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Tribal medicine in tribes who have lost their identities: medicinal plants of tea garden workers in Sreemangal, Maulvibazar district, Bangladesh.

Introduction

Tea garden workers and particularly women and children form a disadvantaged, deprived, exploited and alienated group in Bangladesh society. Many ethnic groups work in the tea gardens of Sylhet Division. Some have totally lost their identity while some maintain their ethnic identity to a small extent, and still others maintain their separate ethnic identities and form distinct communities within the workers. Ethnic groups that have lost their identities also have lost their language and now speak Deshali, which is a mixture of Bengali (the language of the mainstream Bengali-speaking population) and Oriya (language of Orissa people in India).

In 1854, the first tea gardens were established by the British who then ruled India including present day Sylhet Division of Bangladesh. They brought in various tribal workers like the Santals, Oraons, and the Mundas from various parts of then undivided India like Assam, Bihar, madras, and Orissa with promise of lucrative pays and contracts. The workers were made to sign a contract for initially four years, but eventually became so dependent on the tea garden owners that their descendants are still continuing to work in the tea gardens even till the present day. The uprooting of the workers from their original place of habitat caused eventual erosion of their cultural identity and beginning of financial hardship, for the British owners treated them like slaves and made them work under poor conditions of pay and living. This has more or less continued till the present period. The workers depend totally on the mercy of the tea garden owners for their food, housing, and medical costs. Essentials have to be purchased at high prices from shops established within and around the tea gardens, which shops are owned by the Bengali-speaking mainstream population. They are treated as 'untouchables' by most Bengalis and not allowed to enter houses unless for domestic labor.

For medicinal purposes, the workers depend on both traditional medicine and allopathic medicine, the former being dispensed by folk medicinal practitioners who practice among them, and the latter being dispensed by allopathic doctors who are employed by tea garden owners to treat the sick. However, modern clinics and hospital facilities are notably absent, and allopathic treatment is mostly rudimentary. Also because of the high cost of allopathic medicines, which the workers with their poor pay can ill afford, they visit traditional medicinal practitioners. Various types of superstitions are rampant among the workers like 'evil eye', possessed by 'genies', 'evil wind', and for treatment of these 'sicknesses', they are totally dependent on traditional medicinal practitioners, who dispense amulets (tabiz) or utter incantations to remove such 'evils'. Amulets and incantations are also used by traditional medicinal practitioners for treatment of common diseases.

Towards documenting the traditional medicinal practices of Bangladesh, we had been conducting ethnomedicinal surveys among the Kavirajes and tribal medicinal practitioners of the country for a number of years (Nawaz et al., 2009; Rahmatullah et al., 2009a-c; Chowdhury et al., 2010; Hasan et al., 2010; Hossan et al., 2010; Mollik et al., 2010 a, b; Rahmatullah et al., 2010 a-g; Akber et al., 2011; Biswas et al., 2011a-c; Haque et al., 2011; Islam et al., 2011; Jahan et al., 2011; Rahmatullah et al., 2011 a, b; Sarker et al., 2011; Shaheen et al., 2011; Das et al., 2012; Hasan et al., 2012; Hossan et al., 2012; Khan et al., 2012; Rahmatullah et al., 2012 a-e; Sarker et al., 2012). A number of the tea garden workers, from the ethnomedicinal view point, represent an interesting group because of the loss of their original tribal identities and because of the formation of a new heterogeneous group, who now claim them to be 'tea garden tribe'. A practitioner was located among the tea garden workers who practiced among this 'tea garden tribe' residing in Fulbari, Hosnabad, and Bilash Chara of Sreemangal in Maulvibazar district, Sylhet Division, Bangladesh. It was the objective of the present study to document the medicinal plants used by this practitioner, who by his own account, has forgotten his tribal identity.

Materials and Methods

Informed consent was first obtained from the practitioner, named Dipankar Barman, by religion Hindu, treats with herbal medicines and amulets, and practices in Fulbari, Hosnabad, and Bilash Chara of Sreemangal Upazila (sub-district) in Maulvibazar district among a community of tea workers numbering about 50-60 households. The practitioner was apprised as to the nature of our visit and consent obtained to disseminate any information provided both nationally and internationally. Interviews were conducted in Bengali language. Actual interviews were conducted with the help of a semi-structured questionnaire and the guided field-walk method of Martin (1995) and Maundu (1995). In this method, the practitioner took the interviewers on fieldtrips through areas from where he collected his medicinal plants, pointed out the plants, and described their uses. On occasions, the process was reversed with the practitioner first naming the plant and describing the medicinal uses of the plant, and then taking the interviewers to spots where the plant grew and then pointed out the plant. Plant specimens as pointed out by the practitioner were photographed and collected on the spot, dried and pressed, and then brought back to Dhaka for complete identification by Mr. Manjur-Ul-Kadir Mia, ex-Curator and Principal Scientific Officer of the Bangladesh National Herbarium. Voucher specimens were deposited with the Medicinal Plant Collection Wing of the University of Development Alternative.

