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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 33  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 22-26

Treatment with aquatic plants by a Bagdi tribal healer of Rajbari District, Bangladesh


1 Department of Pharmacy, North South University, Bashundhara, Dhaka 1229, Bangladesh
2 Department of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Development Alternative, Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209, Bangladesh

Date of Web Publication18-Jun-2014

Correspondence Address:
Mohammed Rahmatullah
Department of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Development Alternative, House 78, Road 11A, Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209
Bangladesh
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Source of Support: Internal funding from University of Development Alternative., Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0257-7941.134562

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  Abstract 

Context: Tribal healers mainly use land plants in their medicinal formulations; use of aquatic plants has been scarcely reported.
Aims: The aim of the present study was to conduct an ethnomedicinal survey working with a Bagdi tribal healer of Rajbari District, Bangladesh.
Settings and Design: The survey was carried out working with a Bagdi healer, who lived alone in the wetlands of Rajbari District and used primarily aquatic plants for treatment.
Materials and Methods: Interview of the healer was carried out with the help of a semi-structured questionnaire and the guided field-walk method.
Results: The Bagdi healer was observed to use seven different aquatic plant species coming from five plant families for treatment of ailments such as hemorrhoids, tonsillitis, heart disorders, burning sensations and pain in hands or legs, blurred vision, debility, sexual weakness in males, chronic dysentery, infertility in women, constipation, chronic leucorrhea, blackness and foul odor of menstrual blood, hair loss, graying of hair and to keep the head cool. One plant was used to treat what the healer mentioned as "evil eye", this refers to their belief in black-magic.
Conclusions: This is the first reported instance of a Bagdi healer who primarily uses aquatic plants for treatment. Ethnomedicinal uses of a number of the plants used by the Bagdi healer have been reported for other places in India and Pakistan. Taken together, the various uses of the different plant species opens up scientific possibilities of new drug discoveries from the plants.

Keywords: Aquatic plants, Bagdi, Bangladesh, ethnomedicine, Rajbari


How to cite this article:
Mukti M, Rahmatullah M. Treatment with aquatic plants by a Bagdi tribal healer of Rajbari District, Bangladesh. Ancient Sci Life 2013;33:22-6

How to cite this URL:
Mukti M, Rahmatullah M. Treatment with aquatic plants by a Bagdi tribal healer of Rajbari District, Bangladesh. Ancient Sci Life [serial online] 2013 [cited 2020 Nov 30];33:22-6. Available from: https://www.ancientscienceoflife.org/text.asp?2013/33/1/22/134562


  Introduction Top


Close observations of medicinal practices of indigenous communities have often led to discovery of many modern important drugs. [1] Recent studies indicate that Bangladesh has at present more than 100 indigenous communities or tribes. With the exception of a few large tribes such as the Chakmas, Garos, Manipuris and the Santals, the rest of the small tribes (e.g. Bagdis) have not been studied in any great detail so far. Among the most neglected aspect is the case of any individual tribe's traditional medicinal practices, which is unfortunate, because tribal medicinal practitioners (TMPs) may possess extensive knowledge on medicinal properties of plants, which they use in their formulations. This medicinal knowledge can be utilized by for the discovery of better medicines against diseases where allopathic medicines exist, or diseases like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, against which allopathic medicine has no known cure.

Several studies on tribal medicinal practices of Bangladesh have come out in recent years. [2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10] The studies have pointed out the need for documentation of tribal medicinal practices, particularly those of the small tribes, on which virtually nothing is known. Most TMPs have been reported to primarily rely on land-based plants for treatment of various diseases. TMPs using aquatic plants for treatment are rare. The objective of this study was to document the plants and formulations of a Bagdi TMP of Rajbari District, Bangladesh who primarily used aquatic plants in his treatment of various diseases.


