Ethnobotany of medicinal plants used by Assamese people for various skin ailments and cosmetics

Ethnobotany of medicinal plants used by Assamese people for various skin ailments and cosmetics

Journal of Ethnopharmacology 106 (2006) 149–157 Ethnobotany of medicinal plants used by Assamese people for various skin ailments and cosmetics Abina...

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Journal of Ethnopharmacology 106 (2006) 149–157

Ethnobotany of medicinal plants used by Assamese people for various skin ailments and cosmetics Abinash Pratim Saikia a , Venkat Kishore Ryakala a , Pragya Sharma b , Pranab Goswami a , Utpal Bora a,∗ a

Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, North Guwahati-781039, Assam, India b Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Mall Road, Delhi-110007, India Received 15 June 2005; received in revised form 17 October 2005; accepted 30 November 2005 Available online 13 February 2006

Abstract The present paper deals with the medicinal plants used by the people of Assam for curing different skin ailments and for cosmetics. A total of 85 plants belonging to 49 families have been documented for their therapeutic use against skin diseases and as herbal care. The herbal medicines were prepared from various plant parts of single plant, or multiple plants. The majority of the preparation was made using water as the medium. The mode of application was topical, but in many cases it was also administered orally. In several cases the pure herbal preparations was administered along with milk, ghee, honey, coconut oil, curd, etc. Remedies for 18 skin ailments were documented through this study. About 14 plants are known for their use to cure multiple skin diseases. Among these Curcuma longa and Melia azaderach constitute the major plants. The herbal cosmetic products used by the people of Assam ranges from the enhancement of skin colour, hair care, removal of ugly spots, colouring of nails, palms, and teeth. However, many of the plant preparations used for enhancing beauty were also applied for therapeutic use. Herbal remedies were also available for skin burns, prickly heat and pimples. Information on nine plants used for managing dry skin also emerged from this study. © 2006 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Skin diseases; Cosmetics; Medicinal plants; Assam

1. Introduction Skin diseases amount to as high as 34% of all occupational diseases (Spiewak, 2000). Assam, a state in the north-east India extends from 24.5◦ N to 28◦ N latitude and 88.25◦ E to 96.0◦ E longitude between foothills of eastern Himalayas and the Patkai and Naga Hills. The climate of Assam is characterized by extreme humidity (≥90%). This tropical humid climate facilitates the development of many skin infections and other diseases. Moreover, the majority of the people of Assam is involved in agriculture and related activities and is thereby frequently exposed to different sensitizers and dermatological infections. In a study it was revealed that skin diseases constituted 6.3% of the total Abbreviations: IPNI, International plant names index Corresponding author. Tel.: +91 11 0361 2582215; fax: +91 11 0361 2690762. E-mail addresses: [email protected], [email protected] (U. Bora). ∗

0378-8741/$ – see front matter © 2006 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2005.11.033

number of the patients who attended medical care (Das, 2003). The people of this region have developed a rich ethnomedical tradition. They use many herbal preparations to cure skin infections and other diseases. The region is considered as one of the ecological hot spots of the world (Myers et al., 2000) and has an abundance of medicinal plants known to the native people (Asati and Yadav, 2004). Recently the practice of herbal medicine has been declining in the very places where it has been once developed and nurtured by oral tradition. This may in future lead to the loss of valuable information about the plants used (Harsha et al., 2002). The demand for herbal medicines is increasing rapidly due to their lack of side effects. Further as health care costs continue to escalate, the attraction for low-cost remedies has stimulated consumers to re-evaluate the potential of alternatives (Bouldin et al., 1999). To our knowledge no systematic ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants used in Assam for curing skin diseases and

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Table 1 Description of the medicinal plants used by people of Assam for healing skin diseases and as cosmetics Botanical name

Local name

Family name

Parts used

Mode of preparation

Usefulness

Acacia farnesiana (L.) Willd.

Tarua kadam

Mimosaceae



Skin burns

Aegle marmelos (L.) Correa ex Roxb.

Bel

Rutaceae

Leaves

Allium cepa L. Allium sativum L.

