Research Article

Ethnoveterinary uses of Medicinal Plants by the Aboriginals of Purulia District, West Bengal, India

Abhijit Dey and J.N. De
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The westernmost district of West Bengal, Purulia is inhabited by a large number of tribals. A study on the ethnoveterinary practices of medicinal plants was carried out in this area. Through questionnaire, personal interviews and conversation, a total number of 25 plant species used by the aboriginals were enumerated. The major ethnic groups present in the studied area include Santhali, Bhumijs, Mundas, Oraon, Birhor, Mal Pahariya, Kharia and Ho. During the investigation, a well developed system of ethnoveterinary practices was found among these tribals.

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Abhijit Dey and J.N. De, 2010. Ethnoveterinary uses of Medicinal Plants by the Aboriginals of Purulia District, West Bengal, India. International Journal of Botany, 6: 433-440.

DOI: 10.3923/ijb.2010.433.440



From prehistoric ages human culture has, either directly or indirectly, been influenced by the vegetational world (De, 1968). Over 17,500 species of higher plants, 64 gymnosperms, 1,200 pteridophytes, 2,850 bryophytes, 2,021 lichens, 15,500 fungi and 6,500 algae are reported from India. India is rich in its endemic flora, too (5,725 angiosperms, 10 gymnosperms, 193 pteridophytes, 678 bryophytes, 260 liverworts, 466 lichens, 3,500 fungi and 1,924 algae) (Sanjappa, 2005). India, with 3029 million hectares of land mass and 17 million hectares of forest cover is a veritable nursery of different tribals belonging to over 550 tribal communities with 227 linguistic groups (Pushpangadan, 1994), which survived with their specific traits, beliefs and myths through the rigours of time.

Earlier, investigations were carried out on different ethnobotanical aspects of this district (Sur et al., 1992a, b; Dey et al., 2009). Vegetation based tribal life (De, 1980a), plant food (Jain and De, 1964), minor plant fibres (De, 1965), plants used for lac culture (Basu and Mukherjee, 1999), general ethnobotanical practices and ethnomedicines to treat human disorders (Jain and De, 1966; De, 1967, 1979, 1980a, b; Sur et al., 1992a; Chakraborty et al., 2003; Chakraborty and Bhattacharjee, 2006; Ghosh, 2008) by the aboriginals of this district were reported. Food plants of the tribe, ‘Paharias’ of Purulia were reported by Basu and Mukherjee (1996). An inventory of medicinal plants of some sacred groves of Purulia was explored by Bhakat and Pandit (2004). Sacred groves and taboos in this district were studied by Basu (2000a). Traditional utilization of plants in intestinal, malarial and sexual diseases by tribals of Purulia was reported by Basu (2005). Exotic American plants employed as ethnomedicine in the district were reported by Basu (2000b). Kuiri et al. (2002) have reported the use of medicinal plants in rheumatism by the tribals of Baghmundi, Purulia. However, very little effort has been made to explore the ethnoveterinary practices carried out in this area apart from mentioning of certain plants as a part of an ethnomedical survey (De, 1968; 1979). A few reports are available on ethnoveterinary uses of medicinal plants in other parts or districts of West Bengal (Pal, 1980; Mukherjee and Namhata, 1988; Ghosh, 1999, 2002; Das and Tripathi, 2009) and other parts of India (Sebastine, 1984; Sebastine and Bhandari, 1984; Reddy and Sudersanam, 1987; Katewa and Chaudhary, 2000; Mistri et al., 2003; Takhar and Chaudhary, 2004; Harsha et al., 2005; Khuroo et al., 2007; Saikia and Borthakur, 2010; Tiwari and Pande, 2010). This district has made very poor economic progress due to high proportion of uncultivated wasteland and lack of a flourished agricultural system. The tribals, in particular, prefer to depend on the surrounding forests for bare subsistence in terms of food, fodder, fibre, material culture, rituals and medicines to treat human and livestock diseases (De, 1965). In this present research study, we report on the information collected from traditional practitioners to cure various livestock diseases in Purulia district, West Bengal, India.


