The Role of Medicinal Plants in the Health Care and Rural Economy in the Tribals of Satpura Plateau Region of Central India

A.K. Pandey[1], A.K. Patra and P.K. Shukla


The Satpura plateau region of central India is home to numerous herb species. The agro-climatic conditions prevailing in the region provide an ideal habitat for the natural growth of a variety of plants and herbs, which provide raw materials for pharmaceutical, phytochemical, food, flavoring and cosmetic industries. The paper provides information on 91 medicinal plants used by the Gond, Bharia and Korku tribes of Chhindwara, Betul, Hosangabad and Seoni districts of Madhya Pradesh, India, for the treatment of various diseases. Traditional medicine remains an integral part of the health system in this area. Medicinal plants of forest origin hold great promise to enhance the health and livelihoods of the forest dwellers.


Madhya Pradesh is veritable niche of growing healing herbs, which are being used, in Indian system of medicine like Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani. The plants, shrubs, roots of immense medicinal value are abundantly found in Satpura, Vindhyachal, Amarkantak, Pachmarhi and Patalkot areas. Madhya Pradesh has got 1,35,164 Sq. Km of forests which accounts for 30.48% of total geographical area of the state. Medicinal and aromatic plants are important products found in forest areas throughout Madhya Pradesh from the plains to the hills. More than 80 percent of the people in Madhya Pradesh, (India) rely on herbal remedies as a principal means of preventing and curing illnesses and following traditional system of medicine. There are several advantages to such systems: the plants involved are readily available, are easy to transport, and do not spoil quickly. Remedies based on these plants often have minimal side affects, and the relatively high cost of synthetic medicines often makes traditional herbal medicines an affordable choice for the poor in these lands. India’s traditional medical systems are part of a time-honored and time-tested culture that still intrigues people today. A culture that has successfully used nature to treat primary and complex ailments for over 3,000 years obviously has a contemporary relevance.

Satpura plateau, is a remarkable place, not only because of the more tribal population and dense forest, but also having a lot of rare and useful natural resources including some rare species of medicinal plants, which are used for curing different kinds of diseases. Tribals and forests are symbiotically related. The tribal communities in Satpura plateau occupy forested regions. They have lived in isolation but in harmony with nature. They draw their sustenance largely from the forests. Even in areas where forests do not exist, they visit distant forests periodically and try to get their traditional requirement. They have very close linkage with the forest, which they regard as their mother deity. A perusal of literature revealed that some work has been done on ethnomedicinal plants of Madhya Pradesh (Rai and Pandey, 1997; Pandey, 2000; Rai et al. 2000).

The present study aims to identify and prepare an inventory of various medicinal plant species used by the tribals of Satpura plateau of central India to cure their various ailments..


During the course of study number of extensive and periodical surveys were conducted during 1999-2001 among the Gond, Bharia and Koru tribes, inhabiting the forest areas of Chhindwara, Senoi, Betul and Hosangabad districts of Madhya Pradesh. Information pertaining to ethnomedicinal uses of the plants was collected from the tribal physicians (vaidyas), tribal head man (Mukhia), aged tribals, and further confirmed with herbalists. The plants are enumerated alphabetically along with their botanical names, vernacular name, major uses, dosage and mode of administration for treating diseases. 91 plant species of the most commonly used herbal drugs in the region are described.

1. Abrus precatorius (Ghumachi): Seeds are used as purgative and abortifacient.

2. Abutilon indicum (Kanghi): seeds are used as laxative and in piles. The leaves are locally applied on ulcer and boils.

3. Acanthospermum hispidum (Bichiya Kanta): Plant is used in scorpion sting.

4. Acacia catechu (Khair): The bark of the tree is used in chronic diarrhea.

5. Acacia nilotica (Babul): The twig of the plant is used as natural tooth brush. The extract of fresh bark is used as tonic, and gum is used as powerful tonic after delivery.

6. Acorus calamus (Bach): The paste of rhizome is given to cure stammering in children at least up to 90 days.

7. Achyranthes aspera (Apamarg): Twigs are used for tooth pain. Roots of the plant tied to women for easy delivery of baby. Leaves are used in scorpion sting and in skin eruptions.

8. Adhatoda vasica (Vasaka): The decoction of leaves are given to cure asthma and other bronchial troubles.

9. Aegle marmelos (Bel): Fruits are used in dysentery and diarrhea. Bark for intermittent fever.

10. Aloe vera (Gwarpatha): The peelings of the leaves are used in skin burn. The gel of the plant is given orally in ulcers. the fleshy part is also used in facial creams.

