Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 171-180. 2008.

 

Ethnomedicinal Plants Used by the Kanikkars of Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu, India to Treat Skin Diseases

 

B. Anitha, V. R. Mohan*, T. Athiperumalsami and S. Suthaa

 

Ethnopharmacology unit, Research Department of Botany, V. O. Chidambaram College, Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, India.

aGovernment Siddha Medical College, Palayamkottai, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, India.

*e-mail: vrmohan_2005@yahoo.com

 

Issued 16 March 2008

 

Abstract

This study has been carried out in Chinnamayilaru, Periyamyilaru, region of Agasthiyamalai biosphere, Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu. The dominant tribal group of this region is Kanikkar. The area is famous for its well protected Tiger Reserve (Kalakad-Mundandurai Tiger Reserve). The wild plants found in this region that are used especially for treating skin diseases are enumerated in the present paper. The full results of this study are organized in table form and include the species botanical name, followed by the family and local (Kanikkar) name and a brief note on the plant parts used, method of administration, dosages etc.

Key words: Ethnomedicine, skin diseases, Kanikkar, India.

 

Introduction

WHO has estimated that at least 80% of all the global inhabitants rely on traditional systems of medicine for their primary health needs and these systems are largely plant based. Ethnomedicines have received renewed global attention of scientists in India and abroad because of their wide local acceptability, and providing leads to the discovery of new drugs of plant origin. Ethnobiological surveys indicated that about 8000 species of medicinal plants are used as food, medicine, phytochemical, biocides and other products.

               Ethnobotanists, all over the world, have been actively working to collect, document and conserve the indigenous medicinal plants. In the last two decades, many reports on medicinal plants have been published from the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, North eastern hill states and Orissa, owing to the large tribal populations of the regions (Patil and Bhaskar, 2006).

The Kanikkars are predominant hill tribes of Agasthiyamalai biosphere, Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu. The members of this community are familiar with several herbs and well versed in using the various herbs to cure various ailments. Their reliance on the herbs for medicinal value has prompted the present study. Herein an attempt is made to enumerate the medicinal plants used by the Kanikkars as remedies for skin diseases.

Methodology

With the primary objective of interesting the Kanikkar tribals living in the Agasthiyamalai biosphere, Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu, settlements like Periyamayilaru and Chinnamayilaru were surveyed and the traditional medicines used for various skin diseases were gathered with the help of elderly and experienced individuals practicing indigenous medicines. Information was considered only after confirmation through two or more informants. Based on the information provided by tribals, plant specimens were collected, air-dried and mounted on herbarium sheets and identified by using various floras (Gamble, 1935; Mathew, 1983). Voucher specimens are maintained at the P.G. & Research Department of Botany, V. O. Chidambaram College, Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu (VOCBNO from 3700 to 3758). Confirmation of the identifications was made through the comparison of the specimens with those housed in the herbarium of the Botanical Survey of India (RBI), Southern Circle, Coimbatore, India.

Plants in Table 1 are arranged alphabetical in order of their botanical names, followed by the family and local (Kanikkars) name and a brief  note on the plant parts used, mode of administration, dosages etc.

 

Table 1.  List of ethnomedicinal plants collected and documented for skin diseases.

SI. No

Botanical Name

Family

Vernacular name

Habit

Plant part(s) used

1

Abrus precatorius L.

Fabaceae

Kundumani

Climber

Root

2

Abutilon indicum (L.) Sweet

Malvaceae

Tutti

Shrub

Leaves

3

Acalypha indica L.

Euphorbiaceae

Kuppaimeni

Erect herb

Leaves

4

Aegle marmelos (L.) Correa

Rutaceae

Vilvam

Thorny tree

Leaves

5

Aerva lanata (L.) Juss.ex Schultes

Amaranthaceae

Kannupeelai

Shrub

Whole plant

6

Amaranthus spinosus L.

