- Open Access
Ethnobotany in the Nepal Himalaya
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine volume 4, Article number: 24 (2008)
Indigenous knowledge has become recognized worldwide not only because of its intrinsic value but also because it has a potential instrumental value to science and conservation. In Nepal, the indigenous knowledge of useful and medicinal plants has roots in the remote past.
The present study reviews the indigenous knowledge and use of plant resources of the Nepal Himalayas along the altitudinal and longitudinal gradient. A total of 264 studies focusing on ethnobotany, ethnomedicine and diversity of medicinal and aromatic plants, carried out between 1979 and 2006 were consulted for the present analysis. In order to cross check and verify the data, seven districts of west Nepal were visited in four field campaigns.
In contrast to an average of 21–28% ethnobotanically/ethnomedicinally important plants reported for Nepal, the present study found that up to about 55% of the flora of the study region had medicinal value. This indicates a vast amount of undocumented knowledge about important plant species that needs to be explored and documented. The richness of medicinal plants decreased with increasing altitude but the percentage of plants used as medicine steadily increased with increasing altitude. This was due to preferences given to herbal remedies in high altitude areas and a combination of having no alternative choices, poverty and trust in the effectiveness of folklore herbal remedies.
Indigenous knowledge systems are culturally valued and scientifically important. Strengthening the wise use and conservation of indigenous knowledge of useful plants may benefit and improve the living standard of poor people.
The term ethnobotany was coined by John W. Harsberger in 1896  and was considered as the art of collection of useful plants by a group of people and the description of the uses of plants. Ford developed the science of ethnobotanical study  and included the understanding of knowledge systems through the use of anthropological methods . Over the last century, ethnobotany has evolved into a scientific discipline that focuses on the people-plant relationship in a multidisciplinary manner, incorporating not only collection and documentation of indigenous uses but also ecology, economy, pharmacology, public health, and other disciplines . Presently, ethnobotany has become increasingly valuable in the development of health care and conservation programs in different parts of the world . Ethnobotanical studies that explore and help to preserve knowledge are therefore urgently needed before traditional folklores are lost ever .
Ethnomedicine, a branch of ethnobotany, is a set of empirical local practices embedded in the indigenous knowledge of a social group often transmitted orally from generation to generation  with intent to understand social, cultural, and economic factors  influencing health problems and to overcome such problems. It is a suitable source of information regarding useful medicinal plants that can be targeted for sustainable domestication and management . Ethnobotany and ethnomedicine as sciences addressing indigenous knowledge and practices therefore are now very important for establishing management programs .
The dialectical relationship between indigenous knowledge and practices shape, the ecosystem and affects the constituent plant populations . By incorporating indigenous knowledge and use in the process of scientific research, new hypotheses for the sustainable conservation of the resources can be developed . Indigenous knowledge and use have to be analyzed to develop appropriate management measures that build on both scientific and local knowledge . Due to changing perception of the local people, and the ever increasing influence of global commercialization and socio-economic transformation, indigenous knowledge on plant resource use is constantly diminishing [14, 15]. Due to the lack of organized sustainable and scientifically monitored cultivation and harvesting, proper management techniques, and lack of awareness of social factors, the number of useful plant resources is decreasing at an alarming rate . Furthermore, the indigenous knowledge on the use of lesser-known plants is also rapidly declining . The present study therefore reviews the indigenous knowledge and use of plant resources of Nepal Himalayas along the altitudinal and longitudinal gradient, an area so far unstudied in Nepal.
The first scientific study of Nepalese useful and medicinal plants was conducted by Francis Buchanan, who collected plants from 1802–1803. He was followed by Nathaniel Wallich 1820–1821 . Don  and Wallich  also collected plants in the Nepal Himalayas and recorded their uses. The earliest published ethnomedicinal-botanical study of Nepal was a paper on medicinal and food plants from eastern Nepal by Banerji . His study was followed by many other researches [e.g. [22–30]]. Since the 1980s, extensive ethnobotanical studies were conducted. However, none of them has analyzed patterns of the usage of plant resources along the altitudinal and longitudinal gradient. All previous studies enumerated only the plant diversity and usage of plant resources of selected small sites and selected tribal groups, without attempting to synthesize the plant use information in Nepal.
Review and field visits
A total of 264 studies, with emphasis on ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, and diversity of medicinal and aromatic plants, conducted between 1979 to 2006, were consulted for the present analysis. Of these papers only 76 were including data on the diversity and distribution of medicinal and aromatic plants, ethnobotany, as well as aspects of ethnomedicine and conservation. Four field visits were carried out in May and December 2006, January–February 2007 and April–May 2008, focusing on the Baglung, Baitadi, Dadeldhura, Darchula, Doti, Gulmi, and Kanchanpur districts of west Nepal, stretching from 80°5' to 83°15' E longitude 28°27' 30" to 30°15' N latitude and 390 m to 4570 m altitude. Field visits were meant for data verification and cross checking.
