Instead of being developed and categorised as the Ayurveda branch of medicine, the Adivasi herbal system of disease treatment constantly gets rubbished as a superstitious practice. These practices, essentially rituals associated with sacrifices and appeasement of village deities, are present in the non-tribal societies too but go generally ignored.
The herbal system of medicine in the agency villages comes into sharp focus every year during the epidemic season when the Adivasis succumb to diseases ranging from malarial fevers to diarrhoea. The administration, represented by Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Utnoor, make efforts to wean away the Adivasis from the 'desi' type of treatment apparently as the herbs do not seem to be potent enough to save lives.
Researches however, feel that it is imperative to preserve herbs and traditional herbal knowledge in tribal villages of Adilabad district before they vanish completely. “The United Nations has even launched a programme to patent herbs and medicinal plants as Traditional Botanical Knowledge so that herbal plant species can be preserved,” pointed out E. Narasimha Murthy of the Botany department of Shatavahana University, Karimnagar, who has conducted research in the relevant field in tribal habitation and forests in this district.
Branding traditional practices as completely superstitious without getting into the root of it is like making the aboriginals move away from nature, according to Dr. Murthy.
“These practices, which may once have been logical, can be jettisoned but not at the cost of precious knowledge of herbs and the method of treatment,” he opined.
“Every tribal village has someone who has knowledge about herbs. It is a different aspect that many herbal species cannot be found in the forests any more,” lamented Beer Shau, a Gond from Tarnam (B) village in Neredigonda mandal as he talked to The Hindu while collecting leaves of Combretum decandrum used in treating cattle of warts, close to his agriculture field.
So far, only student researchers have conducted valuable studies on a few aspects of herbal medicine among the aboriginal tribes in Adilabad district. “The efforts need continued for producing proper results,” Dr. Murthy asserted.
Research was done by N. Ramakrishna and Ch. Saidulu of Osmania Univeristy, Hyderabad, on medicinal plants used by Kolam Adivasis to treat reproductive problems and on herbs used to treat snake and scorpion bites by Kolams and Gonds. An exhaustive list of common medicinal plants of these Adivasis has also been prepared by Dr. Murthy besides other researchers from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam.
Every tribal village has someone who has knowledge about herbs, which needs to be tapped.