Variations in selection of medicinal plants by tribal healers of the Soren clan of the Santal tribe: a study of the Santals in Rajshahi district, Bangladesh.
Traditional medicinal systems play an important role in the health-care system of many countries with Bangladesh being no exception to this practice. Several forms of traditional medicinal systems exist in Bangladesh like homeopathy, Ayurveda, and the Unani systems. In addition, there is the folk medicinal system, practitioners of which can be found amongst the mainstream population as well as the various indigenous communities or tribes of the country. The formulations of folk medicinal (also tribal medicinal) practitioners mainly contains medicinal plants, but may occasionally include animal parts and minerals as well.
We had been conducting ethnomedicinal surveys among folk medicinal and tribal medicinal practitioners 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, 2010a,b; Rahmatullah et al, 2010a-g; Akber et al, 2011; Biswas et al, 2011a-c; Haque et al., 2011; Islam et al., 2011a; Jahan et al., 2011; Rahmatullah et al., 2011 a,b; Sarker et al., 2011; Shaheen et al., 2011; Das et al., 2012; Rahmatullah et al., 2012a-d). Such documentation of traditional medicinal practices is important for many important modern drugs have resulted from close observation of indigenous medicinal practices (Balick and Cox, 1996; Cotton, 1996; Gilani and Rahman, 2005). During our various ethnomedicinal surveys, we have observed that the medicinal plants and formulations used even by mainstream folk medicinal practitioners (Kavirajes) can vary widely even among adjoining villages of any given area. This finding highlights the importance of conducting as many surveys as possible and involving the maximum number of practitioners or healers as possible to get a comprehensive idea of the medicinal plants and medicinal formulations used within the country by the healers. The whole data base can then be utilized for further research with plants and formulations towards discovery of newer and better drugs.
The Santals are one of the largest indigenous communities of Bangladesh. They have twelve clans, which again are distributed throughout a number of villages, particularly in the north-western districts of the country. Rajshahi forms one such district, where members of various clans can be found in multiple villages. This distribution can be based on intra-clan as well as inter-clan members. For instance, the Soren clan of the Santals (which is a large clan) can be found spread out in a number of villages of Rajshahi as well as other districts. We have previously conducted an ethnomedicinal survey among the tribal healers of the Soren clan residing in Kannapara and Mondumala villages of Rajshahi district (Rahmatullah et al., 2012b). During the course of further surveys in Rajshahi district, we found another community of this clan residing in Nobogram village of the same district. A preliminary survey revealed that the medicinal plants and formulations used by the tribal healer of Nobogram village differed considerably from the medicinal plants and formulations used by the healers of Kannapara and Mondumala villages. Towards getting a comprehensive picture of the traditional medicinal plants and formulations of the Soren clan of the Santals, it was the objective of the present study to conduct an ethnomedicinal survey of the healer of the Soren clan of Nobogram village of Rajshahi district.
Materials and Methods
The Soren clan of Nobogram village in Rajshahi district had one tribal medicinal practitioner or healer named Selina Putul Soren. Only 23 households of the clan resided in this Soren community. The tribal healer had converted to Christianity. The Soren community was surrounded by villagers who spoke Bengali and belonged to the mainstream population of Bangladesh. The Sorens also spoke fluent Bengali; however, some of the medicinal plant names as obtained from the Soren healer differed from Bengali names of the plants.
Informed consent was first obtained from the healer. The healer was explained the purpose of our visit and particular consent obtained to disseminate the information both nationally and internationally. Actual interviews were conducted in the Bengali language with the help of a semi-structured questionnaire. Medicinal plants were collected and detailed information obtained following the guided field-walk method of Martin (1995) and Maundu (1995). In this method, the healer took the interviewers on guided field-walk through areas where the healer collected the plants, pointed out the plants, and described their uses. Notes were taken on the spot. Plant specimens were photographed and also collected on the spot. The dried plant specimens were later brought back to Dhaka for identification by Mr. Manjur-Ul-Kadir Mia, ex-Curator and Principal Scientific Officer of the Bangladesh National Herbarium.
