Ethnobotanical Leaflets 11: 32-37.
Ethnomedicinal Plants Used by Indigenous
Community in a Traditional Healthcare System
C. Kingston, B.S. Nisha, S. Kiruba1,
2 and S. Jeeva2, *
Centre in Botany, Scott Christian College, Nagercoil – 629 003, Tamil Nadu,
Centre in Zoology, Scott Christian College, Nagercoil – 629 003, Tamil Nadu,
for Biological Research, Solomons’ Research
Foundation, 2/92 – Kamaraj
Street, East Puthalam,
Puthalam – 629 602, Kanyakumari,
Laboratory, Centre for Advanced Studies in Botany, School of Life Sciences,
North – Eastern Hill University, Shillong – 793
022, Meghalaya, India
S Jeeva <email@example.com>
Issued 15 April 2007
The traditional health care system is quite prevalent in the rural
areas of Kanyakumari district. The present study deals with enumeration of
25 plant species from 25 families, used as traditional medicine by local
indigenous community of the area. The
different parts of the plants are used to cure several kinds of
illnesses. The leaf is predominantly
used, and is followed by roots, tubers, and rhizomes. The indigenous
community prefers these plants as home remedy against fever, leucorrhoea,
rheumatism, headache, indigestion, etc.
Plants play significant role not only in our
economy but also used as traditional medicines. Almost 75% of the medicinally important
plant species grow in wild condition [1-6].
Kanyakumari district of Southern Western Ghats is one of the botanically rich areas of Indian
peninsula. The richness and diversity
of the medicinal flora of this region are largely due to the varied
topography, tropical climate and heavy rainfall [7-10].
The present study was conducted
in Kulasekharam of Kanyakumari
district (8003’ – 8035’N and 77005’ – 77036’E),
which is located in the lap of Western Ghats. This district covers an area of about 1684
sq km, surrounded by three Seas (Gulf of Mannar,
Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea),
southern Western Ghats and
plains of Kerala.
The annual rainfall varies from 89 – 254 cm, and maximum and minimum
temperatures were 240C – 280C in winter and 260C
– 320C in summer respectively.
Moisture content ranges from 65 to 75 % [11-13].
Rural people of the area have
strong relations with their surrounding environment [14,15]. Therefore, the indigenous people have not
forgotten their age-old ethnicity and traditions. Knowledge about medicinal plants, which are
used in their daily life against various ailments, still lies with them. The present investigation highlights the
age-old traditional knowledge about some medicinal plants used by the rural
people of Kulasekharam as have remedy.
During field study, medicinal
plants were screened with the help of traditional medicinal practitioner (TMP)
and rural people, belonging to 'Nadar' communities
mainly through interview. The
medicinal use of plants was ascertained through distributing questionnaire
among the TMP and age-old rural people
actively engaged in ethnomedicinal practices. The plant species were collected and
identified with the help of regional and local floras [16-20], and are
preserved in the Herbarium of Botany Department (SCH),
Results and discussion
Twenty-five plant species belonging to
23 families of angiosperms were enumerated.
Of these, 64% are herbs, 20% shrubs, and 8% climbers and tree species
and Verbenaceae were the most speciose
family represented by two species each, whereas, 21 families were monospecific. Leaf is predominantly used as a remedy for
various ailments among the rural people (9 species), followed by whole plant
(6 species), root (3 species), fruit, seeds and tubers (2 species) and
rhizome. The reported plants are used
to cure 16 kinds of diseases and/or illness.
The medicinal importance of the plant species, family name (in
parentheses), local name and plant parts used in various ailments are listed
in table 1.
