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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 50-61

Documentation of ethno-medico-botanical claims of Rabha tribe, Ri-Bhoi district, Meghalaya


1 Survey of Medicinal Plants Unit, Regional Ayurveda Research Institute, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, India
2 Survey of Medicinal Plants Unit, Central Ayurveda Research Institute, Guwahati, Assam, India
3 Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences, New Delhi, Delhi, India

Date of Submission20-Jul-2021
Date of Acceptance03-Sep-2021
Date of Web Publication14-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Shiddamallayya Nagayya
Survey of Medicinal Plants Unit, Regional Ayurveda Research Institute, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh.
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jdras.jdras_7_21

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  Abstract 

AIM: The present survey work aims to explore and document the traditional healing practices of medicinal plants that have been used by the Rabha tribe of Ri-Bhoi district, Meghalaya, India. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The medico-ethno-botanical survey was carried out in densely populated areas of the Rabha tribe in Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya. The documentation was carried out according to the standard Local Health Traditions format developed by the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences. Traditional knowledge of this tribe was documented through conducting personal interviews of local health practitioners during 2017–2019 along with these digital photographs of medicinal plants were also recorded. RESULTS: In the present study, a total of 17 types of disorders were treated using 28 types of medicinal plants that belong to 27 types of families. It is also found that for the treatment, herbs were mostly used among the life form of the plant (18), followed by leaves among the plant parts (28%), paste among the form of the drug (27%), and oral administration (47%) among the intake of the drug. The documented 28 medicinal plants were cross-checked with published ayurvedic classical text and other related literatures; ethnobotanical data of 12 medicinal plants were matched. CONCLUSION: The present study revealed that the preparation of medicine and mode of treatment practiced by the Rabha tribe is unique and required an urgent prerequisite for the documentation of imperiling knowledge of this tribe all over the state.

Keywords: MEB survey, medicinal plants, Meghalaya, Rabha tribe, Ri-Bhoi district, traditional knowledge


How to cite this article:
Nagayya S, Bora D, Yugandhar P, Srinivasulu C, Yashpal B, Tripathi AK, Bandi V, Rath C, Mangal AK, Srikanth N. Documentation of ethno-medico-botanical claims of Rabha tribe, Ri-Bhoi district, Meghalaya. J Drug Res Ayurvedic Sci 2021;6:50-61

How to cite this URL:
Nagayya S, Bora D, Yugandhar P, Srinivasulu C, Yashpal B, Tripathi AK, Bandi V, Rath C, Mangal AK, Srikanth N. Documentation of ethno-medico-botanical claims of Rabha tribe, Ri-Bhoi district, Meghalaya. J Drug Res Ayurvedic Sci [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 15];6:50-61. Available from: http://www.jdrasccras.com/text.asp?2021/6/1/50/332502




  Introduction Top


Medicinal plants are immensely contributing to leading a healthy life of humankind. The usage of these plants by humans has been increasing tremendously day to day due to the presence of significant bioactive principles. Nearly 30,000 plants have significant medicinal importance worldwide and among them, 15,000 plants are serving as natural repositories of ponderous phytochemical compounds. However, India itself has 17,000–18,000 medicinal plants, among them 6,000–7,000 plants act as a focal resource for natural compounds.[1] Most of these naturally available compounds served as therapeutic drugs to cure different types of diseases.[2] They play a pivotal role in disease treatment and safeguarding the sustainable health management of humankind. Consequently, isolation of active principles from the medicinal plants is the utmost leading research today and the discovery of significant molecules from the botanical origin is a multifaceted perspective.[3] Mostly 80% of the developing countries still chiefly rely on plant-based drugs,[4] and 25% of modern pharmacopeia drugs were derived from medicinal plants and synthetic analogs were manufactured according to the prototypes of plant-based drugs.[5] The first and foremost thing of isolation of any principle compound from any medicinal plant is that the researchers depend on traditional folklore documentation of medicinal plants. So, the documentation of medicinal knowledge of plants is the main base for the extraction and isolation of bioactive principles.

The studies on folklore knowledge of indigenous communities on surrounding medicinal plants, preparation of medicine, and their applicability to cure different types of ailments are called ethnobotany. However, the research on meticulous documentation of medicinal plants and their uses is commonly defined as medico-ethno-botanical survey (MEBS). The documentation of traditional folklore knowledge is an intricate or convoluted process, and most of these sublimate data were concealed with tribes who are inhabited in remote forest areas.[6] It is evident that Indian tribes have stupendous knowledge of medicinal plants and use them to cure common cold to a number of degenerative disorders. They are distributed from the Himalayan mountains to coastal plains and a number of medicinal plants are used for their daily ailments. Indian forests are considered as the rich repositories of medicinal and aromatic plants.[7] There are about 25,000 ethno-medico-botanical formulations documented in the indigenous text and about 10,000 formulations were considered as the most effective for practice. Even though allopathy is well developed, the folklore formulations still remain a major source for the isolation of effective active principles.[1] Consequently, many of the phytochemical compounds were extracted and isolated recently from the medicinal plants, namely, resveratrol from roots of Senna italica Mill.,[8] chlorogenic and ferulic acids from Xanthium strumarium L.,[9] piceatannol from the roots of Sophora interrupta Bedd.,[10] chrysosplenol D from the whole plant of Sphaeranthus amaranthoides Burm.f.,[11] rosmarinic acid from the stem bark of Adenium obesum (Forssk.) Roem. and Schult.,[12] 3,3′,4′, 5, 7-pentahydroxyflavane and 4-methoxylstigmasterol from the leaves of Dodonaea viscosa (L.) Jacq.,[13] fraxetin, gallic acid, methyl gallate, and tomentin from the stem bark of Jatropha podagrica Hook.,[14] 4-ethylheptyl benzoate from the roots of Rumex nervosus Vahl,[15] and β-sitosterol from the leaves of Parinari curatellifolia Planch. ex Benth.[16]