Nepal extends along the Himalayan range between the latitudes 26°22' – 30°27' and longitudes 80°04' – 88°12'. Altitudes vary from less than 60 m in the lowland of Terai in the South to the crest of the Himalaya reaching 8848 m in the North. In the present study, for easier interpretation and analysis along the longitudinal gradient, the country's longitude was divided into three bio-geographical regions: West Nepal (80°E to 83°E), Central Nepal (83°E to 86°E) and East Nepal (86°E to 88°E), [31, 32]. An analysis of the altitudinal gradient was made in 1000 m intervals as 60 – 1000 m, 1000 – 2000 m, 2000 – 3000 m, and 3000 – 4000 m.
Results and discussion
History and plant usage
Plants have been one of the most important sources of food and medicine since the dawn of human civilization. Archaeological evidence of 60,000 year-old Neanderthal burial grounds in Shanidar, Iraq, points to the use of plants like Marshmallow, Yarrow and Groundsel, which are still used in contemporary folk medicine . Evidence for the medicinal use of Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy, dates back 8000 years [34, 35]. Concomitantly, the earliest written record of plants used as medicine originating from the Himalayas are found in the 6,500 year old texts of the Rigveda , followed by Atharveveda (2000-1000 BC) and Auryveda (600-100 BC) [37, 38]. The oldest account recording the uses of 278 Nepalese medicinal plants is 'Saushrut Nighantu,' written in 878 AD (935 BS). Later 'Nepali Nighantu,' an elaborated encyclopedia with information on the traditional knowledge of 750 plant species was published by the Royal Nepal Academy in 1969 .
Until the middle of the 19th century, plants were the main therapeutic agents used by humans, and even today almost 80% of the world population rely to some extent on medicinal plants for their primary healthcare needs. The use of nearly 3000 plant species as food during the course of human civilization has been documented, but only about 150 species have been cultivated  and less that 10 plant species are meeting over 90% of the world food demand . Human survival still can not be imagined without plants. The importance of plants is substantial and reflected in the large variety of products such as food, fiber, fodder, vegetables, medicinal plants, and aromatic plants. The contribution of medicinal plants in Nepal is important . A total of 1012 useful plants are documented for Nepal , of which 554 (54.74%) have ethnomedicinal in properties. An review of research conducted in the Nepal Himalayas indicated that nearly 40% of the studies were related to medicinal plants and ethnomedicine , underlining that ethnomedicine is utmost important in the Nepal Himalayas.
Medicinal plants and their distribution
About 60% of the world population and 60–90% of the population of developing countries (80% in Nepal , 70% in India, 80% in Pakistan, 65% in Sri Lanka, 90% in Bangladesh, 85% in Burma, and 60% in Indonesia  rely on traditional medicine , and about 85% of the traditional remedies for primary health care are derived from plants .
In the world, 10–18% of all plant species are used medicinally  while in Nepal medicinal plants account about 20–28% of the local flora [49–54]. The data for India and China is significantly higher i.e. 44% and 29–41% respectively [55, 56] (Table 1). The present analysis found that an average of 56% of higher plants were ethnobotanically important, and 54% were used as ethnomedicine in the Nepal Himalayas (Table 2). This indicates that there are more ethnobotanically and ethnomedicinally important plant species in the Nepal Himalayas than previously estimated. Similar accounts of a much higher incidence of plants used in ethnomedicine (more than the estimated 10–18%  was recorded all over the world; e.g. about 24% in Costa Rica , 25–42% in Kenya , 27% in Israel , 31–51% in Brazil , and 46% in Guyana , 64% in Jammu Kashmir, India , 54% in Similipahar, Orissa, India , and 48% in Beni, Bolivia .
Asia represents one of the most important centers of knowledge with regard to the use of plant species for treatment of various diseases. Examples are the Ayurveda, Amchi (traditional healing system of Tibet and mountain areas of Nepal), Siddha, Unani, and Chinese systems of medical care [66, 67]. Folklore medicinal systems (traditional healing and faith healing) are also important in Nepal. In this context, it is interesting to note that the Himalayan medicinal plants are the major contributors to the aforementioned systems. The topographical characteristics of the Himalayas have resulted in a variety of ecological niches that host diverse medicinal plants . It has been estimated that the Himalayan region harbors over 10,000 species of medicinal and aromatic plants, supporting the livelihoods of about 600 million people living in the area . The Nepal Himalayas include about 2,000 species with medicinal and aromatic values, and more than 1,400 of these are known to be used locally [49–51, 53] particularly as medicines .
Medicinal and aromatic plant species richness increases along increasing altitude up to 2000 m  and then continues to decline. The temperate and alpine zones harbor highly valued medicinal plants . The diversity of medicinal plants in a mid elevation peak model, was comparable to other studies [72–74]. Bhattarai and Vetaas  highlighted an insignificant relationship between herbaceous species richness and elevation and climatic factors in the Himalayas. The distribution of medicinal herbs at high altitudes is mainly controlled by both environmental and ecophysiological factors [74, 76]. The maximum species richness at 1000–2000 m could be associated with optimum energy and rainfall . The hard boundary effect might also influence the species richness at high elevation . The trans-Himalaya ecosystem is a fragile biome, characterized by a reduced growing season , low productivity , high intensity of solar radiation, and high degree of resource seasonality , resulting in the control of distribution, richness, physiological stress, and metabolic compounds of medicinal plants. The high altitude medicinal plants contain secondary metabolic compounds as an adaptive strategy to reduce the damaging effects [80, 81].