11. Alpinia galanga (Kulanjan): Rhizomes used in bronchial troubles, cough and cold.

12. Andrographis paniculata (Kalmegh): The plant is used for malarial fever (fever with chills) and as liver tonic.

13. Anisomelos indica (Bhandari): The leaves of the plant are used in cough and cold.

14. Annona squamosa (Sitaphal): The leaves are used to reduce blood sugar. The oil of seed is used to kill lice.

15. Anogeissus latifolia (Dhawra): Leaves are used in diarrhea. Gum is used as tonic.

16. Argemone mexicana (Pili Katari): The extract is used in various skin diseases. The latex is applied in eyes in case of conjunctivitis.

17. Argyreia speciosa (Samudrasokh): Leaves are used in boils. Roots are used as tonic.

18. Asparagus racemosus (Satavar): The root powder is used to increase vigour and strength. The root powder is also used to increase lactation.

19. Azadirachta indica (Neem): Seed oil is used in skin diseases and in lice. Bark is useful in malarial fever. Tender twigs are used as tooth brush.

20. Bauhinia variegata (Kachnar): Bark is used in skin diseases. Pod is used in diarrhea.

21. Berberis aristata (Daruhaldi): Root is used as purgative and tonic. Plant is used in abdominal disorders.

22. Boerhaavia diffusa (Punarnava): Plant used in jaundice, urinary troubles and in skin diseases.

23. Boswellia serrata (Salai): Gum used as tonic. It is considered as diuretic and useful in skin diseases.

24. Bryonia laciniosa (Shivlingi): Seeds are used to cure sterility in women.

25. Butea monosperma (Palas): Seeds are used to cure ringworms and skin diseases.

26. Caesalpinia crista (Gataran): The seed powder is used in stomach disorders.

27. Calotropis procera (Aak): The latex of plant is applied to remove thorn from the body and also in boils.

28. Cassia tora (Chakoda): The seed paste is applied on skin diseases. The powder of dry seeds are used to cure asthma.

29. Catharanthus roseus (Sadabahar): The leaves and white flowers are used to reduce sugar level.2-3 leaves/flowers per day early morning.

30. Celastrus paniculatus (Malkangni): Massage of the seed oil is done on joints to relieve pain.

31. Centella asiatica (Bramhi): The leaves are used to improve memory.

32. Chlorophytum spp. (Safed Musli): The roots of the plant are used for general weakness, as tonic and aphrodisiac..

33. Cissampelos pariera (Karu Pahad): The root of the plant is used in snakebite. The root decoction is also used in diarrhea and urinary troubles.

34. Cissus quadrangularis (Harjori): The paste of the stem is used to join bone fractures.

35. Citrullus colocynthis (Indrayan): Fruits and seeds are purgative, used in jaundice, piles, urinary diseases and in rheumatism.

36. Clitoria ternata (Aprajita): The root of the plant is used to remove stone in gall bladder.

37. Costus speciosus (Keokand): Rhizomes are used in rheumatic pains.

38. Curculigo orchoides (Kali Musli): Roots are used as tonic and aphrodisiac; in leucorrhoea and menstrual irregularities.

39. Curcuma amada (Amahaldi): Used in sprains and brusies.

40. Curcuma angustifolia (Tikhur): The tubers are considered as good source of starch.

41. Curcuma aromatica (Jangli haldi): The rhizome id used in common cold and digestion.

42. Curcuma caesia (Kali Haldi): Rhizomes are used in sprains, bruises and internal injuries.

43. Cuscuta reflexa (Amarbel): The extract of the plant is used in white spots and in dandruff.

44. Cyperus scariosus (Nagarmotha): The tubers are used in urinary and heart troubles.

45. Datura metal (Dhatura): Smoke of seeds inhaled in bronchial troubles.

46. Dioscorea daemia (Bechandi): The tribals eat the tubers and considered as tonic and aphrodisiac.

47. Diospyros melanoxylon (Tendu): Bark of the tree is used in diarrhea. Dried flowers are useful in skin and urinary diseases.

48. Eclipta alba (Bhringraj): Applied with oil to reduce graying of hairs and hair loss.

49. Embelia ribes (Baividang): Seeds are used in round worms and as antidote to snake bite.

50. Emblica officinalis (Amla): Fruits are used in digestion and as tonic. It is considered to be a good blood purifier.

51. Evolvulus alsinoides (Sankhpuspi): The plant is used to improve memory and in mental diseases.

52. Gloriosa superba (Kalihari): The rhizome of the plant are used in scorpion sting and snake bite. It is also used as abortifacient.