Piyaj Naharu

Liliaceae Alliaceae

Bulb Bulb

The extracted gum is mixed with egg and then it is applied on the burnt places The leaves are crushed along with some Piper nigerum fruits and the paste is layered on the boils The juice is applied on the head One piece is crushed and the juice extracted is mixed with the juice from Paederia foetida and orally taken The pieces are crushed and applied directly on the skin. The pieces are orally taken too The pieced are crushed and applied directly on the infected skin The pieces are crushed and applied directly on the skin The pieces are crushed and the paste is layered on the boils The leaves are crushed and the paste is layered on the burnt places The bark is crushed together with Achyranthes aspera, Piper longum and Piper nigerum and the mixture formed is orally taken The gum extracted from the bark is applied directly on the toe The gum is applied directly on the skin The extracted juice is applied on the skin The juice extracted from the leaves is used for washing the hairs The oil extracted from the plant is applied on the infected skin The extracted oil is applied on the infection The juice from the leaves is used as colours in tattoos The extracted juice is applied directly on the infected skin The crushed leaves are mixed with cheese and it is then applied on the burnt places The bark is crushed and directly applied on the insect bites The leaves are crushed and the paste so formed is layered on the infected portion The extracted oil mixed with Cynodon dactylon juice and Curcuma longa juice and water. The mixture is then crushed and heated.The product so formed is applied on the infected skin The crushed seeds are applied on the face The leaves are crushed and the paste is layered on the boils The leaves are crushed and applied directly on the skin The crushed seeds are mixed with Citrus odorata juice and the mixture is applied on the infection

Aloe barbadensis Mill.

Chaal kuwari

Aloaceae

Leaves

Alstonia scholaris (L.) R. Br.

Satiyana

Apocynaceae

Bark

Amaranthus spinosus L.

Kaata khutara

Amaranthaceae

Whole plant

Annona reticulata L.

Atlus

Annonaceae

Leaves

Aquilaria agallocha Roxb. Azadirachta indica A. Juss. Baphicacanthus cusia (Nees) Bremek.♣ Basella rubra L.

Agaru

Thymelaeaceae



Neem

Meliaceae



Hamkhaam

Acanthaceae

Leaves

Puroi shaak

Basellaceae

Leaves

Bischofia javanica Blume Boerhavia diffusa L.

Uriam

Euphorbiaceae

Bark

Panaunua

Nyctaginaceae

Leaves

Brassica juncea (L.) Czern.

Sariyah

Brassicaceae

Seeds

Bryophyllum pinnatum (Lam.) Kurz

Butea frondosa Roxb. ex Willd.

Dupar tenga

Palas

Crassulaceae

Fabaceae

Leaves

Seeds

Abscess

Pediculosis Urticaria

Leprosy

Ringworm Scabies Abscess Skin burns Leprosy

Toe cracks Cellulites Eczema Pediculosis Leprosy Eczema Tattooing Urticaria Skin burns

Insect bite Carbuncle

Scabies

Pimples Abscess Pediculosis Dhobi’s itch

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Table 1 (Continued ) Botanical name

Local name

Family name

Parts used

Mode of preparation

Usefulness

Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.

Arahar dail

Fabaceae

Seeds

Scabies

Canarium resiniferum Bruce ex King Capsicum spp.

Dhuna

Burseraceae



The crushed form is mixed with curd and the mixture is applied on the infected skin The paste is layered on the burns

Khud jalakia

Solanaceae

Fruit

Carica papaya L.

Amita

Caricaceae

Fruit

Cassia fistula L.

Sunaru

Caesalpiniaceae

Leaves

Centella asiatica (L.) Urb. Centratherum anthelminticum (Wild.) Kunze

Manimuni

Apiaceae

Leaves

Sumraj

Asteraceae

Seeds

Leaves Citrus limon (L.) Burm. f.♣♣

Citrus medica L.♣

Gulnemu

Sumthiratenga

Rutaceae

Rutaceae

Fruit

Fruit

Citrus medica L.

Sumthira tenga

Rutaceae

Fruit

Citrus odorata (Wester) Tanaka♣♣

Nemu

Rutaceae

Fruit

Clitoria ternatea L.

Aparajita

Fabaceae

Flower

Cocos nucifera L.

