Traditional treatment of skin diseases in South Travancore,
southern peninsular India
GM Jeeva1, S Jeeva2 & C Kingston1*
1PG and Research Centre in Botany, Scott Christian College, Nagercoil 629 003, Tamil Nadu; 2Forest Ecology Research Laboratory, Department of Botany, School of Life Sciences, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong 793 022, Meghalaya
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Received 18 May 2005; revised 23 February 2007
The paper deals with some medicinal plants used in the treatment of skin diseases in South Travancore, southern peninsular India. Thirty plant species belonging to 29 genera and 22 families of angiosperms reported along with dosage rate and mode of administration have been enumerated.
Keywords: Medicinal plants, Skin disease, South Travancore, Peninsular India, Ethnomedicine
IPC Int. Cl.8: A61K36/00, A61P1/02, A61P17/00, A61P17/02, A61P17/12, A61P27/14, A61P27/16, A61P29/00, A61P31/00, A61P35/00, A61P35/04, A61P37/08
South Travancore (7705’–7736E and 803-835’N), because of it geographical location, stable geological history, equable climate, heavy rainfall, and good soil condition supports a variety of tropical forest ecosystems1. It harbours a prosperous and distinctive flora including many species of medicinal plants, which may be a source for gainful exploitation of natural resources. The area occupies 1672 sq km and is inhabited by 16,69,763 people. Topographically this district may be broadly classified as coastal, middle and mountainous region. The climate of the district is favourable, agroclimatic, rainfall varies from 103–310 cm and elevation from sea level to 1829 m asl2. Ethnobotanically, the area remains unexplored and no comprehensive account of local tradition is available. Some researchers have studied the medicinal plants of this area with limited objectives3,4. In view of this, the present work was carried out. An extensive survey of the medicinal plants, which are used for the treatment of skin diseases, was recorded.
An ethnobotanical survey of South Travancore (Kanyakumari district) was conducted during 2003–2004. During the study trips information was gathered by making repeated queries time to time through interviewing the agedpeople of the area. The medicinal property of each species was accepted as valid if at least 4 or 5 separate informants had a similar positive answer in their reply. Plant specimens were identified with the help of regional and local floras5,6,7. The voucher specimens were deposited in the Herbarium of Botany Department (SCH), Scott Christian College, Nagercoil.
Plant species, which are used in traditional medicine, are enumerated with their botanical and vernacular (Tamil) names, family and use of the plant parts in the various treatments.
Acorus calamus Linn. (Araceae); Vasampu
Uses: Pounded rhizomes along with Curcuma aromatica rhizomes and Azadirachta indica leaves are applied on the affected parts to cure eczema twice a day for one week.
Aegle marmelos (Linn.) Corr. (Rutaceae); Vilvam
Uses: Fruits crushed with seeds of Strychnos nux-vomica and Pongamia pinnata, boiled with coconut oil is applied on the affected parts to cure scabies and other kinds of skin diseases twice a day till the recovery occur.
Anacardium occidentale Linn. (Anacardiaceae); Kollamaram
Uses: Powdered bark mixed with honey is taken orally for leprosy continuously for 6 months.
Andrographis paniculata Nees. (Acanthaceae); Nilavembu
Uses: Leaf juice is mixed with cow milk and taken orally for tinea cruris (Dosage: Twice a day for 6 to 8 days).
Argemone mexicana Linn. (Papaveraceae); Premathandu
Uses: Pounded seeds along with the rhizomes of Curcuma aromatica and Acorus calamus made into paste are applied on all types of skin diseases.
Asparagus racemosus Willd. (Liliaceae); Thannervittankizhangu
Uses: Tubers along with the leaves of Plumbago indica made into paste is applied on various skin diseases.
Azadirachta indica A. Juss. (Meliaceae); Vembu
Uses: Flowers are boiled in gingili oil (Sesamum indicum) and applied on the head against dandruff.
Cassia alata Linn. (Fabaceae); Seemai Agathi
Uses: Pounded leaves along with coconut oil and bee wax are made into a paste and applied on the affected parts to cure tinea versicularis, once a day in the night for 4 days.
Cassia auriculata Linn. (Caesalpiniaceae); Avarai
Uses: Paste of dried leaves with vinegar is applied on various skin diseases.