Study area: Purulia, the westernmost district of West Bengal is situated between 22°51’N and 23°42’N and 85°51’E and 86°54’E, covering an area of 6529 km2 with an altitudinal variation from 250 to 700 m above sea level. The range in temperature is from 7°C in winter to 45°C in summer and the total annual precipitation approximates between 1240 to 1400 mm. The dry deciduous forests accounts for 889 sq km of total area (Anonymous, 1985). The major tribal languages are Santhal (S); Bhumija (Bh); Bengali (B); Hindi (H); Munda (M); Oraon (O); Birhor (Bi); Mal Paharya (MP); Kharia (K); Kharwar (Kh); Gond (G) and Ho (Ho) (Jain and De, 1964), where the abbreviations are mentioned within parenthesis. A total number of 25 plant species were found to be used by the tribals to treat livestock diseases in Purulia district.

Survey: Several field investigations have been conducted by one of the authors to explore the ethnobotanical knowledge of the tribals of this area since 1960s. Several plants were found to be used to treat livestock diseases. The plants, their use in ethnoveterinary system, plant parts used, mode of preparation, locality of use and the particular group of tribals using the medicines were thoroughly studied, plant specimens were collected and documented in frequent field visits conducted from 2007-2009. The places of investigations were the rural and tribal areas of Kashipur, Baghmundi, Barabazar, Jaipur, Santuri, Raghunathpur, Kuilapal, Panchakot, Kalma, Arsha, Puncha, Ajodhya, Neturia, Jhalda, Khenna, Para, Ramkanali, Bundwan etc. The villages were visited in different seasons to avail the plant resources in their flowering condition. In the actual method of studies in the field, informants from different tribes who are familiar with the plants and the mode of utility of the plants by the members of their respective communities were selected by interview in previously arranged camp meetings. Questions and suggestions were put to them regarding the use of medicinal plants and their products in folk medicine. Mounted herbarium specimens known to grow in this area were shown to them and questions were asked about their utility. These were subsequently verified by taking the informants to the field to identify plants on the basis of local names previously recorded from them. Local names and the areas were noted. Prior consent was taken from the informants for recoding of the information. Photographs were taken reflecting the plants’ habit in flowering condition. Common plants were taken to prepare herbarium sheets. Rare and less common plants were spared and photographed only. Different tribals have provided information regarding livestock healthcare. Herbarium and photographs were identified by experts and kept for future use.


The plants studied are enumerated alphabetically with their botanical name, family name, Local name, ethnoveterinary uses and locality of report.

Abrus precatorius Linn.

Family: Papilionaceae; Fabaceae
Tribal names: Kanch (B); Gunja, Kawet (S); Karjain (Kh); Ara kead, Karjani, Kead (M); Gumchi (H)
Use: The roots are crushed and applied in the eyes of cattle when they get whitened
Locality: Dopahari, Kashipur; Chorda, Baghmundi

Ampelocissus tomentosa (Roth) Planch.

Family: Vitaceae
Tribal names: Dhotto-pako (O); Datrom bili (S); Ghora lat (B); Iotorong nari (M); Kumharlat (Bh)
Use: The crushed roots are applied in pains of cattles
Locality: Takriya, Barabazar; Mirdi, Jaipur

Atylosia scarabioides (L.) Benth

Family: Papilionaceae; Fabaceae
Tribal names: Birhare, Buruhore, Gaisani(M); Gaisani, Kando arsga(O), Bankurthi(Kh)
Use: The leaves are boiled in water and given in dysentery of cattle
Locality: Saspur, Santuri; Usir, Raghunathpur

Azadirachta indica A. Juss.

Synonym: Melia azadirachta Linn.
Family: Meliaceae
Tribal name: Nim (S,Bh,M,O,B,H)
Use: Oil extracted from the seeds is used to cure parasitic skin diseases of cattle
Locality: Kuilapal; Inanpur, Panchakot.

Calotropis gigantea (Linn.) R.Br. ex.Ait.