Narikal

Arecaceae

Fruit

Curcuma longa L.♣♣

Haladhi

Zingiberaceae

Roots

The crushed form is applied directly on the skin The gum extracted from the fruit is applied on the infected skin after scratching it The fruit is crushed the paste formed is applied on the face The gum is directly applied on the burns The leaves are crushed and applied on the infection A number of leaves are crushed and applied directly on the skin The powder is mixed with Sesamum indicum and the mixture is orally taken Salt is added to the crushed leaves and the product is applied on the skin The extracted juice is applied directly on the skin. The juice is orally taken too The fruits are peeled and the pieces are rubbed on the skin The juice is orally taken. Moreover the fruit is peeled and the sheets are rubbed on the face The juice is poured on the eyes The fruit juice is orally taken

The fruit juice is mixed with curd and paste formed is layered on the face The juice extracted from crushing the fruit is orally taken The juice is applied directly on the skin The juice is used for washing the hairs The juice from the fruit is applied externally on the body. The juice is orally taken too The fruit juice is mixed with curd and paste formed is layered on the face The juice is mixed with black tea and the mixture is applied on the hair The flowers are mixed with roots of the Piper longum plant and the mixture is crushed. The paste formed is layered on the infected skin The coconut oil is mixed with Citrus limon juice and the mixture is applied on the infected place A bit is taken orally daily for some days The roots are crushed and applied directly on the infected skin after scratching it The extracted juice is mixed with milk and ghee and the mixture is orally taken

Skin burns Scabies Ringworm

Pimples Skin burns Ringworm Carbuncle Leprosy

Dry skin

Prickly heat Pimples

Eyes become brighter For skin softening and making body colour fairer Makes face fair and beautiful Wrinkled skin Eczema Dandruff Softening and beautification of skin Face becomes fair and beautiful Hairs become bright, soft and beautiful Leprosy

Scabies

Urticaria Ringworm

Scabies

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Table 1 (Continued ) Botanical name

Local name

Family name

Parts used

Cymbopogon nardus (L.) Rendle Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.

Chitranala

Poaceae



Dubari ban

Poaceae

Leaves

Datura stramonium L.

Dhatura

Solanaceae

Leaves

Daucus carota L.

Gajar

Apiaceae

Roots

Desmodium gangeticium (L.) DC Dillenia indica L.♣♣

Biyanisaawata

Papilionaceae

Leaves

Outenga

Dilleniaceae

Fruit

Eclipta erecta L.

Mahabhringaraj

Asteraceae

Leaves

Embelia ribes Burm. f.

Biranga

Myrsinaceae

Fruit

Emblica officinalis Gaertn.

Amlokhi

Euphorbiaceae

Fruit

Eucalyptus globulus Labill. Eugenia caryophyllata Thunb. Euphorbia neriifolia L.

Eukalyptus

Myrtaceae

Leaves

Laung

Myrtaceae

Flower bud

Siju

Euphorbiaceae

Branches

Mode of preparation

Usefulness

The crushed form is applied directly on the skin. The extracted juice is orally taken too The crushed form is applied directly on the skin The paste (crushed form) is mixed with juice extracted from Cynodon dactylon plant and product formed is applied on the infected skin The juice and the dried powder are applied on the infection The juice is applied on the skin

Dry skin

The oil is mixed with coconut oil and the mixture is applied on the head The grass along with Curcuma longa is crushed and the paste is applied on the skin Equal amounts of the grass juice and Curcuma longa juice are mixed and orally taken The paste is layered on the infection The juice is applied on the head The cleaned roots are orally taken. The roots are peeled and rubbed against the infected skin The roots are crushed and directly applied on the burnt place The paste is layered on the infection The mucilaginous substance is used for washing the hairs The leaves are crushed and applied on the head Embelia ribes, Emblica officinalis, Piper longum, Terminalia belerica are mixed in equal amounts and the crushed form (powder) is added to honey and the concentrated honey is then applied on the infection The extracted juice is mixed with sugar and the mixture is orally taken The fruits are orally taken The paste is applied directly on the skin. The extracted juice is used for taking bath The fruit and Curcuma longa are together crushed and the juice produced is orally taken The juice extracted from the fruit is mixed with Citrus limon juice and hot water. The obtained product is used for washing the hairs The leaves are rubbed and applied on the skin It is crushed and mixed with honey and the product is orally taken The gum is mixed with gum from Catotropis gigantea and powder from Berberis aristata in equal amounts and the mixture is applied on the infected skin The branches are crushed and the paste is layered on the boils