  Materials and methods Top


The Bagdi TMP was located in Mayra Para, Khanganj, Rajbari District, Bangladesh. He lived solely by himself in the middle of an extensive stretch of marshy area and dispensed medicinal formulations to the Bagdi community of Mayra Para. His name was Nepal Rajvor, age about 60 years, uneducated and practicing for about 40 years. His learning has come from his father and different gurus. Initial information about the TMP was provided by the Bagdi community of Mayra Para, who informed us about his different modes of practice, which primarily involved the use of aquatic plants. A number of visits were made to the TMP to build up a rapport with him, the visits took place over nearly a full year in 2012. Informed consent was first obtained from the TMP, who was apprised of the nature of our visit and his consent obtained to disseminate any information provided both nationally and internationally. Actual interviews were conducted in Bengali with the help of a semi-structured questionnaire and the guided field-walk method of Martin [11] and Maundu. [12] In this method, the TMP took the interviewers on guided field-walks to ponds, wetlands and other areas from where he collected his medicinal plants, pointed out the plants and described their uses. Plant specimens were collected and photographed on the spot, dried and later brought back to Dhaka for complete identification at the Bangladesh National Herbarium. Voucher specimens were deposited with the Medicinal Plant Collection Wing of the University, University of Development Alternative.


  Results Top


The Bagdi TMP was observed to use seven different aquatic plant species coming under five families for treatment of ailments like hemorrhoids, tonsillitis, heart disorders, burning sensation and pain in arms or legs, blurred vision, debility, sexual weakness in males, chronic dysentery, infertility in women, constipation, chronic leucorrhea, blackness and foul odor of menstrual blood, hair loss, graying of hair and to keep the head cool.

The Bagdis profess themselves to be Hindus, they also believe in black magic and the "evil eye" and profess the of the Ramayana book as protection against "the evil eye" and lightning. It is to be noted that an incantation was also advised to be uttered at the same time, along with uttering the names of Brahma, Kr.s.n.a, Vis.n.u and Durgβ [Table 1]. Notably, Brahma and Vis.n.u are gods, Durga a goddess and Rβma and Kr.s.n.a considered as avatars (incarnations) of Vis.n.u in the Hindu religion. Thus besides using a plant (Euryale ferox), the TMP also invoked the names of various gods and goddesses in the Hindu religion to instill a sense of confidence in the person, who believed that he or she might be harmed through "evil eye" or lightning [Table 1].
Table 1: Medicinal plants and formulations of the Bagdi healer of Rajbari District, Bangladesh

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In three of the formulations, the TMP used land-based plants along with aquatic plants. Fruits of Punica granatum (land-based plant) were used in combination with roots of Ipomoea aquatica (aquatic plant) for treatment of hemorrhoids. In another formulation, stems of Achyranthes aspera and fruit of Piper nigrum (both land-based plants) were used in combination with leaves or roots of the aquatic plant, Nymphoides indicum, for treatment of tonsillitis. In the third formulation, whole plants of Nelumbo nucifera (aquatic plant) were used with leaves of the land-based plant, Tinospora cordifolia (land-based plant), to treat chronic dysentery.


  Discussion Top


Folk and TMPs mainly rely on medicinal plants for treatment of various diseases. Land-based plants are used most commonly, possibly because they are greater in numbers and can be more easily obtained. Treatment formulations, which primarily depend upon aquatic plants, have not been observed in our previous ethnomedicinal surveys and so this Bagdi TMP's treatment method represents a unique form of treatment in Bangladesh. On the other hand, a number of the aquatic plants used by the Bagdi TMP have reported ethnomedicinal uses among various tribes and regions of India and Pakistan.

I. aquatica, used by the Bagdi TMP for treatment of hemorrhoids, has been reported to be used by the valley inhabitants of Manipur (Meitei) in India as an appetizer; [13] leaf juice is used by the rural people of Nagaon District in Assam, India for blood purification. [14] N. indicum, used by the Bagdi TMP for treatment of tonsillitis, is reportedly used by traditional healers of wetlands of South Orissa, India for treatment of headache due to bile, fever, dysentery, rheumatism and scabies; [15] by the Meitei, as an aphrodisiac and against excessive menstrual discharge; [13] and in Nagaon, India as an anti-scorbutic and for treatment of jaundice and skin infections. [14]

N. nucifera, used by the Bagdi TMP for treatment of a number of disorders like heart disorders, burning sensations and pain in hands or legs, blurred vision, debility and sexual weakness in males, has also reported multiple ethnomedicinal uses in various parts of India. Traditional healers of wetlands of South Orissa use various parts of the plant for treating headache, as a cardiac tonic and for treating fever, diarrhea, skin diseases, ringworm, hemorrhoids and to bring back consciousness. [15] The Meitei use various parts of N. nucifera as diuretic, against dizziness and as stomachic. [13] The Valmiki tribe of Munchingiputtu Mandal, Visakhapatnam District, Andhra Pradesh use flowers and rhizomes for ringworm treatment. [16] The local people of Buldhana District, Maharashtra use its rhizomes to treat dysentery. [17] The tribals in Chitteri Hills, Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu use the flowers for treatment of diabetes. [18] The Mulla kuruma tribe of Wayanad District, Kerala use dried N. nucifera flower powder for treatment of hemorrhoids, [19] while the tribes of Pedabayalu Mandalam, Visakhapatnam District, Andhra Pradesh use rhizomes for treatment of dysentery. [20] The rural people of Nagaon District, Assam use the roots against small pox and dysentery. [14]