Amaranthaceae

Mullukkirai

Herb

Inflorescence

7

Andrographis paniculata (Burm.f.) Wall.ex Nees

Acanthaceae

Nila Vembu, kiriuatlhi

Herb

Leaves

8

Andrographis rothii Clarke

Acanthaceae

kaya patchilai

Herb

Epidermal peel of stem

9

Argemone mexicana L.

Papavaraceae

Ponnumathai

Herb

Leaves

10

Aristolochia indica L.

Aristolochiaceae

Thalaisurulivaer

Erect herb

Vegetative part

11

Asparagus racemosus Willd

Asparagaceae

Thanneervittan kizhangu

Climber

Root-tuber & root.

12

Azadirachta indica A.Juss

Meliaceae

Veppu

Tree

Leaves & seed oil

13

Begonia malabarica Lam.

Begoniaceae

Malaipulichi

Herb

Leaves

14

Boerhavia diffusa L.

Nyctiginaceae

Vethalamai

Herb

Leaves

15

Calotropis gigantea (L.) R.Br.

Asclepiadaceae

Erukku

Shrub

Leaves & latex

16

Canthium parviflorum Lam.

Rubiaceae

Kattikarai

Thorny shrub

Leaves

17

Cassia alata L.

Caesalpiniaceae

Yanaithavarai

Shrub

Leaves

18

Cassia fistula L.

Caesalpiniaceae

Konnei

Medium sized tree

Leaves

19

Cassia tora L.

Caesalpiniaceae

Tagarai

Herb

Root

20

Cissampelos pareira L.var hirsuta (Buch-Ham. ex DC )Forman

Menispermaceae

Malaithanki pachilai

Climber

Whole plant

21

Clerodendrum inerme (L.) Gaertn

Verbenaceae

Changukuppi

Shrub

Leaves

22

Clitoria ternatea  L.

Fabaceae

Shangupuspam

Climber

Root & Leaves.

23

Commelina benghalensis L.

Commelinaceae

Valaipachai

Herb

Leaves

24

Curculigo orchioides Gaertn.

Hypoxidaceae

Nilapanai

Herb

Tuber

25

Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.

Poaceae

Arugampullu

Herb

Fresh leaves

26

Datura metel L.

Solanaceae

Yumattai

Herb

Leaves

27

Eclipta prostrata (L) L.

Asteraceae

Karisalankanni

Herb

Leaves

28

Elephantopus scaber L.

Asteraceae

Yanaichavattadi

Herb

Leaves & Rhizome

29

Erythrina variegata L.

Fabaceae

Mullumurukku

Tree

Leaves

30

Evolvulus alsinoides (L.) L

Convolvulaceae

Vishnukarandi

Herb

Whole plant

31

Ficus benghalensis L. var. benghalensis

Moraceae

Aal

Tree

Stem Latex

32

Ficus racemosa L.f

Moraceae

Atthi

Tree

Stem Latex

33

Ficus religiosa L.

Moraceae

Arasu

Tree

Stem Latex

34

Hemidesmus indicus (L.) R.Br. var. indicus

Periplocaceae

Nannari

Climber

Root

35

Hiptage bengalensis (L.) Kurz.

Malpighiaceae

Mattavirkodi

Shrub

Leaves & flowers

36

Indigofera tinctoria L.

Fabaceae

Vannan avuri

Shrub

Whole plant

37

Ipomoea staphylina Roem. & Schultes

convolvulaceae

Onaankodi

Climber

Stem latex

38

Ixora coccinea L.

Rubiaceae

Idlipoo

Shrub

Flower

39

Jatropha curcas L.

Euphorbiaceae

Kaatamanakku

Shrub

Leaves

40

Justicia adhatoda L.

Acanthaceae

Adhathodai

Shrub

Leaves

41

Leucas aspera (Willd) Link

Lamiaceae

Thumbai

Herb

Flower, Leaves

42

Mimosa pudica L.

Mimosaceae

Thottasurungi

Herb

Root, Leaves

43

Mirabilis jalapa L.