Wrinkled skin Prickly heat

Measles Skin becomes beautiful Pediculosis Urticaria

Eczema Pediculosis Scabies

Skin burns Eczema Dandruff and for beautiful hair Pediculosis Carbuncle

Scabies Dry skin Wrinkled skin

Measles

Pediculosis

Urticaria Measles Carbuncle

Abscess

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Table 1 (Continued ) Botanical name

Local name

Family name

Parts used

Mode of preparation

Usefulness

Foeniculum vulgare Mill.

Chauf

Apiaceae

Seed

Scabies

Garuga pinnata Roxb.

Kharpat

Burseraceae

Leaves

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L.♣ Jatropha curcas L.♣♣

Jaba

Malvaceae

Flower

Bongali ara

Euphorbiaceae

Leaves

The Feniculum vulgare is crushd along with Coriandrum sativum. The mixture mixed with ghee and sugar is orally taken The leaves are crushed and directly applied on the skin The crushed flower is applied on the hair The juice from leaves is mixed with egg yolk is and the mixture is applied on the burns Teeth are brushed with the cut branches The juice extracted is mixed with honey and the mixture is orally taken The leaves are crushed along with Curcuma longa and the extracted juice is used to wash the infection A bit of sugar is added to the crushed form and the paste is layered on the infection The juice extracted from the leaves is used for taking bath The crushed form is applied directly on the skin The extracted juice is applied directly on the skin The juice is used for washing the boils The paste (crushed form) is layered on the palm and the nails

Branch Justicia adhatoda L.

Baahak

Acanthaceae

Leaves

Laurus nobilis L.

Tejpaat

Lauraceae

Leaves

Lawsonia inermis L.♣♣

Jetuka

Lythraceae

Leaves

Lens esculenta Moench

Masoor dail

Leguminosae

Seed

Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.

Bilahi

Solanaceae

Fruit

Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.♣ Mangifera indica L.♣♣

Bilahi

Solanaceae

Fruit

Aam

Anacardiaceae

Fruit

Melia azedarach L.

Mahaneem

Meliaceae

Leaves

The crushed leaves are also applied in the hairs before washing it The pulses are fried with ghee and the product is crushed and mixed with milk. The paste so formed is layered on the face The extracted juice is mixed with coconut oil and the mixture is applied on the infected skin The juice from the fruit is mixed with honey and the mixture is orally taken The juice is mixed with milk and orally taken The ripe mango is orally taken with cow’s milk The leaves are boiled in water and that water is used to wash the infected place.The crushed form is mixed with ghee and the mixture is applied on the infected skin The leaves are fried and orally taken. The leaves are boiled in water and that water is used to wash the infected place The leaves are boiled in water and the water is then cooled and used for bathing The juice is used for washing the infection The paste (crushed form) is layered on the boils and the extracted juice is used to wash the infection

Ringworm The hair becomes shiny Skin burns

Teeth are protected from microbes Leprosy Cellulitis

Abscess

Measles Prickly heat Wrinkled skin Abscess Palm and nails get coloured and they look beautiful Hair becomes smooth and shiny Pimples

Scabies

Face becomes fair and beautiful Wrinkled skin For fair skin Carbuncle

Scabies

Prickly heat

Cellulitis Abscess

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Table 1 (Continued ) Botanical name

Local name

Family name

Parts used

Mentha arvensis L.♣

Podina

Lamiaceae

Leaves

Moghania strobilifera Jaume St.Hil. Moringa oleifera Lam. Musa spp.

Makhiati

Leguminosae

Root

Chajina Bhim kal

Moringaceae Musaceae

– Fruit peel

Fruit Nyctanthes arbor tristis Linn.

Sewali

Nyctanthaceae

Flower

Ocimum sanctum L.