Results and Discussion
A total of 19 formulations were obtained from the Soren healer, which are shown in Table 1. The formulations contained a total of 25 plant species of which whole plants or plant parts were used. The formulations for the most part were simple, mainly consisting of a particular whole plant or plant part, which was administered either orally or topically. For instance, leaves of Sida cordata were macerated and applied as a poultice for treatment of abscess (Serial Number 1). For treatment of itches, oil obtained from seeds of Pongamia pinnata was topically applied to itches (Serial Number 5). Two plant parts were used in some treatments; for instance, in one of the treatments for pain, the leaves of Calotropis procera were used topically in combination with mustard oil obtained from seeds of Brassica juncea (Serial Number 3). According to the healer, Calotropis procera could be used for treatment of both external as well as internal pain. For external pain (like pain from injury), the afore-mentioned method was followed. For internal pain (like headache), the leaves of the plant were smoked following putting the leaves within hollow stems of the plant. According to the healer, the smoking enabled the analgesic substances of the plant to reach internal organs which are suffering from pain. Like the topical use of mustard oil (which by itself, especially when warm, can serve as an anodyne, emollient, and help disperse any bio-active phytochemicals present in the plant to be dispersed evenly over the skin, and help the absorption of lipophilic substances through the skin), the healer showed a good amount of knowledge through the use of smoking to alleviate internal pain. Any analgesic phytochemical(s) present within the plant can be taken internally through smoking, unless the compound is destroyed by burning. However, the question remains as to why the leaves of the plant were smoked and not just orally administered, which process would still enable the body to access relevant bio-active (i.e. analgesic compounds) to reach the body. A possible hypothesis is that oral administration of the leaves may result in destruction of the relevant analgesic compound(s) within the stomach before it can reach the target organs of the body. Notably, ethanolic extract of leaves of this plant has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities (Saba et al., 2011).
A complex formulation was used by the healer for purification of blood (Serial Number 2). In this formulation, whole plant or plant parts from five different plant species were used. That the blood can become impure (particularly through toxins produced from accumulated undigested food in the intestines, which then enters the blood), and that such impure blood can be a cause of diseases, is a widespread notion held in Ayurveda, Unani and folk medicinal systems of Bangladesh. The Soren healer's putting importance on the purification of blood was evidenced by having two formulations in place for such purification (Serial Numbers 2 and 4).
In one of the formulations, the healer used a Euphorbiaceae family plant along with a fish species, Puntius ticto, for increasing milk in nursing mothers (Serial Number 7). The fish species is a common small fish abundantly found in even small water bodies throughout Bangladesh. It is considered a tasty fish, but cheap, because it is a bony fish. The fish is occasionally advised by Ayurvedic practitioners to be fried in clarified butter (ghee) and taken with rice as treatment for impotency in males. It is possible that the fish served a vital role in this case to provide essential protein nutrition to the lactating mother. Since girls are given in marriage at an early age in Bangladesh (among both mainstream population as well as tribes), and since girls are the family members suffering most from malnutrition in Bangladesh, addition of extra protein can serve to increase lactation in the nursing mother. Whether the Euphorbiaceae plant used, namely Euphorbia tirucalli, serves to increase lactation in nursing mothers, remain to be scientifically determined.
One of the formulations (Serial Number 8) was for treatment of being touched by 'evil wind', the nature of which disease could not be determined. It is commonly believed by the rural population as well as tribal populations that a person can be affected by 'evil eye' or 'evil wind'. While such evil eye or evil wind actually exists or not is a controversial issue; certainly these cannot be substantiated through scientific methods. But it is believed that evil wind occurs from evil spirits who roam areas (particularly desolate areas) and most often at night, and can affect a person who by chance has been passing through the area.
