Open Access

Diversity and use of ethno-medicinal plants in the region of Swat, North Pakistan

Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine20139:25

https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-9-25

Received: 26 November 2012

Accepted: 8 April 2013

Published: 15 April 2013

Abstract

Background

Due to its diverse geographical and habitat conditions, northern Pakistan harbors a wealth of medicinal plants. The plants and their traditional use are part of the natural and cultural heritage of the region. This study was carried out to document which medicinal plant species and which plant parts are used in the region of Swat, which syndrome categories are particularly concerned, and which habitat spectrum is frequented by collectors. Finally, we assessed to which extent medicinal plants are vulnerable due to collection and habitat destruction.

Methods

An ethnobotanical survey was undertaken in the Miandam area of Swat, North Pakistan. Data were collected through field assessment as well as from traditional healers and locals by means of personal interviews and semi-structured questionnaires.

Results

A total of 106 ethno-medicinal plant species belonging to 54 plant families were recorded. The most common growth forms were perennial (43%) and short-lived herbs (23%), shrubs (16%), and trees (15%). Most frequently used plant parts were leaves (24%), fruits (18%) and subterranean parts (15%). A considerable proportion of the ethno-medicinal plant species and remedies concerns gastro-intestinal disorders. The remedies were mostly prepared in the form of decoction or powder and were mainly taken orally. Eighty out of 106 ethno-medicinal plants were indigenous. Almost 50% of the plants occurred in synanthropic vegetation while slightly more than 50% were found in semi-natural, though extensively grazed, woodland and grassland vegetation. Three species (Aconitum violaceum, Colchicum luteum, Jasminum humile) must be considered vulnerable due to excessive collection. Woodlands are the main source for non-synanthropic indigenous medicinal plants. The latter include many range-restricted taxa and plants of which rhizomes and other subterranean parts are dug out for further processing as medicine.

Conclusion

Medicinal plants are still widely used for treatment in the area of Swat. Some species of woodlands seem to be adapted to wood-pasture, but vulnerable to overcollecting, and in particular to deforestation. It is suggested to implement local small-scaled agroforestry systems to cultivate vulnerable and commercially valuable ethno-medicinal woodland plants under local self-government responsibility.

Keywords

Ecosystem services Ethnobotany Medicinal plants Miandam Phytomedicine Plant applications Plant conservation Vernacular plant names

Introduction

Plants are an important source of traditional medicine for the treatment of various diseases [1]. It has been estimated that herbal medicines are used by more than 80% of the world’s population in developing countries to meet their primary healthcare needs [2]. In Pakistan, the available modern healthcare services are either insufficient or inaccessible and unaffordable to the majority of people. In addition, due to illiteracy and poverty most of the population is dependent on traditional phytomedicine to cure various ailments. As the country has diverse socio-economic, ethnic, linguistic and cultural areas, as well as unique biodiversity, copious knowledge of indigenous medicinal plants and their use in treating human ailments might reasonably be expected. More than 10% of the national flora of Pakistan (600–700 plant species) are used for medicinal purposes [3]. Phytomedicinal research in Pakistan is a recent activity and the documentation of ethnomedicinal plant knowledge and its applications are ongoing [36]. The loss of precious medicinal plant wealth due to overgrazing, agricultural expansion, environmental degradation, acculturation and deforestation, enhanced by population pressure and poverty, has been reported by various researchers [3, 710] but information on which medicinal plant species in particular are vulnerable, and why, is lacking.

Traditional resources of medicinal plants from Chitral, North Pakistan, have been evaluated [7, 11]. Several studies exist on the ethnomedicinal use of plants in different regions of Swat, North Pakistan [8, 1215]. In an ethno-medicinal study from the valley of Miandam, Swat, a total of 179 plant species have been listed [16], with medicinal use reported for 27 plants, but without reference to local names, habitats, and which parts of these plants are used. Recording the indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants is an urgent task. Traditional knowledge is usually passed verbally from generation to generation, and valuable information about medicinal plants is easily lost if not preserved in written form. The main objective of the present study was therefore to survey and to document the scattered indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants of the Miandam valley as basis for future phytochemical and pharmacological studies. Moreover, and for the first time in any region of Pakistan, the medicinal plants of the study area are classified according to biological and distributional properties as well as ecological preference. It is essential to know where and in which habitats ethno-medicinal plants occur, as such knowledge is a prerequisite to identify vulnerable plant species susceptible to collecting or habitat change.

