Medicinal use of plants has been incorporated by the people of all races and regions since time immemorial. These plants grow abundantly on the pristine and lush green forest of Meghalaya, you can find the common herbs on our backyards itself, that’s the main reason the people of Meghalaya used plants to treat almost all ailments known to human race back then.I remembered as a child when grandmother visited us, and all the children gathered around her to listen to her age-old folklores and tales. She was an enthusiastic storyteller and had an avid memory of her past days. She would tell us about the traditional treatment of many ailments using herbs and plants when doctors and modern medicines were far-fetched. Be it city dwellers or villagers, all of them used traditional home remedies or visited a traditional healer for their ailments. Below are few herbs and plants which are still using in traditional treatment of ailments by people of Meghalaya and by those who are in different regions of the world.
Botanical name: Zingiber rubens
Local name: Sying makhir (Khasi), Iching (Garo)
Part used: Rhizome
Zingiber rubens, commonly known as Bengal Ginger is a medicinal ginger cultivar which people use for both culinary and medicinal purposes since olden times. It is native to Eastern Himalaya and Northeast parts of India.
It is an herb with underground rhizomes, with a brownish outer layer, its flower is an orchid- that varies between red or yellow, it blooms for about 4 – 5 days.
Medicinal Use of Zingiber Rubens
It has been widely used in Chinese, Ayurvedic and Unani – Tibb herbal medicines all over the world, since ancient days, for a wide array of ailments that include arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, muscular aches, pains, sore throats, cramps, constipation, indigestion, vomiting, hypertension, dementia, fever, infectious diseases and helminthiasis.
Likewise, in Meghalaya too, we use Ing makhir in our traditional medicinal system for treatment of various diseases such as malaria, fever, cough, and cold, blood pressure, dysentery, stomach ache, snake bites, etc.
Currently, there is a renewed interest in ginger, several scientific investigations are aiming at separation and identification of active constituents of ginger and verify the effects of ginger on several based on the use of ginger.
Botanical name: Averrhoa carambola
Local name: Soh pyrshong (Khasi) Amilenga (Garo)
Part used: Fruit
Carambola, commonly known as star fruit is the fruit of Averrhoa carambola, a species of tree native to Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and Seychelles.
The fruit has distinctive ridges running down its sides (usually five); when cut in cross-section, it resembles a star, hence its name. It has an oval shape. The skin of the fruit is thin, smooth and waxy, and turns light to dark yellow when ripe. The flesh is translucent and light yellow or yellow in color.
Medicinal Use of Carambola
For a long time, it has been used as a traditional medicine in Brazil. Carambola fruit juice or tea prepared from carambola leaves are let’s not try to use adjectives used to lower high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure. It also stimulates the appetite and has anti-diarrheal effects. Carambola leaf extract also possesses heart-protective effects.
In Chinese culture, the roots of carambola have been used to treat diabetes. Such anti-diabetic effect of carambola is due to its potent medicinal properties. And the fruit is used to quench thirst, increase salivary secretion to treat dry mouth and to heal fever.
In Meghalaya, carambola juice is mainly using to treat jaundice, gallstone, and malaria.
Botanical name: Kaempfieria galanga
Local name: Sying khmoh (Khasi), Wakpatra (Garo)
Part used: Tubers
Kaempfieria galangal, commonly known as Galanga, Aromatic ginger or Sand ginger, is a monocotyledonous plant in the ginger family. It is found primarily in Indonesia, Southern China, Taiwan, Cambodia, and India, but is also widely cultivated throughout Southeast Asia.
It is a small, stemless herb growing from a rhizomatous rootstock. The thick, rounded leaves usually lay flat on the ground. The rhizome inside the soil occurs in cluster and is blackish to brownish in color, a little smaller in size compared to ginger.
It is widely used as an herb for both cooking and herbal medicine in many parts of the world. The plant is also grown for ornamental uses.
