Medicinal plants of the Santal Tribe residing in Rajshahi district, Bangladesh.
The Santals form the largest tribal group residing in the Himalayan sub-mountain region in different districts of Rajshahi division. They are the descendants of Austric-speaking Proto-Australoid race. In physical feature, the Santals closely resemble some other tribal groups like the Oraons, Mundas, and the Paharias.
The Santals rely on treatment of their ailments on their traditional healers known as "ojha". The ojha combines within one person the healer as well as the diviner. The ojha drives away malevolent spirits and deities, determines the cause of a disease, and administers remedies based on his considerable practical knowledge of medicinal plants. In fact, traditional medicine is highly developed among the Santals, and this knowledge extends to more than three hundred medicinal plant species. Their making of remedies suggests a practical knowledge of chemistry.
We are in the process of conducting an extensive ethnobotanical survey of the Santals, who currently number over two hundred thousand and are spread through a large area. The objective of the present study was to conduct an ethnobotanical survey of the Santals living in Rajshahi district, which form one of the districts within the Rajshahi division.
Materials and methods
Ethnobotanical methods like semi-structured interviews were employed to obtain the necessary information. The basic method employed is termed as guided field walk, which as per Martin (1995) and Maundu (1995) involves observation while interviewing the informant. Typically, the informant (ojha) was taken on field trips to forest areas from where he usually collected his medicinal plants. Plants were pointed out by the ojha and their local name, ailments for which they were prescribed, part of plant used, formulations and dosages were noted down by the researcher. Information was also obtained on any specific time or month when the plant was collected, the maturity of the plant when it was deemed suitable for medicinal use, and any other plants that were being used concomitantly in the preparation of remedies.
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 double-checked with other members of the Rakhain community. Plant specimens were identified at the Bangladesh National Herbarium, where voucher specimens were deposited.
Results and discussion
Plants and their distribution into families
Detailed information was collected on twenty six medicinal plants used by the ojhas to treat various ailments. The results are summarized in Table 1. Briefly, the plants were distributed in to twenty one families, which included Amaranthaceae, Amaryllidaceae, Apiaceae, Asparagaceae, Capparaceae, Cuscutaceae, Lamiaceae, Lauraceae, Leguminosae, Loganiaceae, Loranthaceae, Malvaceae, Marsileaceae, Meninspermaceae, Moraceae, Polygonaceae, Sapotaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Solanaceae, Verbenaceae, and Vitaceae. The highest number of plants (three each) belonged to the Amaranthaceae and Leguminosae families, followed by two plants in the Solanaceae family.
Plant parts used and mode of preparation
Leaves formed the part of the plant most frequently used (eight plants), followed by use of the whole plant (seven plants) for treatment of ailments. The roots, tubers or rhizomes of six plants were also us ed by the ojhas. Flowers were leas t used; the flower of only one plant was used as remedy. The usual mode of use of the plants or plant parts involved crushing the plant and collecting the juice. Other remedies included making paste of plant or plant parts, soaking the plant or plant part in water followed by straining the water through cloth, and boiling the plant or plant part in water to form a decoction.
The Santal ojhas typically mix several ingredients in the preparation of their remedies. These ingredients can be parts of other plants, spices, or sugar. For instance, as remedy for stomach pain whole plant of Achyranthes aspera along with leaves of Aerva lanata is crushed and taken with a little crystalline sugar. The whole plant of Centella asiatica is crushed with whole plant of Marsilea quadrifolia and given as a remedy to mothers, who are lacking in breast milk after childbirth. On occasions, the number of ingredients may be substantial. For instance, the concoction that the ojhas use as remedy for tuberculosis include roots of Solanum virginianum, roots of Asparagus racemosus, roots of Hemidesmus indicus, roots of Abrus precatorius, fruits of Piper cubeba, fruits of Terminalia chebula, along with a number of spices including cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, clove, saffron, black cumin and a locally obtained unidentified Santal spice called gojruti. Pills made from all these ingredients are taken with chuani (rice fermented wine). As remedy for dripping o f saliva from mouth and loss of movement of tongue, the leaves and roots of Tinospora cordifolia are made into a paste with fruits o f Terminalia chebula, fruits of Terminalia bellerica, wood from Santalum album, leaves of Abrus precatorius, leaves of Andrographis paniculata, and whole plant of kantakhor (an unidentified plant), dried, powdered, and made into pills, which are taken thrice daily for seven days. For puerperal fever resulting in excessive loss of weight in women, the ojhas administer to women a concoction made from the flower buds of Hibiscus rosa sinensis, aerial roots of Ficus benghalensis, clove and gum from Acacia arabica along with a small amount of ginger juice.