Coming to the Rabha tribe, an indigenous Indo-Mongoloid community distributed mostly in Assam. Partly, they are also residing in adjoining states like West Bengal and Meghalaya of India and some places of Bangladesh. This tribe generates their source of income mainly from agriculture, sale of forest products, and weaving of cloths.[17] The Rabha tribe residing in Assam and West Bengal speaks Assamese and Bengali languages, whereas the people who are inhabiting forest villages speak Rabha language. Previously, they practiced shift cultivation and hunting of animals as the main source of occupation, but now they are shifted to settled cultivation. The women of this tribe practice weaving of cloths as the main occupation. This tribe has sound knowledge of treatment of different types of ailments. It may be due to their life in hilly areas away from urban cities and they can cure various ailments with their own traditional medicine approach under mandatory conditions. The use of traditional medicine is not new to them, it has been practicing since ancient times, and is made possible by the transmission of sensitive information from generation to generation. The earlier documentation of ethnomedicinal data of the Rabha tribe so far gives a niche position in the field of ethnomedicine. Among them, the most notable studies are the documentation of indigenous medicinal knowledge of the Rabha tribe of North-Kamrup,[18] Chirang,[19] Kamrup,[20],[21] Baksa,[22] Bongaigaon,[23] and Goalpara[24] districts of Assam state. Traditional knowledge on medicinal plants used for diabetes, respiratory disorders, joint diseases, skin diseases, and bone setting practices was documented for the Rabha tribe of the entire Assam state.[25],[26],[27],[28],[29] Only a few documentation studies were found from West Bengal like ethnomedicinal knowledge of the Rabha tribe of Malda and Coochbehar districts.[30],[31] But, there are no such types of ethno-medico-botanical studies that are still documented from the Meghalaya state. Hence, the present study was intended to document the exquisite knowledge of the Rabha tribe of Ri-Bhoi district, Meghalaya, India.


  Materials and Methods Top


Study area

Umsaw, Jirang, Habis Inghi Diwon, Andreas Hansen Kharpadi, and Lumpata (Umden PO) villages of Umling Beat, Nongpoh Forest Range, Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya were selected for the documentation of local health treatments (LHT) of the Rabha tribe. Ri-Bhoi was declared as a new district with Nongpohas headquarter in 1992 by upgrading it from subdivision to full district by dividing the East Khasi hills. Geographically, it is situated in 25°52′8.7924″ N latitude, 91°52′38.5284″ E longitude and covered an area of 2,448 km² [Figure 1]. This district has boundaries at north by Kamrup, south by East Khasi hills, west by West Khasi hills, and east by Karbi Anglong districts. The district comprises hill ranges which sloped toward the north side and has Umtrew, Umsiang, Umran, and Umiam rivers, and all of them together merge with the mighty Brahmaputra river.
Figure 1: Selected study area of Ri-Bhoi district, Meghalaya for documentation of traditional knowledge of Rabha tribe

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Documentation of data

To document the LHTs of the Rabha tribe of Ri-Bhoi district, MEBS was carried out from 2017 to 2019. For this, direct interviews were conducted in the selected areas with a structured questionnaire developed by CCRAS, Ministry of Ayush, Government of India. Along with this, a digital photograph of the plant was taken. The data on local name, part used, preparation of the medicine, disease treated, administration of the drug, dose and duration of the drug were primarily collected from the healers. The plant specimens were collected and primarily identified with the local healers in their dialect, thereafter cross-checked, and authentically identified with the help of local floras. After the proper identification of the collected specimens, herbariums were prepared, accessioned, and deposited in Regional Ayurveda Research Institute (RARI), Itanagar for future reference.