Nyctaginaceae

Anthimantharai

Herb

Tuber

44

Mollugo pentaphylla L.

Molluginaceae

Pappadai

Herb

Whole plant

45

Morinda pubescens J.E.Smith var. pubescens

Rubiaceae

Manjanatti

Tree

Fresh leaves

46

Mukia maderaspatana (L.) M. Roem

Cucurbitaceae

Kattuvellari

Climber

Leaves.

47

Ocimum tenuiflorum L.

Lamiaceae

Tulsi

Herb

Fresh leaves

48

Phyllanthus emblica L.

Euphorbiaceae

Nellikai

Tree

Fruits

49

Piper nigrum L.

Piperaceae

Nallamilagu

Climber

Leaves

50

Plumbago zeylanica L.

Plumbaginaceae

Venkodivete

Woody herbs

Leaves

51

Pongamia pinnata (L) Pierre.

Fabaceae

Pongan

Tree

Bark

52

Rubia cordifolia L.

Rubiaceae

Koduvilli

Climbing herb

Root

53

Saraca asoca (Roxb)Wilde

Caesalpinaceae

Asokam

Tree

Flower

54

Tephrosia purpurea (L.)pers.

Fabaceae

Kolingi

Undershrub

Whole plant

55

Tribulus terrestris L.

Zygophyllaceae

Sirunerinji

Herb

Fruits

56

Trichopus zeylanicus

Gaertn.subsp.travancoricus

Dioscoriaceae

Arokyapachilai

Herb

Leaves

57

Tridax procumbens L.

Asteraceae

Mookutthielai

Herb

Fresh leaves

58

Vernonia cinerea (L.) Less

Asteraeae

Kucharipoo

Herb

Leaves

59

Wrightia tinctoria (Roxb.)R.Br.

Apocynaceae

Vetpalai

Tree

Leaves

 

Enumeration

 Abrus precatorius  L.

   The paste prepared from ten grams of root with water is applied externally two times a day for a period of one week to treat dandruff.

Abutilon indicum (L.) Sweet

   A handful of the fresh leaves made into a paste with water is externally applied on the skin thrice a day to treat the ringworm infection.

Acalypha indica L.

   The paste prepared from ten grams of leaves with water is applied externally two times a day for a period of one week to treat skin diseases.

Aegle marmelos (L.) Correa.

   Five to ten grams of leaves are made into paste with a few drops of water. This paste is applied externally on the affected skin twice a day for a period of two to three days to get relief from itches.

Aerva lanata (L.) Juss. ex Schultes

   The juice prepared from ten to fifteen grams of whole plant with 150ml of water is taken orally three times a day for a period of two days to reduce eczema.

Amaranthus spinosus L.

   The past obtained by grinding twenty grams of the inflorescence is applied on the affected area externally, twice a day for one week to get relief from eczema and other skin diseases.

Andrographis paniculata (Burm.f.) Wall. ex Nees

   Ten grams of the fresh leaves made into a paste with water is externally applied twice a day to treat leprosy, scabies and the ringworm infection.

Andrographis rothii Clarke

   About fifty grams of fresh epidermal peel of the stem is made into paste with a small quantity of water.  This paste is applied externally on the weapon injuries twice a day for five to six days for healing.

Argemone mexicana L

   About ten grams of the leaf paste is externally applied once a day to treat the ringworm infection. The clean leaf paste mixed with limewater is applied twice a day on the wounds for healing.

Aristolochia indica L.

   The paste prepared from twenty five grams of vegetative part with water is applied externally once in a day for a period of one week to treat dandruff.

Asparagus racemosus Willd

   The powder prepared from twenty grams of root tuber and roots of this plant is taken orally with 150ml of goat’s milk (or) rice fermented water three times a day for a period of two days to treat lumbago and leucorrhoea.

Azadirachta indica A. Juss

   Handful of the leaf paste mixed with the powdered dried rhizome of Curcuma longa is externally applied once a day to treat all kinds of skin infection, small pox and chicken pox. The oil extracted from the seeds is externally applied twice a day to treat eczema.