Study area

The valley of Miandam, Swat, is a well-known summer resort in northern Pakistan. Located about 50 km northeast of Saidu Sharif, the valley lies between 35° 4' N and 72° 29-32' E in the mountain range of Hindu Raj [17]. The study area ranges between 1400 to 3900 m a.s.l. It is a narrow valley with a number of gorges, bounded on the north, east and south by high mountains. Its western boundary is the river Swat. Gujars (Indian Aryans) and Yousafzai (Pakhtoon) are the two main tribes residing in the area. Their main source of income is agriculture (nearly 41%) [18] and most of the population of the study area is directly or indirectly engaged in it. Miandam is a mountainous region and the cultivated land is insufficient for subsistence. Additional sources of income are daily wages and salaries (20%), foreign and domestic remittances (17%), forest products including medicinal plants (12%) and other professions (10%). Findings from [19] reveal that 59% of the households in north-western Pakistan derive their income from the forests.

Due to its considerable variation in altitude, temperature, topography, soil type and moisture, the vegetation of Miandam Valley can be classified into a series of altitudinal belts, namely dominated by Olea ferruginea and Quercus oblongata (submontane), Pinus wallichiana, Abies pindrow, Picea smithiana and Quercus semecarpifolia (montane), and alpine-subalpine flora, respectively [16]. See also the vegeation maps of the northern Pakistan regions of Chitral and Hunza [20, 21].

Methods

Regular field surveys were carried out in the Miandam valley from September 2010 through July 2011 in order to document the habitats and indigenous uses of ethno-medicinal plants of the valley. The surveys were carried out at different seasons so as to obtain identifiable plants and multiple information and also to cross-check the information provided by the local informants during earlier visits. We interviewed a small group of chiefly elder people of both Gujars and Yousufzai tribes who were highly esteemed in their societies due to their sound knowledge of medicinal plants. Structured questionnaires, formal and informal interviews and participatory observations were used to inquire about vernacular names, used plant parts and the process of remedy preparation. We did not encounter controversial issues among the informants but commonly received complementary information. Moreover, for each plant species growth forms (tree, shrub, woody climber, perennial herb, annual or biennial herb), plant status (indigenous, established alien, cultivated), abundance in the area (common, scattered, rare) and habitat preferences (arable fields, ruderal sites, wetland, woodland, mountain grassland) were recorded. Voucher specimens were identified using relevant standard literature [2225] and submitted to the Herbarium PUP at the Department of Botany, University of Peshawar. Plant nomenclature was updated using the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/home.do) and The Plant List (http://www.theplantlist.org/). Family assignation in this paper follows the Flora of Pakistan [25].

Results and discussion

Plant diversity, use and applications

A total of 106 ethno-medicinal plant species belonging to 96 genera and 54 plant families were recorded. The plants have been used to treat a wide range of diseases from simple headache to complex disorders of kidney and liver. The results are presented in Table 1 with family names in alphabetical order, taxon name, local name, parts used, medicinal use, growth form, plant status, frequency and habitat preference. Perennial herbs were the most common growth form among medicinal plants (43%), followed by annuals and biennials (23%), shrubs (16%) and trees (15%) As far as documented the use of herbs for remedy preparation in the study area is in consistence with other studies [11, 2640].
Table 1

Medicinal plants of the Miandam area with their medicinal properties, and biological, ecological and chorological characteristics

Plant family

Taxon name

Local name

Parts used

Medicinal uses, remedies

Growth form

Plant status

Frequency

Habitat

Amaranthaceae

Amaranthus viridis

Chalvaray

Leaves

Leaf extract is emollient, also used for curing cough and asthma.

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Anacardiaceae

Pistacia chinensis

Shnai

Insect galls, leaves and bark

Powdered insect galls, bark and leaves are topical antiseptic, also for curing jaundice and liver diseases.

