Ethnomedicine is an area of research that deals with
medicines derived from plants, animals and minerals etc. and
used in the treatment of different human and veterinary ailments.
Ethnomedicines includes indigenous beliefs, concepts, knowledge
and practices among the ethnic groups, folk people and rural people
for preventing, minimizing or curing various diseases. For this
purpose, human groups around the world utilized the biological
and cultural resources in their own way to develop resistance to
combat different diseases, illness and health hazards arising from
different pathogens and agents. The ethnic people and tribal races
throughout the world have developed their own cultures, customs,
cults, rituals, taboos, totems, myths, song, edible and medicinal
practices. Wild and cultivated plants play a very crucial and vital
role in their cultures through generations long experiences and
experiments. The accomplishment and achievements of forest
dwelling ethnic groups in understanding plants and properties of
their roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and underground
parts is chiefly due to long and unconditional relationship
with the vegetation and their survival on them. Although, their
traditional knowledge is based on repeated experimentation
through trial and error methods but still needed careful
considerations. It provides an opportunity to modern civilization
to take an advantage of their vast knowledge of natural resources
for scientific reviews and acceptance. In many ethnic communities,
health status, disease causes, and treatment practices are chiefly
based upon herbal resources. These unwritten medical practices
collectively constitute ‘Ethnomedicine’. This unwritten indigenous
knowledge of ethnic people has been passed by the words of mouth
from generation to generation. In most of ethnic communities
there are specialist medicine men or sometimes women. These
specialists are having vast knowledge of plants growing to nearby
them and usually acquires faith and beliefs of their communities.
In most of tribal communities, two systems of medical practice
have been observed. In the first system, psychoactive plants, as
considered to be scared, are used to communicate with visions and
hallucinations. On the other hand, the second system of medical
practice is mainly based on medicinal plants. This knowledge is
amassed by experimentation over large number of population and
passed on orally from generation to generation Schultes and Reis
Herbal medicines are believed to be the oldest form of health
care known to human beings. Herbs had been used by all sections
and cultures of the society throughout the world. It was an initial
stage of modern civilization of present time. Use of medicinal plants
have been developed through observations on wild animals and by
trial and error methods. As the time passes each tribe has added
new medicinal plants growing in their locality.
Traditional medicine can be broadly classified into the following
basic systems as
a) Traditional Chinese Medicines.
b) Traditional Japanese Medicine, Kampo.
c) Tibetan Medicine
d) Mongolian Medicine.
e) Dai Medicine of South Yunnan Province of China.
g) Siddha associated with Tamils of India.
h) Unani, the Islamic system of Medicine.
i) Uigur Medicine practiced in North West China.
j) Homoeopathy developed by Samuel Hahnemann.
k) Western Medicine, referred as Allopathic Medicine
Ancient cultures throughout the world have vast amounts of
knowledge pertaining to the use of flora of their residing localities.
This indigenous knowledge is of great practical value and appears
toward extinction in most of localities due to rapid acculturation
and civilization of tribal people. The loss of this ethnic knowledge
should be checked at any cost, hence documentation, prioritization
and validation of this unwritten knowledge through Intellectual
Property Rights is the chief motive of ethno botany in general and
ethno medico botany in particular Dixit .