Tulasi

Lamiaceae

Leaves

Oryza sativa L.♣♣

Osbeckia nepalensis Hook.

Chawool

Baga futkala

Poaceae

Melastomataceae

Kernel

Leaves Roots

Oxalis corniculata L.

Tengesi tenga

Oxalidaceae

Leaves

Paederia foetida L.

Bhedai lata

Rubiaceae

Leaves

Phaseolus mungo L.♣

Maatimah

Fabaceae

Seeds

Piper betel Blanco

Pan

Piperaceae

Leaves

Piper nigrum L.

Jhaluk

Piperaceae

Fruit

Pterocarpus santalinus Blanco♣♣

Chandan

Leguminosae

Wood

Ricinus communis L.

Baga ara

Euphorbiaceae

Leaves

Rosa rosa♣♣

Gulap

Rosaceae

Flower

Mode of preparation

Usefulness

The leaves are fried and orally taken. The juice is added to water and that water is used for taking bath The leaves are soaked in water and that water is used for washing the hair The juice from the leaves is applied on the face

Measles

The roots are crushed and directly applied on the infected skin The gum is poured on the eyes The dried fruit peel is crushed along with Curcuma longa and the mixture is applied on the infected skin The ripe fruits are peeled and the pieces are rubbed on the burns The dried flower is powdered and mixed with honey. The mixture is then orally taken The extracted juice is mixed with juice from Curcuma longa and orally taken Salt is added to the paste (rubbed form) and the product is applied on the infected skin after scratching it Boiled rice is mixed with curd made of buffalo’s milk and is eaten for some days The rice flour is mixed with honey and egg yolk. The mixture paste is then layered on the face The juice extracted from the leaves is applied on the infection The juice from the roots are mixed with the juice from the seeds of Croton tiglium and ashes. The resulted mixture is applied on the infection The leaves are crushed and applied directly on the skin The leaves are crushed and applied directly on the skin The crushed form is applied on hair The juice extracted from crushing the leaves is applied on the head The crushed form of the fruit are mixed with ghee and the product is orally taken The powder is soaked in water and the paste formed is layered on the skin The powdered form of crushed wood is mixed with flour and egg. The formed product is applied on the body The juice extracted is mixed with Acacia catechu in equal amounts and the crushed mixture is applied on the skin The paste is applied on the infection The rosewater is poured on the eyes The rosewater is mixed with milk and curd and the stirred mixture is applied on the face

Pediculosis Removal of spots (from pimples) on the face Ringworm Abscess on eyes Leprosy

Skin burns Measles

Urticaria

Ringworm

Carbuncle

Smoothning of skin and removal of spots on the face Carbuncle Leprosy

Eczema Urticaria Hair becomes shiny and beautiful Pediculosis Scabies

Prickly heat

The skin becomes smooth and fair

Carbuncle

Eczema Abscess on eyes The facial skin becomes smooth

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Table 1 (Continued ) Botanical name

Local name

Family name

Parts used

Mode of preparation

Usefulness

Sacharum spp.

Gandhabiringa

Poaceae

Leaves

Pediculosis

Sapindus mukorossi Gaertn. Saraca indica L.

Manisaal

Sapindaceae

Seed cover

Ashok

Leguminosae

Wood

Sesamum indicum L.♣

Til

Pedaliaceae

Seeds

The extracted juice is applied directly on the head The seed covers are rubbed and used for washing the hairs The wood is orally taken and the paste is layered on the burnt place The seeds are orally taken along with water

Sesbania grandiflora (L.) Pers.

Bakphool

Fabaceae

Flower

Sida acuta Burm. f. Solanum tuberosum L.

Sarusunbariyal Aalu

Malvaceae Solanaceae

Leaves Root

Streblus asper Lour.♣

Saura

Moraceae

Branch

Swertia chirata Buch. -Ham. ex Wall.

Siretta

Gentianaceae

Leaves

Thevetia nerifolia Juss. ex Steud.

Baga karabi

Apocynaceae

Roots

Tinospora cordifolia Miers Tridex procumbens

Gulancha

Menispermaceae

Leaves

Bikhalya-korani

Asteraceae

Leaves

Trigonella foenum graecum - L.