The local inhabitants of Gondal village in Gujrat District, Pakistan use E. ferox for treatment of weakness, spermatorrhea, leucorrhea, aging and also as an aphrodisiac, oxytocic and analgesic. [21] The Meitei use raw fruit and young petioles of the plant to treat diabetes. [13] The flowers and roots of Nymphaea nouchali is used by the Bagdi TMP to treat constipation. The traditional healers of South Orissa use the rhizomes of the plant to treat diabetes; flowers for cardiac problems; seed decoction for skin infections; and raw rhizome to treat dysentery. [15] The Santhal tribe of Birbhum District, West Bengal use roots in cases of urination problems in children. [22] The people of Ganderbal District, Jammu and Kashmir, India use flowers to treat indigestion and as anti-hepatotoxic and anti-diabetic. [23]

The Bagdi TMP used leaves, roots and flowers of Nymphaea pubescens to treat chronic leucorrhea and black and foul odor of menstrual blood. Traditional healers of South Orissa use rhizome of the plant to treat dysentery, leucorrhea, hemorrhoids, dyspepsia and roots to treat burning sensations during urination, menorrhagia, to keep stomach cool and as an abortifacient. [15] The Meiteis use young stalks and flowers as aphrodisiac and against excessive menstrual discharge. [13] Rhizomes of the plant are used to treat dysentery. [20] The Gond, Pradhan, Kolam and Andh tribes of Kinwat forest of Nanded District, Maharashtra use rhizomes to control leucorrhea. [24] The tribals of Boudh District, Odisha use rhizomes to treat goiter. [25] The Tai-Khamyang tribe of Sivasagar District in Assam use the roots against hemorrhoids. [26] The rural people of Nagaon District use the roots of the plant to stop vomiting. [14] Thus, some similarities are found in between the treatment by the Bagdi TMP and other tribal healers of India regarding use of the plant for treatment of leucorrhea and menstrual disorders.

Bacopa monnieri was used by the Bagdi healer to prevent hair loss, to keep hair healthy and to keep the head cool. The traditional healers of wetlands of South Orissa use root juice of the plant for cataract; leaf juice for epilepsy; leaf decoction for treatment of asthma and constipation in children; warm leaves for coughs, cold and nasal congestion; plant juice to cure head reeling; and oil prepared from plant juice to treat head reeling, to cool brain and to enhance memory power. [15] The rural people of Mayurbhanj District, Orissa use the whole plant for the increase of memory power. [27] The tribals of East Nimar region, Madhya Pradesh use leaf extract to increase memory and to relieve coughs. [28] Thus, once again, some similarities between the Bagdi TMP and other tribals in India can be observed regarding use of the plant toward keeping the head cool (and possibly to stop head reeling).

The use of land plants along with aquatic plants is not unique to the Bagdi healer. The traditional healers of South Orissa use root of N. pubescens along with flowers of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, bark of Ficus religiosa and seeds of Sesamum indicum as an abortifacient. [15] The tribal people of Birbhum District of West Bengal use the roots of N. nouchali together with roots of Asparagus racemosus and Michaelia champaca and fruits of P. nigrum to treat urination problem in children. [22] The tribals of Boudh District, Odisha combine the rhizomes of N. pubescens with seeds of P. nigrum to make a paste, which they apply externally on the neck against goiter. [25]

Comparative analysis of ethnomedicinal uses of any plant in different parts of the world can be a pointer toward the plant's efficacy for treatment of any given ailment. The greater the similarity of use, the better probability lies in the plant's effectiveness for treatment of the disease. At the same time, variations in ethnomedicinal uses of any given plant can also serve to point out various possible therapeutic uses of the plant. The aquatic plants used by the Bagdi healer merits further scientific attention toward discovery of effective drugs, when looked at from the above viewpoints.

 
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