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Ethno botanical Study of Medicinal Plants Used by the Irula and Muruga Tribes of Attapady Region in India ABSTRACT

An ethno botanical study was carried out among the Irula and Muruga tribes of Attapady region in India. The information on the medicinal plants was obtained from interview with a traditional medicinal man. The traditional uses and remedies were documented. The literature searches were carried out for the evaluation on the current status of investigations on these plants. Here, we present 18 species of plants, which are commonly used among the tribal people to cure some common diseases. This study is important to preserve the knowledge of medicinal plants used by the tribal community. The surveys of phytopharmacological literatures of these plants have great pharmacological and ethno botanical significance. Keywords: Ethno botany, Irulas and Murugas, Attapady, medicinal plants INTRODUCTION The Indian subcontinent represents one of the greatest emporia of ethno biological wealth and Western Ghats represents the second hot spot in India. In Kerala, many living groups of tribes, still more or less unaffected by urbanization continue to use various plants for food, drugs, customs, game, religious purposes etc.Palakkad is a central district in Kerala that lays at the foot of the Western Ghats. It lies in a gap between the Nilagiri and Anamalai hills. Attapady hills, situated at a distance of 80kms from Palakkad are bounded by Silent valley Reserve forests on the West, Anakatty on East and Agaly on south. It has a population of nearly 24,000 in an area of 703.23 sq km settled in 129 hamlets.[1],[2]This study was carried out amongst small ethnic group of 'Irulas and Murugas' who live in Vatalakki gramam ('Gramam' means village), within the tropical forest in Palakkad district. The climate is equatorial

with an average temperature of 23-32C. Attapady is inhabited by tribes like Irulas, Kurumbas and Murugas, Irulars inhabiting the plains and low elevations constitute the majority (79%). The other two sects are numerically lesser and are spread over low and high elevations. The perennial river Bhavani flows through this forest. [3]The socioeconomic activity of the local population is mainly mixed farming which involves both cultivation of crops and rearing of livestock. Although they live in forests, they are not complete isolated, their economical dealing with neighbouring people exist since a few 100 years ago. Traditional medicine has remained as the most affordable and easily accessible source of treatment in the primary healthcare system of resource poor communities and the local therapy is the only means of medical treatment for such communities. The traditional herbal knowledge is passed from generation to generation in the verbal form by traditional medicinal man or 'vaidyar'.There is a high expectation of enormous traditional knowledge and use of medicinal plant species in India due to the existence of diverse cultures, languages and beliefs among the people. However, since cultural systems are dynamic [4], the skills are fragile and easily forgettable as most of the indigenous knowledge transfer in the country is based on oral transmission. [5] To our knowledge, there are no data regarding the traditional medicinal plant knowledge and use by the local communities in Palakkad District, India. Therefore, the current study was conducted to assess and document the indigenous knowledge and use of medicinal plant species by traditional healers to treat human ailments in the study area. MATERIALS AND METHODS Ethno botanical data were collected from 18 randomly selected traditional healers using semi structured interviews and participant observations . [6] Most of the healers

were illiterate and at most only able to read and write .Verbal informed consent was obtained from each individual traditional healer who was participating during the study period. Interviews were made with each traditional healer about the knowledge and use of medicinal plant species used to treat human diseases in the study area. The healers were professional practitioners who medicate the local people by using ethno medicinal plants and their products. The interviews were facilitated with translators who were well conversant of the local language. The local name, parts of plants used, ailments treated, preparations and mode of uses were recorded. The authors accompanied the traditional healers and translators and made field visits to observe and collect medicinal plant species reported to treat ailments. The collected specimens were identified and authenticated at the species level at the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), Coimbatore, Tamilnadu and the specimens were deposited in the departmental herbarium. The search of recent scientific phytopharmacological literatures were carried out in order to obtain the information on the current status of investigations of these plants. RESULTS In this study, 18 species of plants were documented. The information obtained includes the botanical name, local name, parts of the plant used, traditional uses, preparations and modes of uses. The data are recorded in Table 1. It is worth to note that some of these plants have already been studied experimentally, i.e., Cassia occidentalis , Clitoria ternatea, Dichrostachys cinerea, Trianthema decandra, Acacia catechu, Pergularia daemia, Acacia Nilotica, Datura metel, orthosiphon thymiflorus, Anisomeles malabarica and Capparis zeylanica. The pharmacological activities reported in recent literatures are recorded in Table 2.[7]-[51]

