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Ethnobotany: The Boon for Mankind

Pramada Sharan*

Department of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, Kalindi Delhi University, Delhi, India

*Corresponding Author:
Pramada Sharan
Department of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry,
Kalindi Delhi University,

Received: 24-Nov-2022, Manuscript No. JPRPC-22-11311; Editor assigned: 29-Nov-2022, Pre QC No. JPRPC-22-11311 (PQ); Reviewed: 14-Dec-2022, QC No. JPRPC-22-11311; Revised: 21-Dec-2022, Manuscript No. JPRPC-22-11311 (R); Published: 28-Dec-2022 , DOI: 10.4172/2321 6182.10.6.011

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India being one of the 12 mega biodiversity countries of the world has plants that are rich in medicinal values which has a major impact on healthcare field. The study of traditional knowledge of plants in a local region is called ethnobotany. It has various fields such as ethnomedicine, ethnoarchaeology, ethnobryology, ethnoecology, ethnoagriculture, ethnonarcotics, ethnopharmacology etc in which ethnomedicine has always excited mankind. The role of ethnobotany in pharmaceutical applications and drug discovery is of great importance. The ethnobotanical survey on the paliyar tribe of Tamil Nadu has done major revelations of how herbal plants are helpful to cure diseases. Thus, it can be stated that ethnobotany helps us to preserve our traditional knowledge.


Ethnobotany; Ethnomedicine; Paliyar tribe; Phamaceutical applications


Our country India has been a paradise of unprecedented surprises and has rightly earned the title of “Golden Bird”. Since time immoral it has captivated people around the world for its culture, wealth, handlooms, spices and most importantly the structural unit of every ecosystem plants. Being the backbone of our ecosystem we humans are dependent on them for our existence and primary needs.

From generation to generation because it’s sophisticated knowledge and usefulness they have always allured humans and played an important role in historical and current day cultures as well as proved an important area of research notably medical and pharmaceutical knowledge. (U.S Forest Service Caring for the land and serving people, United States Department of Agriculture) [1].



The traditional knowledge about plants has always exhilarated scientists and researches and India being the hub for it has been of prime importance. So, to study about the traditional knowledge of plants in a particular region from the local people and using it practically for the betterment of mankind is known as ethnobotany. In ethnobotany the ethnomedical study has been quite beneficial as it is the underlying source for discovery for many natural and synthetic drugs. The knowledge about ethnobotany has been a pioneer for many drug screening projects as the origins of 50% of pharmaceutical drugs can be traced back to ethnomedicine [2]. The data generated by World Health Organization (WHO) clearly showcases that about 80% of the world’s population mainly the rural people of the developing countries rely on the traditional medicines. (Mohammad O. Faruque, Shaikh B. Uddin, James W. Barlow, Sheng Hu, Shuang Dong, Qian Cai, Xiaohua Li, Xuebo Hu, Quantitative Ethnobotany of Medicinal Plants Used by Indigenous Communities in the Bandarban District of Bangladesh (2018) [3].

Role in pharmaceutical applications and drug discovery

India being one of the 12 mega biodiversity countries of the world has plants that are rich in medicinal values which are being studied because their scientific contributions in the healthcare field. In India there are about 427 tribal communities that have knowledge about herbal medicines that are used for treating many diseases such as hypertension, infectious diseases etc. Therefore the ethnobotanical studies in India are continuously increasing. (S Ignacimuthu, M Ayyanar, Sankara Sivaraman K, Ethnobotanical investigations among tribes in Madurai District of Tamil Nadu (India), Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2, Article number-25 (2006). An ethnobotanical study carried by K.C Chinsembu from Livingstone, Southern Province, Zambia in which he reported that about 94 medical plants are used to treat HIV/AIDS diseases [4]. He also believed that these plants can be beneficial in other aspects also so he also urged to analyse the antimicrobial efficacies, pharmacological parameters, cytotoxicity, and active chemical ingredients of these plants. The isolation of various active compounds based on the remarkable knowledge of ethnobotany has been done for example-morphine from opium, digitoxin etc. The kingdom plantae is an ocean of unexplored chemical compounds as there are about 500,000 to 750,000 species of higher plants of which less than 10% are scrutinized for their chemical constituents. A dozen of drugs have been discovered based on the contribution of these studies fromlast 40 years (Table1). (Rahmatullah Qureshi, Shahina A. Ghazanfar, Hassan Obied, Viliana Vasileva, Mohammad A. Tariq, Ethnobotany: A Living Science for Alleviating Human Suffering, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2016) [5].