Family: Asclepiadaceae
Tribal names: Akanda, Akaona(S); Madar, Akonda(Bh); Palati(M); Akaon(Kh)
Use: The leaves specially the fresh and warm ones, are applied on body swellings of cattle as a cure
Locality: Baraganta, Kalma

Calotropis procera (Ait.) R. Br.

Family: Asclepiadaceae
Tribal names: Akand (Bh), Sada akanda (B), Kula toa (M)
Use: The leaves are warmed and applied on swollen cheeks (the symptom of a disease called by them sannipat said to be due to cold) of cattle. The root is also used in a preparation (Called as ‘telmara’) for the same purpose. The warm leaves are said to be useful for curing swellings at any place of the body
Locality: Chototangri, Baghmundi; Baraganta, Kalma

Carissa opaca Stapf. Ex Haines.

Synonym: C. spinarum auct. non L
Family: Apocynaceae
Tribal names: Benchi (B); Hukapaka, Karonda, Karwak janum, Karwat (S); Karaunda (H); Kanuwan, Khunti (O); Gadasur, Garsul (M)
Use: The crushed roots are given to cattle in Simla disease (Symptom: swollen mouth and ejection of tongue). The juice of the roots is applied for the expulsion or killing insects from the body of cattle
Locality: Kalma; Deltanr, Arsha

Cassia fistula Linn.

Family: Caesalpiniaceae; Fabaceae
Synonym: C. rhombifolia Roxb
Tribal names: Sonali, Dhanbahera (B, Bh); Shondal, Bandorlati (B); Bandarlauri, Nuruni, Mirju baha nuru (S); Amaltas (H); Bonurlati, Sonarkhi (O); Dauranch (K); Hari (M)
Use: The fruits are heated and applied on the neck of cattle to reduce swelling due to cold
Locality: Badna tungri; Jambad, Puncha

Cissus repanda Vahl.

Synonym: Vitis repanda W and A
Family: Vitaceae
Tribal names: Bod nari, Bod lar nari(S); Panialata(Bh);Hatikana(M); Harjarwa(Kh)
Use: The plant is crushed and given in Sannipat disease due to cold
Locality: Ajodhya; Deoli, Neturia

Crinum latifolium Linn.

Family: Amaryllidaceae
Tribal names: Kanai, Sikiyam Baha(S); Kulae bo, Chanchara ba(M); Kana (O)
Use: Root juice is given in diarrhoea of cattle
Locality: Panch mahuli, Kashipur, Mirdi, Jaipur

Crossandra infundibuliformis (Linn.) Nees.

Synonym: Justicia infundibuliformis Linn. L. N
Family: Acanthaceae
Tribal names: Ote kujuri, Burilai ba (M).
Use: The crushed plant is applied when a cattle is bitten by a dog
Locality: Dumurhir, Neturia

Eclipta alba (Linn.) Hassk

Synonym: E. prostrata Roxb
Family: Asteraceae
Tribal names: Piri kesari, Bhengraj (M); Bhengraj (O); Bhengrati (S); Laokeshar, Laokehria (Bh); Babri, Bhangraj, Mochrand (H); Kesutti, Kesaraj (B)
Use: The leaves are crushed in hand and black juice is applied to cure swelling in the ear of cattle
Locality: Kudagara, Kalma; Parsiya, Arsha

Erycibe paniculata Roxb.

Family: Convolvulaceae
Tribal names: Bara laokeshar (Bh), Karilata (S); Kari nanri (M), Urumin, Hurmi (O)
Use: The leaves and stems are crushed and boiled in water to a thick syrupy liquid and applied on sprains of cattle, first cleaning the affected part with warm water
Locality: Tola Kashidanga, Panchakot; Muradih, Santuri

Erythrina indica Lam.

Synonym: E. variegata Linn. var. orientalis (Linn.) Merril
Family: Papilionaceae; Fabaceae
Tribal names: Paldha (Bh); Marar, Karhal, Arhul (S); Pharar (Kh); Parida ba (M); Kanta mandfar, Palita mandar (B); Pangra, Pharad (H)
Use: The crushed stem-bark is applied on sprains of cattle
Locality: Kumaria, Jhalda; Aradenga, Panchakot

Gloriosa superba Linn.

