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Life sciences Leaflets 1:6 15, 2012.

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Published on: 1st Jan 2012 INDIAN ETHNOMEDICINES : ORIGINS IN THE PERSPECTIVE OF DOCTRINE OF SIGNATURE
D.A.PATIL POST-GRADUATE DEPARTMENT OF BOTANY, S.S.V.P.SS L.K.DR.P.R.GHOGREY SCIENCE COLLEGE, DHULE-424005, INDIA. dapatil_10aug@yahoo.com

ABSTRACT:
Over time, primitive societies acquired knowledge about medicinal plants in their own surroundings. The present review has confined to the origin of knowledge of medicinal virtues of plants struck for the first time to the human mind. These virtues are discussed highlighting the doctrine of signatures. Various plant features are conceived as indicative of medicinal properties. Select 55 plants species have been critically studied encompassing nearly 21 different human sufferings. Human thinking on natures gifts particularly beneficial for ailments such as bites/stings of animals, jaundice, yellow urination, bone fracture, kidney-stone, obesity, swellings, leucoderma, burns, boils, sunstroke, blood diseases, fever, diabetes, hair-growth, complaints of lactation and sex are critically thought over in the said perspective.

KEY WORD: Medicine, origin, Doctrine of Signatures.

INTRODUCTION:
The use of medicinal plants to cure specific ailment has been in vogue from ancient times. This medico-lore is passed over generations traditionally all over the world. Nature has bestowed several plants which contain natural substances and promote health and alleviate illness. But which species of plants, in particular, is/are useful? How the first/original researcher or observer conceived them as of medicinal significance? This is hardly thought. The medicinal virtues of plants are identified by instinct/intuition or trial and errors. Doctrine of Signatures is also one such way of thinking that helped human beings to realize curable properties of plants (cf. Arber, 1999; Patil, 2004, 2005, 2007). The said doctrine entells how the external features of plants are indicative of medicinal values. The subject matter is dilated by borrowing some Indian folk medicines under enumeration. They are cited giving botanical name, family name in parenthesis and followed by Indian folk claim. The doctrine is explained below separately.

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ENUMERATION :
1. Achyranthes aspera L. (Amaranthaceae) : Leaves and roots are used against scorpion bite. (Aydichya et al., 1983; Jain, 1991). The inflorescence is shaped like a sting of scorpion. Moreover, it is spiny. 2. Alangium salvifolium (L.f.) Wang. (Alangiaceae) : Roots are used to treat poisonous bites of dogs. (Malhotra and Moorthy, 1973). The plant bears thorns. 3. Allamanda cathartica L. (Apocynaceae) : Flowers are employed in the treatment of jaundice (Srivastava and Varma, 1981). The plant bears yellow flowers. The patient suffering jaundice is also hued yellow. 4. Allium sativum L. (Liliaceae) : The bulblets are consumed to increase sexual potentiality (Singh and Pandey, 1998). The bulblets are mucilaginous. Amaranthus spinosus L. (Amaranthaceae) : Roots are administered in treating scorpion stings and snake bites (Jain, 1991). The plant is spiny. 6. Argemone mexicana L. (Papaveraceae) : Latex is applied to cure jaundice (Shah, 1984). The plant produces yellow latex. The patient turns yellowish when suffering from jaundice. 7. Asparagus racemosus Willd. (Liliaceae) : Tuberous roots are thought aphrodisiac and hence consumed (Sudhakar and Rolla, 1985). Tubers are slimy as semen. 8. Bacopa monnieri (L.) Penn. (Scrophulariaceae) : Entire plants are useful for body cooling and also eyes (Nagendra Prasad and Abraham 1984; Bhatt and Sabnis, 1987). The plant grows in water-logged habitats. Balanites aegyptiaca (L.) Del. (Simaroubaceae) : Roots are employed as antidote for insect bites (Bhatt and Sabnis, 1987). The plants bear thorns. Baliospermum montanum Muell.-Arg. (Euphorbiaceae) : Seeds are beneficial as antidote in treating snake bites (Mishra and Sahu, 1984). Seeds are variegated as some species of snakes. 11. Barleria acanthoides Vahl (Acanthaceae) : The leaves are chewed to get relief from the pain of old hidden thorns in feet (Singh and Pandey, 1998). The plants are prickly. 12. Bergenia ciliata (Haw.) Sternb. (Saxifragaceae) : Roots are applied for the treatment of kidney stone (Uniyal and Shiva, 2005). The plant inhabits rocky substratum.

