida Khatun, (1) Farhana Israt Jahan, (2) Mst. Afsana Khatun

(1) Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Development Alternative, Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh. (2) Present address: Dept. of Pharmacy, Lincoln College, Mayang Plaza, Block A, No 1, Jalan SS 26/2, Taman Mayang Jaya, 47301, Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Corresponding Author: Professor Dr. Mohammed Rahmatullah, Pro-Vice Chancellor University of Development Alternative House No. 78, Road No. 11A (new) Dhanmondi R/A, Dhaka-1205 Bangladesh Email: Fax: 88-02-8157339
Table 1: Medicinal plants used by various tribal medicinal
practitioners of Chittagong Hill Tracts to treat helminthic

Scientific       Family         Local name          Parts used

Justicia         Acanthaceae    Hongshu-bang       Leaf
adhatoda L.

Areca            Arecaceae      Supari             Root
catechu L.

Ananas           Bromeliaceae   1. Naindra-chena   1. Fruit
(L.) Merr.                      2. Anarosh         2. Young leaf

                                3. Anarosh         3. Young leaf

                                4. Nanderabong     4. Leaf

Cassia           Fabaceae       1. Plachii         1. Leaf
alata L.
                                2. Daud gach       2. Leaf, root

Cassia           Fabaceae       Unalu              Bark
fistula L.

Erythrina        Fabaceae       1. Kasai-pang      1.Bark
variegata L.
                                2. Krong-shing     2. Bark

                                3. Painna-madar    3. Bark

Hibiscus.        Malvaceae      Hong-rang-paing    Leaf, flower
sinensis L

Polygonum        Polygonaceae   Mra-che-bang       Leaf, root
hydropiper L.

Citrus           Rutaceae       Oir-koram          Leaf

Clerodendrum     Verbenaceae    Gomkha             Leaf, root
viscosum Vent.

Scientific       Formulation(s)                           Tribe name

Justicia         Leaf juice is taken.                     Marma
adhatoda L.

Areca            Young leaves of                          Chakma
catechu L.       Ananas comosus are
                 combined with roots
                 of Areca catechu and
                 bark of Erythrina
                 variegata, crushed
                 and the juice extracted.
                 1 table spoonful of juice
                 is administered orally to
                 adults (1 tea spoonful to
                 children) for three days.

Ananas           1. Fruits are taken orally.              1. Chak
(L.) Merr.       2. One young leaf is                     2. Chakma,
                 wrapped with a banana                    Tonchonga
                 l eaf and warmed over fire.
                 When soft, the young leaf is
                 squeezed to extract leaf juice.
                 1 tea spoonful of leaf juice
                 is orally taken.

                 3. Young leaves of                       3.Chakma
                 Ananas comosus are
                 combined with roots of
                 Areca catechu and bark
                 of Erythrina variegata,
                 crushed and the juice
                 extracted. 1 table
                 spoonful of juice is
                 administered orally to
                 adults (1 tea spoonful to
                 children) for three days.

                 4. Three leaves are cut into             4. Rakhain
                 small pieces, crushed and
                 soakedn a glass of water
                 i for 12 hours followed
                 by straining of the water.
                 Two tea spoonful of the
                 water is administered orally
                 to children (3 tea spoonful
                 to adults) thrice daily for
                 3-5 days.

Cassia           1. Leaves are consumed                   1. Murong
alata L.         in small amounts

                 2. One handful of leaf is                2. Chakma
                 mixed with % handful
                 of root, crushed and put
                 in % liter water with the
                 addition of a little salt.
                 The mixture is boiled,
                 strained and bottled.
                 Two tea spoonful of the
                 strained water is taken
                 every morning and night
                 for 3 days. Alternately,
                 young leaves are cooked
                 and taken as vegetable
                 for 3 days. Alternately,
                 crushed leaves are made
                 into bean seed-size pills.
                 One pill is taken every
                 morning for 3 consecutive

Cassia           Crushed bark is mixed                    Chakma
fistula L.       with molasses, dried and
                 made into bean seed-sized
                 pills. 1 pill is taken
                 every morning on an empty
                 stomach for 3-5 days.