Methiguti

Fabaceae

Seeds

Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper Vitex negundo L.

Maatimah

Fabaceae

Seed

Pasatiya

Lamiaceae

Leaves

The crushed flowers are mixed with curd and cheese and the mixture is applied on the infected skin The paste is layered on the boils It is peeled and the segments are rubbed against the burnt places The teeth are brushed with the cut branches The dried form is orally taken The juice is applied directly on the infected skin. The juice is orally taken too The paste is layered on the boils and the extracted juice is used to wash the infection The paste is layered on the infected portion. The juice extracted is mixed with equal amount of water and is orally taken The extracted juice is orally taken with ghee or honey The paste is layered on the infected skin The paste is layered on the boils The seeds are soaked in water and then crushed. The paste so formed is layered on the burnt skin The crushed form is orally taken

Leaves and roots

Zingiber officinale Roscoe

Moran aada

Zingiberaceae

Root

as cosmetics has been made. Keeping these things in mind we explored the knowledge available with the native people to cure different skin diseases prevalent in this region using medicinal plants. Here we report the ethnobotany of herbal plants, which are claimed to be useful in curing dermatological diseases by the people of Assam.

The crushed form is applied on the skin and extracted juice is orally taken The paste (crushed form) is layered on the infected place The paste is layered on the boils The juice extracted from the crushed part is mixed with the oil extracted from Sesamum indicum and applied on the skin The paste is mixed with Sesamum indicum and then layered on the infection The juice extracted from the root is mixed with old molases and orally taken

Dandruff Skin burns Eyes become brighter and the hair gets beautiful Dry skin

Abscess Skin burns The teeth are protected from microbes Leprosy Scabies

Abscess

Leprosy

Leprosy Cellulites Abscess Skin burns

Scabies Urticaria

Cellulitis Abscess Carbuncle

Eczema

Urticaria

2. Methods The study was carried out by interviewing resource persons (respondents) in different villages under various districts of Assam. Proper care was taken in selecting the respondents. The respondents were healers themselves or have a tradition of

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healing in their families and had knowledge on the medicinal use of the plants for the said purpose. A structured interview form was used to collect information in the local language and respondents were queried for the type of herbal cure known to him for skin diseases and cosmetics. The modes of preparation and administration were also recorded. The acquired data were cross-checked with available local literature (Khanikar, 2002). Botanical identification was done with the help of taxonomists in Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden, Guwahati. The data were tabulated to include the botanical name, local name, family name, plant part(s) used, mode of preparation and administration and their usefulness as remedies for skin disease and/or cosmetic application. The botanical name was written as in IPNI database. A list of diseases and disorders or uses was compiled and the number of plants used against each category was estimated. The frequency of a single plant used for curing different number of diseases was calculated. 3. Results and discussion A total of 85 plants belonging to 49 families have been documented for their therapeutic use against skin diseases and as herbal care as enlisted in Table 1. The plant parts used ranged from roots, shoots, leaves, stems, barks, seeds, to flowers, fruits and in some cases the whole plant. From the data presented in Table 1, we observe that remedies can be divided into three classes: those that use (i) a single plant, (ii) two plants and (iii) more than two plants. The remedies, which involve merely the use of a single plant, could be of great interest for the development of novel drugs as the exploration of thera-

peutic activity-bearing ingredients from a single plant may be easier. The majority of the traditional medicines were prepared using water as the medium. The mode of application was topical, confined to the affected portion of the body but in certain cases it was also administered orally. Analyses on the mode of oral application of the herbal preparations to diseases, like, leprosy, urticaria, carbuncle, ringworm, measles, and dry skin, it appears that the people had some idea about the systemic mode of the disease/disorder. In addition to pure herbal preparations, in some cases the drug was administered along with milk, ghee, honey, coconut oil, curd, etc. These supplement ingredients may be used to enhance the effect of the herbal preparations or are simply used to make the preparations palatable. However, the exact role of these materials in curing the diseases is not clearly known as systematic investigation on the characterization of the active ingredients have not yet been made. We observe that remedies were known for about 18 skin ailments (Table 1). We also found that the people of the state use herbal product for beauty care. The beauty care products ranged from enhancement of skin colour, hair care, removal of ugly spots, colouring of nails, palms, and teeth. Our study revealed that many of the plants used for enhancing beauty were also applied for therapeutic use. We therefore classified the plants into those that are solely used either for therapeutic or cosmetic purpose and those that have dual use—cosmeceuticals. The plants used for cosmetics are marked as (♣ ) and those having dual purpose as (♣♣ ) in Table 1.