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Bergenia ligulata Engl. (Saxifragaceae) : Roots are used in the treatment of kidney stones. (Singh, Palvi and Singh, 1980; Gupta, 1981). The plant inhabits rocky areas and their roots usually break down the rocks and stones.

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Butea monosperma (Lamk.) Taub. (Fabaceae) : Flowers are useful to recover from sun-stroke (Maheshwari et al. 1980; Jain, 1991). The tree produces bright red flowers, reminding sun heat and bright light. Capparis sepiaria L. (Capparidaceae) : The roots are used against snake bite (Singh and Pandey, 1998). The plants bear thorns. Capparis zeylanica L. (Capparidaceae) : Roots or fruits are administered as antidote for snake bite (Jain and De 1966; Singh et al, 1987). The plants are spiny. Cardiospermum halicacabum L. (Sapindaceae) : Leaves are used to reduce bulkiness (Jain et al., 1973). The plant bears fruits which are covered by swollen/inflated calyx. Cassia fistula L. (Caesalpiniaceae) : Seeds are useful to cure jaundice (Jain, 1991). The plant bears yellow blossom of flowers. Centella asiatica (L.) Urban (Apiaceae) : Leaves are employed to control fever (Shah and Joshi, 1971). The plants inhabit water-logged places. This ecological situation appeals for their above utility. Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Kuntze (Cucurbitaceae) : The fruits are used to treat obesity (Sen and Batra, 1997). The rounded fruits are conceived useful to cure obesity. Cochlospermum religiosum (L.) Alston (Cochlospermaceae) : Bark is used in treating jaundice (Jain, 1991). The plant produces large yellow flowers. The sufferers of jaundice are turned yellow. Cyperus rotundus L. (Cyperaceae) : The tubers are used as a antiobesity drug (Kshirsagar et al., 2003). The root tubers being swollen structures are thought beneficial to control obesity. Datura metel L. (Solanaceae) : Leaves are beneficial in the treatment of snake bite (Rajwar, 1983). The plant bears fruits studded with spines. Dioscorea alata L. and D. oppositifolia L. (Dioscoreaceae) : Tubers are used while treating swellings (Saxena and Vyas, 1983; Jain, 1991). The plant produces tubers which are swollen structures.