The principal methods of remedy preparation were reported to be through crushing , squeezing and powdering of the various parts of medicinal plants. Moreover, more than one medicinal plant species were used more frequently than the use of a single species for remedy preparations. Decoction of Evolvulus alsinoides, with Ocimum sanctum is administered in fevers accompanied by indigestion or diarrhoea, In Sri Lanka, roots and stem extract of the plant are used to treat dysentery and depression. Leaves are recommended for asthma and mental disturbances. [52]. A decoction of the plant of Cassia occidentalis is used in hysteria, in dysentery and other stomach troubles, and also as an application to sores, itch and inflammation of the rectum.[14] The herb forms an ingredient of the patented indigenous herbal drug Liv-52, which shows marked effect in the early cases of hepatic cirrhosis having steatorrhoea. Plumbago zeylanica L. was reported to be mixed with water and sugar and tumour patients drank half cup of the preparation for three days. [54]The root of Clitoria ternatea has been used traditionally to induce abortion and its paste for curing abdominal swellings, sore throat, mucous disorders and fever. It has been used too as an antidote for snake bite and scorpion sting and the Root juice is given for the relief of fever. Dichrostachys cinerea (DC) root juice is widely used by the tribes against paralysis. , the leaves of Anisomeles malabarica are used to treat convulsions, tetanus and boils. The plant decoction or leaves essential oil used externally in rheumatism. The root of Trianthema decandra is used for the treatment of hepatitis, asthma and orchitis, and also, the decoction of the root bark is credited with properties of aperients.The juice of the leaves is dropped into the nostrils to relieve partial headache.[55] The water decoction of Acacia catechu is widely consumed as health drink . It is believed that the water decoction can purify blood, improve skin texture and boost bodys defence mechanism. The leaves of Secamone emetica are applied as

a bandage on the forehead to reduce heaviness of the head. [49] The leaves of acacia nilotica are effective in the treatment of conjunctivitis. The leaves, ground to a paste, are applied on the affected eyes at night. Stem or leaf infusions of Dodonaea viscosa are used to treat sore throats; root infusions to treat colds. Digestive system disorders, including indigestion, ulcers, diarrhoea and constipation are commonly treated in traditional medicine with an orally-administered decoction of either the leaves or roots. Trachoma is treated with applications of leaf juice, and powdered leaves are given to expel roundworms. Seeds are used as fish poison. [31]

DISCUSSIONS Traditional healers of the study area were found to play great roles in the primary healthcare systems of the local people as they were treating resource poor people who had little access and couldn't afford the cost for modern medications. They also reported that the local people have been seeking for their treatment even in preference to modern medications. Shrubs and trees were the most represented growth forms for remedy preparations in the study area. The result of this study showed that more than one plant species were mostly used by the traditional healers to prepare a remedy for ailments. This could be attributed to the additive or synergistic effects that they could have during ailment treatment. Most of the traditional healers were found to have poor knowledge on dosage and antidote while prescribing remedies to their patients and most of the remedies were reported to have no serious adverse effects except vomiting and temporary inflammations. According to the available literatures, some of the reported medicinal plant species were found to have some phytochemical and

biological activities. Methanol and aqueous extracts of Cassia occidentalis showed significant antimicrobial activity.[14] This validates the reported traditional use of this species by local healers to use paste of leaves externally on healing wounds, sores, itch, cutaneous diseases, bone fracture, fever, ringworm, skin diseases. Roots of Clitoria ternatea have been reported to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic properties .[20 ]This could substantiate the use of this plant species to treat earache by traditional healers of the study area. Extracts of Dichrostachys cinerea have been reported to have immunomodulatory action but the current study reported the use of this plant by the local healers to treat paralysis. Anticancer activity of Anisomeles malabarica was reported and this agrees with the reported use of this species by the local healers of the study area to treat cancer and liver disorders.[42] Aqueous extract of Acacia catechu has been reported to have an immunomodulatory effect and this agrees with their traditional use as a health drink.[7] Other plants, which were not documented in phytopharmacological literatures and of interest, may be exploited so that the underlying mechanisms in different diseases of treatment by pharmacological methods can be done. This approach has great significance in discovery of novel pharmacological preparations. For example, Capparis grandiflora is used to relieve headache in Irula herbal remedy. Since headache can caused by a wide spectrum of factors, stress, neurological disturbances, infections and so on, it might be interesting to study the underlying mechanisms of these herbs, or pure substances within it, against headache. It is of practical use to search and extract the substances and study the underlying action by phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological methods. In conclusion, this study is important to preserve the knowledge of medicinal plants

used by Irula and Muruga people and also it is of important significance to exploit novel pharmacological agents in various treatments of diseases.