Erythrina        1. Powdered bark is                      1. Marma
variegata L.     taken orally.

                 2. Juice from crushed                    2. Murong
                 bark is taken orally.

                 3. Juice is extracted                    3. Chakma
                 from crushed bark.
                 One tea spoonful of juice
                 is taken every morning
                 on an empty stomach for 3
                 consecutive days.

Hibiscus.        Juice of leaves and flowers              Rakhain
rosa             is administered orally.
sinensis L

Polygonum        A combination of                         Marma
hydropiper L.    leaves and roots are taken orally.

Citrus           Juice from 4-5 leaves                    Murong
aurantifolia     is mixed with a glass
Swingle          of water and taken twice
                 daily for seven days.

Clerodendrum     Four handfuls of roots                   Rakhain
viscosum Vent.   are mixed with 5
                 handfuls of leaves; leaves
                 and roots are sliced into
                 small pieces and mixed
                 with 1 liter of water where
                 the leaves and roots are crushed.
                 The water is then left along with
                 crushed leaves and roots for
                 12-14 hours with frequent
                 squeezing of leaves and
                 roots. Following that time
                 period, the water is strained
                 and bottled. Two tablespoonful
                 of the strained water is taken
                 thrice daily on an empty stomach
                 for 7 days.

Table 2: Phytochemicals present in some of the plants used by
the surveyed tribes for treatment of helminthic infections.

Plant name          Phytochemicals reported

Justicia            1,2,3,9-tetrahydro-5-methoxypyrrolo-(2,1-B)-
adhatoda L.         quinazoline-3-ol; 2',4-dihydroxychalcone-4-
                    glucoside; 6-hydroxypeganine; 9-acetamido-3,4-
                    dihydropyrido-(3,4-B)-indole; adhatodic acid;
                    adhatodine; adhatonine; anisotine; anisotinine;
                    arachidic acid; behenic acid; b-sitosterol; b-
                    sitosterol-b-D-glucoside; betaine; cerotic acid;
                    deoxyvascinone; lignoceric acid; linoleic acid;
                    O-ethyl-a-D-galactoside; oleic acid; oscine;
                    peganine; vasakin; vasicine; vasicinine;
                    vasicinol; vasicinone; vasicol; vasicoline;
                    vasicolinone; visicinolone [17].

Areca catechu L.    Arecaidine; arecaine; arecolidine; arecoline; b-
                    carotene; b-sitosterol; capric acid; D-
                    catechin; diosgenin; galactan; gallic acid;
                    guvacine; guvacoline; heneicosanic acid;
                    homoarecoline; isoguvacine; kryptogenin; lauric
                    acid; leucocyanidine; leucopelargonidine;
                    linoleic acid; margarinic acid; myristic acid;
                    nonadecanic acid; oleic acid; palmitoleic acid;
                    philobaphene-tannin; stearic acid [17].