The use of Terminalia arjuna bark to treat knee and waist pain (Serial Number 9) has been validated by modern scientific research where the bark of this plant has been shown to possess centrally acting analgesic potential (Islam et al., 2011b). Jatropha curcas (used by the healer to relieve toothache, Serial Number 10), has also been reported to possess analgesic properties (Omeh and Ezeja, 2010). While there are no scientific reports on the validity of use of this plant for treatment of dysentery (Serial Number 10), it is to be noted that the Bhil and Bhilala tribes of Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh, India also use the plant for treatment of dysentery (Wagh et al., 2011). The anti-inflammatory activity of Mimosa pudica (used by the healer for treatment of rheumatism, Serial Number 11) has also been shown, thus justifying its traditional use (Goli et al., 2011). The efficacy of Aegle marmelos in the relief of flatulency has been reviewed (Dhankhar et al., 2011); the healer used the plant for the same purpose (Serial Number 12). Finally, the efficacy of Andrographis paniculata (used by the healer for treatment of diabetes, Serial Number 19) has also been shown through its antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic effect in high fructose-fat-fed rats (Nugroho et al., 2012).
The most striking finding of the present study was the enormous differences between the selection of medicinal plants as observed in the present study and a previous study on another community of the Soren clan of the Santal tribe in different villages, but within the same district of Rajshahi (Rahmatullah et al., 2012b). The results are shown in Table 2. While the present healer used only 19 formulations involving 25 plant species, healers in the other study used a total of 52 plant species in 34 different formulations. The major differences between the present and previous survey on the same tribal clan but residing in different areas (albeit the same district) can be summarized as follows: (I) in the present study the healer used a much lower number of plants and formulations, (II) in the present study the healer used much less complex formulations, (III) in the present study, lesser number of ailments were treated, and (IV) even when the healers of the two studies used the same plant species, the plants were used for treatment of different ailments. Thus of the six common plant species observed between the two studies, the present healer used Bombax ceiba for treatment of 'being touched by evil wind' whereas in the previous study, the healers used this plant species for treatment of sexual weakness in males. Ricinus communis was observed in the present study to be used for treatment of diarrhea, but in the previous study for treatment of lesions on the tongue. Cassia (Senna) sophera was seen in the present study used for treatment of eczema versus treatment of constipation and coughs in the previous report. Streblus asper was used by the present healer as a blood purifier but used by healers in the previous study for treatment of abscess and dysentery. Piper betle was used in the present study along with Bombax ceiba for treatment of being touched with 'evil wind', but used for treatment of passing of semen with urine in the previous report. Piper nigrum was used for treatment of irregular menstruation by the present healer, but used for the treatment of influenza by healers in the earlier report.
Where common ailments were seen to be treated in both the present and previous reports, there still showed enormous differences in the plant species used. Snake bite was treated by the previous healers with Acorus calamus or Premna integrifolia or Vitis trifolia but by the present healer with Jatropha curcas. Diabetes was treated by the present healer with Andrographis paniculata, but by the previous healers with Coccinia grandis. Dysentery was treated by the previous healers with Oldenlandia corymbosa but by the present healers with Jatropha curcas. Whether these differences reflect any interactions with other traditional medicinal practitioners remain to be determined. However, the results highlight the importance of conducting surveys among as many traditional healers of different tribal habitats of any given tribe as much as possible to get a comprehensive account of the medicinal plants and formulations of any particular tribe.
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Md. Ehasanul Hasan, Shakila Akter, Nargis Sultana Piya, Palash Kumar Nath, Umme Sawda Rahman Nova, Himoti Roy Chowdhury, Nusrat Fairooz Anjoom, Zubaida Khatun, Mohammed Rahmatullah
Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Development Alternative, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205, Bangladesh.