Of 25 plant species enumerated during
present study, only 4 species were cultivated and the rest growing in wild
condition and under coconut plantations. Invasion of exotic weeds,
monoculture and over exploitation had resulted in low population of Acorus calamus, Aloe vera, Aristolochia indica, Clerodendrum inerme, Curculigo orchioides,
Cyclea peltata and
In fact, the present study was the
first attempt to explore medicinal plants of Kulasekharam
area. The ethnobotanists
have to pay much attention towards wealth of medicinal plants of this
region. The declining population of
some medicinal plants indicates threat of plant diversity. The conservation status of medicinal plants
should be ascertained to find out the species facing danger. A good amount of data pertaining to
diversity and distribution of medicinally important plants is required to
formulate appropriate conservation strategy for conservation of plant wealth
on sustained basis. Development and introduction of advance plantation
technique, protection of natural regeneration and sustainable utilization
could be the basic tool for conservation of such biological resources.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the
traditional medicinal practitioners and local rural community for extending their
helps during the field study. This
effort is dedicated to a number of contributors belonging to various walks of
life, for transmission of their knowledge on medicinally important plants.
1. Jeeva S, Mishra BP, Venugopal N, Laloo
RC: Sacred forests: Traditional ecological heritage in Meghalaya. Journal
of Scott Research Forum 2005, 1(1):
2. Jeeva S, Anusuya R: Ancient
ecological heritage of Meghalaya. Magnolia 2005, (3): 17-19.
3. Mishra BP, Jeeva S, Laloo RC: Sacred groves
of Meghalaya: a traditional ecological heritage for
in situ conservation of plant
In: International Symposium on
Integrated Management of Plant Diseases, organised
by International Society for Conservation of Nature (ISCON) and Centre for
Advanced Studies (CAS) in Botany, Banaras
Hindu University, Varanasi, India; 2005.
4. Mishra BP, Jeeva S, Laloo RC: Effect of
fragmentation on plant diversity and community characteristics of the sacred
groves of Meghalaya. In:
50th Annual Technical Session of Assam Science Society and
National Conference on Current Trends of Research in Science and Technology,
organised by Gauhati
University, Guwhati, Assam, India; 2005: 107.
5. Jeeva S, Mishra BP, Venugopal N, Kharlukhi L, Laloo RC: Traditional knowledge and biodiversity
conservation in the sacred groves of Meghalaya. Indian
Journal of Traditional Knowledge 2006, 5(4): 563-568.
6. Laloo RC, Kharlukhi L, Jeeva S, Mishra
BP: Status of medicinal plants in the disturbed and the undisturbed
sacred forests of Meghalaya, northeast India:
population structure and regeneration efficacy of some important tree
Current Science 2006, 90(2): 225-232.
7. Jeeva S, Kiruba S, Mishra BP, Kingston C, Venugopal
N, Laloo RC: Importance of weeds as a
traditional medicine in Kanyakumari District,
Southern Western Ghats. Journal of Swamy Botanical Club 2005, 22
8. Jeeva S, Kiruba S, Mishra BP, Venugopal N, Regini GS, Das SSM, Laloo RC: Diversity of medicinally important plant
species under coconut plantation in the coastal region of Cape Comorin. Flora
and Fauna 2005, 11(2): 226-230.
9. Kiruba S, Mishra BP, Israel
Stalin S, Jeeva S, Das SSM: Traditional pest management
practices in Kanyakumari District, Southern
Peninsular India. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge
2006, 5(1): 71-74.
10. Jeeva S, Kiruba S, Mishra BP, Venugopal N, Das SSM, Sukumaran S, Regini GS, Kingston C, Kavitha
A, Raj ADS, Laloo RC: Weeds
of Kanyakumari district and their value in rural
Indian Journal of Traditional
Knowledge 2006, 5(4): 501-509.
11. Kiruba S, Jeeva S, Das SSM: Enumeration of ethnoveterinary plants of Cape Comorin, Tamil Nadu. Indian
Journal of Traditional Knowledge 2006, 5(4): 576-578.
12. Kiruba S, Jeeva S, Venugopal N, Das SSM, Regini GS, Laloo RC, Mishra BP: Ethnomedicinal
herbs of Koonthakulam water bird sanctuary, Nellai, Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Non-Timber Forest Products 2006, 13(1):
13. Prakash JW, Leena Suman L, Vidhya Devi MS, Berin Premila A, Asbin Anderson N, Veni P, Esakki G, Amutha M, Rajeev R, Bensar K, Jeeva S, Christhudhas Williams
B, Regini GS, Das SSM: The
medicinal plant diversity of Scott Christian
College (Autonomous) Campus, Nagercoil, South Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Nature Conservation 2006, 18(1): 81-89.