Ethnobotany and ethnomedicine
Many people use plants as remedies as an alternative or in addition to visiting western health care practitioners. The extent of plant use differs with location. The use of plants for subsistence, medicines, and source for supplementary income is highly variable. About 85% of the rural population of Nepal are said to use herbal remedies . The use of plant resources as herbal remedies is especially important at higher altitudes. We found that the percentage of plants used as medicine increased along increasing altitude but there was no significant trend in increased usage of plants for other purposes. The overall plant use was proportionate to the number of plant species used in ethnomedicine (Fig. 1).
A positive correlation between species richness and number of ethnobotanically useful plants was found, but the relationship was not significant. In contrast, a significant positive correlation was found by Salick et al [83, 84]. The ethnobotanical use as percentage of plant species richness (number of enumerated plant species) decreased from east to west Nepal, whereas the ethnomedicinal usage increased from east to west Nepal (Tab. 2). Though there was a record of the lowest number of medicinal plants in west Nepal , we found the highest usage of plants as ethnomedicine from the same region. Similar relationships were found by other studies [85, 86]. The reason for this could be the excessive utilization of local plant resources as remedies. Lack of modern facilities and services and less development in west Nepal compel the population to use existing plant resources for their immediate needs. Eastern Nepal is comparatively moister than western Nepal  and the moisture gradient accounts for differences in plant species richness .
High altitude medicinal plants provide quality products [80, 81], and this is the reason why they are often the first choice of local users as immediate therapy and by pharmaceutical companies as precious ingredients. Our analysis shows that the proportion of usage of plants as ethnomedicine steadily increased with increasing altitude (Tab. 2). Pohle  found, however, an insignificant relationship between the diversity of the flora and the number of wild plants used by local people in mid hills. Higher uses of plants as ethnomedicine at higher altitude (Fig. 1) was attributed to the absence of modern medical facilities , and intensive uses of plants as remedies in mountain areas. In remote and high altitude areas, medicinal herbs are the main ingredients of local medicines and the traditional health care system is considered as the main lifeline  and frequently the first choice . There is greater dependence among the population upon natural resources . The optimum uses of the limited plant resources revealed a higher percentage of uses in high altitude areas. However, this trend could not be observed in lowland Terai. The usage of plants as ethnomedicine was less in Terai, with the richness of flowering plants and medicinal plant was higher. The low number (48.96%) of ethnomedicinal plants found in Terai was consistent with the findings of Bishokarma et al [, (35.15%)] from the same site. Lesser usage of local plants for therapy was attributed to the availability and accessibility of infrastructures, communication, transport, development, and as such less dependant on the availability of plant resources; but a higher preferences towards allopathic medicines. It was also associated with limited knowledge and limited skilled individuals. However, some marginalized communities and tribal groups of lowland Terai, with poor access to the modern medical facilities, were still utilizing local plant resources for local therapy. Subsequently, most communities still use folk herbal remedies as a readily and cheaply available alternative. A decline of the traditional knowledge has been underway for hundreds of years , and the knowledge on medicinal plant use is clearly disappearing fast in low lands of Nepal .
The higher percentage of ethnomedicinal uses of plants in high altitude areas was due to the preferences given by local people to the traditional herbal remedies, and a situation of having no alternative choices [95, 96], as well as poverty and belief in the effectiveness of folklore herbal remedies . The greater usage of plants as herbal remedies in mountain areas is also due to the prevalence of traditional health systems such as folklore medicinal systems and the Amchi system. The traditional healing systems are both culturally acceptable [97, 98] and induce locales to use plant resource most. Because of the high level of cohesion and strong cultural links with nature in mountain areas [11, 99], local people have a close affinity with locally available resources and easily internalize the resources for their livelihood and needs because these are also readily available.
Home herbal treatment is not merely a medical system but a part of culture , and the extensive use of locally available plant resources was observed in mountain areas. Most of the people of mountain areas, particularly elderly people, farmers, and mid-wives, are well acquainted to medicinal herbs and their usage , and plants are prescribed to the patients whenever required . The availability of traditional healers is also higher in rural and mountain areas. The use of herbal remedies in mountain areas to alleviate suffering is perhaps as old as the origin of man itself , and there is a general trend of increase in the use of medicinal plants .
Besides health care and subsistence uses, medicinal plants have a high potential as alternative income-generating sources of the rural hilly populace of the region . Therefore, sustainable use of the resources and conservation of indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants may compliment the income of local people. Medicinal plants are mainly harvested in the wild, traded, and eventually consumed as processed form in lowland cities . Up to 50% of the Nepal's rural household's income is derived from commercial collection of medicinal and aromatic plants [107, 108]. The collection of medicinal plants in a sustainable manner is an integrated process with potential for development and conservation .
