Sunday, 23 October 2016
Traditional Herbal Medicine of Assam
Traditional medicine include all kinds of folk medicine, unconventional medicine and indeed any kind of therapeutic method that had been handed down by the tradition of a community or ethnic group. It is customary to find all kinds of practices grouped under the common heading ‘traditional medicines’- mainly because they do not emanate from the biomedical paradigm. The medical traditions in the traditional system are diverse in their historical background, theoretical logic and practices, their contemporary social realities and their dynamics. The traditional health care system of 80% population of the developing world is still dependent on their surrounding vegetation/ forests and pastures. They rely on medicinal plants because of their effectiveness, lack of modern healthcare alternatives and cultural preferences.
Northeast India, which is known for its rich bioresources and ethnocultural diversity, is also a source of various medicinal plants to various ethnic communities. It has a valuable heritage of herbal remedies. Its rural people and tribals living in remote/forest areas still depend to a great extent on the indigenous systems of medicine and cultivation. A wide range of plants with ethnomedicinal value against some very important diseases have been reported but much larger numbers of folk medicines have remained endemic to certain tribal pockets in North East India.Various works have been undertaken to document different types of medicinal plants used by various ethnic groups in all over India
. The beliefs, practices and treatment of various diseases by different communities inhabiting in this part of India help us to understand the human nature relationship from its long past. Each and every community has developed their individual device to cure various illnesses and in this context they take the help of different kind of plants available in their surrounding environment. Though understanding the vast experiences of different health care system by documenting the different plant species has been carried out at different intervals but most of the works were concentrated among the tribal communities inhabiting different geographical regions.
who also have developed such ethnomedical practices in conjunction with the age old interaction with the nature. The present study is thus an attempt to document different plant varieties used by the people of Assam in different kinds of health treatment. Standard anthropological methods have been applied to document the same. Information was gathered using a semistructured questionnaire on type of ailments cured by the traditional use of medicinal plants and plant parts. The data were cross checked with respondents from different age classes as there is not a single medicine man available in the present investigated area. Identification of the plants was done with the help of standard literature.
The different plants which have been documented along with their mode of use in different health treatment by the the people is being depicted. Among these plants the compositae family is mostly used by the villagers. These plant species are generally used by most of the villagers as there is not a single traditional healer left out in the villages and they don’t have any formalized or therapeutic institution. The women are found to be more familiar with the use of various medicinal plants. It is apparent that the community is rich in ethnomedicinal knowledge and the knowledge is being transmitted from generation to generation.
It has been found that some individuals have become specialized to prepare the medicines from this plants owing to prolong practical experience. As the economy of the village is not well enough, so they prefer herbal treatment in comparison to allopathic treatment. Their medicinal use is preventive in nature and most of these plants are said to improve immunity to the diseases and capacity to convalesce. Apart from this, the phytotherapy is used to treat various types of diseases, ailments, injuries and pains. It has been found that the people apply their traditional knowledge of different medicinal plants to cure as simple as cold and fever to as complicated as cancer. It is interesting to note that the roots and leaves of Catharanthus roseus are used as anti carcinogenic medicine. Other major ailments which are traded by the medicinal plants include leprosy, jaundice, dropsy, pneumonia, asthma, elephantiasis, piles, hysteria, malaria, bronchitis, pharyngitis and rheumatism. The highest numbers of plants are found to be used against snakebite. Several parts of a plant such as roots, leaves, flowers, seeds, tubers, stems are used as medicine. The different parts of plants used by this community according to their preference are being presented in the figure number 1. Among the different parts of the documented plants they utilise the leaves mostly (43%), followed by roots (28%), some times the whole plant (17%), seeds (4%), flowers (4%), stems (2%), tubers (1%) and fruits (1%).
Out of 62 plants given below, parts of 8 (13%) plants are found to be used in snakebite, 7 (11.3%) are in asthma, 6 (9.6%) in jaundice, 5 (8.0%) each in dropsy and gynecological problems, 3 (4.8%) each in piles, elephantiasis, bronchitis, rheumatism, 2 (3.2%) in leprosy, one (1.6%) each in cancer, pneumonia, paralysis, hysteria, pharyngitis and the rest for curing different other ailments like ulcer, skin disease, fever etc.
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