Tree

Established alien

Scattered

Woodland

Apiaceae

Bupleurum longicaule

Gillo

Whole plant

Powdered plant is mixed with milk and used as laxative

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Apiaceae

Coriandrum sativum

Dhanyal

Whole plant

Stimulant and carminative

Annual

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Apiaceae

Foeniculum vulgare

Kaga vanalay

Fruit

Powdered fruit is mixed with sugar, taken with a cup of milk for curing urinary problems (dysuria); dry fruits are carminative and laxative

Annual

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Apiaceae

Pimpinella diversifolia

Watani kaga

Fruit

Powdered fruits are carminative

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Apiaceae

Heracleum candicans

Kadu panra

Root

Decoction of root against colic and asthma

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Wetland

Araceae

Arisaema jacquemontii

Marjarai

Rhizome

Rhizome bolus is given orally to livestock for respiratory problems

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Araliaceae

Hedera nepalensis

Prewata

Leaves

Juice from leaves for curing diabetes, also considered as blood purifier

Woody climber

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Asclepiadaceae

Periploca aphylla

Barara

Stem, fruits

Milky juice of stem and fruit applied to swellings; stem latex as antimycotic for curing dermatitis in livestock

Shrub

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Asteraceae

Artemisia scoparia

Jaukay

Shoot and seeds

Respiratory stimulant, anthelmintic, purgative and against earache

Biennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Asteraceae

Cichorium intybus

Han

Root

Decoction of fresh root for treatment of fever

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Asteraceae

Echinops echinatus

Ghwand Saray Ghanowala

Root

Powdered root applied to wounds of cattle for killing maggots; also to kill lice

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Wetland

Asteraceae

Launaea procumbens

Shauda pai

Leaves

Mixture of powdered leaves with sugar to enhance lactation in livestock

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Asteraceae

Sonchus asper

Shauda pai

Shoot

Shoots fed to livestock for enhancing lactation

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Asteraceae

Taraxacum sp.

Ziar gulai

Leaves and roots

Grinded leaves are tonic, root decoction against kidney and liver disorders

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Asteraceae

Xanthium strumarium

Ghishkay

Leaves

Leaf decoction recommended in malarial fever

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Berberidaceae

Berberis lycium

Kwaray

Root bark

Dried root bark given orally as body tonic

Shrub

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Berberidaceae

Podophyllum hexandrum

Kakora

Rhizome

Powdered rhizome used to cure liver diseases

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Boraginaceae

Cynoglossum lanceolatum

Gat gul

Whole plant

Powdered plant taken with a decoction of Coriandrum sativum fruits as laxative

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Boraginaceae

Onosma hispida

Khwaga abai

Root

Used to color mustard oil which is applied for smoothing hair

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Brassicaceae

Brassica campestris

Sharshum

Seeds

Oil, extracted from seeds, is used as ointment, for massage of body and hair

Annual

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Brassicaceae

Brassica campestris var. rapa

Tepar

Leaves, roots

Against stomachache and ulcer problems

Annual

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Brassicaceae

Capsella bursa-pastoris

Bambesa

Leaves and seeds

Paste of fresh leaves with milk for curing diarrhea; seeds are stimulant and diuretic

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Brassicaceae

Nasturtium officinale

Talmera

Young shoot

Young shoot against constipation and stomachache

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Wetland

Buxaceae

Sarcococca saligna

Ladanr

Leaves

Heated in mustard oil and applied to muscular pain; infusion of leaves orally for rheumatism

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Cannabaceae

Cannabis sativa

Bang

Leaves

Leaves in bandage for wound healing; powdered leaves as anodyne, sedative, tonic and narcotic; juice added with milk and nuts as a cold drink (“Tandai”) generating a pleasant excitement; “Charas” is also prepared from it

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Arable

Caprifoliaceae

Sambucus wightiana

Benakai

Leaves, fruits and flowers

Poultice from leaves and flowers to treat burns and rheumatism; berries are purgative and used in dropsy

Shrub

Indigenous

Rare

Woodland

Caprifoliaceae

Viburnum grandiflorum

Ghuz meva

fruit

Fresh fruit is eaten to cure stomach problems

Shrub

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Caryophyllaceae

Arenaria griffithii

Kinar

Shoots

Dried shoot powder with honey after meal as antispasmodic

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Caryophyllaceae

Silene vulgaris

Matorangay

Shoot

Shoot against stomachache and as emollient

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Caryophyllaceae

Stellaria media

Oulalai

Whole plant

Decoction is considered as purgative

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Arable

Chenopodiaceae

Chenopodium album

Sarmay

Whole plant

Dried powdered plant considered as carminative and diuretic agent

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Clusiaceae

Hypericum perforatum

Shin chai

Shoot

Used as diuretic and its tea is stimulant and analgesic

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Convolvulaceae

Convolvulus arvensis

Prewatai

Whole plant

Purgative, also applied in skin disorders

Perennial, climber

Indigenous

Common

Arable

Cuscutaceae

Cuscuta reflexa

Zelai

Whole plant

Decoction for urine control, diabetes and blood purification; plant extract used as anti-lice