The indigenous knowledge and practice of usage of medicinal plants in rural areas of Nepal is passed down through oral tradition and personal experiences . The knowledge clearly decreased with age. People of ages between 40–60 possessed greater knowledge on identification and uses of medicinal and aromatic plants in Nepal Himalaya , which was consistent to the observation of Philips and Gentry . The young generations tend to leave ancestral practices behind, refocusing their interests on treatments offered by western medicine . Due to changing lifestyles, perception as well as social transformation, the plant resource and indigenous knowledge of utilization are being severely degraded . This impact is inevitable to the Nepal Himalayas and plant resources are in great peril. Indigenous knowledge systems are not only of value for the cultures from which they evolve, but also for scientists and planners striving to improve the living conditions in rural societies . Lambert et al  pointed out that preserving and enhancing the indigenous plant knowledge and use was equivalent to 'rescuing a global heritage'. Indigenous plant based traditional knowledge and use has become a recognized tool in search for new sources of drugs and pharmaceuticals . In countries like Kenya  and Nepal , where the indigenous knowledge is predominantly used for utilization of plant resource for various purposes, and high priority needs to be given to the documentation of indigenous knowledge and use of plant resources to help their conservation.
The richness of medicinal plants was decreasing with increasing altitude, but the percentage of plants used as medicine steadily increased with increasing altitude. This was due to preferences given to herbal remedies in high altitude areas and a situation of having no alternative choices, poverty and belief on effectiveness of folklore herbal remedies. Enhancing the sustainable use and conservation of indigenous knowledge of useful and medicinal plants may benefit and improve the living standard of poor people.
Davis EW: Ethnobotany: an old practice, a new discipline. Ethnobotany: Evolution of Discipline. Edited by: Schultes RE, Reis SV. 1995, Dioscorides Press, Oregon, 40-51.
Ford RL: The nature and status of ethnobotany. Anthropological Papers. Edited by: Ford RL. 1978, Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, USA
Shengji P: Ethnobotany and modernization of traditional Chinese medicine. Proceeding of Himalayan Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Balancing Use and Conservation, December 15–20, 2002. Edited by: Thomas YA, Karki M, Gurung K, Parajuli D. 2002, Government of Nepal, IDRC, WWF, People and Plants, 70-78.
Gomez-Beloz A: Plant use knowledge of the Winikina Warao: the case for questionnaires in ethnobotany. Economic Botany. 2002, 56: 231-241. 10.1663/0013-0001(2002)056[0231:PUKOTW]2.0.CO;2.
Balick MJ: Annals of the Missouri botanical garden. 1996, Missouri Botanical garden, 4: 57-65.
Chaudhary RP: Biodiversity in Nepal: Status and Conservation. 1998, Tecpress Books, Bangkok, Thailand
Bussmann RW, Sharon D: Traditional medicinal plant use in Northern Peru: tracking two thousand years of healing culture. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 2006, 2: 47-10.1186/1746-4269-2-47.
Bhattarai NK: Folk herbal remedies of Sindhupalchok district, central Nepal. Fitoterapia. 1992, 63 (2): 145-155.
Njoroge GN, Bussmann RW, Gemmill B, Newton LE, Ngumi VW: Utilization of weed species as source of traditional medicines in central Kenya. Lyonia. 2004, 7: 272-287.
Cohen JI, Alcorn JB, Poster CS: Utilization and conservation of generic resources: international projects for sustainable agriculture. Economic Botany. 1991, 45: 190-199.
Ghimire SK, McKey D, Aumeeruddy-Thomas Y: Heterogeneity in ethnoecological knowledge and management of medicinal plants in the Himalayas of Nepal: implications for conservation. Ecology and Society. 2005, 9 (3): 6-
Henfrey TB: Ethnoecology, Resource Use, Conservation and Development in a Wapishana Community in the South Rupununi Guyana. [PhD dissertation]. 2002, University of Kentucky, UK
Ticktin T, Johns T: Chinanteco management of Aechmea magdalenae: implications for the use of traditional ecological knowledge and traditional resource management in management plans. Economic Botany. 2002, 56: 117-191.
Gadgil M, Birkes F, Folkes C: Indigenous knowledge of biodiversity conservation. Ambio. 1993, 22: 151-160.
Kunwar RM, Adhikari N: Ethnomedicine of Dolpa district, Nepal: the plants, their vernacular names and uses. Lyonia. 2005, 8 (1): 43-49.
Kunwar RM, Duwadee NPS: Ethnobotanical notes on flora of Khaptad national park, far western Nepal. Himalayan Journal of Sciences. 2003, 1 (1): 25-30.
Kala CP: Current status of medicinal plants used by traditional Vaidyas in Uttaranchal, India. Ethnobotany Research and Applications. 2005, 3: 267-278.
Rajbhandari KR: Ethnobotany of Nepal. 2001, Ethnobotanical Society of Nepal, Kathmandu
Don D: Prodromus Florae Nepalensis. London. 1825
Wallich N: Tentamen Flora Nepalensis. 1826, Fascicle 1. Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, India
Banerji ML: Some edible and medicinal plants from east Nepal. Journal of Bombay Natural History Society. 1955, 53: 153-156.
Pandey BD: The Wealth of Medicinal Plants of Nepal. 1964, Peking symposium, China, 133-140.
Singh SC: Some wild plants of food value in Nepal. Tribhuvan University Journal. 1968, 4 (1): 50-56.
Bhatt DD: Natural History and Economic Botany of Nepal. 1970, HMG Publication, Nepal
Government of Nepal: Medicinal Plants of Nepal. 1970, Bulletin of department of medicinal plants no. 3. Department of Plant Resource, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Kathmandu
Jest C: Plants Sauvages Utilizes Comme Ailements a Dolpo Haulte Vallee Himalay Ethmedu Nepal. 1972, Lanejues et techniquies editions, Klicksieck Paris, 325-332.