REFERENCES 1. Kuttappan M. Panchayath Level Statistics- Palakkad District, (Department of Economic And Statistics, Government of Kerala),1996. 2. Menon MT.Encyclopedia of Dravidian Tribes, (International Institute of Dravidian Linguistics St.Xaviers College Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala) 1996:115-74. 3. Nadanakunkidam S. Folklore plants used in veterinary medicine by tribals of Attapadi, Western Ghats. Advances in Plant Sciences 17 suppl 1: 61-5.

4. Cunningham AB. Applied ethno botany: People, wild plant use and conservation. London and Sterling, VA: Earth scan Publications Ltd, 2001. 5. Abebe D, Ayehu A. Medicinal plants and enigmatic health practices of Northern Ethiopia Addis Ababa: BSPE, 1993. 6. Martin GJ. Ethno botany: a methods manual. London, UK: Chapman and Hall, 1995 Fig: 1 Irular tribes of Attapady, Palakkad, India.

Table 1: Remedies of plants used by Irulas and Murugas

Family name Caesalpin iaceae Fabaceae Fabaceae Aizoaceae Leguminosa e Asclepiadac eae Mimosaceae Labiatae Solanaceae Capparidace ae Capparidace ae Local name Ponnava rai Aparajit Vedatha lan Gadaba ni Katha Utranaj utuka black babul / babul tree Aruvaac hadachi Datura Common name Negro coffee butterfly pea bell mimosa vellai sharuni Black catechu Not found Egyptian Mimosa Malabar catmint Thornapple, Devil trumpet Caper plant Indian caper Parts used Whole plant Root, stem, flowers Whole plant Whole plant Bark Whole plant Whole plant Leaves

Plant name Cassia occidentalis Clitoria ternatea. Dichrostachy s cinerea Trianthema decandra Acacia catechu Pergularia daemia Acacia Nilotica Anisomeles malabarica Datura metel Capparis grandiflora Capparis zeylanica

Modes of uses Decoction (one glass two to three times daily) in general infections. Root juice; externally applied for headache and swelling. Paste with curd taken once a day in fever and pain. Leaf juice is dropped into the nostrils to relieve headache The water decoction is consumed as health drink Decoction of leaf as an inhalation in fever and anaemia. Bark infusion and seed powder in diarrhoea. Essential oil used externally in rheumatism Asthma, depression, motion sickness and analgesic, hallucinations. Decoction given orally (one glass 2-3 times daily) in jaundice. The watery extract used in cataract

Leaves Leaves, root Leaves, root

Kevisi Godanth i

orthosiphon thymiflorus Spermacoce latiflolia Plumbago zeylanica Dodonaea viscosa Justica glauca

Lamiaceae Rubiaceae Plumbagina ceae Sapindaceae Acanthacea e

pratanik a Shankha m Agnima ala aliar and vilayati mehandi ------

Not found Button weed White lead wort Sticky hop bush Glaucous Justica,W ater willow Not found

Whole plant Leaves Root, bark, seeds Whole plant Leaves, stems

External application(two to four times daily) External application (two to four times daily) in headache. Extract of root bark used orally in diarrhoea Decoction given orally (two teaspoons daily) to heal wounds. stems used as fumigants Neurodegenerative diseases, asthma and amnesia, adaptogenic, antibacterial, anthelmintic antioxidant, immunomodulator. Juice with milk taken orally

Evolvulus alsinoides Secamone emetica.

Convolvula ceae. Asclepiadac eae

Sankhap uspi Angarav alli

Whole plant Fruits, leaves

Not found

Table2: Plants and their pharmacological activities reported in literatures

Plant name Cassia occidentalis Clitoria ternatea Pharmacological activities reported in literature Antimicrobial,antimalarial,anticarcinogenic Cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant and antistress. hypoglycaemic,hypolipidaemic Antibacterial, analgesic hepatoptotective Immunomodulator, hypoglycaemic, hypotensive activity. Antipyretic anaemia, leprosy, piles, uterine and menstrual disorders. diarrhoea and cough,antimicrobial,antioxidant Anticonvulsant, antiperiodic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue Hypoglycaemic,cytotoxic,hallucinogenic Immunomodulator,analgesic,antipyretic Not found diuretic Not found antioxidant Analgesic, antibacterial, Anti diabetic, hypolipidaemic cytotoxic Antibacterial and anthelmintic,Adaptogenic , anti-amnesic , Ant ulcer and ant catatonic , Gastro protective Immmunomodulator Nervous disorder

Dichrostachys cinerea Trianthema decandra Acacia catechu Pergularia daemia Acacia Nilotica Anisomeles malabarica Datura metel Capparis zeylanica Capparis grandiflora orthosiphon thymiflorus Spermacoce latiflolia Plumbago zeylanica Dodonaea viscosa Justica glauca Evolvulus alsinoides Secamone emetica