Wealth of herbal medicines in Chhattisgarh faces threat of extinction

Raipur, 23 May-2014, TNN: While it’s well known that tribal communities in Chhattisgarh widely depend on medicinal plants to treat most common ailments, this vast wealth of traditional healing system may soon be lost forever, as the younger generations are not willing to pick it up.

Wealth of herbal medicines in Chhattisgarh faces threat of extinction

Wealth of herbal medicines in Chhattisgarh faces threat of extinction

It may sound strange but despite accessibility to modern allopathic medicines for treatment of various diseases, from simple to serious ones, tribals in Chhattisgarh still continue to depend on medicinal plants and the village’s ‘medicine man’ to treat themselves for most common ailments. However, with younger generations opting for work outside, this ‘art’ faces a threat of extinction.

These are the findings of survey on “Ethnomedicinal Pants used in the healthcare systems of Tribes of Dantewada, Chhattisgarh”, which was recently published in American Journal of Plant Science. The survey, conducted by Dr Pankaj Sahu, Vanee Masih and Anushree Tewari of Dr CV Raman University, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, and Sharmistha Gupta of West Bengal State Council of Science & Technology, Kolkatta and Devki L Sen, department of Botany, Government Science College, Raipur.

The survey was reportedly a part of an exercise to acquire and preserve this traditional system of herbal medicine by documenting and identifying the plants and specimens used for treatments in these areas. The ethnomedicinal information for the survey was gathered from interviews with living elders belonging to Madiya, Muriya, Gond and Bhatra tribes of the study area.

The survey indicated that tribal areas have plenty of medicinal plants to treat a wide spectrum of human ailments. Earlier studies on traditional medicinal plants have also revealed that the economically backward local and tribal people of Barsur prefer folk medicine due to low cost and sometimes as it is a part of their social life and culture.

The report states that interviews conducted in different villages revealed that the knowledge of medicinal plants is limited to traditional healers, herbalist and elderly persons. Due to lack of interest among the younger generation as well as their tendency to migrate to cities for lucrative jobs, there are strong possibilities of losing this wealth of knowledge in the near future.

According to the paper, at the end of each interview, plant specimens were collected, dried, identified and preserved. Samples of recorded herbs, shrubs and trees were identified with the help of local floras and previous literature.
The survey also recorded some new and lesser-known ethno medicinal uses of 104 plants of tribes of Dantewada, South Bastar, in different ailments like fever, cough, hydrophobia, skin disease, rheumatic pain, to control of diabetes, tumor and cancer.

Meanwhile according to a report on State of Environment, Chhattisgarh, prepared by IIT, Bombay under the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), in consultation with Environmental Protection Training and Research Institute (EPTRI), Hyderabad, Medicinal Plants in the State have been significantly disturbed by land clearing, development and agriculture.

The aquatic biodiversity of the State is under severe threat due to climate change, heavy pollution load from industries and run off from agricultural fields. About 645 medicinal plants are present in the State. Studies conducted by medicinal plant experts in this region have identified 31 species to be on the verge of extinction, 96 species as endangered and 70 species as precious in the State.Wealth of herbal medicines face threat of extinction in Chhattisgarh.