The following paper is an exploratory study which attempts to focus on the ethno medical knowledge of traditional healers (health practitioners), their practices of wild plants for curative and preventive purposes for different ailments and folk illness ( in other terms, culture-bound syndrome such as ghost sickness) using herbal remedies or any other method of treatment which include faith, belief and magic, and moreover their values in terms of the ecological perspectives Information was collected through the approach of participatory observation, rural appraisal and semi-structured interviews were taken of traditional healers of Lahaul-Spiti and Chamba districts of Himachal Pradesh. These healers were asked to tell the names of plants or herbs which they use to make medicines and later collection and identification of these plants were done with the help of trained Ayurvedic Scholar who is also the second author in this study. The study takes account of 27 herbal plants recorded during the field survey and is listed below with pictures of them with their use, mode of preparation of medicines from them. The study shows that many people of the study area especially old ones continue to depend on traditional medicines as primary health care.


Background and Objective

Health and disease are conditions that every person has to deal with these two in the course of their lifetime. So for this, every different community from a great extent of ages has addressed itself toward this, whether in an advanced and aboriginal manner. Many studies have been done by socio-medical anthropologists throughout the world to understand the health system of different societies, so this time it was my turn and matter of my interest to know the health system of tribal communities who lack the basic healthcare facilities in their area. Ethical knowledge, practices, and innovations had led the local medical practitioners by the name of traditional healers1 . Different ethnic groups have their own different methods, knowledge, and beliefs towards folk medicine and folk healing system2 . Traditional healers are health care service providers who have their own methods of disease diagnosis or healing. They treat numerous illnesses like treatment of different respiratory diseases, gastro intestinal diseases, cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, different types of dermatological ailments, musculoskeletal problems , urogenital problems and many other culture bound syndromes2. This includes treatment by using plants or herbs; collected from the wild ecosystem, using the materials they get from nature, and by faith or magic. They completely work upon the laws of nature as they have very high knowledge of the use of plants for medicinal as well as for nutritional purposes. Documentation of traditional knowledge of herbal plants had lead to the discovery of many drugs for pharmaceutical industries and the modern world3. Presence of these herbal and medicinal plants were like a blessing to the natives, as in most of the remote areas where health facilities are very poor , at that time they can receive medication from the nature in the form of these herbal plants4 .  According to the WHO, about 80% of people worldwide use herbal remedies in terms of their primary health care. As WHO itself says that traditional medicines are “The health practices, approaches, knowledge, and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques, and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being.”5. In many parts of the world, traditional medicine is also considered as complementary and alternative medicine(CAM)6. India as the largest medicinal herb provider in the world is also known as the botanical garden of the world7. The World Health Organization has listed 21,000 plants, which are used for medicinal purposes around the world. Among these 2500 species are in India, out of which 150 species are used commercially on a fairly large scale7.


Ethnopharmacology is a practical approach which deals with the biological validations of the plants and experimental investigations of the natural medicinal drugs8 .It includes the identification and collection of plants and herbs from natural resources. The fact that constituent molecules isolated from the herbs not only provide the vulnerable drug information but also helps in modification and discovery of new drugs9 . Sea buck throne plant; its fruit and leaves are clinically proved to have numerous pharmacological properties like anti bacterial and anti viral antioxidants, anti stress and adaptogenic protection against hypobaric hypoxia10.The drug constituents of Ajuga integrifolia, is known to have as an anti cancer, anti-inflammatory and antihypertensive drug properties11.Aconitum heterophyllum  has the medicinal properties like it can cure diabetes, raised blood pressure, antimalerial and also known for a good aphrodisiac12 .Meconopsis Betonicifolia( Himalayan blue poppy) is a wild plant which is found in rocky mountains has the  medicinal properties of curing high raised blood pressure and also known for treatment af cardiovascular diereses13.Traditional medicine is total mixture of science, belief and art14. Traditional healers believe that no disease can be healed or cured properly if the laws of nature were not obeyed. Herbal medicines are made from crude plant material, leaves, flowers, seeds, and stems. Any sort of extracted material that could be juice, oil, and dry powder can be used or given as a medicine. Traditional medicine is based on individual need, for example, one can receive a different treatment from others for the same illness.  Traditional medicine is full of real experiences, astute observations, and fancy formulae reflecting a combination of inspiration, intuitions, facts, and knowledge. Medicinal plants are very common in tribal and rural areas. The ultimate distinguishing characteristic of this knowledge system is that it is transmitted orally through families, groups, or communities because they are afraid of its misinterpretation15.  The very old and fascinating knowledge of traditional medicine and healing is the practice of Ayurveda in India16 .  similarly Sowa-Rigpa commonly known as Tibetan or Amchi medicine is among the well documented and one of the oldest surviving medical traditions in Tibet, Mangolia and Himalayan region of Asia17. With the living history of more than 2500 years, it has been popularly practiced in the Himalayan regions. Lahaul-Spiti is one of the districts in Himachal Pradesh where the Tibetan medicine system Or Amchi is very popular18 . The traditional doctors were known as larje and amchis in Lahaul and Spiti respectively .


The present study focuses on the role of traditional healers as the basic health care service provider and to document their knowledge on different medicinal herbs or plants, their use, and treatment for a different illness. So far very few ethnobotanical surveys have been done in the study area and this is among the few reports on the use of medicinal plants by traditional healers. 

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