Ethnobotanical Leaflets 10: 189-197. 2006.



Some Phytotherapeutic Claims by Tribals of Rayagada District, Orissa, India


Chiranjibi Pattanaik*, Ch. Sudhakar Reddy, N. K. Dhal¹ and Rashmita Das²


*Forestry and Ecology Division, National Remote Sensing Agency

Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

¹Natural Products Division, Regional Research Laboratory, CSIR, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India

²Department of Botany, Berhampur University, Berhampur, Orissa, India

*Corresponding author Email:


Issued 11 August 2006



The present paper reports with 30 plant species belonging to 23 families, mostly used by the tribal people of Rayagada district, Orissa. The tribal population of the region primarily depends upon these plants for curing various diseases. They are enumerated with binomial, family, habit, local name, parts used and ethnomedicinal uses. Further studies on chemical and pharmacological actions are suggested to validate the claims.

Key Words: Phytotherapeutic claim, Ethnomedicine, Tribes, Herbal healer, Orissa.




Use of plant based drugs and chemicals for curing various ailments and personal adornment is as old as human civilization. In India, the sacred Vedas dating back between 3500 B.C and 800 B.C give many references of medicinal plants. One of the remotest works in traditional herbal medicine is “Virikshayurveda”, compiled even before the beginning of Christian era and formed the basis of medicinal studies in ancient India. “Rig Veda”, one of the oldest Indian literatures written around 2000 B.C. mentions the use of Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum Prel.), Ginger (Zingiber officinale Rose.), Sandalwood (Santalum album L.) etc. not only in religious ceremonies but also in medical preparation (Bentley and Trimen, 1980).

Plants and plant-based medicaments are the basis of many of the modern pharmaceuticals we used today for our various ailments (Abraham, 1981; Atal & Kapur, 1982). At one time, nearly all medicines were derived from biological resources. Even today they remain vital and as much as 67%-70% of modern medicines are derived from natural products (State of the Environment Report, 2001). Nearly 80% of the world populations rely on traditional medicines for primary health care, most of which involve the use of plant extracts (Sandhya et al., 2006). In India, almost 95% of the prescriptions are plant-based in the traditional systems of Unani, Ayurveda, Homoeopathy and Siddha (Satyavati et al., 1987).

Ancient ethnic communities around the world had learnt to utilize their neighbourhood herbal wealth for curative as well as offensive purposes (Subramoniam and Pushpangadan, 1995). Due to lack of literacy, their knowledge on plants developed often at the cost of their dear life through centuries old experience could not be perfectly documented and it had rather descended from one generation to another as a domestic cultural heritage. As the ethnic groups migrated from place to place in search of their livelihood, their folklore knowledge also became fragmented and travelled with them often with ‘additions and deletions’. Their findings in course of time have become basic leads for chemical, pharmacological, clinical and biochemical investigations, which ultimately gave birth to drug discovery. The present paper is an attempt to collect all the information available on ethno-medicinal uses of plants commonly used by different tribes for combating various ailments.


Study area

Rayagada district is situated in southern part of Orissa. Earlier it was a part of Koraput district. It is located between 18° 56' N to 19° 58' N latitude and 82° 53' E to 84° 02' E longitude, the elevation of the area ranges from 700 m to 1300 m. It occupies an area of 7,584.7 sq km. The district has a population of 8,32,019, out of which 4,73,379 are tribals. In other words, the district is predominantly a tribal populated district with 57.52% of tribal population. The physiography of the district gives a perfect platform for the tribals in sustaining their ethno-cultural identity. Tribal people are mostly inhabited the forest area, depend on the forest resources for their livelihood (food, fodder and medicine). Forest area covers an extent of 4785.36 sq. km out of which 777.27 sq. km is reserved forest. The district has been the homeland of various tribal communities with their sub-tribes, who are found in different level of development depending upon their assimilation with the so called mainstream or modern communities. The Kondhas and Souras are the predominant tribes found in the interior forest, where as other sub-tribes like Kotia kondha, Relli, Ghassi, Jhodia, Jatapu and Konda Dora are found in the fringe areas of the forest. The soil type is loamy but in higher elevation the soil is rocky with small to big boulders. The temperature ranges from 15° C during winter and about 35° C- 40° C in summer. The mean annual rainfall is 1516 mm. The bulk of the rain is in the month of August to October, while March to May is the driest months.