Family: Liliaceae
Tribal names: Dusatin, Dusatina (Bh); Jhagar, Sini samanom (S); Karihari (Kh); Kaliari, Kulhari, Languli (H); Jhagrahi (O); Bulung chukuru, Bunum ki chung, Bing ki chung (M); Ulatchandal, Bishalanguli (B)
Use: The roots are given in small-pox (as also in other diseases locally known as ‘galakatki’, ‘dangrapila’) of cattle
Locality: Darikuri, Jaipur; Dopahari, Kashipur

Glossogyne bidens (Retz.) Alston

Family: Asteraceae
Tribal names: Tej raj, Nakdana (S); Mainthorib(Bh), Pakhal ret (O); Ringud ranu (M); Nakdana (B)
Use: The crushed plant is applied to cure bone fracture for healing
Locality: Jalam-bili, Kalma; Punura, Puncha

Litsea monopetala (Roxb.) Pers.

Synonym: L. polyantha Juss
Family: Lauraceae
Tribal names: Pojo (S, M), Kukur chita (Bh, B), Baglal (MP)
Use: To cure bone fracture the crushed stem bark is used
Locality: Hathinada, Khenna; Kherad, Santuri

Mirabilis jalapa Linn.

Family: Nyctaginaceae
Tribal names: Jahain Jui(S, O), Sandhyamani (Bh), Gul abbas (H)
Use: Crushed roots are applied to cure wormy wounds of cattles
Locality: Bahara, Para; Achkoda, Neturia

Peucedanum nagpurense (C.B.Cl.) Prain.

Family: Apiaceae
Tribal names: Banjira (B); Tejraj, Oponum (S); Oponom, Ependom (O); Bir samraj, Baghia rutu, Ependung, Turi, Epelom (M)
Use: In diarrhoea and dysentery of cattle, the crushed roots are used
Locality: Sutaibai, Kashipur; Palama, Puncha

Schrebera swientenioides Roxb.

Family: Oleaceae
Tribal names: Eksira (S), Ghanto (Bh, B, O), Chapsing (Kh), Jargo, Sandapsing, Chabsing (M), Gae ka lundi (H).
Use: The roots are crushed and applied to wounds to kill worms
Locality: Ajodhya; Kalma; Dhabani, Bundwan

Scoparia dulcis Linn.

Family: Scrophulariaceae
Tribal names: Ban dhoney (B); Tand dhaniya (Bh); Jastimadhu (S); Bichimandar (O); Madu kom, Ko ara, Ote kantara, Guru ara, Merom med, Chinibuta, Chinisakam (M)
Use: The crushed plant is applied in gout-pains of cattle
Locality: Baraganta hills, Ajodhya; Rautara, Para

Semecarpus anacardium Linn.f.

Family: Anacardiaceae
Tribal names: Soso dare, Bhelwa(S); Kiro (O); Bhelai (Bh); Bhelwa (Kh); Soso daru (M); Bhilawa (H); Bhela (B)
Use: The seeds are crushed with a corm of Amorphophallus campunalatus, a bulb of Allium sativum in a preparation and given in “Simla” disease of cattle
Locality: Badgna-tungri, Kalma; Baliguma, Manbazar

Thysanolaena agrostis Nees.

Synonym: T. maxima (Roxb.) Kuntze
Family: Poaceae
Tribal name: Phuljharu(Bh, B)
Use: A decoction of the crushed root is used to cure wormy sores of cattle
Locality: Jalambili, Kalma; Kudna, Ajodhya

Zehneria umbellata Thw.