Table 2 List of the plants with maximum number of medicinal and cosmetic uses

Fig. 1. Total number of plants identified for different skin ailments.

Name of the plant

No. of applications

Usages

Allium sativum L.

5

Alstonia scholaris (L.) R. Br. Citrus limon (L.) Burm. f. Curcuma longa L.

3

Emblica officinalis Gaertn.

5

Justicia adhatoda L.

4

Melia azedarach L.

7

Swertia chirata Buch. -Ham. ex Wall. Vitex negundo L.

3

Urticaria, leprosy, ringworm, scabies, abscess Leprosy, toe cracks, cellulites Dry skin, prickly heat, pimples, cosmetics Urticaria, ringworm, scabies, dry skin/cracks, wrinkled skin, prickly heat, measles, cosmetics Scabies, dry skin, wrinkled skin, measles, pediculosis Leprosy, cellulitis, abscess, measles Carbuncle, scabies, prickly heat, cellulitis, abscess, measles, pediculosis Leprosy, scabies, abscess Urticaria, cellulitis, abscess, carbuncle, eczema

4 8

5

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In a recent study, it was found out that eczema is the largest group of skin diseases that occur in Assam (Das, 2003). As evident from the Fig. 1, there are at least eight remedies known for this group of diseases in traditional knowledge. Other skin diseases that are endemic to this region are fungal diseases, pyoderma and scabies. We observed that some plants were used for treating diverse dermatological diseases. A close analysis revealed that about 14 plants are known for their use to cure multiple skin diseases. Among these Curcuma longa and Melia azaderach constitute the major plants (Table 2). Apart from the knowledge to cure dermal infections, herbal remedies were also available for skin burns, prickly heat and pimples. In winter the climate of the state becomes very dry resulting in dry wrinkled skin. We could collect information of nine plants used for managing dry skin. 4. Conclusions The knowledge of medicinal plants used by the people of Assam seems to be well known to its culture and tradition. In the present study we identified as many as 85 plants used by the people of Assam to cure dermatological disorders and as cosmetics. Some of the plants were found to have dual use, both as curative and cosmetic. Further extensive ethnobotanical and ethnopharmacological study may lead to the discovery of plants and compounds for skin care and cure.

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Acknowledgements We thank Mr. N.C. Das, Botanist, Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden, Guwahati for the botanical identification. Abinash Pratim Saikia, IIT Madras express his thanks to the Superviser and Dr. R. Swaminathan for providing him an opportunity to work in this project. References Asati, B.S., Yadav, D.S., 2004. Diversity of horticultural crops in north eastern region. ENVIS Bulletin: Himalayan Ecology 12, 1–11. Bouldin, A.S., Smith, M.C., Garner, D.D., Szeinbach, S.L., Frate, D.A., Croom, E.M., 1999. Pharmacy and herbal medicine in the US. Social Science Medicine 49, 279–289. Das, K.K., 2003. Pattern of dermatological diseases in Gauhati medical college and hospital Guwahati. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology 69, 16–18. Harsha, V.H., Hebbar, S.S., Hegde, G.R., Shripathi, V., 2002. Ethnomedical knowledge of plants used by Kunabi tribe of Karnataka in India. Fitoterapia 73, 281–287. Khanikar, G., 2002. Sahaj labhoya bon—darabar goon. Khanikaor Puthibharal, Tetelitol, Golaghat, Assam, India. Myers, N., Mittermeier, R.A., Mittermeier, C.G., da Fonseca, G.A.B., Kent, J., 2000. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403, 853–858. Spiewak, R., 2000. Occupational skin diseases among farmers. In: Zagorski, J. (Ed.), Occupational and Para-occupational Diseases in Agriculture. Institute of Agricultural Medicine, Lublin, Poland, pp. 142–152.