Perennial, climber

Established alien

Scattered

Arable

Dioscoreaceae

Dioscorea deltoidea

Kanis zelai

Rhizome

Powdered rhizome mixed with powdered root of Berberis lycium, the mixture is used for treatment of jaundice and ulcers

Perennial, climber

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Ebenaceae

Diospyros kaki

Sur amlok

Ripe fruits

Laxative

Tree

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Ebenaceae

Diospyros lotus

Tour amlok

Dried ripe fruits

Carminative, purgative and causing flatulence; boiled in milk and taken against constipation and dysentery

Tree

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Elaeagnaceae

Elaeagnus umbellata

Ghanum ranga

Flowers, leaves

Decoction of flowers used twice a day to cure heart diseases; decoction of leaves against cough; mature raw seeds eaten as vitamin C source

Shrub

Indigenous

Rare

Woodland

Euphorbiaceae

Euphorbia wallichii

Shangla

Whole plant

Dried leaves and seeds given to children in bowel complains; plant juice against ringworm

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Euphorbiaceae

Ricinus communis

Harhanda

Seeds

Seed oil demulcent and to evacuate bowels in children

Shrub

Established alien

Scattered

Ruderal

Fabaceae

Indigofera heterantha

Ghwarija

Root and leaves

Dried powdered root taken with glass of water against scabies; leaves against stomach problems

Shrub

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Fabaceae

Lathyrus aphaca

Korkamanai

Seed

Decoction of the seed 3 times a day for wound healing

Annual

Indigenous

Scattered

Arable

Fabaceae

Lotus corniculatus

Fateh khana

Whole plant

Decoction of dried powdered plant with ghee or boiled water against sexual debility and backache

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Fagaceae

Quercus oblongata

Banj

Fruit

Powdered fruits in urinary infection

Tree

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Fagaceae

Quercus floribunda

Tour banj

Fruit

Powdered fruits for treating gonorrhea and urinary disease

Tree

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Fumariaceae

Corydalis stewartii

Mamera

Floral shoot

Decoction of floral shoot to cure eye diseases

Biennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Mountain grassland

Geraniaceae

Geranium wallichianum

Srazela

Root

Root decoction with pods of Pistacia chinensis to treat cough and fever and urinary complaints

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

woodland

Hippocastanaceae

Aesculus indica

Jawaz

Seeds and bark

Fruits are anthelmintic and given to horses in colic; plant oil externally used against rheumatism; nuts against colic and to cure chest diseases in horses, donkeys and mules

Tree

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Juglandaceae

Juglans regia

Ghwaz

Fruit, bark, leaves

Dried fruit mixed with coconut and honey used as tonic; bark (locally called Dandasa) for cleaning and sparkling of teeth; decoction of leaves against eczema and intestinal worms

Tree

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Lamiaceae

Ajuga bracteosa

Booti

Whole plant

Locally, decoction of the plant or its powder swallowed with water before breakfast for the treatment of throat sore, internal colic, purifying blood and epilepsy; decoction for curing jaundice and hypertension

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Lamiaceae

Mentha spicata

Podina

Leaves and stem

Carminative

Perennial

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Lamiaceae

Mentha royleana

Valenay

whole plant

Decoction of leaves for treatment of diarrhea in children; powdered plant mixed with sugar for prevention of vomiting and dyspepsia

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Lamiaceae

Nepeta cataria

Pisho botai

Flowers and leaves

Dried leaves and flowering tops carminative

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Mountain grassland

Lamiaceae

Otostegia limbata

Spin azghai

Whole plant

Juice of leaves applied to gums for treatment of gum problem in children; dried powder of plant is used in jaundice