53. Gymnema sylvestre (Gurmar): The leaves of the plant are used in diabetics.

54. Hedychium spicatum (Kapur Kachri): Rhizome is used in pain in stomach. It is also used in cough and diarrhea.

55. Hemidesmus indicus (Anantmool): Roots are used in urinary troubles and in ulcers.

56. Helicteres isora (Marodphalli): Used in dysentery and stomach pains, diabetes and in skin diseases.

57. Hollarrhena antidysentrica (Kutaj): Seeds and bark: anthelmintic, antidysentric, astringent, bitter, carminative and used in bleeding piles. Bark is used in colitis.

58. Hyptis suaveolens (Ban Tulsi): Seed oil applied on chest in cold.

59. Mallotus philippensis (Kamla): The powder from the exterior of the fruits is used for roundworms.

60. Mitragyna parviflora (Mundi): Bark of the tree is used in fever and cold.

61. Moringa oleifera (Sanjana): The paste of the leaves is applied externally on wounds.

62. Mucuna pruriens (Kewanch): The seeds are used as aphrodisiac and in male sterility.

63. Nyctanthus arbortistis (Harsingar): The leaves are used in fever and rheumatism.

64. Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi): The leaves are used to cure cough and cold and also to cure boils and ulcers. The seeds are used as aphrodisiac.

65. Phyllanthus amarus (Bhuiamla): It is a common household remedy for the treatment of Jaundice.

66. Plumbago zeylanica (Chitrak): The seed powder is applied on boils and ulcers.

67. Pongamia pinnata (Karanj): The seed oil is applied on skin eruptions and eczema.

68. Psoralea corylifolia (Babchi): The seeds are used to cure skin diseases and leucoderma.

69. Pterocarpus marsupium (Bija Sal): The water extract of the wood of the tree is used in diabetics.

70. Rauvolfia serpentina (Sarpagandha): It is a reputed house hold medicine for the treatment of sanity insomnia and snakebite.

71. Ruta graveolens (Sitab): The juice of leaves is used as carminative. The herb is planted near the houses to repel snakes.

72. Semecarpus anacardium (Bhilawa): The oil is used in rheumatic pains. The seed oil is applied with the help of pointed needle in case of pain in joints.

73. Sida acuta (Mahabala): The plant is used in treatment of snakebite, rheumatism, fever and as tonic.

74. Sida cordifolia (Bala): The plant is used as anti-rheumatic and antipyretic drugs.

75. Sida rhombifolia (Atibala): Used in tuberculosis, rheumatism and as antidote to snake venom.

76. Smilax macrophylla (Ramdatun): In seminal emissions the powder of roots is used.

77. Solanum nigrum (Makoy): The leaves are used in skin diseases and jaundice.

78. Sphaeranthus indicus (Gorkha Mundi): The pant is used as aphrodisiac.

79. Spilanthus acmela (Akarkara): the flowers of the plant are chewed in tooth pain.

80. Syzygium cumini (Jamun): Seed-powder is useful in diarrhea, dysentery and diabetics.

81. Terminalia arjuna (Arjun or Kahua): The decoction of the bark is used in heart troubles. the bark gives strength to the heart.

82. Terminalia bellirica (Baheda): Epicarp of the fruit mixed with Harra (Terminalia Chebula) and Amla (Emblica officinalis) is useful in digestion.

83. Terminalia chebula (Harra): Used in preparation of digestive powder. Useful in bronchial troubles.

84. Tinospora cordifolia (Amrita or Giloe): the juice of stem is taken orally as tonic. After long illness, the juice of the plant removes the weakness along with side effects of antibiotics.