Clerodendron inerme Gaertn. (Verbenaceae); Changukuppy
Uses: Paste of leaf juice mixed with bee wax, resins of Vateria indica and Nigella sativa seeds kept in hot water bath, cooled are applied on various skin diseases.
Clitoria ternatea Linn. (Fabaceae); Shankupuspham
Uses: Leaf juice is given orally twice a day for 6 days for scabies.
Corallocarpus epigaeus Hk. f. (Cucurbitaceae); Kurudankixhangu
Uses: Tubers boiled in coconut oil are applied on the affected parts continuously for 6 months to cure leprosy.
Crinum defixum Ker. (Amaryllidaceae); Vishanarayani
Uses: Pounded bulbs mixed with hot water are given orally for curing tinea cruris twice a day for 3 days.
Curcuma aromatica Sal. (Zingiberaceae); Kasturimanjal
Uses: Rhizomes along with the seeds of Terminalia chebula made into paste is applied on the affected parts to cure impetigo twice a day for till the recovery occurs.
Cynodon dactylon (Linn.) Pers. (Poaceae); Arukampullu
Uses: Pounded leaves boiled in coconut oil are applied for various skin diseases.
Datura metel Linn. (Solanaceae); Ummattai
Uses: Paste of leaf juice mixed with Curcuma aromatica rhizomes is applied on the swellings for quick remedy till the swelling reduces.
Euphorbia hirta Linn. (Euphorbiaceae); Ammanpaccharisi
Uses: Latex is applied against skin parasites twice a day till it is cured.
Glycorrhiza glabra Linn. (Fabaceae); Atimaturam
Uses: Paste of stem along with Withania somnifera roots is applied on the affected parts continuously for one year to cure leucoderma and other skin diseases.
Hygrophila auriculata (Schum.) Heine. (Acanthaceae); Neermulli
Uses: Dried leaf powder mixed with castor oil is applied on the affected parts to cure skin diseases.
Indigofera aspalathoides Vahl. (Fabaceae); Sivanarvembu
Uses: Powdered barks mixed with coconut oil are applied on the affected parts continuously for 6 months to cure leprosy.
Lawsonia inermis Linn. (Lythraceae); Maruthani
Uses: Leaves made into a paste are applied on the affected parts to cure impetigo twice a day till it is cured.
Madhuca longifolia (Koenig) Macbride. (Sapotaceae); Eluppai
Uses: Pounded seeds mixed with Ocimum tenuiflorum leaf extract are applied on the affected parts to cure skin diseases.
Ocimum tenuiflorum Linn. (Lamiaceae); Tulaci
Uses: Leaves pounded along with Curcuma aromatica rhizomes are applied on the affected parts to cure tinea versicularis once days in the night till it is cured.
Phyla nodiflora (Linn.) Greene. (Verbenaceae); Poduthalai
Uses: Leaf juice mixed and boiled with equal volume of gingili oil is applied twice a week on head to remove dandruff.
Piper betle Linn. (Piperaceae); Vettilai
Uses: Leaves are pounded along with the bulbs of Allium sativum and applied on the affected parts to cure tinea versicularis.
Pongamia pinnata (Linn.) Pierre. (Fabaceae); Punkumaram
Uses: Crushed barks boiled in gingili oil are applied on the affected parts twice a day for 4 days to cure rash.
Saraca asoca (Roxb.) de Wilde. (Caesalpiniaceae); Asogam
Uses: Dried flowers boiled with coconut oil are applied on the affected parts with the help of cock feather thrice a day till it is cured as a remedy for scabies.
Terminalia bellerica (Gaertn.) Roxb. (Combretaceae); Tanrikkai
Uses: Seeds pounded along with seeds of Terminalia chebula and Quercus infectoria and mixed with coconut oil is applied twice a day against rash.
Trichosanthes lobata Roxb. (Cucurbitaceae); Peppudal
Uses: Paste of whole plant is applied on the affected parts continuously for one year to cure leprosy.
Wrightia tinctoria (Roxb.) R. Br. (Apocynaceae); Veppalai
Uses: Pounded leaves mixed with coconut oil are applied for psoriasis.