Materials and Methodology

A literature survey was carried out on the study area before the field work started (Das and Misra, 1987; Das and Misra, 1988a; Das and Misra, 1988b, Hemadri and Rao, 1989; Hemadri, 1991; Dash, 1994; Das and Misra, 2000). Most of the works were based on taxonomic survey. Very few works were done on ethnobotanical study. The present work is the outcome of extensive survey of different tribal villages of Rayagada district undertaken during 2004-2005 to collect information on the medicinal uses of different plant species. During field work, interviews were conducted with local knowledgeable villagers, the herbal healer called ‘Vaidyas’ (local physicians in Indian System of Medicine), old woman and medicinal plant vendors. Plant specimens were collected and identified with local flora (Saxena and Brahmam, 1996). The medicinal value of each plant was enumerated in the following pattern: a) Binomial, b) Family, c) Habit, d) Local name, e) Parts used and f) Ethnomedicinal uses.


Results and Discussion

The data on medicinal plants, which was collected from local inhabitants in Rayagada district, were analysed. The enumeration and utilization of these plants are described below.


1.  Binomial                              : Aegle marmelos (L.) Corr.

     Family                                 : Rutaceae

     Habit                                   : Tree

     Local name                          : Bela

     Parts Used                          : Stem Bark

     Ethnomedicinal Uses            : For Stomach & Dysentery: The bark is pounded and made into paste with mustard seeds and used for diarrhoea,

  dysentery and other stomach disorders.


2.  Binomial                              : Alangium salvifolium (L.f.) Wang

     Family                                 : Alangiaceae

     Habit                                   : Tree

     Local name                          : Ankul koli

     Parts Used                          : Leaves

     Ethnomedicinal Uses            : For Chronic wounds: The leaves and tender shoots are made into paste with salt and applied to boils.


3.  Binomial                              : Andrographis paniculata (Burm.f.) Wall. ex Nees

     Family                                 : Acanthaceae

     Habit                                   : Herb

     Local name                          : Bhuin nimba

     Parts Used                          : Leaves

     Ethnomedicinal Uses            : For Headache: Leaf paste is applied on the forehead for 2-3 hours to relieve continuous headache.


4.  Binomial                              : Asparagus racemosus Willd.

     Family                                 : Asparagaceae

     Habit                                   : Herb

     Local name                          : Iswar jata

     Parts Used                          : Tuber

     Ethnomedicinal Uses            : For Stomachache: Tuber is made into paste and taken daily twice for three days.


5.  Binomial                              : Barleria cristata L.

     Family                                 : Acanthaceae

     Habit                                   : Herb

     Local name                          : Daskaranda

     Parts Used                          : Root

     Ethnomedicinal Uses            : For Anaemia: A decoction of the root with Barleria strigosa and dry fish is given in anaemia.


6.  Binomial                              : Boerhavia diffusa L.

     Family                                 : Nyctaginaceae

     Habit                                   : Herb

     Local name                          : Atikapudi saga

     Parts Used                          : Root

     Ethnomedicinal Uses            : For Asthma: Root powder mixed with black pepper powder daily once for a fortnight.


7.  Binomial                              : Butea monosperma (Lamk.) Taub.

     Family                                 : Papilionaceae

     Habit                                   : Tree

     Local name                          : Palasa

     Parts Used                          : Seed

     Ethnomedicinal Uses            : For preventing Pregnancy: Seed after removing the seed coats are made into powder and mixed with country liquor and

given for three days after menstruation as medicine to prevent pregnancy.


8.  Binomial                              : Calotropis gigantea R.Br.

     Family                                 : Asclepiadaceae

     Habit                                   : Shrub

     Local name                          : Arakha

     Parts Used                          : Root

     Ethnomedicinal Uses            : For Diarrhoea: Dried root powder is taken orally with cold water to cure diarrhea.