85. Tribulus terrestris (Chota Gokhru): The fruits are used as aphrodisiac.

86. Tridax procumbens (Barahmasi): The juice of the plant applied on cuts as antiseptic.

87. Tylophora indica (Antamool): The leaves are taken orally in asthma.

88. Urginea indica (Jangli pyaj): The juice of the bulb is used in respiratory disorders.

89. Ventilago caliculata (Keoti): The bark of the plant is used in diabetics. Seed oil is used in rheumatic pain.

90. Vitex negundo (Nirgundi): The extract of the leaves is used in body pain and in skin diseases.

91. Withania somnifera (Aswagandha): The root powder is taken with milk to remove weakness and improve vigour.

Discussion and conclusion

Based on the present study, it has been found that the tribal community of central India is rich in ethno biological knowledge, which has been transmitted from one generation to another. The present study also revealed that the tribal communities living in the same region have their own traditional ethno botanical knowledge. The methods used for curing diseases have been found to be different from one community to other. This is because of their socio economic structure, ancient traditional knowledge and beliefs. There livelihood is totally dependent on their ecological surroundings and they use simple technology to sustain their life, which seems totally conservative. The present study emphasized that there is a profound and growing knowledge gap between old and younger generations. People of more than 50-65 years age know a lot about wild plant products as compared to younger generation (Pandey and Bisaria, 1997).

Earlier the tribals of the region were harvesting the medicinal plants at a particular time and date and time only and have belief that at this particular time it has more therapeutic value. It is evident from the modern science that at particular time the herb contains optimum active ingredients. These types of traditional harvesting practices will be helpful in providing quality raw material on sustainable basis and tool for conservation. The efforts are being made to document such non-destructive traditional harvesting practices for conservation as well as regulated and sustainable harvest. Considering conservation priorities, medicinal plant species yielding bark, root, gum, rhizome, flowers and whole plant as useful product in the manufacture of herbal drugs are more important. The destructive extraction of these resources disturb the habitat of the species e.g., Terminalia arjuna, Sterculia urens, Boswellia serrata, Gloriosa superba, Costus speciosus, Curcuma amada, Curcuma caesia, Curcuma angustifolia, Dioscoria sp. and Rauvolfia serpentina.

The medicinal plants provide numerous opportunities for the state to advance rural well being. Because medicinal plants are one of the few natural products that sell at premium prices. Thus, the global clamor for more herbal ingredients creates possibilities for the commercial cultivation of medicinal crops. Such endeavors could help raise rural employment in the developing countries, boost commerce around the world, and perhaps contribute to the health of millions. The tribals of the region are still collecting, gums, leaves, bark, flowers, and fruits of various medicinal plants to supplement their income. (Table 1).

Table 1. Medicinal Plants collected in larger quantities from the forests

Medicinal Plant

Common name

Plant part collected

Market rate Rs/kg

Aegle marmelos




Andrographis paniculata


Whole plant


ow Buchanania lanzenll Char/Chironji



Butea monosperma




Caesalpinia crista

24 Gataran



Cassia tora




Celestrus paniculatus




Chlorophytum borivillianum

Safed Musli



Curculigo orchoidesl Kali Musli



Curcuma angustifolia




Cyperus scariosus




Dioscoria daemia




Embelia ribes




Emblica officinalis




Gymnema sylvestre


Leavesl 15.00

Helicteres isora




Jatropha carcus




Madhuca latifolia




Mucuna pruriens


Seeds and pods


Plumbago zeylanica




Medicinal plants and their various products can be viewed as an important commodity items for sustainable economic development of the region. There is also need of organized marketing and trade of medicinal plants and their various products so that the collector should get remunerative price for his collection. It is suggested that initiative should be taken at government level for deciding minimum support price for the medicinal plants like agricultural crops to avoid the involvement of middleman.

The information as a outcome of study will serve as a useful tool to botanists, pharmacologists, phyto-chemists, practitioner of herbal medicine, foresters, planners and administrators in the preparation of action and development plans for the conservation as well as herbal drug industry in the tribal tracts for providing self-employment opportunities and improving and uplifting the life, economy and social status of the tribal and rural populations


Pandey, A.K. and Bisaria, A.K. (1997). Rational Utilization of important medicinal plants: A tool for conservation. Indian Forester.124 (4): 197-206.

Pandey, A.K. (2000). Strategies for Effective Conservation of Medicinal Plants. In Integrated Management of Plant Resources, Ed. Rai, M.K., Verma Ajit and Rajak, R.C., Scientific Publishers (India), pp. 68-74.

Rai, M.K. and Pandey, A.K. (1997). Folk medicines of Gond tribe of Seoni district, M.P., India. J. Non-Timber Forest Products, 4(1/2): 61-69.

Rai, M.K., Pandey, A.K. and Acharya Deepak. (2000). Ethno-medicinal plants used by Gond tribe of Bhanadehi, district Chhindwara, Madhya Peadesh. J.Non-Timber Forest Products, 7(3/4): 237-241

[1] Centre for Forestry research and Human Resource Development, Chhindwara 480 001, India. Email: akpandey10@rediffmail.com