Corresponding Author: Dr. Mohammed Rahmatullah, Pro-Vice Chancellor University of Development Alternative House No. 78, Road No. 11A (new) Dhanmondi R/A, Dhaka-1205 Bangladesh Phone: 88-01715032621; Fax: 88-02-8157339; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Table 1: Medicinal plants and formulations of the Soren clan healer of the Santal tribe of Nobogram village, Rajshahi district, Bangladesh. Serial Ailment with Formulation and dosage Number symptoms 1 Abscess. Leaves of Sida cordata (Burm. f.) (Malvaceae) are macerated and applied as poultice around the abscess. 2 Blood purifier. Bark of Azadirachta indica A. Juss. (Meliaceae) is mixed with bark of Tamarindus indica L. (Fabaceae), bark of Acacia nilotica Delile (Fabaceae), bark of Spondias pinnata (L. f.) Kurz (Anacardiaceae), and whole plants of Agni baegun (unidentified). The barks and whole plant is pressed to obtain juice. Syrup prepared from the juice is taken for 3 months thrice daily. In the morning, the syrup is taken on an empty stomach, and in the afternoon and evening the syrup is taken after meals. 3 Pain. Leaves of Calotropis procera (Aiton) R.Br. ex W.T.Aiton (Asclepiadaceae) are rubbed with mustard oil [oil obtained from seeds of Brassica juncea (L.) Czern. (Cruciferae)]. Leaves are then warmed and applied to painful areas. Alternately, hollow stems of Calotropis procera is taken and cut into sizes of bidis (small cigars) and partly sliced. Leaves of the plant are dried and powdered and the powder is inserted into the hollow of stem slices. Then they are smoked like bidis. 4 Blood purifier. Juice obtained from macerated whole plants of Streblus asper Lour. (Moraceae) is orally taken. 5 Itches. Oil obtained from seeds of Pongamia pinnata L. (Fabaceae) is applied to itches. Note that soap cannot be used during the whole time of oil application. 6 Irregular Roots of Pergularia daemia (Forsk.) menstruation. (Asclepiadaceae) are macerated with 2-3 seeds of Piper nigrum L. (Piperaceae). Pills made from the macerated mix are taken thrice daily. 7 To increase Top of stem of Euphorbia tirucalli L. lactation in (Euphorbiaceae) is broken and partly nursing mother. sliced. Seven boiled Puntius ticto (Cyprinidae, English: Ticto barb) fish are inserted into the sliced stem and taken orally. This is continued for 7 days. 8 Being touched by Three flowers of Hibiscus rosa sinensis 'evil wind'. L. (Malvaceae) along with bark of Bombax ceiba L. (Bombacaceae) and 3 leaves of Piper betle L. (Piperaceae) are macerated together and taken orally in the morning on an empty stomach. This is continued for 3 days. 9 Knee and waist Bark of Terminalia arjuna (Roxb.) Wight pain. & Arn. (Combretaceae) is macerated with cow milk and cumin [seeds of Cumimtm cyminum L. (Apiaceae)] and applied as poultice to painful areas for 7 days. 10 Toothache, snake Teeth are brushed with stems of Jatropha bite, dysentery. curcas L. (Euphorbiaceae) to get relief from toothache. Macerated young leaves are mixed with two pinches of salt and applied to snake-bitten areas. Sap of the plant is mixed with sugar and taken for dysentery. 11 Rheumatism, Roots of Mimosa pudica L. (Fabaceae) are insect repellent. crushed and mixed with soft pulp of fruits of Aegle marmelos L. (Corr.) (Rutaceae). The mixture is warmed and applied to painful areas. Plant is grown in front of house to repel insects. 12 Flatulency. Leaves of Aegle marmelos L. (Corr.) (Rutaceae) are macerated with salt and put inside hollowed ears of corn [Zea mays L. (Poaceae)]. The ears of corn are then roasted over a fire, following which they are soaked in cold water. The water is strained and taken orally. 13 Eczema. Leaves of Senna sophera (L.) Roxb. (Fabaceae) are macerated with a pinch of table salt and applied to affected areas. 