Medicinal Use of Kaempfieria
Galangal is a bitter, stimulant herb with a camphoraceous (being or having the properties of camphor) aroma. It is antibacterial, improves the digestion and has diuretic effects.
In many parts of the world, in South East Asia, the root of kaempfieria is used internally to treat colds, bronchitis, indigestion and other gastric complaints, and headaches. It is chewed to treat coughs and used as a gargle for sore throats. The leaves of galangal are also chewed to relieve from sore throat.
Externally, the root is applied as a dressing (keep it simple) to wounds, swellings, and ulcers, and is also used to treat dandruff and rheumatic joints. The roots are an ingredient of post-partum depression medicine.
It is used in traditional medicine for the treatment of high blood pressure and asthma. In Meghalaya galangal is mainly using to treat indigestion, food poisoning, rheumatism, mouth ulcers, etc.
Botanical name: Piper longum
Local name: Sohmarit khlaw
Part used: Seeds
Piper Longum, commonly known as Long Pepper or sometimes called Indian Long Pepper (Pipli), is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning.
The Piper longum is of South Asian origin (Deccan peninsular). However, the plant grows in evergreen forests of India and is cultivated in Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. In Meghalaya, the plant grows wild in the forest.
It has a taste similar to, but hotter than, that of its close relative Piper nigrum – from which black, green and white pepper are obtained. The fruit of the pepper consists of many tiny fruits, each about the size of a poppy seed, embedded in the surface of a flower spike that closely resembles a hazel tree catkin. Like Piper nigrum, the fruits contain the alkaloid piperine, which contributes to their pungency.
Medicinal Use of Piper longum
Long pepper fruit is used for making medicine. It is sometimes used in combination with other herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. It is used to improved appetite and digestion, as well as treat stomachache, heartburn, indigestion, intestinal gas, diarrhea, and cholera. It is also used for lung problems including asthma, bronchitis, and cough.
Other uses include treatment of a headache, toothache, vitamin B1 deficiency (beriberi), coma, epilepsy, fever, stroke, sleep disorder, leprosy, extreme tiredness, enlarged spleen, muscle pain, nasal discharge, paralysis, psoriasis, intestinal worms, snakebites, tetanus, thirst, tuberculosis, and tumors.
The traditional folk in Meghalaya, use long pepper mainly for cough and sore throat.
Because P. longum is widely used in cooking and traditional medicine, it is generally assumed to be safe in moderate doses. However, the fruits are reported to exert contraceptive activity in experimental models; therefore, its use during pregnancy and lactation should be avoided.
Botanical name: Fagopyrum esculentum
Local name: Jarain (Khasi)
Part used: Leave
Fagopyrum esculentum, commonly known as common buckwheat, is a plant cultivated for its grain-like seeds and as a cover crop. It is common in every part of Asia. The plant has a branching root system with one primary root that reaches deep into the moist soil.
Buckwheat plant has triangular seeds and produces a flower, usually white, although can vary from pink or yellow
Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat, it is not a grass. Instead, buckwheat is related to sorrel, knotweed, and rhubarb. Because its seeds are rich in complex carbohydrates, it is referred to as a pseudocereal.
Buckwheat is usually found in damp and moist condition, that is why it is found everywhere as a weed in Meghalaya and most parts of Northeast.
Medicinal Use of Fagopyrum
Buckwheat is an herb that is frequently used medicinally because the leaves are a good source of rutin. Rutin is useful in the treatment of a wide range of circulatory problems, it dilates the blood vessels, reduces capillary permeability and lowers blood pressure.
The leaves are used internally in the treatment of high blood pressure, gout, varicose veins, chilblains, radiation damage etc. It is best used when combined with vitamin C since this aids absorption. Often combined with lime flowers, it is a specific treatment for hemorrhage into the retina. A dressing made from the seeds has been used for restoring the flow of milk in nursing mothers. An infusion of the herb has been used in the treatment of erysipelas (an acute infectious skin disease). A homeopathic remedy has been made from the leaves. It is used in the treatment of eczema and liver disorders.