Kingston C, Jeeva S, Shajini
RS, Febreena G Lyndem,
Jasmine T Sawian, Laloo
RC, Mishra BP: Anti-venom drugs used by
indigenous community in tradition
Journal of Nature Conservation
2006, 18(1): 137-143.
Kingston C, Mishra BP, Nisha
BS, Jeeva S, Livingstone C, Laloo
RC: Diversity and distribution of economically important plants in
traditional homegardens of Kanyakumari
District, Tamil Nadu, Southern Peninsular India. Journal of
Nature Conservation 2006, 18(1):
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The Flora of the Presidency of Madras. Ad Lard and Sons Limited, London; 1935.
Gamble JS, Fischer CEC: Flora of the Presidency of Madras
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Henry AN, Chitra V, Balakrishnan
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India (Series 1:
Vol. 2). Botanical Survey of India, Southern Circle, Coimbatore; 1989.
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The Flora of the Tamil Nadu Carnatic. The Rapinat Herbarium, St. Joseph's College, Thiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, India; 1983.
Matthew KM: The flora of the Palani Hills South
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Table 1. Plants used as traditional medicines.
uses of plant parts used as medicine
Acorus calamus Linn.
Aegle marmelos Linn. Corr.
Aloe vera (Linn.) Burm. f.
Anisomeles malabarica (Linn.) R. Br. ex Sims.
Aristolochia indica Linn.
Carrisa carandas Linn.
Cassytha filiformis Linn.
Clerodendron inerme Gaertn.
Curcuma longa Linn.
Roots are ground
with coconut husk juice and applied near the ear to reduce swellings.
Leaf juice is boiled with
coconut oil and massaged on the head for headache.
Leaf extract is
boiled along with gingili oil and applied against rheumatism.
Leaf juice is given to children
in fever during teeth formation.
Root paste is used as an
antidote against poison.
Leaf extract is mixed with
coconut milk and taken orally as an antidote against poison.
Plant paste is mixed with honey
and taken orally to get relief from leucorrhoea.
Crushed leaves are boiled with
coconut oil and applied on head to cure headache.
Rhizome paste is applied
externally on the face to remove pimples.
Curculigo orchioides Gaertn.
Cyclea peltata (Lam.)
Hook. f. & Thoms.
Cyperus rotundus Linn.
Elephantopus scaber Linn.
Evolvulus alsinoides Linn.
Hemidesmus indicus R. Br.
Lippia nodiflora Rich.
Myristica fragrans Hoult.
Pavonia odorata Willd.
Tuber extract is mixed with cow
milk and used to cure leucorrhoea.
Leaf paste is applied over the
chest to cure chest pain.
Dried tubers are made into
paste, mixed with honey and taken orally to cure leucorrhoea.
Decoction of the root is given
orally against rheumatism.
Whole plant is pounded with cow
milk and taken orally in indigestion.
Leaf juice is used in
Decoction of the whole plant is
given orally to cure leucorrhoea.
Seeds are used as a medicine in
Leaves along with the leaves of
are taken in equal quantity and made into paste using honey and taken
orally against rheumatism.
Polygala javana DC.
Punica granatum Linn.
Ricinus communis Linn.
Sida cordifolia Linn.
Solanum nigrum Linn.
Tribulus terrestris Linn.
Whole plant is pounded with urine
and given orally as an antidote against snakebite.
Young fruits are made into
decoction using goat milk and should be taken orally for diarrhoea.
Seeds are pounded with neem oil and applied externally to cure pimples.
Leaves are chewed to cure
Young fruits are cooked and
eaten to cure cough and abdominal diseases.
Whole plant is medicinal.
Decoction of this plant with Coriandrum sativum is taken orally for heart diseases.