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Don’t ignore indigenous medicine

J.K. Mohankumar
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Photo: S.R. Praveen
Photo: S.R. Praveen

Community-based, indigenous health practices have been rooted in the health practices of thousands of rural communities for centuries all over the world.

It is reported that in India, 4,635 ethnic communities, including one million folk healers, use around 8,000 species of medicinal plants. Although the rural communities live in contact with modern allopathic medicine they often still employ certain plants and plant products to cure and control several fatal diseases.

In recent years, the access to allopathic medicine is becoming increasingly expensive and beyond the reach of the majority. World Health Organization (WHO) in its Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005 (2002) has estimated that between 60-80% of the population of developing countries rely on Traditional Medicines for Primary Health Care needs.

The majority of interesting chemical compounds have come to existence from indigenous folk medicine. We seem to have ignored the indigenous belief system and blindly adopted western way of life.

The folk healers have a wrong notion that once if they reveal the secret of the herbal use, the efficacy may go down. Sadly, the healers have failed to record these crucial details of medicinal properties in their memory, and they lack interest in documentation.

The existing ethno-botanical surveys indicate that there is lots yet to be explored. Traditional and globally significant medicinal plants in India need to be protected and sustainably used.

The teachers belonging to various disciplines like Tamil, English, social studies, chemistry and biology, or National Service Scheme (NSS) students may undergo projects on mapping and enumerating the traditional knowledge to increase student’s awareness of the local regions.

We need to encourage future students and researchers to carry out extensive work with these people who have learnt and developed their own techniques and even discovered their own usage.

There is a great urgency for the project like Conservation and sustainable management of medicinal plants used in Indian Medical Heritage before indigenous cultures and natural habitats are destroyed.

J.K.Mohankumar is a Science Teacher at Chettinad Public School, Managiri, Karaikudi, Sivagangai district.

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