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Lamiaceae

Isodon rugosus

Spearkai

Leaves

Dried leaves put in mouth as remedy for toothache

Shrub

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Lamiaceae

Origanum vulgare

Shamakay

Whole plant

Diuretic and against toothache and earache

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Lamiaceae

Salvia lanata

Spera botai

Leaves

Paste of leaves applied to toes laceration in hot and moist season

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Lamiaceae

Salvia moorcroftiana

Kherghwag

Leaves

Brassica campestris oil applied to fresh leaves tied round for healing of wounds

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Lamiaceae

Thymus linearis

Chi botai

Shoots

Tea of shoots advised for treating pain and fever

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Mountain grassland

Liliaceae

Allium sativum

Ouga

Bulb and leaves

Boiled and the cooled extract administered against diarrhea, dysentery and for lowering blood pressure; bulbs stimulant; leaves diuretic, aphrodisiac and expectorant; antiseptic; juice applied to soothe irritation caused by scorpion and hornet stings

Perennial

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Liliaceae

Allium cepa

Piaz

Bulb and leaves

Bulbs stimulant; leaves diuretic, aphrodisiac and expectorant; also antiseptic and juice applied to soothe irritation caused by scorpion and hornet sting; Mountaineers have it with them while crossing high altitude passes as it enhances the intake of oxygen

Perennial

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Liliaceae

Colchicum luteum

Qaimat guallay

Whole plant

Blood purifier, laxative and aphrodisiac; fried corms are used for joints pain

Perennial

Indigenous

Rare

Mountain grassland

Liliaceae

Polygonatum multiflorum

Noorealam

Rhizome

Rhizome infusion against dysentery; referred aphrodisiac

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Liliaceae

Polygonatum verticillatum

Noorealam

Rhizome

Against rheumatism and as aphrodisiac

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Malvaceae

Abelmoschus esculentus

Bhindi

Fruits

Emollient, demulcent and diuretic

Annual

Cultivated

Scattered

Arable

Meliaceae

Melia azedarach

Tora bakyana, shandai

Fruits, shoots, bark, leaves

Dried, crushed fruits against gastric trouble, fever and cough; dry leaves mixed with wheat flour used as anthelmintic in livestock; decoction of the bark considered anti-allergic; extraction of leaves used by women against head lice; leaves, young branches or fermented fruits are given as carminative to cattle, when belly is swollen through gas accumulation due to overeating

Tree

Established alien

Scattered

Woodland

Moraceae

Ficus palmata

Inzer

Flowers and fruits

Fresh floral parts as demulcent; juice extracted from fruit as expectorant

Tree

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Moraceae

Morus alba

Toot

Fruit

Fruit to treat constipation and cough

Tree

Indigenous

Common

Arable

Oleaceae

Jasminum humile

Rambil chambil

Roots and flowers

Powdered roots as anthelmintic and diuretic; juice extracted from flowers against skin diseases, headache and mouth rash

Shrub

Indigenous

Rare

Woodland

Oleaceae

Olea europaea

Khona

Leaves

Decoction of leaves as gargle considered as remedy for toothache, mouth and gum diseases

Tree

Cultivated

Scattered

Arable

Oxalidaceae

Oxalis corniculata

Tarukey

Whole plant

Decoction of plant to enhance digestion

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Paeoniaceae

Paeonia emodi

Mamekh

Rhizome

Powdered rhizome with milk to cure backache and general weakness

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Papaveraceae

Papaver somniferum

Qashqash

Capsule, seeds

Capsules and seeds as narcotic; dried capsule to make tea for cough and fever

Annual

Indigenous

Scattered

Arable

Plantaginaceae

Plantago lanceolata

Jabai

Leaves

Leaves applied to treat bedsores, inflamed surfaces and candidiasis

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Ruderal

Plantaginaceae

Plantago major

Ghwa jabai

Seeds, leaves

Leaves applied to treat bedsores and candidiasis

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Ruderal

Platanaceae

Platanus orientalis

Chinar

Bark

Powdered bark taken orally to control diarrhea

Tree

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Poaceae

Avena sativa

Jamdaray

Fruit

Fried in ghee and milk, the paste is considered as general body tonic and aphrodisiac

Annual

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Poaceae

Cynodon dactylon

Kabal

Whole plant

Decoction as blood purifier and to control nose bleed; chewed and placed on wound to stop bleeding and as topical anti-septic

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Polygonaceae

Rumex dentatus

Shalkhay

Rhizome, leaves

Rhizome and leaves as poultice for wound healing

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Portulacaceae

Portulaca oleracea s.l.