  Results and Discussion Top


The documentation of the data was mainly procured from traditional healers who are in the age group from 39 to 85 years. All the interviewed persons have sound knowledge on the treatment of different types of ailments; most of the data were documented from male herbal healers rather than female healers. The present study revealed that the Rabha tribe of Ri-Bhoi used nearly 28 types of medicinal plants to cure 17 types of diseases [Figure 2]. These medicinal plants belong to 27 different types of plant families. The details of disease treated, scientific name of the plant, accession number, family of the plant, Sanskrit name, habit of the plant, part used, mode of preparation, and dose and duration of the herbal claims of the Rabha tribe were given in [Table 1], and their digital photographs were provided in [Figure 3].
Figure 2: Total number of diseases treated by Rabha tribe, Ri-Bhoi district

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Table 1: Documentation of ethno-medico-botanical claims of Rabha tribe, Ri-Bhoi district, Meghalaya

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Figure 3: Documentation of important medicinal plants from Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya

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From the documented medicinal plants, the tribe preferred mostly to use herbaceous flora (15), followed by trees (6), climbers (5), and shrubs (2) for the preparation of medicine [Figure 4]. This is because of the fact that herbaceous flora is highly distributed and accessible within lesser heights.[32] The informants harvested majorly leaf part (28%) of the plant for the preparation of drugs, followed by roots (24%), rhizome (12%), stem bark (9%), seeds and stem (6%), aerial parts, flowers, fruits, whole plant, and young shoots (3%) [Figure 5]. There are several reports available on tribes which mention that the leaf part of the plant is preferred for the preparation of drugs.[33],[34] It may be due to the fact that finding and harvesting of this plant part in the wild are easy and they are green and available throughout the year.[35] The ethnobotanical studies from Ethiopia also concluded that the use of leaf is frequent for the preparation of drugs and suggested that harvesting it from plants has not imposed any significant threat on the survival of the plant in wild.[36]
Figure 4: Habit of the medicinal plants used for preparation of medicines by Rabha tribe

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Figure 5: Percentage of plant parts used for preparation of medicines by Rabha tribe

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Among different forms of the medicine, they used mostly paste (27%), followed by decoction and powder (18%), juice (14%), crushed form (9%), natural and smoke form (5%), and oil extracted from the plants (4%) [Figure 6]. The frequent use of the paste form of the drug might be due to the fact that preparation and administration of the medicine are easy when compared with other forms. Water is the main solvent used for maceration of the drug, and it may be helpful for the extraction of bioactive compounds from the plant part and persist in it without evaporating at the time of preparation, unlike powder and decoction forms. Not only this, the administration of the drug in some cases also depends on the type of disease and age of the patients.[37] This type of result was also accounted with different types of tribal people.[38] However, the administration of drugs that is mostly preferred by oral administration (47%), followed by external application (32%), both external and oral (11%), both inhalation and oral (5%), and only inhalation (5%) [Figure 7]. The preference given to oral administration might be due to the fact that administration of the drug is easy and gives better results when compared with other routes of drug administration. A similar type of result was also found from Chenchu and Nakkala tribes of Japali Hanuman Theertham.[4]
Figure 6: Percentage of different forms of the medicines prepared by Rabha tribe

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Figure 7: Percentage of administration of the medicines prepared by Rabha tribe

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In this study, we observed that the Rabha tribe preferred to use a combination of medicinal plants to prepare the drugs. Out of the 17 types of diseases, 7 diseases were treated with drugs by mixing the combination of medicinal plants. Among them, the drug for bone fracture was prepared by five types of medicinal plants followed by naval pain and swellings by four plants; jaundice and kidney stones by three plants; and epilepsy, fever, and promotion of fertility by two plants. The remaining diseases such as arthritis, cough and cold, fits, high blood pressure, irregularity in menstruation, menstruation bleeding pain, paralysis, prevention of abortion, and waist pain were treated by individual plants only. Similarly, various earlier reports were available to use the combination of drugs for the efficient treatment of diseases. The combined drugs have the rapidity and ability to cure the disease prominently. It is evident that a combination of medicinal plants or plant parts increases the potency of drugs to cure diseases more appropriately than a single combination of drugs.[39],[40],[41]

Among the 28 medicinal plants, the ethnobotanical uses of 12 plants like Acorus calamus L., Calotropis procera (Aiton.) Dryand., Cheilocostus speciosus (J. Koenig) C.D. Specht, Elephantopus scaber L., Lygodium flexuosum (L.) Sw., Mimosa pudica L., Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn., Ocimum sanctum L., Paris polyphylla Sm., Piper longum L., Piper nigrum L., and Terminalia arjuna (Roxb.ex DC) were matched with ayurvedic texts and previously published literatures. For authentication, the remaining medicinal plants offer its biological activity validation.


  Conclusion Top


The Rabha tribe in Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya has significant knowledge on medicinal plants to cure various common ailments. Due to residing in forest areas and far away from the primary health care centers, these people depend on medicinal plants. These obstacles are the main reasons for practicing the traditional system of medicine from long ago and make themselves proficient in this field. The knowledge on use of one or more medicinal plants in the preparation of medicine is unique. There is a lacuna in the documentation of traditional knowledge of this tribe in the entire Meghalaya state, so there is an urgent requisite necessary for the documentation of traditional knowledge of this tribe before extinction.

Acknowledgment

The authors are highly grateful to the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS), New Delhi for financial assistance. We are very much thankful to forest officials of Ri-Bhoi district, Meghalaya for giving permission and assisting at the time of field visits. We extend our thanks to the field attendant and driver who helped to carry out this work in a fruitful way.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.



 
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