Results and Discussion

The practitioner was observed to use a total of 22 plants in his various formulations. These plant species were distributed into 18 families. These plants were used to cure various ailments like jaundice, anemia, chest pain, coughs, constipation, blood poisoning, diarrhea, eye problems, diabetes, delayed delivery of baby, leg infections, throat pain, tuberculosis, stomach ache, abscess, shrinking of pupil in eyes, swelling of ear lobes, burning sensation during urination, and pain in leg. The results are shown in Table 1.

With the exception of several plants, the use of other plants for treatment of the ailments described in Table 1 seems to be unique to this practitioner from the ethnomedicinal point of view. For instance, the practitioner used the plant Achyranthes aspera, for treatment of jaundice. This plant is used in Mayurbhanj district, Orissa, India by various tribes for treatment of sprain, dysentery, and constipation (Rout and Panda, 2010). The plant is used for treatment of burns, cold, coughs, and scorpion sting by the ethnic people of Medak district, Andhra Pradesh, India (Reddy et al., 2010). The Mullu kuruma tribe of Wayanad district, Kerala, India, uses the plant for treatment of piles and headache (Silja et al., 2008). The Mizos of Mizoram State, India use the plant for treatment of dysentery, colic diseases, boils, and cirrhosis (Rai and Lalramnghinglova, 2011). The Kurichyas of Kannur district, Western Ghats, Kerala, India use the plant for treatment of snake bite and scorpion sting (Rajith and Ramachandran, 2010).

Calotropis procera was used by the practitioner for treatment of chest pain. Ethnomedicinal uses of the plant in Rajasthan desert of India include treatment of rheumatism, wounds, helminthiasis, piles, pain, eye problems, and skin problems (Kumar et al., 2005). The aerial parts of Calotropis procera also have reported analgesic effects (Mossa et al., 1991), which can be useful to alleviate pain

The plant, Ageratum conyzoides, was used by the practitioner for treatment of coughs in children. The plant is used by tribals of Mayurbhanj district, Orissa, India for treatment of mouth ulcer (Rout and Panda, 2010). The Adi tribes of lower Dibang Valley District of Arunachal Pradesh, India use the plant for treatment of wounds (Gibji et al., 2012). The plant is used for treatment of kidney stones by the ethnic people of Medak district, Andhra Pradesh, India (Reddy et al., 2010). The Mullu kuruma tribe of Wayanad district, Kerala, India, uses the plant for treatment of dyspepsia and anemia (Silja et al., 2008). The Mizos of Mizoram State, India use the plant for treatment of stomach cancer, diarrhea, and cuts and wounds to stop bleeding (Rai and Lalramnghinglova, 2011). The plant is used by the plain tribes of Assam, India to treat cuts and wounds (Purkayastha and Nath, 2006).

Baccaurea ramiflora was used by the practitioner for treatment of burning sensations in the body. The indigenous Mizo people of Mizoram State in northeast India use the plant as a purgative and for treatment of stomach ache, tooth ache, and helminthiasis (Rai and Lalramnghinglova, 2011). Phyllanthus reticulatus was used by the practitioner for treatment of diarrhea in infants. The tribal villages of Maha-Mutharam and Yamanpally in Karimnagar, East Forest Division of Andhra Pradesh, India use the plant for treatment of diarrhea. However, the plant is not used by itself, but in combination with two other plants, Aegle marmelos and Feronia elephantum (Murthy et al., 2008). The plant is used for treatment of dysentery by the ethnic people of Medak district, Andhra Pradesh, India (Reddy et al., 2010).