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Diplocyclos palmatus (L.) Jeffrey (Cucurbitaceae) : The plant is used as antidote for snake bite (Shah and Joshi, 1971; Singh and Pandey, 1998; Jain and Tarafder, 1970). The seeds are variegated similar to some species of snakes. Eichhornia crassipes Solm. (Pontederiaceae) : The plant is employed in the treatment of swellings (Joshi et al., 1980). The petioles are swollen prominently. Equisetum ramosissimum Desf. (Equisetaceae) : The entire plants are applied for bone fracture or dislocation (Vivek Kumar and Jain, 1998). The stem nodes are prominently jointed as the bone-joints. Euphorbia hirta L.(Euphorbiaceae) : The plant is used for increasing lactation. (Ramchandran and Nair, 1981; Upadhyay and Singh, 2005). The plant species contains white latex simulating milk. Euphorbia ligularia Roxb. and E.nivulia Buch.-Ham. (Euphorbiaceae) : Latex of the plant is employed as antidote for Snake bite and scorpion sting (Bedi, 1978; Maheshwari and Singh, 1987). The plant is spiniferous. Euphorbia nivulia Buch. Ham. (Euphorbiaceae) : Latex of the plant is massaged over the fractured bone (Sen et al., 2002). The stems are jointed as the bones. Ficus bengalensis L. (Moraceae) : Roots are used to promote hair growth (Tiwari et al., 1979). The aerial roots are very long and of good strength. Flacourtia indica (Burm. f.) Merr. (Flacourtiaceae) : Bark of the plant is employed as antidote for bite of a mad dog (Joshi et al., 1980). The plant bears thorns. Flaveria trinervia (Spreng.) Mohr. (Asteraceae) : Leaves are beneficial in treating jaundice (Shanthamma et al., 1998). The flowers are yellow and the plant yields a yellow dye. Gymnema sylvestre (Retz.) R. Br. (Asclepiadaceae) : The leaves are used to control diabetes (Vivek Kumar and Jain, 1998; Sudhakar and Rolla, 1985). The leaves when chewed first and sugar consumed later, it does not taste sweet. Haldina cordifolia (Roxb.) Rids. (Rubiaceae) : The bark is used to cure yellow urination (Joshi et al., 1980). The wood is yellow in colour. Helitropium indicum L.(Boraginaceae) : Leaves are employed as antidote for scorpion sting (Saxena and Vyas, 1983). The inflorescence assumes the shape of a sting of scorpion. PEER-REVIEWED Page | 9

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Holarrhena antidysenterica Wall. (Apocynaceae) : The leaves are used to cure leucoderma (Barua and Sarma, 1984). The plant contains white latex.

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Holostemma ada-kodien Schult. (Asclepiadaceae) : The roots are beneficial to increase lactation (Saxena, 1986). Leonotis nepetaefolia R. Br. (Lamiaceae) : The flowers are employed to cure burns. (Janardhanan, 1963). The red coloured flowers are thought useful comparing the colour of a flame. Martynia annua Linn. (Pedaliaceae) : The fruits are used for scorpion stings (Maheshwari et al., 1986). The fruits bear hooked sting-like spines. Mussaenda frondosa L. (Rubiaceae) : The sepals are useful to treat jaundice (Mukherjee et al., 1986). The floral parts are yellow. During jaundice, the patient is hued yellowish. Nardostachys jatamansi (Don) DC. (Valerianaceae) : The roots are useful as a hair tonic (Uniyal, 1968; Chhetri, 2005). The plants bear a large mass of roots like hair tuft. Nymphaea stellata Willd. (Nymphaeaceae) : The flowers are used as a cooling agent (Kshirsagar et al., 2003). The plants are inhabitant of water places. Passiflora foetida L. (Passifloraceae) : Paste of fruits is applied on boils (Jeeva et al., 2005) Fruits are inflated. Pedalium murex L. (Pedaliaceae) : The fruits are useful as aphrodisiac (Shah et al., 1981). Decoction of fruits is given in case of night diseases (Kumar and Chauhan, 2005). The entire plant is mucilagineous like semen. Physalis minima Linn. (Solanaceae) : The ripe fruits are consumed to control and cure enlargement of the spleen (Ketewa and Galav, 2005). The fruits have enlarged/inflated calyces. Pueraria tuberosa (Willd.) DC. (Fabaceae) : The tubers are beneficial as a remedy against swellings (Srivastava and Varma, 1981). Swollen tubers are conceived as useful to treat body swellings. Rauvolfia serpentina (L.) Benth. (Apocynaceae) : The roots are remedial as antidote for snake bite (Rajendran et al. 1997; Nagendra and Abraham, 1984). The elongated roots resemble a snake.