Begonia malabarica Lam.

   About ten grams of the leaf paste is externally applied twice a day to treat the ringworm infection.

Boerhavia diffusa L.

   A handful of leaves are boiled in coconut oil and the oil extract is externally applied twice a day to treat scabies and the ringworm infection.

Calotropis gigntea (L.) R. Br.

   About 10ml of the latex along with rhizomes of Curcuma longa and roots of Aristolochia indica are boiled in coconut oil and the oil extract is externally applied thrice a day to treat eczema.

Canthium parviflorum Lam.

               Handful of the leaf paste is externally applied twice a day to treat scabies and the ringworm infection.

Cassia alata L.

   Ten grams of the fresh leaf paste is applied twice a day to treat the ringworm infection.

 Cassia fistula L.

    The paste prepared from ten grams of leaves with water is applied externally three times a day for a period of three days to treat any injuries.

Cassia tora L.

   The juice prepared from ten to fifteen grams of root with 150ml of water is taken orally in empty stomach for a period of two days in a singly dose to get relief from skin diseases.

Cissampelos pareira L.var. hirsute (Buch-Ham. ex DC) Forman

   Handful of the whole plant paste is externally applied on the skin daily in the morning hours for a week to treat the ringworm infection.

Clerodendrum inerme (L.) Gaertn

   The leaf paste is externally applied once a day for a week to treat psoriasis, scabies and the ringworm infection.

Clitoria ternatea L.

   Handful of leaves made into a paste is externally applied a day to treat skin inflammation, scabies and the ringworm infection.

Commelina benghalensis L.

   The leaf paste is externally applied twice a day to treat scabies. The leaf paste is also applied on the wounds once a day for healing.

Curculigo orchioides Gaertn.

   About ten grams of the fresh or dried root tuber paste is externally applied twice a day to treat the ringworm infection

Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers

   The juice prepared from ten to fifteen grams of fresh leaves with 200ml of low’s milk is taken orally twice a day for a period of three days to treat leucorrhoea.

Datura metel L.

   The leaves are gently heated on flame and applied on the face once in a day for a week to treat pimples.

Eclipta prostrata (L.) L.

   Leaves along with the seeds of Foeniculum vulgare are boiled in coconut oil and the oil extract is applied on the head daily in the morning hours for a week to treat dandruff. The leaf paste is used to treat the ringworm infection.

Elephantopus scaber L.

   Ten grams of the leaf and rhizome paste are externally applied twice a day for a week to treat the ringworm infection.

Erythrina variegata L.

   Ten grams of the fresh leaf paste is externally applied once a day to treat leprosy.

Evolvulus alsinoides (L.) L.

   The juice prepared from twenty grams of whole plant with 150ml of goat’s milk is taken orally three times a day for a period of three days to reduce body heat and to treat lumbago.

Ficus benghalensis L. var. benghalensis

   The stem latex is applied on the cracked feet (fissures in foot) twice a day for a week for healing the cracks in the feet.

Ficus racemosa L.f.

   The stem latex is applied on the cracked feet twice a day for a week for healing the affected feet.

Ficus religiosa L.

   Applying the stem latex twice a day for a week can heal the fissures in the foot.

Hemidesmus indicus (L) R.Br. var. indicus

   Handful of the dried roots are pounded and boiled in 100 ml of coconut oil. Few drops of the oil extract are externally applied twice a day to treat eczema, scabies and the ringworm infection.

Hiptage bengalensis (L.) Kurz.

   Twenty grams of leaves and flowers made into a paste with water is externally applied twice a day to treat the ringworm infection.

Indigofera tinctoria L.

   The juice prepared from 10g of whole plant with 200ml of Goat’s milk is taken orally three times for a period three days to treat leucorrhoea.

