Survey of Medicinal Plants Used by Ethnic Tribes

Jenn Hoskins
11th May, 2024

Survey of Medicinal Plants Used by Ethnic Tribes

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Mizoram, India, a study documented 102 local medicinal plants used by indigenous communities
  • Researchers found a strong agreement on plants used for treating diabetes and other ailments
  • The study highlights the need to preserve this knowledge for cultural heritage and drug discovery
In the northeastern part of India, the state of Mizoram is home to a wealth of traditional medicinal practices, thanks to its diverse ethnic groups like the Lushai, Mara, and Hmar, among others. These communities have developed a profound understanding of how to use the local flora to combat diseases and adapt to their environment. However, as modernization progresses, there's an urgent need to document and preserve this precious knowledge. This is where a recent study conducted by Mizoram University comes into play[1]. The study aimed to systematically record the ethnomedicinal knowledge of the people in Mizoram. Researchers engaged with 128 informants across 17 villages to gather data on the medicinal plants used by these communities. Through a combination of field observations, group discussions, and semistructured interviews, the team compiled a comprehensive list of plants and their uses. The findings revealed a total of 102 medicinal plant species, primarily sourced from the wild. These plants belong to 95 genera and 58 different families, with trees being the most common type of plant used, followed by herbs and shrubs. Decoction, a method of extraction by boiling, emerged as the predominant form of preparation. A standout aspect of the study was the calculation of various quantitative indices to measure the significance of each plant species within the local medicinal system. The informant consensus factor (ICF) gauged the agreement among informants about the use of plants for treating specific ailments. For instance, diabetes was the condition with the highest ICF value of 0.81, indicating a strong consensus on the plants used to treat it. Other conditions such as cancer, liver problems, and hypertension also showed high ICF values. The fidelity level (FL) was another critical index used to determine how consistently a plant is used for a particular therapeutic purpose. A high FL suggests that a plant is favored for treating a particular ailment over others. The use value (UV) and cultural index (CI) further highlighted the plants' relative importance and cultural significance, respectively. This study not only contributes to the preservation of indigenous knowledge but also lays the groundwork for future pharmacological research. The therapeutic uses documented provide a starting point for scientific exploration that could lead to the development of new drugs. The research aligns with global efforts to safeguard medicinal plant knowledge and promote sustainable use, as discussed in previous studies[2]. It also resonates with the importance of documentation, as seen in similar ethnobotanical research among the Tengger people in Indonesia[3], the Mulam ethnic group in China[4], and communities in Ethiopia[5]. The documentation in Mizoram is particularly crucial, considering that many of these plants are sourced from the wild. This mirrors the situation in Ethiopia, where wild edible plants are integral to the local diet, especially during food shortages[5]. The study in Mizoram also highlights the use of plants for various ailments, akin to the Mulam people's use of plants to treat a wide range of diseases[4]. However, challenges such as deforestation, drought, and agricultural expansion threaten the survival of these valuable plant species in many regions, including Ethiopia[5] and China[4]. This makes the conservation efforts described in the Mizoram study all the more significant. The study strongly advocates for both in situ (on-site) and ex situ (off-site) conservation strategies, echoing the global call for sustainable management of medicinal plant resources[2]. In conclusion, the study from Mizoram University is a critical step in preserving the rich ethnomedicinal practices of the state's indigenous communities. By documenting the local knowledge and highlighting the plants' importance through quantitative indices, the research not only protects cultural heritage but also opens avenues for future scientific discovery. The findings underscore the need for continued efforts to conserve these natural resources, ensuring that traditional knowledge is not lost to the tides of change.

MedicinePlant Science


Main Study

1) Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used by various ethnic tribes of Mizoram, India.

Published 10th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plants: problems, progress, and prospects.

3) An ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants used by the Tengger tribe in Ngadisari village, Indonesia.

4) Ethnobotanical study on medicinal plants used by Mulam people in Guangxi, China.

5) The traditional use of wild edible plants in pastoral and agro-pastoral communities of Mieso District, eastern Ethiopia.

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