9.  Binomial                              : Cassia fistula L.

     Family                                 : Caesalpiniaceae

     Habit                                   : Tree

     Local name                          : Sunari

     Parts Used                          : Fruit

     Ethnomedicinal Uses            : For Constipation: The fruits are crushed and the paste is taken orally in very small quantity in case of constipation.


10. Binomial                             : Euphorbia hirta L.

      Family                                : Euphorbiaceae

      Habit                                  : Herb

      Local name                         : Jhuntikhuntia

      Parts Used                         : Whole plant

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Cuts: The crushed plant is fried and applied to cuts.


11. Binomial                             : Flacourtia indica (Burm.f) Merr.

      Family                                : Flacourtiaceae

      Habit                                  : Shrub

      Local name                         : Kontai koli

      Parts Used                         : Stem Bark

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Dysentery: The stem bark paste with about two gms mustard seed is heated in earthen pot and given with curd twice

daily for dysentery.


12. Binomial                             : Gymnema sylvestre (Retz.) R.Br.

      Family                                : Asclepiadaceae

      Habit                                  : Climber

      Local name                         : Gudmari

      Parts Used                         : Leaves

      Ethnobotanical Uses           : For Diabetes: Dried leaves are pounded together with Coriander fruit (Coriandrum sativum L.), juice is extracted and

given orally.


13. Binomial                             : Hybanthus enneaspermus (L.f.) F.v. Muell.

      Family                                : Violaceae

      Habit                                  : Herb

      Local name                         : Madan mastaka

      Parts Used                         : Whole plant

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Siphillis and Dysentery: The paste of two to three entire plants with seven black pepper is given once daily for

siphillis and dysentery.


14. Binomial                             : Mallotus philippensis (Lam.) Muell.

      Family                                : Euphorbiaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Sundari

      Parts Used                         : Seed

      Ethnobotanical Uses           : For Constipation: Decoction of seed is taken daily twice before food.


15. Binomial                             : Mimosa pudica L.

      Family                                : Mimosaceae

      Habit                                  : Herb

      Local name                         : Lajakuli lata

      Parts Used                         : Root

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Snake-bite: The root is made into paste in the water collected after washing raw rice and given orally for snake-bites.


16. Binomial                             : Plumbago indica L.

      Family                                : Plumbaginaceae

      Habit                                  : Herb

      Local name                         : Raktachita

      Parts Used                         : Root

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Abortion of Pregnancy: The root is made into paste along with the root of Michelia champaca and given once

  daily in the morning for three days to induce abortion.


17. Binomial                             : Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb.

      Family                                : Papilionaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Piasal

      Parts Used                         : Wood

      Ethnobotanical Uses           : For Diabetes: The wood is kept in water overnight. In the morning the water is taken for cooling effect. This is also

  recommended to cure diabetes.


18. Binomial                             : Rauvolfia serpentina (L.) Benth. ex Kurz

      Family                                : Apocynaceae

      Habit                                  : Shrub

      Local name                         : Patala garuda

      Parts Used                         : Root

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Snake-bite: Paste from root is taken orally in snake-bite.


19. Binomial                             : Schleichera oleosa (Lour.) Oken.

      Family                                : Sapindaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Kusum

      Parts Used                         : Seed

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Eczema: The oil obtained from seed is applied in eczema area.


20. Binomial                             : Shorea robusta Gaertn.f.

      Family                                : Dipterocarpaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Sala

      Parts Used                         : Stem Bark

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Curing Wounds: The powdered bark of the tree is used for treatment of wounds specially those infected and lacerated

ones forming pus.


21. Binomial                             : Soymida febrifuga (Roxb.) A. Juss.

      Family                                : Meliaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Rohini

      Parts Used                         : Stem Bark

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Rheumatism: Paste made from the grinded bark is applied to get relief from muscular and joint pain.


22. Binomial                             : Sterculia urens Roxb.

      Family                                : Sterculiaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Genduli

      Parts Used                         : Gum

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Dysentery: The gum mixed with sugar is administered to patient suffering from dysentery.