The practitioner used the plant Adenanthera pavonina for treatment of conjunctivitis and diabetes. In southwest Nigeria, Africa, the plant is used to treat hypertension (Lawal et al., 2010). Mimosa pudica was used by the practitioner for delayed childbirth problems. The Mullu kuruma tribe of Wayanad district, Kerala, India, uses the plant for treatment of psoriasis, wounds, asthma, and inflammations (Silja et al., 2008). The plant is used in West Rarrh region of West Bengal, India, for treatment of infertility (Ghosh, 2008). Hydnocarpus kurzii was used by the practitioner for treatment of leg infections; the plant is reportedly used by the Manipuri tribe of Sylhet, Bangladesh to treat leprosy (Rana et al., 2010).

Leucas aspera was used by the practitioner to treat coughs in infants and throat pain. The plant is used in northern part of Nara Desert, Pakistan to treat pain, inflammation, and chronic phlegmatic fever (Qureshi et al., 2010). In Jalalpur Jattan of Gujrat district, Punjab, Pakistan, the plant is used traditionally for treatment of gastritis (Hussain et al., 2010). In Sialkot district, Pakistan, the plant is also used to treat gastritis (Arshad et al., 2011). The Tai Ahom tribe of Dibrugarh district, Assam, India, uses the plant for treatment of sourness of mouth, and paralysis (Kalita and Phukan, 2010). In traditional treatment of Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, India, the plant is used to treat pneumonia (Pandey et al., 2008). The Palliyar tribals of Sirumalai hills, Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu, India, use the plant for treatment of jaundice (Maruthupandian et al., 2011). The Kani tribals of Pechipparai Hills, Southern Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu, India, use the plant for treatment of stomach ache, head ache, and coughs (Usha, 2012).

Litsea monopetala was used by the practitioner to treat jaundice with fever. The Mizos of Mizoram State, India use the plant for treatment of diarrhea, stomach ache, fractures, and as an astringent and stimulant (Rai and Lalramnghinglova, 2011). The Chorei tribes of Southern Assam, North Eastern India, use the plant to treat jaundice (Choudhury et al., 2012). The Meitei people of Manipur use the plant to treat diarrhea, rheumatic body pain, and bone fracture in animals (Khumbongmayum et al., 2005). Streblus asper, used by the practitioner to treat tuberculosis, is also considered a medicinal plant among villagers of Manas National Park, Assam, India (Das et al., 2009). The tribes of North Maharashtra use Averrhoa carambola for treatment of jaundice (Badgujar and Patil, 2008); the practitioner also used the plant to treat jaundice.

Datura metel was used by the practitioner to treat abscess, shrinking of pupils in eyes, and swelling of ear lobes; the plant is used by tribals of Mayurbhanj district, Orissa, India for treatment of ear pain and hair loss (Rout and Panda, 2010). The plant is used in West Rarrh region of West Bengal, India, for treatment of alopecia (Ghosh, 2008). Scoparia dulcis was used by the practitioner to treat stomach ache in infants; the Kurichyas of Kannur district, Western Ghats, Kerala, India use the plant for treatment of stomach pain, urinary disorders, and kidney stone (Rajith and Ramachandran, 2010).

Solanum torvum was used by the practitioner to treat tuberculosis in women; The Kurichyas of Kannur district, Western Ghats, Kerala, India use the plant for treatment of cracked foot and coughs (Rajith and Ramachandran, 2010). The Tai-Khamyangs of Assam, India use the plant for treatment of melena (Sonowal and Barua, 2011). The Kani tribals of Pechipparai Hills, Southern Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu, India, use the plant for treatment of skin infections, and peptic ulcer (Usha, 2012). The tribes of North Maharashtra use Curcuma longa for treatment of jaundice (Badgujar and Patil, 2008); the practitioner used it for treatment of conjunctivitis and diabetes. The plant is used to treat herpes in the ethnomedicine of Coastal Karnataka, India (Bhandary and Chandrashekar, 2011), and for the treatment of menstrual disorders in Kerala, India (Rajith et al., 2012). Zingiberpurpureum was used by the practitioner to treat leg pain; the plant is used by the plain tribes of Assam, India to treat paralysis, sprains, and inflammation (Purkayastha and Nath, 2006).

Consensus among different practitioners as to a particular use for any given plant species generally indicates that the plant is a promising source for possible new drugs to treat that ailment. On the other hand, diversity of opinion among traditional practitioners may also point to multiple uses of the plant for treatment of diverse ailments. All plants contain a variety of phytochemicals with different pharmacological properties, which can be utilized as sources of new drugs. From that view point, the plants used by the practitioner in the present survey merits further scientific studies.