In Meghalaya, the traditional folklore uses buckwheat to cure high blood pressure and constipation. It is also used for bone setting by applying a paste of ground leaves.
Botanical name: Centella asiatica
Local name: Khliang syiar (Khasi & Pnar)
Part used: Whole plant
Centella Asiatica, commonly known as Centella or Indian Pennywort or Gotu Kola in Hindi, is a perennial herb which occurs throughout the year in semi-damp places like a paddy field. It is from the flowering plant family Apiaceae.
It is a small herbal plant with its stem rooting in the ground as a creeper while bearing simple cordate leaves. Its flowers are whitish, pinkish or reddish in colors, growing in small, rounded bunches near the surface of the soil.
Medicinal Use of Centella
Although centella is used for culinary in many regions, it is also used as a medicinal herb in many traditional medicines.
Centella is considered as one of the multi-purpose miracle herbs in Oriental medicine. It has been used for thousands of years to treat every ailment known to man. However, it is used extensively as an anti-aging and rejuvenating agent. It is used for asthma, cold and cough, wheezing, anorexia and it relieves inflammation.
In Meghalaya, Centella is used as salad and medicine. The leaves are eaten raw for stomach problem like stomach ache, diarrhea, acidity, etc. The juice of the leave is the key ingredient in medical preparation as it helps in combating hair loss and reduce baldness, insomnia, asthma, bronchitis, fever, etc.
It is also believed, that the plant has the reputation of enhancing memory power.
Botanical name: Gaultheria fragrantissima
Local name: La thynriat (Khasi)
Part used: Leaves
Gaultheria commonly known as Winter Green or Indian Winter Green and Gandhupura in Hindi, is a medicinal shrub from the family Ericaceae. These plants are native to Asia, Australasia and North and South America.
The species vary from low, ground-hugging shrubs up to 2.5 m tall. The leaves are evergreen, and with numerous spikelike clusters of fragrant white or pink flowers, which is shorter than the leaves. Berries are dark violet-blue fleshy pointed sepals.
Medicinal Use of Wintergreen
Wintergreen has a very high concentration of methyl salicylate which is anti-inflammatory compound, thus helps in reducing inflammation on the body.
Wintergreen also helps in joint – knee swelling and stiffness, rheumatism, arthritis, muscle pain, backache, sprain, etc.
It is also used as an ingredient in chewing gums, toothpaste, and mouthwashes.
In Meghalaya too, is no different that we use wintergreen as medicinal herbs. Our ancestors used mainly for rheumatoid arthritis, body ache, and even migraine.
Since wintergreen has a high concentration of methyl salicylate, high doses of its oil can be toxic. It is advisable not to use wintergreen during pregnancy or during lactation.
Botanical name: Aegle marmelos
Local name: Soh bel (Khasi), Selpri (Garo)
Part used: Barks, leaves, seeds, and fruits
Aegle marmelos was commonly known as Bael, also Bengal quince or golden apple, is a species of tree native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Bael is the only member of the monotypic genus Aegle.
It is a deciduous shrub or small to medium-sized tree up to 13m tall with slender drooping and rather a shabby crown. The flowers are pale green or yellowish, and sweetly scented. It is globose or slightly pear-shaped with thick, hard rind and does not split upon ripening. The woody shell is smooth green or gray until it is fully ripening and turns yellow. Inside are filled with aromatic orange pulp.
Medicinal Use of Bael
The leaves, bark, roots, fruits, and seeds are used extensively in the Indian traditional system of medicine, the Ayurveda and in various folk medicine to treat ailments. Bael contains chemical called tannin (a yellowish or brownish bitter-tasting organic substance present in some galls, barks, and other plant tissues, consisting of derivatives of gallic acid) which are used in the treatment of chronic diarrhea, dysentery by reducing inflammation, and peptic ulcers, as a laxative and to recuperate from respiratory infections in various folk medicines.