Synonyms: Solena heterophylla (Lour.) Cogn., Melothria heterophylla (Lour.) Cogn
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Tribal names: Bankundri, Kudari, Makal, Rakhal sasha (B); Makal, Tarali (H); Mahakal (Bh); At, Jungli kundri (S); Chengkor, Kaubutki, Chengorod sanga, Kokor jo karaka tasad, Bir kunduru, Marang kaubutki (M); Bankundri (O)
Use: The leaf-juice is applied to cure cuts and bruises of cattle. The crushed root is applied on sores of small-pox in cattle
Locality: Shalgram, Jhalda; Korang, Arsha

Zingiber cassumunar Roxb.

Synonyms: Z. montanum (Koen.) Link ex. A. Dietr., Z. purpureum Rosc
Family: Zingiberaceae
Local names: Ban ada (Bh), Ban adi (S, O), Paro, Bir ade (M)
Use: The rhizomes are crushed and applied in Simla
Locality: Jara, Kalma; Ramkanali

The treatment of diseased domestic animals as also cases like fracture of bones, dog bites etc. are performed with utmost care by the aboriginals. The knowledge regarding this has been developed either by following treatments as is done in similar human ailments or in rare cases, by observing the practice of rubbing wounds on a particular plant by an injured animal.

A total number of 25 species belonging to 24 genera and 19 families were documented. Out of 25 plant species, 4 belong to Fabaceae, 2 to Vitaceae, Asclepiadaceae and Asteraceae and 1 each to Meliaceae, Apocynaceae, Amaryllidaceae, Acanthaceae, Convolvulaceae, Liliaceae, Lauraceae, Nyctaginaceae, Apiaceae, Oleaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Anacardiaceae, Poaceae, Cucurbitaceae and Zingiberaceae. Out of 25 plants, the majority of the species are herbs (35%) followed by trees (26%), shrubs (22%) and climbers (17%) (Fig. 1). The mostly used medicines are derived from whole plant (17%), root/rhizome (37%), stem/bark (13%), fruit (4%), seed (8%) and leaf (21%) (Fig. 2).

Takhar and Chaudhary (2004) have reported the use of Abrus precatorius in cattle for expulsion of placenta by the folk people of southern Rajasthan. In this study the plant was found to be useful in eye disease of cattle. Use of Ampelocissus latifolia in cataract, snakebite, flatulence and tympany has been reported by Pande et al. (2007). Another species, A. rugosa was found to be useful in lactation of livestocks (Pande et al., 2007). In our study, the plant was found to cure body pain of cattle which is confirmed from a study by De (1968). Chakraborty and Bhattacharjee (2006) have reported the use of Atylosia scarabaeoides in dysentery of cattle by the tribals of Purulia supporting our study. Azadirachta indica has been found to be very useful in different ethnoveterinary practices in Uttaranchal, India, like retention of urine, in the treatment of broken horn, burn, mange, tympany, indigestion, snakebite, foot and mouth diseases and lockjaw (tetanus) (Pande et al., 2007). Akhtar and Riffat (1985) had evaluated the fruits of this plant against Ascaridia galli infections in chickens. Acharya and Acharya (2010) have reported the use of A. indica as anthelmintic by the people of Sardikhola VDC, Kaski, Nepal to treat livestock diseases. Takhar and Chaudhary (2004) have mentioned the use of this plant in swellings and inflammations of cattle. In the present investigation, it was found that, oil extracted from the seeds of this plant is used to cure parasitic skin diseases of cattle.

Image for - Ethnoveterinary uses of Medicinal Plants by the Aboriginals of Purulia District, West Bengal, India
Fig. 1: Pie diagram showing different pant habit

Image for - Ethnoveterinary uses of Medicinal Plants by the Aboriginals of Purulia District, West Bengal, India
Fig. 2: Pie diagram showing different plant parts used