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Mohammad Humayun Kabir, Nur Hasan, Md. Mahfujur Rahman, Md. Ashikur Rahman, Jakia Alam Khan, Nazia Tasnim Hoque, Md. Ruhul Quddus Bhuiyan, Sadia Moin Mou, Mohammed Rahmatullah

Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Development Alternative, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205, Bangladesh

Mohammad Humayun Kabir, Nur Hasan, Md. Mahfujur Rahman, Md. Ashikur Rahman, Jakia Alam Khan, Nazia Tasnim Hoque, Md. Ruhul Quddus Bhuiyan, Sadia Moin Mou, Mohammed Rahmatullah; Tribal medicine in tribes who have lost their identities: Medicinal plants of tea garden workers in Sreemangal, Maulvibazar district, Bangladesh

Corresponding Author: Dr. Mohammed Rahmatullah, Pro-Vice Chancellor University of Development Alternative, House No. 78, Road No. 11A (new) Dhanmondi R/A, Dhaka-1209 Bangladesh

Phone: 88-01715032621; Fax: 88-02-8157339; E-mail: rahamatm@hotmail.com
Table 1: Medicinal plants and formulations of the practitioner of
Sreemangal in Maulvibazar district, Bangladesh.

Serial   Scientific Name           Family Name        Local Name
Number

1        Achyranthes aspera L.     Amaranthaceae      Uput lengra

2        Alocasia navicularis      Araceae            Dudh kochu
         (K.Koch & C. D. Bouche)

3        Calotropis procera        Asclepiadaceae     Akondo
         (Ait.) Ait. f.

4        Ageratum conyzoides L.    Asteraceae         Bon tulsi

5        Begonia bicolor S.        Begoniaceae        Chukai
         Watson

6        Terminalia bellirica      Combretaceae       Bohera
         (Gaertn.) Roxb.

7        Diplazium sp.             Dryopteridaceae    Dheki shak

8        Baccaurea ramiflora       Euphorbiaceae      Lotkon
         Lour.

9        Phyllanthus               Euphorbiaceae      Kaichar
         reticulatus Poir.

10       Adenanthera pavonina      Fabaceae           Rokto chondon
         L.

11       Mimosa pudica L.          Fabaceae           Laal lojjaboti

12       Hydnocarpus kurzii        Flacourtiaceae     Chal murga
         (King.) Warb.

13       Leucas aspera             Lamiaceae          Dom kolosh
         (Willd.) Link.

14       Litsea monopetala         Lauraceae          Kalo mendra
         (Roxb.) Pers.

15       Streblus asper Lour.      Moraceae           Sheora

16       Averrhoa carambola L.     Oxalidaceae        Kamranga

17       Scoparia dulcis L.        Scrophulariaceae   Chini pata

18       Datura metel L.           Solanaceae         Kalo dhutura

19       Solanum torvum Sw.        Solanaceae         Goot baegoon

20       Stemona tuberosa Lour.    Stemonaceae        Shotomul

21       Curcuma longa L.          Zingiberaceae      Holud

22       Zingiber purpureum        Zingiberaceae      Bon ada
         Roxb.

Serial   Scientific Name           Parts used
Number

1        Achyranthes aspera L.     Leaf

2        Alocasia navicularis      Leaf, stem
         (K.Koch & C. D. Bouche)

3        Calotropis procera        Leaf
         (Ait.) Ait. f.

4        Ageratum conyzoides L.    Leaf

5        Begonia bicolor S.        Young stem
         Watson

6        Terminalia bellirica      Seed, bark
         (Gaertn.) Roxb.

7        Diplazium sp.             Leaf

8        Baccaurea ramiflora       Fruit
         Lour.

9        Phyllanthus               Leaf
         reticulatus Poir.

10       Adenanthera pavonina      Whole plant
         L.

11       Mimosa pudica L.          Root

12       Hydnocarpus kurzii        Leaf, seed
         (King.) Warb.

13       Leucas aspera             Leaf, flower
         (Willd.) Link.

14       Litsea monopetala         Leaf
         (Roxb.) Pers.

15       Streblus asper Lour.      Leaf

16       Averrhoa carambola L.     Fruit

17       Scoparia dulcis L.        Leaf

18       Datura metel L.           Leaf

19       Solanum torvum Sw.        Fruit

20       Stemona tuberosa Lour.    Leaf

21       Curcuma longa L.          Rhizome

22       Zingiber purpureum        Rhizome
         Roxb.

Serial   Scientific Name           Disease, Symptoms, Formulations,
Number                             and Administration

1        Achyranthes aspera L.     Jaundice. Leaves are put in an
                                   amulet, which is worn around the
                                   wrist.