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Sarcostemma acidum (Roxb.) Voigt. (Asclepiadaceae) : The plant (stem) is used to cure bone fracture (Saxena, 1986). The plants are leafless and have jointed stems recalling jointed bones. Sauromatum venosum (Ait.) Kunth (Araceae) : The tubers are beneficial in treating tumours (Saxena, 1986). The swollen parts of the plant are conceived useful for similar tumours. Vetiveria zizanoides (L.) Nash (Poaceae) : The plant is helpful to better burns (Jain and Tarafder, 1970). The plant is inhabitant of water-logged places. Viscum articulatum Burm. f. (Loranthaceae) : The plant is used as a remedy for bone fracture (Varma, 1997; Vivek Kumar and Jain, 1998; Chhetri, 2005; Hajra and Chakravarty, 1981). The leafless plant consists of jointed stems like the bones. Woodfordia fruticosa (Linn.) Kurz. (Lythraceae) : The flowers are employed in case of internal haemorrhages (Mamgain and Rao, 1990). The red coloured flowers are thought beneficial for a blood-related disease. Wrightia tinctoria R.Br. (Apocynaceae) : The stem bark is administered as a galactogogue (Patil and Patil, 2005). The trees are laticiferous, latex being white.

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DISCUSSION:
The classic/modern medicines used by the present civilized world have been developed through indigenous knowledge of the primitive societies (Patil, 2004, 2007). But how these societies picked up the plants for the first time and started using them as medicines? This has largely remained unthought. Patil (2004), for the first time, endeavoured to seek the origins of medicines especially from the standpoint of doctrine of signatures. This doctrine holds that a plants appearance indicates the ailments it would treat. Results of further in-depth studies on Indian ethnomedicines are reported in this paper. About 55 plant species belonging to 38 families employed as medicines by different Indian tribals and rural folks are brought under limelight. The healing virtues of plants appear divulged by external signs. These can be inferred from the critical examination and observations of ethnomedicinal plants growing especially in their surroundings. Secrets of nature struck to their mind which are then put into practice in their daily life. Their trial and errors give birth to medicines. Let us try to know here some fragments of knowledge from the Mother Nature. Plants with spines and thorns would cure scorpion stings and bites of insects, dogs and snake. Variegation of seeds and appearance of roots like some species of snakes also appeal for their use against snake bites. Likewise, spiniferous plants are thought beneficial to get relief from the pain of old hidden thorns in feet. The thin elongated, strong, http://lifesciencesleaflets.ning.com/ PEER-REVIEWED Page | 11

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flexible aerial roots are thought useful as hair tonic. The roots borne in dense tufts are similarly conceived. The plants with prominently jointed stems help cure bone fractures or dislocations. Swelling of body parts can be treated by the swollen organs of plants like tubers and petioles. Inflated fruits are thought useful to treat boils. Inflated, rounded or swollen tubers are conceived beneficial in treating obesity or bulkiness of human body. Colours of plant parts play an important role in the selection of medicines e.g. (a) yellow flowers, latex and dyes are remedial to treat jaundice, a disease in which the patient in turned yellow. Person suffering from yellow urination can be cured by yellow wood/bark, (b) Plants yielding white latex are useful to increase lactation or thought galactagogue. Even leucoderma, a disease in which a person develops white colouration of skin, is curable by using white latex. Red colour of plant parts, e.g. flowers, warrants for medicinal utility for blood diseases, sun-stroke and burns. Plant species growing in water bodies / water-logged places would cure burns, control fever and also act as cooling agents. Plants producing mucilage are used as aphrodisiac or to increase sexual potentiality. Plants capable of detasting sugar taste are employed to cure diabetes, a disease related to sugar in human body. The plant species which inhabit rocky/stony places and break the substratum by their growing roots are useful in the treatment of kidney-stone. As many as 21 different human diseases/ailments are discussed in viewpoint of doctrine of signatures. The said doctrine also holds good for medicines in organized system e.g. Ayurveda (Patil, 2005).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
I am thankful to the authorities of the institution. I am indebted to my Guru Professor Dr. R.M.Pai, Ex-Head, Department of Botany, Dr.B.A.Marathwada University, Aurangabad, for encouragement and critical suggestions.

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