Rajbhandari KR: Some plants of economic value in Nepal. The Science Magazine. 1974, 2 (2–3): 24-32.
Dobremej JF: Exploitation and Prospects of Medicinal Plants in Eastern Nepal. 1976, Mountain and Environment Development, Swiss Association for Technical Assistance in Nepal, Kathmandu, 97-107.
Adhikari PM, Shakya TP: Pharmacological screening of some medicinal plants of Nepal. Journal of Nepal Pharmacological Association. 1977, 5 (1): 41-56.
Sacherer J: The high altitude ethnobotany of the Rolwaling Sherpas. Contribution to Nepalese Studies. 1979, 4 (2): 45-64.
Banerji ML: Outline of Nepal phytogeography. Vegetatio. 1963, XI: 5-6.
Hara H, Stearn WT, Williams LHJ: An Enumeration of the Flowering Plants of Nepal. 1978, British Museum (Natural History), London, 1:
Lietava J: Medicinal plants in middle Palaeolithic grave Shanidar IV. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1992, 35: 263-266. 10.1016/0378-8741(92)90023-K.
Stockwell C: Nature's Pharmacy: A History of Plants and Healing. 1989, Arrow Books Limited, London
Lewington A: Plant for People. 1990, Oxford University Press. New York, USA
Malla SB, Shakya PR: Medicinal plants of Nepal. Nepal – Natures' Paradise. Edited by: Majupuria TC. 1984, White Lotus Ltd, Bangkok, 261-297.
Nambier VPK: Improved harvesting, processing and storage of medicinal plants: their role in conservation and quality of plant based drugs. Proceeding of Sharing Local and National Experience in Conservation of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in South Asia, January 21–23, 2001. Edited by: Bhattarai N, Karki M. 2002, Government of Nepal, IDRC and MAPPA, 42-45.
Kunwar RM, Nepal BK, Kshetri HB, Rai SK, Bussmann RW: Ethnomedicine in Himalaya: a case study from Dolpa, Humla, Jumla and Mustang districts of Nepal. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 2006, 2: 27-10.1186/1746-4269-2-27.
IUCN Nepal: National Register of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. 2004, IUCN Nepal. Kathmandu
NRC: Ecological Aspect of the Development in the Humid Tropics. 1982, National Academy of Sciences. Washington, DC
Wilkes HG: New or potential crop or what to anticipate for the future. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, January 1981, Toronto, Canada. 1981
Kunwar RM: Non-timber Forest Products of Nepal: A Sustainable Management Approach. 2006, Centre for Biological Conservation, Nepal and International Tropical Timber Organization, Japan
Shrestha KK, Rajbhandary S, Tiwari NN, Poudel RC, Uprety Y: Ethnobotany in Nepal: Review and Perspectives. [Report]. 2004, WWF Nepal Program and Ethnobotanical Society of Nepal, Kathmandu
Manandhar NP: Ethnobotanical notes on unexploited wild food plants of Nepal. Ethnobotany. 1995, 7 (1–2): 95-101.
Shinwari ZK, Watanabe T, Yousaf Z: Medicinal plants of Pakistan: an overview. Proceeding of Nepal-Japan Joint Symposium on Conservation and Utilization of Himalayan Medicinal Resources, November 6–11, 2000, Kathmandu, Nepal. 2000, 298-304.
Shrestha PM, Dhillion SS: Medicinal plant diversity and use in the highlands of Dolakha district, Nepal. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003, 86 (1): 81-96. 10.1016/S0378-8741(03)00051-5.
Farnsworth JD: Screening plants for new medicines. Biodiversity. Edited by: Wilson EO. 1988, National Academy Press, Washington DC, 83-97.
Farnsworth NR, Soejarto DD: Global importance of medicinal plants. The Conservation of Medicinal Plants. Edited by: Akerele O, Heywood V, Synge H. 1991, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 25-51.
Shrestha GL, Shrestha B: An overview of wild relatives of cultivated plants in Nepal. Wild Relatives of Cultivated Plants in Nepal. Proceedings of National Conference on Wild Relatives of Cultivated Plants in Nepal, June 2–4, 1999. Edited by: Shrestha R, Shrestha B. 1999, The Green Energy Mission/Nepal, 19-23.
Tiwari NN: Wild Relatives of Cultivated Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) in Nepal. Proceedings of National Conference on Wild Relatives of Cultivated Plants in Nepal, June 2–4, 1999. 1999, The Green Energy Mission/Nepal, 141-148.
Shrestha KK, Tiwari NN, Ghimire SK: Medicinal and aromatic plants database of Nepal. Proceeding of Nepal-Japan Joint Symposium on Conservation and Utilization of Himalayan Medicinal Plant Resources, Nov 6–11, 2000, Kathmandu, Nepal. 2000, 53-74.
Manandhar NP: Plants and People of Nepal. 2002, Timber Press, Oregon, USA
Baral SR, Kurmi PP: Compendium of Medicinal Plants in Nepal. 2006, Rachana Sharma publishers, Chabahil, Kathmandu, Nepal
Ghimire SK: Medicinal plants in the Nepal Himalaya: current issues, sustainable harvesting, knowledge gaps and research priorities. Medicinal Plants in Nepal: an anthology of contemporary research. Edited by: Jha PK, Karmacharya SB, Chettri MK, Thapa CB, Shrestha BB. 2008, Ecological Society, Kathmandu, Nepal, 187-193.
