ETHNOBOTANICAL STUDY- By Yechuri Hemalatha
From the earliest times, tribals used various plant parts to cure different diseases. Records from The Bible, The Rigveda, and The odyssey inform us about the use of plants for curing various ailments in human beings. Over 5500 years ago, Ancient Chinese used some plants for medicines.
Ayurvedic Medicine has been in use for over 3000 years ago in India. The earliest Indian authors, Charaka and Samhita wrote about the medicinal plants in their Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita. (These are treasures till date)
Some significant botanical progress happened during the Middle Ages. (AD 1000 – 1500)The beginning of the 16th Century gave a path to the study and also publish about the different herbs in the synthetic drugs.
ETHNOBOTANY, the word is just a century old and was coined by the American taxonomic botanist John W.Harshberger in 1895. Historical Ethnobotany recognizes the relationship between historians of medicine and ethnobotanists. People need to know the importance of knowing about the plants for the welfare of future generations.
Ethnobotany is a branch of botany that deals with the uses of various plants in a unique field, i.e., curing, that ultimately leads to the maintenance of good health of human beings. Ethnobotany has been recognized in the mid of 20th Century and research studies have been carried over to dig the great wealth of knowledge. This has given us an idea in multiple ways that ultimately lead us to healthier and a good social life. Ethnobotany is a multi-disciplinary field of learning and the various ways or tools used are; Botany; Taxonomy; Anthropology; archaeology; Pharmacology; Medicine; Chemistry; etc.,
Toxicology of environment is a vast field of science which deals with the study of harmful effects of different chemical, physical and biological living organisms. The presence of different toxicants may cause various harmful effects. Persistent organic pollutants are chemical substances that persist in the environment through the food web and causing adverse effects to human health and the environment around the world. They can be transported by wind and water.
The tribal people of most of the countries have an intimate knowledge of hundreds of plants, who for generations have lived in a balanced and close relationship with their surrounding ambient environment, and which should not get disappear or lost by the fast-growing Modern Human culture.
India has about 563 tribal communities who have accumulated valuable knowledge on the use of wild plants in their daily life. Botanical Survey of India initiated to record and document the data of all the tribes in different states of India. Our oldest Vedic literature resources contain valuable information regarding the medicinal uses of various plants. Plants are the never-ending source for new compounds which are used to cure many ailments in humans as well as domestic animals.
Contamination is defined as the introduction of pollution into the natural environment that causes adverse reactions. Now-a-days, pollution has become a serious problem which was faced by people all over the world. Many types of research are going on all around the world to eradicate pollution. The pollution management steps that are taken to prevent pollution are in a wide range.
Papers on indoor air pollution on a regular basis had started around the 1960s.The early work was related to tobacco smoke, later on, the study was extended to Formaldehyde, house dust mites, etc., People are far more exposed to indoor pollution than outdoors. But, indoor aerosol concentration levels are related to not only because of the Indoor sources (building material and the furniture used inside) but also the outdoors and varies from building to building. Some of these sources vary according to the resident’s indoor activities and lifestyle and some other sources emit pollutants continuously. PM (Particulate Matter) concentrations vary from one room to the other room in the same house also. Humans are responsible for their own exposure to the airborne particles.
The Indian subcontinent has huge ethnobotanical wealth. Officially, studies have been started in this field some 50 years ago in the Botanical Survey of India. Dr.E.K.Janaki Ammai initiated researches in the field (ethnobotany). She studied about some food plants of South Indian Tribals. Dr.S.K.Jain studied about the tribals of Central India. These publications have encouraged many other centers like National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBGR), Delhi; National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow; Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS), that led to the enthusiasm and active research among botanists, anthropologists and medical practitioners in India. A detailed account of ethnobotany of the Tharus in U.P.has been brought out by the Scientists of NBRI. Some Universities that have initiated ethnobotanical work are Calicut, Jaipur, Mysore, Kashmir, Bhubaneshwar, Shillong, etc.
Ethnobotany has been recognised as an organised scientific discipline by academic institutions in India. Dr.S.K.Jain has conducted several seminars, papers and compiled and edited papers under the title “Glimpses of Indian Ethnobotany” (1981).
Ethnobotany is not merely the study of folk medical uses of herbal plants but it involves Anthropology, Sociology, Archaeology, Ecology, and Medical and Economic botany. In 1974, Dr.T.N.Khoshoo, the then Director of NBRI, proposed an All India project on Ethnobotany. After 8 years this project came into operation in 1982 at NBRI, Lucknow, 4 centers of Botanical Survey of India. (Howrah, Shillong, Coimbatore, Port Blair) and some other institutions.
In the 10th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, a seminar on “Plants and folklore and folklife ” was held and established in India in 1981 respectively. Nowadays, more research works are going on in many parts of the world about the plants used in societies to maintain good health and the relationship between the people and the plants.
Ethnobotanists need to ensure that the local knowledge is to be trapped and recorded so as to provide benefits for human life. Continued effort to discover new plants or previously unknown use of plants as food, medicines or remedies. One can fulfill this by studying deep in the existing knowledge of the local people about the usage of wild plants. Interest in ethnobotany has been increasing in recent years. Many historical interactions between human beings and the plants show us the path that leads to the methodology and more studies on ethnobotany which leads to a healthy life of humans.