14 Pain. Roots of Pedilanthus tithymaloides L. (Euphorbiaceae) are macerated and then thread and worn around the neck. mixed with mustard oil [oil obtained from seeds of Brassica juncea (L.) Czern. (Cruciferae)]. The mixture is warmed and applied topically to painful areas. 15 Diarrhea. Bark of Ricinus communis L. (Euphorbiaceae) is Ricinus communis: Venna macerated and taken. Alternately, the bark is tied with a 16 Any type of pain. 21 leaves of Codiaeum variegatum (L.) Blume (Euphorbiaceae) are crushed, mixed with a little salt, and then warmed and applied topically to painful areas. 17 Ghag disease Fruits of Tamarindus indica L. (goiter). (Fabaceae) are soaked in water followed by drinking the water. Note that aged fruits are better. 18 Cuts and wounds, Leaves of Laalpata (unidentified) are infections of macerated and applied to affected areas. skin. 19 Diabetes. Leaves and stems of Andrographis paniculata (Burm. f.) (Acanthaceae) are soaked in water followed by drinking the water. Serial Ailment with Local name of plants/ingredients Number symptoms used 1 Abscess. Sida cordata: Chip chirip 2 Blood purifier. Azadirachta indica: Neem Tamarindus indica: Tetul Acacia nilotica: babla Spondias pinnata: Aamra Unidentified: Agni baegun 3 Pain. Calotropis procera: Akondo, Akauna Brassica juncea: Shorisha 4 Blood purifier. Streblus asper: Sohora gach 5 Itches. Pongamia pinnata: Kuruch 6 Irregular Pergularia daemia: Moron phool Piper menstruation. nigrum: Gol morich 7 To increase Euphorbia tirucalli: Dal bahar lactation in Puntius ticto: Punti mach nursing mother. 8 Being touched by Hibiscus rosa sinensis: Joba phool 'evil wind'. Bombax ceiba: Shimul Piper betle: Paan 9 Knee and waist Terminalia arjuna: Arjun pain. Cuminum cyminum: Jeera 10 Toothache, snake Jatropha curcas: Jamal kotha bite, dysentery. 11 Rheumatism, Mimosa pudica: Lojjaboti insect repellent. Aegle marmelos: Bael 12 Flatulency. Aegle marmelos: Bael Zea mays: Bhutta 13 Eczema. Senna sophera: Jhunki 14 Pain. Pedilanthus tithymaloides: Bera khet Brassica juncea: Shorisha 15 Diarrhea. 16 Any type of pain. Codiaeum variegatum: Pata bahar 17 Ghag disease Tamarindus indica: Tetul (goiter). 18 Cuts and wounds, Unidentified: Laalpata infections of skin. 19 Diabetes. Andrographis paniculata: Moha tita Table 2: Comparison of medicinal plants and diseases treated by the tribal medicinal practitioners of the Soren clan of the Santal tribe (of Nobogram village) and the Soren clan (of Kannapara and Mondumala villages) of Rajshahi district, Bangladesh. Nobogram village Plant name Family Diseases treated Andrographis Acanthaceae Diabetes. paniculata Spondias Anacardiaceae Blood purifier. pinnata Cuminum cyminum Apiaceae Knee and waist pain. Calotropis procera Asclepiadaceae Pain. Pergularia daemia Asclepiadaceae Irregular menstruation. Bombax ceiba Bombacaceae Being touched by 'evil' wind. Terminalia arjuna Combretaceae Knee and waist pain. Brassica juncea Cruciferae Pain Codiaeum Euphorbiaceae Any type of pain. variegatum Euphorbia Euphorbiaceae To increase lactation in tirucalli nursing mother. Jatropha curcas Euphorbiaceae Toothache, snake bite, dysentery. Pedilanthus Euphorbiaceae Pain. tithymaloides Ricinus communis Euphorbiaceae Diarrhea. Acacia nilotica Fabaceae Blood purifier. Senna sophera Fabaceae Eczema. (Cassia sophera) Mimosa pudica Fabaceae Rheumatism, insect repellent. Pongamia pinnata Fabaceae Itches. Tamarindus indica Fabaceae Blood purifier, goiter. Hibiscus rosa Malvaceae Being touched by 'evil' wind. sinensis Sida cordata Malvaceae Abscess. Azadirachta indica Meliaceae Blood purifier. Streblus asper Moraceae Blood purifier. Piper betle Piperaceae Being touched by 'evil' wind. Piper nigrum Piperaceae Irregular menstruation. Aegle marmelos Rutaceae Rheumatism, flatulency. Centella asiatica Umbelliferae Sexual weakness in males. Premna Verbenaceae Snake bite. integrifolia Kannapara and Mondumala villages Plant name Family Diseases treated Justicia adhatoda Acanthaceae Asthma. Acorus