Samant SS, Dhar U, Palni LMS: Medicinal Plants of Indian Himalaya: Diversity, Distribution and Potential Values. 1998, Almora: GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Gyanodaya Prakashan, Nainital, India
Shengji P, Huying H, Lixin Y: Important plant areas for medicinal plants in Chinese Himalaya: national report. Regional workshop on identification and conservation of important plant areas for medicinal plants in the Himalayas. 19–22, September, 2006, Kathmandu, Nepal. 2006
Schippmann U, Leaman DJ, Cunningham AB: Impact of Cultivation and Gathering of Medicinal Plants on Biodiversity: Global Trends and Issues. 2002, Rome: Inter-Department Working Group on Biology Diversity for Food and Agriculture, FAO
Kappelle M, Avertin G, Juarez ME, Zamora N: Useful plants within a Campesino community in a Costa Rican Montane cloud forest. Mountain Research and Development. 2000, 20 (2): 162-171. 10.1659/0276-4741(2000)020[0162:UPWACC]2.0.CO;2.
Bussmann RW, Gilbreath GG, John S, Lutura M, Lutuluo R, Kunguru K, Wood N, Mathenge S: Plant use of the Maasai of Sekenani valley, Maasai Mara, Kenya. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 2006, 2: 22-10.1186/1746-4269-2-22.
Ali Shtayeh MS, Abu Ghdeib SI: Antimycotic activity of twenty-two plants used in folkloric medicine in the Palestinian area for the treatment of skin diseases suggestive of dermatophyte infection. Mycoses. 1999, 42: 665-672. 10.1046/j.1439-0507.1999.00499.x.
Hanazaki N, Tamashiro JY, Leitão-Filho HF, Begossi A: Diversity of plant uses in two Caicara communities from the Atlantic forest coast, Brazil. Biodiversity and Conservation. 2000, 9: 597-615. 10.1023/A:1008920301824.
Johnston M: Tree population studies in low diversity forests, Guyana. II. Assessment on the distribution and abundance of non-timber forest products. Biodiversity and Conservation. 1998, 7: 73-86. 10.1023/A:1008859713118.
Kapur SK, Shahi AK, Sarin YK, Moerman DE: The medicinal flora of Majouri-kirchi forests (Jammu and Kashmir), India. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1992, 36: 87-90. 10.1016/0378-8741(92)90064-X.
Girach RD, Shaik AA, Singh SS, Ahmad M: The medicinal flora of Similiphar forests, Orissa, India. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1999, 65: 165-172. 10.1016/S0378-8741(98)00146-9.
Boom BM: Ethnobotany of the Chacobo Indians, Beni, Bolivia. Advances in Economic Botany. 1987, The New York Botanical Garden, New York, USA, 4: 1-68.
Karki M: The organic production of medicinal and aromatic plants: a strategy for improved value addition and marketing of products from the Himalayas. Proceeding of Himalayan Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Balancing Use and Conservation, December 15–20, 2002. Edited by: Thomas YA, Karki M, Gurung K, Parajuli D. 2002, Government of Nepal, WWF, IDRC, People and Plants, 56-69.
Kala CP, Farooquee NA, Dhar U: Prioritization of medicinal plants on the basis of available knowledge, existing practices and use value status in Uttaranchal, India. Biodiversity and Conservation. 2004, 13: 453-10.1023/B:BIOC.0000006511.67354.7f.
Singh JS, Singh SP: Forests of Himalaya: Structure, Functioning and Impact of Man. 1992, Gyanodya Prakashan, Nainital, India
Shengji P: Ethnobotanical approaches of traditional medicine studies: some experiences from Asia. Pharmacoceutical Biology. 2001, 39: 74-79. 10.1076/phbi.184.108.40.20669.
Bhattarai KR, Ghimire MD: Commercially important medicinal and aromatic plants of Nepal and their distribution pattern and conservation measure along the elevation gradient of the Himalayas. Banko Janakari. 2006, 16: 3-13.
Ghimire SK, McKey D, Aumeeruddy-Thomas Y: Himalayan medicinal plant diversity in an ecologically complex high altitude anthropogenic landscape, Dolpo, Nepal. Environmental Conservation. 2006, 33: 128-140.
Dobremez JF: Foreword. Environment and Biodiversity: in the context of South Asia. Edited by: Jha PK, Ghimire GPS, Karmacharya SB, Baral SR, Lacoul P. 1996, Ecological Society of Nepal, Kathmandu, i-iii.
Kunwar RM, Chaudhary RP: Status, vegetation composition and biomass of forests of Arun valley, East Nepal. Banko Janakari. 2004, 14 (1): 13-18.
Kala CP: Status and conservation of rare and endangered medicinal plant in the Indian trans-Himalaya. Biological Conservation. 2000, 93: 371-379. 10.1016/S0006-3207(99)00128-7.
Bhattarai KR, Vetaas OR: Variation in plant species richness of different life forms along a subtropical elevation gradient in the Himalayas. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 2003, 12: 327-340. 10.1046/j.1466-822X.2003.00044.x.
