The term folk medicine refers to healing practices and ideas of body physiology and health preservation known to a limited segment of the population in a culture, transmitted informally as general knowledge, and practiced or applied by anyone in the culture having prior experience.
There is worldwide interest in folklore uses of medicinal plants which leads to new sources of drugs. The Study of folk medicine falls within the discipline of ethno botany which is only about four decades old in India. There is vast data available on medicinal plants of India, not only in ancient literature like the Vedas, Samhitas, the Nighatus and the Puranas but also it is available in tribal oral tradition. Folklore medicine is here taken to mean knowledge and practice that have survived through only traditions in certain human societies, particularly among the primitive and rural societies.
The medicinal plants described in the following pages should be evaluated through work on pharmacognosy, phytochemestry, pharmacology, toxicity and clinical research for leads in development of new drugs.
The limitations and side effects of modern medicine enforces us to accept and appreciate the utility of folk medicine in present era. The details of folk uses of selected Indian medicinal plants are given as below:
Khadir (Acacia catechu) Mimosaceae
- Kols of Uttar Pradesh use its leaves for blood dysentery.
Aralu(Ailanthus excelsa) Simaroubaceae
- Inhabitants of Saurastra district in Gujrat use its leaves for rheumatism.
Swarnakshiri(Argemone mexicana) Papaveraceae
- Korku tribes of Akola district in Maharashtra use its roots for piles. Roots are burnt and fermentation is done.
- Bhils dhanka, dubada and nayaka tribes in north Gujrat use the leaf juice for syphilis.
Kanchanar(Bauhinia veregata) Caesalpineaceae
- Inhabitants of Garhwal Himalaya use its bark for malaria.
Daruharidra(Berberis asiatica) Berberidaceae
- Inhabitants of Assam use its roots for the treatement of bleeding piles.
- Johari tribes of UP use its bark for jaundice and ear ache.
Punarnava (Boerrhavia diffesa) Nyctaginaceae
- Inhabitants of Garhwal Himalaya use its roots for piles.
- Bhils of Jhabua district in MP use its roots paste to cure blood dysentery.
Palash (Butea monosprama) Leguminosae
- Andh, Bhil , Gond ,Halba, Korku and Malhar tribes of Khandala region in Maharashtra State use its flower for urinary complaints.
Ark (Calotropis gigantea) Asclepiadaceae
- Bhil, agari, dhodia, dubla, khakari and reikare tribes of Dahanu forest in Maharashtra State use its root extract to kill guinea worms.
Chakramarda (Cassia tora) Caesalpiniaceae
- Bhoxa of Bijnor distrct in UP eat the young leaves for rheumatic pain.
Patha (Cissampelos pareira) Menispermaceae
- Local people of Assam use its leaves for jaundice.
- Kol, kondh and saora tribes of Orrisa use its root paste for leprosy
Aparajita(Clitoria ternatia) Fabaceae
- Inhabitants of Dhasan valley in Bundelkhand region of UP apply the powdered root externally for the treatment of goitre and leprosy.
Amragandhi haridra (Curcuma aromatica) Zingiberaceae
- Khasi and gan tribes of Meghalaya use internally its rhizome paste with water to kill intestinal worms.
Amarwel (Cuscuta reflexa) Cuscutaceae
- Thams of Kheri district of UP use the paste of plant for treatment of swelling of testicles.
- It is also used to check fall of hair.
Dhatura (Datura metal) Solanaceae
- Inhabitants of Rajastan and West Bengal use Dhatura for leprosy.
Ashwatha (Ficus religiosa) Moraceae
- Rabha tribes of West Bengal use its bark for haematuria.
- Inhabitants of J&K give the extract of its bark to relieve whooping cough.
1. Rastogi R.P. & B.N. Mehrotra 1991.Compendium of Indian Midicinal Plants Vol.1. (1960-1969) CDRI & CSIR.
2. Anonymous 1948-76. Wealth of India Vol.1-11(CSR), New Delhi.
3. S.K. Jain, B.K. Sinha & R.C. Gupta1991. Notable Plants in Ethno Medicine of India. Deep Publications, New Delhi.