Calotropis gigantea has been reported to be useful to cure fever used by the Gond tribe andhra Pradesh, India (Reddy et al., 2008). In our report, in the district of Purulia, as an ethnoveterinary medicine, this plant is used in body swelling of cattle and C. procera was found to be used in the livestock disease sannipat which occurs due to cold. Different parts of C. procera has been used by the tribes of Southern Rajasthan to hasten suppuration, to cure cracking of tears, to prevent infestation of worms in stomach, to heal wounds and to get rid of gastro-intestinal worms (Takhar and Chaudhary, 2004). Khan (2009) has reported the ethnoveterinary use of C. procera in inflammation, snakebite, flatulence, anorexia, indigestion, intestinal worm infestation, rabid dog bite by the people living in Greater Cholistan desert, Pakistan. Use of C. procera in paraplegia and arthritis in cattle has been reported by Pande et al. (2007). In rural Suderbans, West Bengal, India, at the appearance of swelling of throat region due to haemorrhagic septicaemia or worm infestation in cattle, C. gigantea is being used (Das and Tripathi, 2009). Fresh leaves and latex of C. procera is useful for arthritis, latex for scorpion sting and dry leaves are used in stomachache and as a tonic by the ethnoveterinary practitioners of Qassim Region, Saudi Arabia (Abbas et al., 2002). In Uttaranchal, India, different species of Carissa including C. opaca was reported to be used against foot and mouth disease of cattle (Pande et al., 2007). In our investigation, the plant was found to be use in simla disease and to kill insects from the body of cattle. Cassia fistula is being used in constipation and food poisoning of cattle in Uttaranchal, India (Pande et al., 2007), whereas the fruits are heated and applied on the neck of cattle to reduce swelling due to cold by the tribals of Purulia. Cissus repanda has already been reported to be used in “sannipat’ disease of cattle (De, 1979). Eclipta alba has been used to treat wounds of livestock in Uttaranchal, India (Pande et al., 2007). This species has been found to be used in pneumonia of cattle in some hilly regions of Pakistan (Sindhu et al., 2010). Acharya and Acharya (2010) have reported the use of E. alba in mastitis of cattle by the people of Sardikhola VDC, Kaski, Nepal. In this present study, the tribal people use this plant to cure swelling in the ear of cattle. A species of Erythrina, E. arborescens is used to treat eye diseases of cattle by the tribes of Uttaranchal, India (Pande et al., 2007). In our present study, E. indica has been found to be used in this part of the world to treat sprains of cattle. Use of Litsea glutinosa as an ethnomedicine in bone fracture (Chakraborty and Bhattacharjee, 2006) supports our report of using another species of the genus L. monopetala in the treatment of fractured bone in cattle. L. monopetala is being used to treat bone fracture in cattle in Uttaranchal, India (Pande et al., 2007). Mirabilis jalapa is useful in neck sore of livestock in Uttaranchal, India (Pande et al., 2007). Acharya and Acharya (2010) have reported the use of M. jalapa in urinary disorder by the people of Sardikhola VDC, Kaski, Nepal to treat livestock diseases. In this study the wormy wounds of cattle are cured by using this plant. De (1979) has reported Peucedanum nagpurense to be used to treat livestock diseases. Semecarpus anacardium is being used in rheumatism and leprotic wounds as a folk remedy (Chakraborty and Bhattacharjee, 2006) whereas we have found it to be useful in simla disease of cattle. Acharya and Acharya (2010) have reported the use of Zehneria umbellata (Syn: Solena heterophylla) in mastitis by the people of Sardikhola VDC, Kaski, Nepal to treat livestock diseases. Use of this plant in fever has previously been reported (De, 1979).

From the above discussion, it is evident that a plant which is used to cure a human ailment may be used to cure the same type or a completely different kind of livestock disease. The same plant may be used to treat different diseases or disorders by different tribes in their own ethnoveterinary practices at different parts of the world. It is also evident that, sometimes, certain plants become more effective to treat certain livestock ailments when administered in combination with some other plants.

Regarding different diseases, the majority of the plants are used to treat skin diseases, cold, pains and sprains and stomach disorders. According to the informants, “sannipat” and “simla” are two very common problems in the study area and they had used traditional medicines to treat these diseases. Five species are used to treat skin diseases; two species each for small pox, pains, sprains, fractured bone, stomach problems, cold, sannipat and simla disorder and one species each for eye disease, swelling of ear and dog-bite.


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