23. Binomial                             : Strychnos nux-vomica L.

      Family                                : Loganiaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Kochila

      Parts Used                         : Stem Bark

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Epilepsy: The infusion of bark is given in epilepsy.


24. Binomial                             : Terminalia alata Heyne ex Roth.

      Family                                : Combretaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Asana

      Parts Used                         : Leaves

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Dandruff: Paste made from petiole of the leaf is used against dandruff.


25. Binomial                             : Terminalia bellirica (Gaertn.) Roxb.

      Family                                : Combretaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Bahada

      Parts Used                         : Fruit

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Opthalmia: Fruit decoction along with honey is used to cure opthalmia.


26. Binomial                             : Terminalia chebula Retz.

      Family                                : Combretaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Harida

      Parts Used                         : Fruit

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Cough & Cold: Dried fruit is taken for cough and cold.


27. Binomial                             : Tridax procumbens L.

      Family                                : Asteraceae

      Habit                                  : Herb

      Local name                         : Bishalya karani

      Parts Used                         : Leaves

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Headache and stop Bleeding: Leaf juice is applied externally on injuries to arrest bleeding and a poultice of the

  leaves is applied on the forehead to treat headache.


28. Binomial                             : Woodfordia fruticosa (L.) Kurz

      Family                                : Lythraceae

      Habit                                  : Shrub

      Local name                         : Dhataki

      Parts Used                         : Root

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Gastro-intestinal disorder: Root paste is useful against gastro-intestinal disorder and loose motion of children.


29. Binomial                             : Wrightia tinctoria (Roxb.) R.Br.

      Family                                : Apocynaceae

      Habit                                  : Tree

      Local name                         : Pita karuan

      Parts Used                         : Latex

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Toothache: Milky latex is used as an external application on base of teeth.


30. Binomial                             : Zingiber montanum (Koenig) Dietr.

      Family                                : Zingiberaceae

      Habit                                  : Herb

      Local name                         : Bano ada

      Parts Used                         : Rhizome

      Ethnomedicinal Uses           : For Cholera: The rhizome mixed with black pepper is used in cholera and for extraction of intestinal worms.


The investigations revealed the medicinal plants of 30 species of 28 genera belonging to 23 families. Combretaceae is the dominant family (3 spp.), followed by Apocynaceae, Aanthaceae, Asclepiadaceae, Papilionaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Sterculiaceae, each with two species. The other families contributed with one species. Among all the species, trees are found to be more (15) followed by herbs (10), shrubs (4) and climber (1). The use of plant resources as remedies is probably an ancient as man himself. The aforesaid uses are the ones practiced in day-to-day life of tribals living in forests. The use of the traditional medicine is widespread in this region with higher percentage of the population relying on it. This is because of lack of modern medical facilities available in this region and the expensive Medicare system which these tribal people are unable to afford.



Traditional healthcare practices of indigenous people pertaining to human health are termed as ethnomedicine. Ethnomedicine is the mother of all other systems of medicine. Recently the importance of these traditional medicines has been realized worldwide as some of them proved to be very effective (Marini-Bettolo, 1980) and some other prescriptions of these traditional healers may be of benefit to human kind when thorough scientific analysis is conducted into their properties. The study revealed that whatever knowledge on plants exists with the people of Rayagada district, they are on fast declining because lack of interest of local youth to learn the traditional knowledge from the old herbal healer. The highly interesting findings require further research, while the efficacy of the various indigenous practices will need to be subjected to pharmacological validation. Therefore, greater efforts are required to document traditional knowledge of the local people so as to prepare a comprehensive account of it, which will open new vistas in plant research.



Authors are thankful to Deputy Director (RS & GIS Application Area) and Head, Forestry and Ecology Division, National Remote Sensing Agency for providing logistic support. We acknowledge the help provided by the local villagers during the field work. The help received from colleagues of FED, NRSA and Herbarium section of Regional Research Laboratory, Bhubaneswar are thankfully acknowledged.



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