Körner C: The alpine life zone under global change. Gayana Botanica. 2000, 57 (1): 1-8.
Colwell RK, Lees DC: The mid-domain effect: geometric constraints on the geography of species richness. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 2000, 15: 70-76. 10.1016/S0169-5347(99)01767-X.
Kunwar RM: Some threatened medicinal and aromatic plants: Status, trade and management practice in Dolpa district, mid-west, Nepal. Journal of Natural History Museum. 2002, 21: 173-186.
Kala CP, Mathur VB: Patterns of plant species distribution in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh, India. Journal of Vegetation Science. 2002, 13: 751-754. 10.1658/1100-9233(2002)013[0751:POPSDI]2.0.CO;2.
Mikage M, Mouri C: Altitudinal variations of Berberine content in the bank of Berberis plants from West Nepal. Newsletter of Himalayan Botany. 2000, 26: 16-19.
Iwashina T, Omori Y, Kitajima J, Akiyama S, Suzuki T, Ohba H: Flavonoids in translucent bracts of the HImalayan Rheum nobile (Polygonaceae) as ultraviolet shields. Journal of Plant Research. 2004, 117: 101-107. 10.1007/s10265-003-0134-2.
Dani DD: Population and society in Nepal: an overview. Nepal Himalaya: Geoecological Perspective. Edited by: Joshi SC. 1986, Himalayan Research Group, Nainital, India, 163-173.
Salick J, Biun A, Martin G, Apin L, Beaman R: Whence useful plants? A direct relationship between biodiversity and useful plants among the Dusun of Mt Kinabalu. Biodiversity and Conservation. 1999, 8: 797-818. 10.1023/A:1008853413930.
Salick J, Anderson D, Woo J, Sherman R, Cili N, Dorje S: Bridging Scales and Epistemologies: Linking Local Knowledge and Global Science in Multi-scale Assessments. 2004, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Alexandria, Egypt, 1-12.
Burlakoti C, Kunwar RM: Folk herbal medicines of Mahakali Watershed Area, Farwest Nepal. Medicinal Plants in Nepal: an anthology of contemporary research. Edited by: Jha PK, Karmacharya SB, Chettri MK, Thapa CB, Shrestha BB. 2008, Ecological Society, Kathmandu, Nepal, 187-193.
Kunwar RM, Uprety Y, Burlakoti C, Chowdhary CL, Bussmann RW: Indigenous use and ethnopharmacology of medicinal plants in far west Nepal. Journal of Ethnobotany and Research Application. 2008
Singha IL: Rainfall distribution. Nepal – Natures' Paradise. Edited by: Majupuria TC. 1999, White Lotus Ltd, Bangkok, 56-58.
Pohle P: Useful plants of Manang district: a contribution to the ethnobotany of the Nepal-Himalayas. Nepal Research Center, Publication no. 16. 1990, Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GMBH, Stuttgart
Uniyal SK, Kumar A, Lal B, Singh RD: Quantitative assessment and traditional uses of high value medicinal plants in Chhota Bhangal area of Himanchal Pradesh, Western Himalaya. Current Science. 2006, 91 (9): 1238-1242.
Dhar U, Manjkhola S, Joshi M, Bhatta A, Bisht AK, Joshi M: Current status and future strategy for development of medicinal plant sector in Uttranchal, India. Current Science. 2002, 83 (8): 956-964.
Bhattarai NK: Traditional herbal medicines used to treat wounds and injuries in Nepal. Tropical Doctor. 1997, 27 (1): 43-47.
Bishokarma BK, Kinsey CK, Dangol DR, Chaudhary P: Folk use of plant resource at Madi valley of Chitwan, Nepal. Banko Janakari. 2005, 15 (2): 43-48.
Hamilton AC: Medicinal plants, conservation and livelihoods. Biodiversity and Conservation. 2004, 13: 1477-1517. 10.1023/B:BIOC.0000021333.23413.42.
Mandar LN, Chaudhary RP: Medicinal plants and their traditional use by tribal people of Saptari district, Nepal. Proceeding of 1st National Botanical Conference. Botanical Society of Nepal, Kathmandu, April, 1988. 1992, 33-41.
Bhattarai NK: Folk anthelmintic drugs of central Nepal. International Journal of Pharmacognosy. 1992, 30: 145-10.3109/13880209209053980.
Bhattarai NK: Medical ethnobotany in the Karnali zone, Nepal. Economic Botany. 1992, 46 (3): 257-261.
Bhatta LR: Ethnobotanical study in a village at Rukum district, Nepal. Banko Janakari. 1999, 9 (2): 40-43.
Ghimire SK, McKey D, Aumeeruddy-Thomas Y: Conservation of Himalayan medicinal plants: harvesting patterns and ecology of two threatened species. Nardostachys grandiflora and Neopicrorhiza scrophulariiflora. Biological Conservation. 2005, 124: 463-475. 10.1016/j.biocon.2005.02.005.
Kunwar RM, Parajuli RR: Good governance in natural resource management: a case study from Dolpa district, west Nepal. Banko Janakari. 2007, 17 (1): 17-24. 10.3126/banko.v17i1.655.
Bhattarai NK: Folk herbal remedies for diarrhea and dysentery in central Nepal. Fitoterapia. 1993, 64 (3): 243-249.