In Meghalaya, the juice of the leave is used for indigestion and heart diseases. We also use to treat diarrhea and dysentery.
Consuming a large amount is to be avoided, as it may cause stomach upset and constipation.
Bael helps in lowering blood sugar levels, if you are under medication for diabetes, consuming of bael might lower your blood sugar level, monitor carefully or check with the physician.
Botanical name: Houttuynia cordata
Local name: Jamyrdoh (Khasi), Macha duribak (Garo)
Part used: Whole plant
Houttuynia cordata commonly known as fish mint, fish wort, Lizard Tail or chameleon plant, is one of the two species in the genus Houttuynia. It is a flowering plant native to Japan, Korea, Southern China and Southeast Asia. It can also be found in Northeast India. It grows in moist, shady locations and often found as a weed in wet fields.
It is a perennial herb which grows to 15 cm high with an indefinite spread as a creeper. The plant is frost tender and it flowers in June. The flowers are hermaphrodites.
Medicinal Use of Fishwort
During ancient times the Houttuynia Herb was used mainly as a vegetable garnish. The medicinal capabilities of the Houttuynia Herb were later discovered after it was useful in treating lung disorders and pneumonia
Fishwort is used in traditional Chinese medicine, even the Chinese scientists are working towards an attempt to treat SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and various other disorders.
Houttuynia Herb in modern times is also used for its antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties. Its decoction can be used internally in the treatment of many ailments including cancer, coughs, dysentery, enteritis, and fever. Its use can strengthen the immune system. Externally, it is used in the treatment of snake bites and skin disorders.
Traditionally, in Meghalaya, fishwort is mainly used for the treatment of anemia and to check blood sugar level. Leaf juice is taken for the treatment of cholera, dysentery and blood purification.
Botanical Name: Polygonum muricatum
Local name: Jabuit (Khasi)
Parts used: Leaf
Polygonum, commonly known as Knotweed or knotgrass, is a genus species of flowering plant in the family Polygonaceae. Although the plant is native to China, in India it is widely found in the hills of Meghalaya.
The species is an herbaceous annual plant. It is branched, angulate with retrorse prickles. The leaf blade is ovate or oblong-ovate. The stems are often reddish. The flowers are either white or pinkish forming in dense clusters from the leaf joints or stem apices.
Medical Use of Knotweed
In Chinese medicine, polygonum extract is used to treat urinary tract infections. In Meghalaya, it is reported that juice from the leaves of the plant from Polygonum is used for the treatment of anthelmintic and diarrhea.
Botanical Name: Fiscus Auriculata
Local name: Lapong
Parts used: Stem, Leaf, and fruit
Fiscus auriculata commonly known as Roxburgh fig or Fagoora or Phagoora in Hindi, is a type of fig tree found all over Asia. The plant is small, wide – spreading, evergreen tree growing up to 12 meters tall. It has more than one bole. The leaves are big and with a rounded base.
Medicinal Use of Roxburgh Fig
The tree is cultivated in India and from Myanmar to Vietnam and South West China and Brazil for its edible fruits and medicinal properties of the tree.
Bark, root, leaves, fruit, and latex of this plant are frequently used for the treatment of various illnesses. It has a strong antioxidant property that helps in prevention and therapy of various oxidative stress-related diseases such as neurodegenerative and hepatic diseases. Leaves are crushed, and the paste is applied on the wounds and to aid in the digestive system. They are also used in diarrhea and dysentery. Stem bark juice is effective for diarrhea, cuts, and wounds. Roasted figs are taken for diarrhea and dysentery. Root latex is used in mumps, cholera, diarrhea, and vomiting.
We all loved to listen to her fascinating fairytales and a pass-on knowledge of her ancestors.
If you know any fascinating knowledge of medicinal plants which are still using in traditional medicine, let us know.