Drug Plant species
Diosgenin Dioscorea deltoidea
Reserpine Rauwolfia serpentine
Pilocarpine Pilocarpus spp
Vincristine/Vinblastine Catharanthus roseus
Digoxin/Digitoxin Digitalis species
Galantamine Galanthus woronowii
Artemotil Artemisia annua

Table 1. Comman drug that is obtained from various Herbal plants species.

A report on the case study about the ethnobotanical survey among the tribes of Tamil Nadu

In the year 1998-99 the curiosity of the scientists led them to do an ethnobotanical survey to gather knowledge about the medicinal plants of Madurai district of Tamil Nadu which is located in the Southern Western Ghats of India. The information was basically accumulated from the Paliyar tribes who are indigenous people of Palani hills using the integrated approach of sample collections, discussion from the tribal people, questionnaires etc. This survey showcased that the ethnobotanical plants cultivated in the district cures the diseases such as skin infections, poison bites, stomachache and nervous disorders. It also proved that tribal people in this district still rely on the traditional medicines for primary healthcare resources. In the survey about 60 plant species of 32 families were recorded which provided various assistance to cure various diseases (Table 2). (S Ignacimuthu, M Ayyanar, Sankara Sivaraman K, Ethnobotanical investigations among tribes in Madurai District of Tamil Nadu (India), Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2 [6].

Plant species Family Local Name Therapeutic applications Preparation to use
Solanum trilobatum L. Solanaceae Thoodhuvalai Asthma For 7 days the juice of leaves is taken orally.
Terminalia chebula Retz Combretaceae Kadukkai maram Cold The fruit is powdered then mixed with water.
Adhatoda zeylanica Medicus. Acanthaceae Adathodai Cough The leaf is powdered, then mixed with water then taken orally.
Cipadessa baccifera (Roth.) Miq Pulippan chedi Meliaceae Diarrhoea Paste of leaves is made and taken orally with cup of water or milk.
Ceropegia candelabrum L Perun kodi Asclepiadaceae Headache Leaves paste is applied on the forehead
Alangium salvifolium (L.f.) Wangerin Alinji Alangiaceae Eye infections 1-2 drops of the fruit juice is poured in the patients eyes.

Table 2. Ethnobotanical investigations of the plant species studied in the madurai district of Tamil Nadu.


Interdisciplinary approach

Ethnobotany is broad range and shows the direct relationship between plants and mankind [7]. So, ethnobotanical study is the area of broad spectrum and interest [8]. The scientific contribution of this study has promoted new ideas in the fields of healthcare, drug discovery and food industry [9]. There significance is not only limited to the pharmaceutical applications but also used in dyes, shelter and most importantly cultural and social aspects. The various sub disciple of ethnobotany are ethnomedicine, ethnoarchaeology, ethnobryology, ethnoecology, ethnoagriculture, ethnonarcotics, ethnopharmacology etc.[10]. For the growth of ethnobotanical studies in India in 1980’s the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Govt. of India started an All India Co-ordinated Research Project on Ethnobiology (AICRPE), to gather ethnobotanical and ethnozoological informations on plants and animals so that they can be used for the enhancement of mankind and environment. (P. Sreedevi, T.P. Ijinu, S. Anzar, A. J. Bincy, V. George, S. Rajasekharan and P. Pushpangadan, Ethnobiology, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine and traditional knowledge with special reference to India [11].


The ethnobotanical study is a guiding light that bridges the gap and provides information about the plants and traditional societies. Apart from pharmaceutical applications it is also applied in areas such as biodiversity prospecting and vegetation management. Thus, it can be concluded that ethnobotany plays an important role in sustainable development, biodiversity conservation and protects our valuable traditional knowledge.