A review of the available scientific literature suggests that the Santal remedies could be sometimes effective for treatment of the disease itself; at other times, the remedies may be considered as symptomatic treatments. The whole plant of Achyranthes aspera along with leaves of Aerva lanata and a little crystalline sugar is used to treat stomach pain. Since Achyranthes aspera has been reported to possess anti-inflammatory activity (Gokhale et al., 2002; Vetrichelvan and Jegadeesan, 2003), it is possible that stomach pain arising out from ulceration or inflammation of the stomach can be remedied through use of this plant. The same is true for Crinum sp., the tubers of which are taken with crushed ginger during stomach pain. Although it was not possible to fully identify the Crinum sp. used by the Santals, other species of this genus have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. For instance, aqueous extract of Crinum glaucum have been reported to possess analgesic and antiinflammatory activities (Okpo et al., 2001). Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-lymphocytic activities have also been reported for aqueous extract of Crinum giganteum (Kapu et al., 2001). The bark of Capparis zeylanica is used by Santal ojhas as remedy for pain in hands or feet. Recent research has found evidences of analgesic and antipyretic effects of leaves of this plant (Ghule et al., 2007). The leaves of Leucas aspera are used as remedy for headache by the Santals. The roots of this plant reportedly possess antinociceptive, antioxidant and cytotoxic activities (Rahman et al., 2007), while the flowers are known to have antimicrobial activity (Mangathayaru et al., 2005). It is possible that while it has not so far been reported, the leaves of the plant may also possess antinociceptive properties, which may lead to direct relief of headache, or contain antimicrobial substances, which can contribute to symptomatic relief of headache caused as a result of bacterial infection. The leaves of Vitex negundo are also used as remedy for headache. The leaves particularly, as well as the seeds of this plant reportedly possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities (Chawla et al., 1992; Dharmasiri et al., 2003; Gupta and Tandon, 2005; Tandon and Gupta, 2006), which can account for the relief of headache.
The roots of Asparagus racemosus are used with other plant parts and spices by the Santals as remedy for tuberculosis. The root of this plant reportedly has anti-bacterial properties (Mandal et al., 2000). The roots and stems of Abrus precatorius are taken during tuberculosis and throat pains. It is interesting that the roots have been reported to contain four anti-bacterial compounds (Zore et al., 2007), and the plant as a whole has been reported to possess anti-bacterial activity against clinical pathogens (Adelowotan et al., 2008), immunopotentiating activity (Ramnath et al., 2002), as well as anti-tubercular and anti-plasmodial constituents (Limmatvapirat et al., 2004). Thus the use of this plant as remedy for tuberculosis appears to be scientifically validated.
The leaves of Cajanus cajan (synonym of Cajanus indicus) is taken for jaundice, which is a disorder of the liver. The hepatoprotective effect of this plant, particularly against various hepatotoxic compounds has been thoroughly documented (Sarkar and Sil, 2006; S arkar et al., 2005; Ghosh et al., 2006; Ghosh and Sil, 2006; Sarkar et al., 2006; Manna et al., 2007a,b).