Ananas comosus      2,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxy-3(2H)-furanone; 5-
(L.) Merr.          hydroxytryptamine; acetaldehyde; acetic acid;
                    acetone; acetoxyacetone; acrylic acid; a-
                    linolenic acid; a-tocopherol; amyl caproate;
                    ananasic acid; b-carotene; b-methyl-
                    thiopropionic acid ethyl ester; b-methyl-
                    thiopropionic acid methyl ester; biacetyl;
                    bromelain; bromelin; butyl formate; chavicol;
                    citric acid; d-octalactone; dimethyl malonate;
                    ergosterol peroxide; ethyl acetate; ethyl
                    acrylate; ethanol; ethyl-b-acetoxyhexanoate;
                    ethyl-b-hydroxyhexanoate; ethyl-b-
                    methylthiopropionate; ethyl butyrate; ethyl
                    caproate; ethyl caprylate; ethyl formate; ethyl
                    isobutyrate; ethyl isovalerate; ethyl lactate;
                    ethyl propionate; ferulic acid; g-
                    butyrolactone; g-caprolactone; g-octalactone;
                    indole acetic acid oxidase; isobutanol; isobutyl
                    acetate; isobutyl formate; isocapronic acid;
                    isopropyl-isobutyrate; L-malic acid; methanol;
                    methyl acetate; methyl-b-acetoxyhexanoate;
                    methyl-b-hydroxybutyrate; methyl-b-
                    hydroxyhexanoate; methyl-b-
                    methylthiopropionate; methyl butyrate; methyl
                    caproate; methyl caprylate; methyl isobutyrate;
                    methyl isocaproate; methyl isovalerate; methyl-
                    N-propyl-ketone; N-valerianic acid; oleic acid;
                    oxalic acid; P-coumaric acid; palmitic acid;
                    palmitoleic acid; pentanol; propyl acetate;
                    propyl formate; serotonin; stearic acid;
                    stigmast-5-ene-3-b-7-a-diol; trans-tetrahydro-
                    a-a-5-trimethyl-5-vinylfurfuryl-alcohol [17].

Cassia alata L.     Cassiaindoline (alkaloid) [18]; chrysoeriol;
                    kaempferol; quercetin; 5,7,4'-
                    trihydroflavanone; kaempferol-3-O-b-D-
                    glucopyranoside; kaempferol-3-0-b-D-
                    glucopyranosyl-(1-->6)-b-D-glucopyranoside; 17-
                    hydrotetratriacontane; n-dotriacontanol;
                    palmitic acid ceryl ester; stearic acid;
                    palmitic acid [19]; kaempferol-3-O-
                    gentiobioside; aloe emodin [20]; alquinone
                    (anthraquinone) [21]; chrysoeriol-7-0-(2"-0-b-
                    D-mannopyranosyl)-b-D-allopyranoside; rhamnetin-
                    allopyranoside (flavonoid glycosides) [22].

Erythrina           Eryvarins M-O (isoflavonoids); eryvarins P, Q
variegata L.        (2-arylbenzofurans); eryvarin R (3-aryl-2,3-
                    dihydrobenzofuran) [23]; 5,4'-dihydroxy-8-(3,3-
                    dimethylallyloxiranylmethyl)isoflavone; 5,4'-
                    methylpyrano[5,6:6,7]isoflavone; 5,4'-
                    euchrenone b10; isoerysenegalensein E;
                    wighteone; laburnetin; lupiwighteone;
                    erythrodiol; oleanolic acid [24]; eryvarins F, G
                    (3-phenoxychromones) [25]; eryvarinols A, B
                    (diphenylpropan-1,2-diols) [26].

Polygonum           1,4-cineole; acetic acid; a-pinene; baldrianic
hydropiper L.       acid; b-pinene; b-sitosterol-glucoside; borneol;
                    bornyl acetate; camphor; caprionic acid;
                    carvone; cinnamic acid methyl ester; cinnamic
                    alcohol; confertiflorin; confertifolin; ellagic
                    acid; fenchone; formic acid; gallic acid;
                    isodrimeninol; isodrimenol; isopolygodial;
                    isorhamnetin; isotadeonal; kaempferol; malic
                    acid; melissic acid; P-cymol; persicarin;
                    persicarin-7-methyl ether; phellandrene;
                    poligonone; polygodial; polygonal; polygonolide;
                    quercetin; quercetin-7-glucoside; quercitrin;
                    rhamnazin; rhamnesin; rutin; sitosterol; tannic
                    acid; terpineol; valerianic acid [17].
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Title Annotation:Original Article
Author:Rahmatullah, Mohammed; Jahan, Rownak; Hossan, Shahadat; Seraj, Syeda; Rahman, Mahbubur; Chowdhury, A
Publication:Advances in Natural and Applied Sciences
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9BANG
Date:May 1, 2010
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