Study on ethno-medical practitioners among the Kani community: Indigenous knowledge on medicinal plants is gaining recognition worldwide – Tamil Nadu

The hill tribal and rural communities of Kanyakumari district are heavily dependent on wild plants for their primary health care and treatment of diseases. Read the entire article here (PDF) >>

International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
ISSN- 0975-1491 Vol 4, Issue 1, 2012
Received: 26 Aug 2011, Revised and Accepted: 10 Nov 2011

Research article by
G. JOHNSY1, S. DAVIDSON SARGUNAM2AND V. 1. Center for Advanced Studies in Botany, University of Madras, Guindy Campus, Chennai -600 025, India, 2. Environmental Educationist, 23, Cave Street, Nagercoil 629001, Tamilnadu, India. Email:;


The indigenous knowledge on medicinal plants is gaining recognition worldwide because of its support in discovery of new medicines and its importance for proper conservation of biodiversity. This paper documents the traditional knowledge of medicinal plants used for the treatment of skin diseases by the tribe, namely Kaani, of Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu, India. The present study was done through structured questionnaires in consultation with the tribal ethno-medical practitioners and has resulted in the documentation of 55 medicinal plant species belonging to 38 families. For curing the skin disease, the use of aboveground plant parts was higher (83.33%) than the underground plant parts (16.67%). Of the aboveground plant parts, leaves were used in the majority of cases (19 species), followed by whole plants (11 species). Different underground plant forms such as roots and rhizomes were also used by the tribe as medicine. The study thus underlines the potentials of the ethno-botanical research and the need for the documentation of traditional ecological knowledge pertaining to the medicinal plant utilization for the greater benefit of humankind.

Keywords: Kanyakumari, Questionnaires, Tribe, Skin diseases, Ethno-botany

Source: international journal of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences kaani davidson – Google Search
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Chinese, Indian, Arabian and other traditional systems of medicines make extensive use of about 5,000 plants. India is proud to be rich in biological diversity and insert tenth among the plant rich countries of Asia, sixth as far as centers of diversity especially agro-diversity is concerned. Nearly three fourth of the drugs and perfumery products used in the world are available in natural state in the country. India possesses almost 8% of the estimated biodiversity of the world with around 126,000 species. It is one of the 12 mega biodiversity centers with two hot spots of biodiversity in Western Ghats and North-Eastern region.  […]

A total of 24 informants, comprising 13 males and 11 females were identified between the ages of 52 and 74. They were selected based on their knowledge of medicinal plants either for self-medication or for treating others. Informants were asked to come to the habitat areas and identify the plants with local names; the species mentioned by the informants were taxonomically identified. […]

The forests of Kanyakumari District are rich in medicinal plants, many are still not known to us. Present investigation indicates that Kanyakumari District is blessed with magnificent diversity of ethno-medicinal plants used to cure many diseases. The present study gives new incentive to the traditional system of health care. Further, this approach for the treatment of skin diseases is a practical, cost effective and biologically safe method. The use of plant resources as remedies is probably as ancient as man himself. The aforesaid uses are practiced daily by the tribal people living in hills, deep forests and jungles. The use of the traditional medicine is widespread in this region with higher percentage of the population relying on it26.

According to the key informants we interviewed during our study, many medicinal plants have been disappearing from the forests. Because of this they have to walk or trek long distances to collect medicinal plants that had earlier been easily available in close proximity to their settlements. According to them, rapid deforestation, expansion of agricultural lands and destructive harvesting for commercial purposes are the main reasons for the dwindling and disappearance of medicinal plants.

The information presented in this research was collected from the senior members of the community who are still practicing the traditional healing methods. This study showed that the elderly persons and traditional healers have greater knowledge on the utilization of medicinal plants in comparison to the younger generation. During our study period, we found that the nearby villagers are seeking help from the traditional healers when their illness was not cured by modern medicines. Poor socio-economic status of the people has also compelled them to rely on traditional medicinal practices. When we interacted with the younger generation of the Kaani tribal community, they showed least interest in traditional practices mostly because of poor recognition of traditional healers and availability of modern health facilities. […]

The study revealed that whatever knowledge on plants exists with the people of the study area, is fast declining due to the lack of interest of local youth to acquire the traditional knowledge from the ancestors, who are indigenous physicians and traditional herbal healers. The highly interesting findings require further research, while the efficacy of the indigenous medical practices should be subjected to systematic pharmacological validation. Therefore, greater and constant efforts are required to document traditional knowledge of the Kaani tribal community to prepare a comprehensive account of it, which will throw open new vistas in plant research that can fulfill the purposes of biodiversity conservation and which are eco-friendly to the larger global community.

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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