Ipomoea staphylina Roem. & Schultes

   The stem latex is applied on to the cracked feet (fissures in foot) once in a day at bedtime for a week for healing the cracks.

Ixora coccinea L.

   Fifty grams of the dried flowers are boiled in coconut oil and the oil extract is externally applied twice a day to treat eczema.

Jatropha curcas L.

   Ten grams of the leaf paste is externally applied twice a day to treat eczema, scabies and the ringworm infection.

Justicia adhatoda L.

   Ten grams of the fresh leaves made into a paste is externally applied twice a day for a week to treat scabies and the ringworm infection.

Leucas aspera (Willd.) Link.

   Ten grams of the leaf paste is externally applied twice a day to treat the ringworm infection.

Mimosa pudica L.

   Ten grams of the leaf paste is externally applied thrice a day to treat eczema. A handful of the entire plant made into a paste is applied on cuts and wounds for healing.

Mirabilis jalapa L.

   Ten grams of dried root tuber made into a paste with water is externally applied twice a day to treat the sebaceous cysts and polyps.

Mollugu pentaphylla L.

   Twenty grams of the entire fresh plant is made into paste with equal quantity of fresh Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) and Poolankilangu (Plectranthus barbatus Andr.) The paste is applied externally on the body an hour before bath. This practice is followed for ten to fourteen days to get relief from eczema and bad body odour.

Morinda pubescens J.E. Smith var. pubescens

   Ten grams of fresh leaves, two to three small Onion bulbs (Allium cepa L.) and one teaspoon of Turmeric powder (Curcuma longa L.) are made into paste. This paste is heated in five to ten ml of coconut oil and the hot paste is applied on the injury caused by weapons once in a day for four to five days to heal the wounds.

Mukia maderaspatana (L.) M. Roem

   Ten grams of the leaf paste is externally applied twice a day to treat scabies and the ringworm infection.

Ocimum tenuiflorum L.

   Twenty to thirty grams of fresh leaves are made into paste. This paste is applied on the wound twice a day for a period of four to five days to heal the wound.

Phyllanthus emblica L.

   Fifty grams of the dried cotyledons are boiled in coconut oil and the oil extract is externally applied thrice a day to treat scabies.

Piper nigrum L.

   Ten grams of the leaf paste is externally applied twice a day to treat the ringworm infection.

Plumbago Zeylanica L.

   About ten grams of leaves made into paste is externally applied twice a day to treat eczema, scabies and the ringworm infection.

Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre

   Hundred grams of the dried bark powder is boiled in 200ml coconut oil and the oil extract is externally applied once a day to treat eczema, psoriasis, rashes, scabies and the ringworm infection.

Rubia Cordifolia L.

   Twenty grams of fresh and clean root or twenty grams of fresh tender shoot is made into paste. This paste is applied externally on to weapon injury twice a day for five to six days for healing the injury.

Saraca asoca (Roxb.) Wilde

   Fifty grams of the dried flowers and the leaves of Lawsonia inermis are boiled in coconut oil and the extract is externally applied twice a day to treat eczema and scabies.

Tephrosia pupurea (L.) pers

   The paste of about ten grams of whole plant is applied externally once or twice for three days to treat any injuries.

Tribulus terrestris L.

   The juice prepared from ten grams of fruits with 200ml of goat’s milk is taken orally two times a day for a period of three days to treat leucorrhoea.

Trichopus zeylanicus Gaertn. subsp. travancoricus

   Ten grams of the fresh leaves are ground into a paste and externally applied twice a day to treat scabies and the ringworm infection. 

Tridax procumbens L.

   Ten grams of fresh leaves are made into paste along with a pinch of calcium hydroxide. This paste is externally applied on the eczema affected area (or) on injury made by weapon once in a day for three or four days for complete cure.

Vernonia cinerea (L.) Less

   Handful of leaves are pounded and boiled in coconut oil. The oil extract is externally applied thrice a day to treat leprosy and scabies.

Wrightia tinctoria (Roxb.) R. Br.

