National Institute of Indian Medicinal History: The next big discovery in medicine may come from tribals in the forests
By Syed Akbar Hyderabad, May 9: Illiterate tribes like Chenchus, Yerukulas and Yanadis living deep in the jungles possess a mine of ethno-medicinal knowledge, most of which is not known to traditional Indian systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani. A research study by teams from the city-based National Institute of Indian Medicinal History and Sri Venkateswara University in the Rapur forest division of Nellore district, has revealed that traditional ethno-medicine is still practised by groups of tribals, who have no access to modern medicine. The medicinal properties of plants claimed by tribals are quite different from the medicinal properties mentioned in traditional Indian systems of medicine. With forest wealth fast depleting, there's danger of losing ethno-medicinal wealth of the country. Proper scientific evaluation of the claims of tribal communities will give a new meaning to the country's medicinal plants. "Many of the claims revealed by the tribes are new in comparison to Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani. We have documented the herbs being used by the tribes and their medicinal properties as claimed by them. This will help us to study further on individual plants to find out whether they are of real medicinal value, and if so, in what dosage and in what form it should be taken," said GP Prasad, one of the researchers. The teams, comprising M Neelima, G Sundarsanam, G Penchala Pratap and B Jyothi, found that the tribals living deep in the Rapur forest division have authentic information on medicinal values of the plant parts like leaves, fruits, flowers, seeds, stem bark, tubers and roots. They use as many as 61 species of plants as medicine in the form of paste, powder, juice, decoction and infusion in crude form with additives like ghee, sesame oil, cow urine, infant urine, cow milk and lemon. The health issues for which these herbs are used include skin troubles, jaundice, rheumatism, burning micturation, fevers, intestinal worms, menstrual problems, cough, diabetes, asthma, dandruff, insomnia, indigestion, constipation, cuts, wounds, sexual problems, fractures, ear-ache, eye diseases and scorpion and snake bites. Some of the plants are also used as antidote and as fish poison to kill fish in the ponds. "Tribals have good therapeutically valuable information for different ailments. The study has brought to light of unknown utilisation of 61 species of plants," he added.