Thirty plant species belonging to 22 families and 29 genera used for the treatment of various skin diseases have been recorded. Of these, 12 were tree species, 6 shrubs, 15 herbs and 5 climbers. Fabaceae with 5 species was the dominant family followed by Acanthaceae, Caesalpiniaceae, Cucurbitaceae and Verbenaceae, which had two species each, whereas 17 families were monospecific. The present study has given information on 12 kinds of skin diseases. Nine species are used to treat all kinds of skin diseases, 4 species in leprosy and 3 species in tinea versicularis and rest species for other types of ailments. Aegle marmelos, Argemone mexicana, Asparagus racemosus, Cassia auriculata, Clerodendron inerme, Cynodon dactylon, Glycorrhiza glabra, Hygrophila auriculata and Madhuca longifolia are used for skin diseases; Anacardium occidentale, Corallocarpus epigaeus, Indigofera aspalathoides and Trichosanthes lobata are used to cure leprosy; Cassia alata, Ocimum tenuiflorum and Piper betle in tinea versicularis; Andrographis paniculata and Crinum defixum in tinea cruris; Curcuma aromatica and Lawsonia inermis are used to cure impetigo; Pongamia pinnata and Terminalia bellerica for rash and Clitoria ternatea & Saraca asoca for scabies. Azadirachta indica and Phyla nodiflora are prescribed for dandruff. Acorus calamus, Euphorbia hirta and Datura metel are used for various skin diseases; Asparagus racemosus, Azadirachta indica, Argemone mexicana, Datura metel and Pongamia pinnata are used for similar purposes in Uttar Pradesh8. Wrightia tinctoria is extensively used for psoriasis9. Peninsular India offers a great deal of scope for ethnobotanical research not only because of the richness of the flora but also because of the many indigenous people inhabiting the country. Since, a few reports on various ethnomedicinal plants against skin diseases are available, an intensive study on ethnobotany, phytochemistry and pharmacology is essential8, 10-13.
Authors gratefully acknowledge Prof A Deva Sobhana Raj for his valuable suggestions and encouragement during the course of the study. Authors are also grateful to the Head, Department of Botany, Scott Christian College, Nagercoil for extending all basic facilities to complete the work successfully and effectively.
Champion HG & Seth SK, A revised survey of forest types of India, (Government of India Press, New Delhi) 1968.
Raj ADS, Profile of Kanyakumari District, 2002, 9–10.
Nagendra PP, Singh AJAR, Narayanan LM & Natrajan CR, Ethnobotany of the Kanikkars of South Tamil Nadu–1, J Econ Taxon Bot, Add Ser, 12 (1996) 292–298.
Rosakutty PJ, Roslin AS & Ignacimuthu S, Some traditional folklore medicinal plants of Kanyakumari district (Tamil Nadu), J Econ Taxon Bot, 23 (1999) 369–375.
Gamble JS & Fischer CEC, Flora of the Presidency of Madras, Vol I–III, (Adlard & Sons Ltd., London),19151936.
Henry AN & Swaminathan MS, Observations on the vegetation of Kanniyakumari district, Tamil Nadu, Bull Bot Surv India, 23 (3 & 4) (1981) 135–139.
Mathew KM, The flora of the Tamil Nadu Karnatic, Vol 3, (The Rapinat Herbarium, St. Joseph’s College, Thiruchirapalli), 1983.
Siddiqui MB, Alam MM & Husain W, Traditional treatment of skin diseases in Uttar Pradesh, India, Econ Bot, 43 (1989) 480–486.
Suseela Bai C & Chellathurai N, Antipsoriatic potential of phytomedicines, J Scott Res Forum, 1 (2005) 90–92.
Purohit VP, Silas RA & Guar RD, Ethnobotanical studies of some medicinal plants used in skin diseases from Raath (Pauri) Garhwal Himalaya, J Sci Res Pl Med, 6 (1985) 39–47.
Ram J & Raju RRV, Certain potential crude drugs used by tribals of Nallamalais, Andra Pradesh for skin diseases, Ethnobotany, 13 (2001) 110–115.
Sen SK & Behera LM, Ethnomedicinal plants used against skin diseases in Bargarh district in Orissa, Ethnobotany, 15 (2003) 90–96.
Upadhyaya OP, Kumar K & Tiwari RK, Ethnobotanical study of skin treatment uses of medicinal plants of Bihar, Pharm Biol, 36 (1998) 167–172.