The fruits of Madhuca indica are taken as a remedy by the Santals for debility and further considered to "purify blood". "Toxicity of blood" is considered by many traditional medicinal practitioners in Bangladesh as the cause for various ailments, for which medicines are taken, which are considered to "purify blood". It is possibly safe to assume that the above terms are symptomatic descriptions of disorders of blood like low hemoglobin, or lower than normal number of various blood cells, or other infections for which the assumption is made that blood plays an important role. It is noteworthy that Madhuca indica contains protobassic glycosides named madhucosides A and B, with inhibitory activity on free radical release from phagocytes (Pawar and Bhutani, 2004).
Modern scientific studies validate to a certain extent the us e of Scoparia dulcis by the Santals to treat blood dysentery. The plant is known to possess anti-microbial components (Latha et al., 2006); in vivo inhibition of gastric acid secretion by aqueous extract of the plant has also been reported in rodents (Mesia-Vela et al., 2007).
The scientific validation of the use of Cissus quadrangularis in healing bone fractures, as well as its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties has been widely documented (Udupa et al., 1961; Udupa and Pras ad, 1962; Singh and Udupa, 1962; Prasad and Udupa, 1963; Udupa and Prasad, 1964a,b; Chopra et al., 1976; Shirwaikar et al., 2003; Panthong et al., 2007). In our ongoing studies on the ethnobotanical survey of each district and each tribe in Bangladesh, we have observed that every district or tribe that we have surveyed uses this plant for healing bone fractures.
The Santals have a well-established system of administration of traditional medicine based mainly on plants by their traditional healers or ojhas for treatment of diverse ailments. This study forms part of our ongoing studies on the Santals, and gives the results of our ethnobotanical survey of the Santals of Rajshahi districts. The study is already providing enough information for further scientific studies to be conducted on medicinal plants used by the Santals, since the use of a number of plants has already been validated through modern scientific research. The once densely forested regions that the Santals inhabited are largely gone, and efforts need to be made by all quarters to save what is left of this fast dwindling medicinal plant resources.
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Md. Shahidullah, Md. Al-Mujahidee, S.M. Nasir Uddin, Md. Shahadat Hossan, Abu Hanif, Sazzadul Bari, Mohammed Rahmatullah
Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Development Alternative, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205, Bangladesh
Corresponding Author: Mohammed Rahmatullah, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Development Alternative, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205, Bangladesh
E-mail: email@example.com <mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org>
Table 1: Medicinal plants of the Santals of Rajshahi district, Bangladesh (Note that local names of ingredients in formulations are given in bold letters; sometimes the corresponding botanical or English name is not available) Botanical name Family Local name Achyranthes aspera L. Amaranthaceae Chirchithi Aerva sanguinolenta (L) Amaranthaceae Lal bish hori Blume. Amaranthus viridis L. Amaranthaceae Gandhori ara Crinum sp. Amaryllidaceae Bon piyaz Centella asiatica (L.) Apiaceae Tandi-poraioni Urb. Asparagus racemosus Asparagaceae Shotomul Willd. Capparis zeylanica L. C apparaceae Acharia Cuscuta reflexa Roxb. C uscutaceae alt. Swarna lota, Convolvulaceae Alok lota Leucas aspera (Willd.) Lamiaceae Durfa 1- Link. Litsea sp. Lauraceae Pipulti, Poj Abrus precatorius L. Leguminosae Sona kuchi alt. Fabaceae Cajanus cajan (Linn.) Leguminosae Arhal Millsp. -Papilionoideae Dalbergia sissoo Roxb. Leguminosae S his hu Ex. DC. -Papilionoideae Strychnos nux-vomica L. Loganiaceae Kuchlo Dendrophthoe falcata Loranthaceae Dhaira (L.f) Etting. Hibiscus rosa sinensis L. Malvaceae Joba baha Marsilea quadrifoliata L. Marsileaceae Chatom ara syn. Marsilea quadrifolia Tinospora cordifolia Meninspermaceae Heru-awar Miers Ficus benghalensis L. Moraceae Bot Polygonum orientale L. Polygonaceae Bish-katali Madhuca indica Gmel. S apotaceae Moa, Matkom Scoparia dulcis L. S crophulariaceae Chini alo Datura metel L. S ol anaceae Dhutura Solanum virginianum L. S olanaceae Kontho-keyari Vitex negundo L. Verbenaceae Nishinda, Sinduari Cissus quadrangularis L. Vitaceae Harjora Botanical name Part(s) used Ailment(s) and Dosage Achyranthes aspera L. Whole plant 1. Severes to mach pain. Whole plant of Achyranthes aspera along with leaves of Aerva lanata is crushed and taken with a little misri (sugar crystal). 2. Excessive bleeding after menstruation. Paste of Cuscuta reflexa is made separately with paste of whole plant of Achyranthes aspera. Achyranthera aspera paste is warmed and mixed with paste of Cuscuta reflexa and tied to vaginal area before sleeping for 7 days. Aerva sanguinolenta (L) Bark Blood in urine. The bark Blume. of Aerva sanguinolenta is mixed with 3 ghughura (a type of insect), 60 black peppers, crushed, made into pills and dried. The pills are taken thrice daily for one month. Amaranthus viridis L. Whole plant Snake bite. Crushed whole plant of Amaranthus viridis is applied to Crinum sp. Tuber snake bites. At the same time juice from crushed chiari gach (unidentified plant) is taken. Stomach pain. The tuber is cut into small pieces, crushed and taken with seven slices of crushed ginger. Centella asiatica (L.) Whole plant Lack of breast milk Urb. after childbirth. The whole plant of Centella asiatica including roots is crushed with whole plant of Marsilea quadrifoliata including roots and made into a paste. The paste is applied twice daily for 7 days around the nipple. Asparagus racemosus Root Tuberculosis. The roots Willd. of Solanum virginianum are mixed with roots of Asparagus racemosus, roots of Anantamul (Hemidesmus indicus R.Br.) and spices [cinnamon, cardamom, gojruti, root of Abrus precatorius L., fruit of Piper cubeba L., nutmeg, clove, saffron, black cumin, Terminalia chebula fruit], mixed, crushed and made into pills. The pills are taken with chuani (rice fermented wine) thrice daily for seven days. Capparis zeylanica L. Bark 1. Pain in hands or feet. Bark of plant is blended with about 1/2 inch zinger rhizome. The paste is slightly warmed and applied to area of pain. 2. Paralysis. Bark of Capparis zeylanica along with roots of Barogira gach (unidentified pl ant) is fried in 100g clarified butter (ghee) and applied to the paralyzed area. Cuscuta reflexa Roxb. Whole vine Excessive bleeding after menstruation. Paste of Cuscuta reflexa is made separately with paste of whole plant of Achyranthes aspera. Achyranthera aspera paste is warmed and mixed with paste of Cuscuta reflexa and tied to vaginal area before sleeping for 7 days. Leucas aspera (Willd.) Leaf Headache. Leaves are 1- crushed, mixed with a Link. little salt and 2 drops of the juice applied to the nose. Litsea sp. Leaf Debility. T he leaves are soaked in water, slightly crushed and taken with misri (sugar crystal) in the morning. Abrus precatorius L. Root, stem, 1. Tuberculosis, throat leaf pain. The roots and stems of Abrus precatorius are crushed with leaves of Tinospora cordifolia, made into a paste, slightly warmed and taken for tuberculosis. The same paste is applied to throat for throat pains. 