calamus Acoraceae Typhoid, snake bite. Achyranthes aspera Amaranthaceae To increase libido, burning sensations during urination, hydrocele. Amaranthus Amaranthaceae To increase libido. spinosus Curculigo Amaryllidaceae Deafness. orchioides Mangifera indica Anacardiaceae Lesions on the tongue. Holarrhena Apocynaceae Helminthiasis, piles pubescens (hemorrhoids), dysentery. Nerium indicum Apocynaceae Skin diseases, fever, abortifacient. Centratherum Asteraceae Helminthiasis, deafness due to anthelminticum old age. Eclipta alba Asteraceae Sexual weakness in males. Bombax ceiba Bombacaceae Sexual weakness in males. Heliotropium Boraginaceae To increase libido. indicum Benincasa hispida Cucurbitaceae Helminthiasis, colic pain, flatulence, enlarged heart, lesions on the tongue.. Coccinia grandis Cucurbitaceae Abscess, diabetes, lack of appetite, vomiting tendency due to poisoning. Cyperus scariosus Cyperaceae Dysentery, appetite stimulant, bleeding from gums, insect bite. Croton tiglium Euphorbiaceae Sexual weakness in males. Euphorbia Euphorbiaceae Passing of semen neriifolia with urine. Ricinus communis Euphorbiaceae Lesions on the tongue. Adenanthera Fabaceae Headache, conjunctivitis, pavonina bleeding from gums. Cassia sophera Fabaceae Constipation, coughs. Sesbania Fabaceae Epilepsy, gonorrhea, dry coughs. grandiflora Clerodendrum Lamiaceae Asthma, respiratory indicum difficulties, chest pain due to cold, helminthiasis. Hyptis suaveolens Lamiaceae Underweight. Ocimum tenuiflorum Lamiaceae Respiratory difficulties. Cinnamomum tamala Lauraceae Influenza. Cinnamomum verum Lauraceae Influenza. Asparagus Liliaceae Filariasis, sexual dysfunction racemosus in men, night blindness. Stephania japonica Menispermaceae Low density of semen, abscess, infections of skin. Tinospora Menispermaceae Passing of semen with urine, cordifolia leucorrhea, helminthiasis, gonorrhea, respiratory difficulties. Streblus asper Moraceae Abscess, dysentery. Vanda tessellata Orchidaceae Paralysis, rheumatic pain. Oxalis corniculata Oxalidaceae Piles, abscess/infections. Passiflora Passifloraceae Paralysis of any organ of the incarnata body. Piper betle Piperaceae Passing of semen with urine. Piper longum Piperaceae Influenza. Piper nigrum Piperaceae Influenza. Plantago ovata Plantaginaceae Sexual weakness in males. Plumbago indica Plumbaginaceae Abortifacient, leprosy, paralysis. Oldenlandia Rubiaceae Burning sensations in hands or corymbosa legs, dysentery. Paederia foetida Rubiaceae Piles, constriction of nerves leading to distortion in hands or feet, stoppage of urination, paralysis. Glycosmis Rutaceae Infertility in women, tooth pentaphylla diseases, infections. Datura metel Solanaceae Breast abscess, pain, asthma, helminthiasis, dog bite. Solanum barbisetum Solanaceae Chicken pox, typhoid, influenza. Withania somnifera Solanaceae Tuberculosis, underweight in children. Abroma augusta Sterculiaceae Sexual weakness in males, pain. Carum copticum Umbelliferae Dysentery, appetite stimulant, bleeding from gums, insect bite. Nyctanthes Verbenaceae Pitto jor (symptoms: burning arbor-tristis sensations in the body, redness in eyes, long-term fever with vomiting), rheumatic pain, waist pain. Vitis trifolia Vitaceae Abscess, stoppage of urination, insect bite, snake bite, excessive bleeding during menstruation. Curcuma longa Zingiberaceae Passing of semen with urine, leucorrhea, piles. Elettaria Zingiberaceae Lesions on the tongue. cardamomum Zingiber Zingiberaceae Paralysis, rheumatic pain, officinale breast abscess, hydrocele.
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|Title Annotation:||Original Article|
|Author:||Hasan, Md. Ehasanul; Akter, Shakila; Piya, Nargis Sultana; Nath, Palash Kumar; Nova, Umme Sawda Rahm|
|Publication:||American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2012|
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