   Hundred grams of leaves are pounded and boiled in 200ml of coconut oil. The red coloured oil is externally applied thrice a day to treat eczema and scabies. The bark paste is used to treat various skin infections.  

 

Discussion

 

               The tribals’ knowledge of indigenous uses of native medicinal plants before exodus into the urban areas to join the mainstream life needs to be studied and documented.  In the present study 59 medicinal plants were collected and documented.  The present study focuses the extensive usage of as many as 59 medicinal plants used by the Kanikkars tribe inhabiting the South – Eastern slope of Western Ghats, Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu to treat skin diseases.

               As an outcome of the present investigation, 59 plants belonging to 54 genera and 35 families were recorded.  Of the recorded plants, 54 were Dicotyledons and 5 belonged to the Monocotyledons.  A total of 6 ethnomedicinal plants belonged to the Fabaceae.  This was followed by the Rubiaceae, Asteraceae and Caesalpiniaceae (4 plant species each).

               As far as plant parts are concerned, the Kanikkars employed almost all parts of the plant in ethnomedicine.  In terms of percentage of plant parts used, the percentages are as follows, leaf 58%, root 12%, whole plant 10%, stem latex 8%, flower 7% and root tuber 5%.

               The most prevalent forms of administration of medicine are paste (63%).  This is followed by decoctions (17%), juice (10%) and stem latex (two plants).

               The enumerated 59 plants treat/cure as many as 18 different types of skin diseases.  A maximum of 22 plants are use to treat ringworm infection, followed by 12 plants for scabies and eczema, respectively; five plants for injuries, four plants each for leucorrhoea, cracked foot and wounds, respectively.  One plant each for treating inflammation, itches, pimples, rashes and sebaceous cysts and polyps. Some researches have reported 13 plants for the treatment of skin diseases (Sharma Laxmikant et al., 2003).  Among them some of the species are also used to treat hair disorders.  Some workers have also reported 24 important plants, which are commonly used by the tribals in the Sub-Himalayan   Tarai Region of Uttarpradesh for the treatment of skin diseases (Ali and singh, 2002). Ayyanar and Ignacimuthu (2005) have reported 15 plants for the treatment of skin diseases.

From this account it is clear that the Kanikkar tribes, like other ancient tribals (Raja Singh, 1971), possess the ability to discern the character of various plants and their beneficial properties.  It is interesting to note that such a way of life, particularly with respect to health care practices, has hardly undergone any change even in the present era. The present study shows that the people of the Tirunelveli district have a great diversity of medicinal plants with rich ethnomedicinal uses, and especially for treating skin diseases.

 

References

Ali, Z.A and Singh, K. 2002. Plants used for the treatment of skin diseases in the sub-Himalayan Tarai Region of Uttar Pradesh, India. Recent Progress in Medicinal plants: Ethnomedicine and Pharmacognosy, (SCI Tech Publishing LLC, Houston, Texas, (USA) pp. 55-62.

Ayyanar, M. and Ignacimuthu, S. 2005. Medicinal plants used by the tribals of Tirunelveli hills, Tamil Nadu to treat poisonous bits and skin diseases. Indian J. Trad. Knowl. 4: 229-236.

Gamble, J. S. 1983. The flora of the presidency of Madras, Allard & son, Ltd, London.

Mathew, K. W. 1935. The Flora of Tamil Nadu Carnatic, The Rapinant Herbarium, St. Josephs College, Tiruchirapalli, India.

Patil, H.M and Bhaskar, V.V. 2005. Medicinal knowledge system of tribals of Nandurbar district, Maharastra, Indian J. Trad. Knowl. 5: 327-330.

Rajasingh, G.J. 1971. Forest working plan for the Tirunelveli North Division, Government of Madras Publication, Madras, pp. 127-133.

Sharma Laxmikant, Gaurav, A. and Ashwini, K. 2003. Medicinal plants for skin and hair care. Indian J. Trad. Knowl. 2: 62-68.