2        Alocasia navicularis      Anemia. Leaves and stems are
         (K.Koch & C. D. Bouche)   fried and eaten.

3        Calotropis procera        Chest pain. Leaves are rubbed
         (Ait.) Ait. f.            with old ghee (clarified
                                   butter), warmed over a fire and
                                   massaged onto the chest.

4        Ageratum conyzoides L.    Coughs in infant. Juice obtained
                                   from crushed leaves is mixed
                                   with honey and orally
                                   administered.

5        Begonia bicolor S.        Restless feeling. Young stems
         Watson                    are chewed and eaten.

6        Terminalia bellirica      Blood purifier. Juice from
         (Gaertn.) Roxb.           crushed bark is orally taken;
                                   alternately, powdered seeds are
                                   orally taken.

7        Diplazium sp.             Constipation. Leaves are fried
                                   and eaten.

8        Baccaurea ramiflora       Burning sensations in the body.
         Lour.                     Juice obtained from crushed
                                   fruit is mixed with water and
                                   taken in the form of sherbet.

9        Phyllanthus               Diarrhea in infants. Juice
         reticulatus Poir.         obtained from crushed leaves is
                                   fed orally to infants along with
                                   mother's milk.

10       Adenanthera pavonina      Conjunctivitis, watery eyes,
         L.                        meho' (diabetes), to whiten
                                   complexion. Crushed whole plants
                                   are applied around the eyes for
                                   eye disorders. Oil obtained from
                                   whole plant is orally taken with
                                   water for diabetes. Seeds of
                                   Adenanthera pavonina are made
                                   into a paste with rhizomes of
                                   Curcuma longa and cream of cow
                                   milk and applied to the body to
                                   whiten complexion.

11       Mimosa pudica L.          Problems during childbirth. If
                                   delivery of infant is delayed,
                                   roots are put in an amulet,
                                   which is worn around the leg.
                                   Following delivery, the amulet
                                   is taken off, or else according
                                   to the healer the intestines
                                   also come out.

12       Hydnocarpus kurzii        Leg infections or appearance of
         (King.) Warb.             small pustules on the leg.
                                   Crushed leaves or seeds are
                                   applied to affected area.

13       Leucas aspera             Coughs in infants, throat pain.
         (Willd.) Link.            Juice obtained from crushed
                                   flowers is orally fed to infants
                                   along with mother's milk for
                                   coughs. Leaves are fried and
                                   taken orally for throat pain.

14       Litsea monopetala         Jaundice with fever. Juice
         (Roxb.) Pers.             obtained from crushed leaves is
                                   taken orally.

15       Streblus asper Lour.      Tuberculosis. Leaves are boiled
                                   in water, followed by drinking
                                   the water.

16       Averrhoa carambola L.     Jaundice. Dried fruits are
                                   powdered and taken orally with
                                   water.

17       Scoparia dulcis L.        Stomach ache in infants. Juice
                                   obtained from crushed leaves is
                                   mixed with mother's milk and fed
                                   orally to infants.

18       Datura metel L.           Abscess, shrinking of pupils in
                                   the eyes, swelling of ear lobes.
                                   Leaves are rubbed with ghee and
                                   applied to abscess. Juice
                                   obtained from crushed leaves is
                                   applied around the eyes to
                                   enlarge pupils. Juice obtained
                                   from leaves is applied with
                                   afing' (opium) to base of ear to
                                   alleviate swelling of ear lobes.

19       Solanum torvum Sw.        Tuberculosis in women. Juice
                                   obtained from crushed fruit is
                                   orally taken.

20       Stemona tuberosa Lour.    Burning sensations during
                                   urination. Juice obtained from
                                   crushed leaves is mixed with
                                   water and orally taken.

21       Curcuma longa L.          See Adenanthera pavonina.

22       Zingiber purpureum        Pain in leg. Juice obtained from
         Roxb.                     crushed rhizome is mixed with
                                   mustard oil and massaged on the
                                   leg.
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Title Annotation:Original Article
Author:Kabir, Mohammad Humayun; Hasan, Nur; Rahman, Mahfujur; Rahman, Ashikur; Khan, Jakia Alam; Hoque, Naz
Publication:American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9BANG
Date:Jul 1, 2013
Words:5852
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