Niraula K: Vegetation Analysis and Ecology of the Medicinal Plants in and around Tinjure Hill (Terhathum and Sankhuwasabha Districts), Eastern Nepal. [M.Sc. Thesis]. 2001, Central Department of Botany, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Storrs A: Jhankris: the faith healers of Nepal. Nepal Traveler. 1997, 11 (4): 34-39.
Shinwari ZK, Gilani SS, Kohjoma M, Nakaike T: Status of medicinal plants in Pakistani Hindu Kush Himalayas. Proceeding of Nepal-Japan Joint Symposium on Conservation and Utilization of Himalayan Medicinal Resources, November 6–11, 2000, Kathmandu, Nepal. 2000, 257-264.
Weckerle CS, Huber FK, Yongping Y, Weibang S: Plant knowledge of the Shuhi in the Hengduan mountains, Southwest China. Economic Botany. 2006, 60 (1): 3-23. 10.1663/0013-0001(2006)60[3:PKOTSI]2.0.CO;2.
Bhattarai NK: Ethnobotanical studies in central Nepal: the ceremonial plant foods. Contributions to Nepalese Studies. 1989, 16 (1): 35-41.
Olsen CS: Valuation of commercial central Himalayan medicinal plants. Ambio. 2005, 34 (8): 607-610. 10.1639/0044-7447(2005)034[0607:VOCCHM]2.0.CO;2.
Edwards DM: Non Timber Forest Products from Nepal: Aspects of Trade in Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. Forest Research and Survey Centre monograph 1/96. 1996, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Kathmandu, Nepal
Olsen CS, Helles F: Medicinal plants, markets and margins in the Nepal Himalaya: trouble in paradise. Mountain Research and Development. 1997, 17: 363-374. 10.2307/3674025.
Hall P, Bawa KS: Methods to assess the impact of extraction of non-timber forest products on plant populations. Economic Botany. 1993, 47: 234-247.
Bhattarai NK: Traditional medicines: role of medicinal plants in present and future health cure. Prospects of Medicinal Plants. Edited by: Gautam PL, Raina R, Srivastava V, Raychaudhuri SP, Singh BB. 1998, Indian Society of Plant Genetic Resource, New Delhi, India, 96-104.
Sherpa S: The High Altitude Ethnobotany of the Walung People of Walangchungola, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, East Nepal. [M.Sc. thesis]. 2001, Central Department of Botany, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal
Philips O, Gentry AH: The useful plants of Tambopata, Peru: II. Additional hypothesis testing in quantitative ethnobotany. Economic Botany. 1993, 47: 33-43.
Schultes RE, Von Reis S: Ethnobotany: Evolution of Discipline. 1995, Dioscorides Press, Oregon
Silori CS, Rana AR: Indigenous knowledge on medicinal plants and their use in Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, Kachchh. Ethnobotany. 2000, 12: 1-7.
Warren DM: Indigenous knowledge and development. Background paper for seminar session on sociology. Natural Resource Management and Agriculture Development. December 3, 1990. 1990, The World Bank
Lambert J, Srivastava J, Vietmeyer N: Medicinal Plants: Rescuing a Global Heritage. 1997, The World Bank, USA
Sharma PP, Mujundar AM: Traditional knowledge on plants from Toranmal Plateau of Maharastra, India. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge. 2003, 2: 292-296.
Heine B, Heine I, Koenig C: Plant use and concepts – an ethnobotanical survey of the semi-arid and arid lands of east Africa. Part V. Plants of the Samburu (Kenya). Koelner Beitraege zur Entwicklungsforschung. 1988, 10: 1-286.
Kala CP, Dhyani PP, Sajwan BK: Developing the medicinal plant sector in northern India: challenges and opportunities. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 2006, 2: 32-10.1186/1746-4269-2-32.
Shengji P: Mountain culture and forest resource management of Himalayas. Himalayan Ecosystems. Edited by: Tewari DW. 1992, Intel Book Distributor. Dehra Dun, India
Shengji P: Brief review of ethnobotany and its curriculum development in China. Proceeding of Workshop on Curriculum Development in Applied Ethnobotany, May 2–4, 2002, Lahore. Edited by: Shinwari ZK, Hamilton A, Khan AA. 2002, WWF Pakistan, 21-33.
Shiva MP: Inventory of Forestry Resources for Sustainable Management and Biodiversity Conservation. 1996, New Delhi: Indus Publishing Company
We thank Water Resource Consult, Kathmandu; the Canadian Center for International Studies and Co-operation, Kathmandu; the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation, Kathmandu; and the Resource and Environmental Conservation Society Nepal, Kathmandu for providing facilities for field studies and data analysis.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
RMK carried out field research, analyzed the data, and wrote the manuscript and RWB designed the study, supervised the work, and revised the manuscript. Both authors approved the final version of this manuscript.
Authors’ original submitted files for images
Below are the links to the authors’ original submitted files for images.
About this article
Cite this article
Kunwar, R.M., Bussmann, R.W. Ethnobotany in the Nepal Himalaya. J Ethnobiology Ethnomedicine 4, 24 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-4-24
- Medicinal Plant
- Indigenous Knowledge
- Plant Species Richness
- Herbal Remedy
- Plant Resource