2. Dripping of saliva from mouth and loss of movement o f tongue. The leaves and roots of Tinospora cordifolia are made into a paste with horitoki (fruit of Terminalia chebula Retz.), bohera (fruit of Terminalia bellerica Roxb.), kantakhor (an unidentified plant), chandan wood (Santalum album L., family Santalaceae), leaf of Abrus precatorius and leaf of Andrographis paniculata, dried, powdered and made into pills. The pills are taken thrice daily for seven days. Cajanus cajan (Linn.) Leaf Jaundice. Leaf juice is Millsp. taken with molasses twice daily for seven days. Dalbergia sissoo Roxb. Young stems Diarrhea. The young Ex. DC. stems are soaked overnight in water. The following morning they are taken on an empty stomach along with a sherbet of misri (sugar crystal) or molasses. This is done for seven days. Strychnos nux-vomica L. Bark 1. Paralysis. A paste is made from bark and oil of Goma snake (Varanus salvator) and applied to paralyzed area for 15 days . T he bark is crushed, made into a paste. Pills are made of the paste, the size of gram seeds. The pills are taken thrice daily for 10 days. 2. Fever. The bark is crushed, made into a paste. Pills are made of the paste, the size of gram seeds. The pills are taken thrice daily for 10 days. Dendrophthoe falcata Whole plant Rheumatism. Crushed (L.f) Etting. whole plant is mixed with fat from Darash snake (Xenochropis piscator) and applied to affected areas twice daily for 7-8 days. Hibiscus rosa sinensis L. Flower buds Puerperal fever (resulting in excessive loss of weight in women). Flower buds of Hibiscus rosa sinensis, aerial roots of bot (Ficus benghalensis), one lobongo (clove), and gum from babla (Acacia arabica) is blended together and taken with a small amount of ginger juice. Marsilea quadrifoliata L. Whole plant Lack of breast milk syn. Marsilea quadrifolia after childbirth. The whole plant of Centella asiatica including roots is crushed with who l e plant of Marsilea quadrifoliata including roots and made into a paste. The paste is applied twice daily for 7 days around the nipple. Tinospora cordifolia Leaf, root Dripping of saliva from Miers mouth and loss of movement of tongue. The leaves and roots of Tinospora cordifolia are made into a paste with horitoki (fruit of Terminalia chebula Retz.), bohera (fruit of Terminalia bellerica Roxb.), kantakhor, chandan wood (Santalum album L., family Santalaceae), leaf of Abrus precatorius and leaf of Andrographis paniculata, dried, powdered and made into pills. The pills are taken thrice daily for seven days. Ficus benghalensis L. Aerial root Puerperal fever (resulting in excessive loss of weight in women). Flower buds of Hibiscus rosa sinensis, aerial roots of bot (Ficus benghalensis), one lobongo (clove), gum from babla (Acacia arabica) is blended together and taken with a small amount of ginger juice. Polygonum orientale L. Leaf Headache. The leaves are crushed with ten black peppers and taken through the nose. Madhuca indica Gmel. Fruit Debility, blood purifier. The fruits are boiled with unripe gram and sugar added till the decoction takes a blood red color. The decoction is taken for debility and is also assumed to purify blood. Scoparia dulcis L. Leaf Blood dysentery. The leaves of the plant are crushed and taken. Datura metel L. Rind of fruit Throat pain in children. The inner portions of the fruit are discarded and the inside filled with mustard oil, warmed and applied to the throat and chest. Solanum virginianum L. Root Tuberculosis. The roots of Solanum virginianum are mixed with roots of Asparagus racemosus, roots of Anantamul (Hemidesmus indicus R.Br.) and spices [cinnamon, cardamom, gojruti, root of Abrus precatorius L., fruit of Piper cubeba L., nutmeg, clove, saffron, black cumin, Terminalia chebula fruit], mixed, crushed and made into pills. T he pills are taken with chuani (rice fermented wine) thrice daily for seven days. Vitex negundo L. Leaf Pain on one side of the Sinduari forehead. Leaves are crushed, mixed with water and put within the nostrils. Cissus quadrangularis L. Whole plant Bone fracture. Whole plant of Cissus quadrangularis, whole plant of Evolvulus nummularius, whole plant of Cyperus rotundus, and 7 slices of ginger are crushed and made into a paste. The paste is warmed and applied to fractures in the form of a poultice.
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|Title Annotation:||Original Articles|
|Author:||Shahidullah, Md.; Mujahidee, Md. Al-; Uddin, S.M. Nasir; Hossan, Md. Shahadat; Hanif, Abu; Bari, Saz|
|Publication:||American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture|
|Date:||May 1, 2009|
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