Warkharae

Shoot

Shoot decoction against liver and kidney diseases

Annual

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Primulaceae

Primula denticulata

Mamera

Stem base

Infusion of young stem base ophthalmic

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Punicaceae

Punica granatum

Nangoray, Anar

Fruit

Dried fruit in bolus form for removal of intestinal helminths

Shrub

Cultivated

Scattered

Arable

Ranunculaceae

Aconitum violaceum

Zaharmora, Da Ghra Zahar

Rhizome

Rhizomes, wrapped in sheep or goat intestine and thoroughly boiled in milk; milk discarded and rhizomes crushed into powder, taken against rheumatism and arthritis; administering as such may cause death or mental problems if overdozed

Perennial

Indigenous

Rare

Woodland

Ranunculaceae

Caltha alba

Makan path

Leaves

Leaves laxative in nature

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Wetland

Ranunculaceae

Delphinium denudatum

Jadwar

Rhizome

Rhizome powder with water to cure cough and fever

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Rosaceae

Fragaria bucharica

Da zmaki toot

Root, fruit

Powdered root useful in disease of urinary tract; fruits carminative and laxative

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Rosaceae

Prunus armeniaca

Khubanai

stem

Gum obtained from stem famed as anticancer

Tree

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Rosaceae

Prunus domestica

Alucha

Fruits

Fruit laxative

Tree

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Rosaceae

Rosa moschata

Gulab

Flowers

Decoction of flowers for curing stomach disorders

Shrub

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Rosaceae

Spiraea spec.

Krachae

Flowers

Tea from its flowers to ease natal pain

Shrub

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Rutaceae

Skimmia laureola

Nazar pana

Leaves

Burnt incense to expel evils and evil eyes; tea for indigestion, smoke considered as antiseptic

Shrub

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Rutaceae

Zanthoxylum armatum

Dambara

Fruit

Fruits as antipyretic and for treating stomachache

Shrub

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Saxifragaceae

Bergenia stracheyi

The Spinsar Gat Pana

Rhizome

Powdered rhizome with milk in the mornings as tonic

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Simaroubaceae

Ailanthus altissima

Backyanra

bark

Bark juice mixed with milk to cure dysentery and diarrhea

Tree

Established alien

Common

Arable

Solanaceae

Atropa acuminata

Bargak

leaves

Poultice of leaves against pain and rheumatism

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Solanaceae

Capsicum annuum

Marchakay

Fruits

Carminative

Annual

Cultivated

Common

Arable

Solanaceae

Datura stramonium

Batora

Leaves, seeds and flowers

poultice of flowers applied to wounds to reduce pain; seeds narcotic in nature

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Solanaceae

Solanum nigrum

Kachmacho

Leaves and fruit

Leave paste applied to treat skin inflammation, fruits against fever

Annual

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Solanaceae

Solanum virginianum

Marraghonay

Fruit

Decoction of fruit diuretic and anthelmintic

Perennial

Indigenous

Scattered

Ruderal

Solanaceae

Withania somnifera

Kotilal

Whole plant

Aphrodisiac

Shrub

Indigenous

Scattered

Ruderal

Thymelaeaceae

Daphne mucronata

Laighonai

Fruits, leaves

Poultice from fruits and leaves against rheumatism

Shrub

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Ulmaceae

Celtis australis

Tagha

Fruits, bark

Fruits against colic and amenorrhea; bark decoction as anti-allergic

Tree

Indigenous

Scattered

Woodland

Urticaceae

Debregeasia saeneb

Ajlai

Leaves

Fresh ground leaves in paste form for blistered feet

Shrub

Indigenous

Common

Woodland

Verbinaceae

Verbena officinalis

Shamakai

Whole plant

Decoction is anti-malarial

Perennial

Indigenous

Common

Ruderal

Ninety-nine of the species (93%) are used for human ailments, three species (3%) for livestock cure and four (4%) to treat both human and livestock ailments. No less than 44 plant species were used to treat gastro-intestinal disorders such as dyspepsia, dysentery and stomach-ache followed by the treatment of dermatological diseases with more than 25 herbal remedies. Ten species were used against skeleto-muscular complaints like rheumatism, backache and muscular pain. Sixteen species were used to cure respiratory problems such as cough and asthma, fourteen for urinary complaints, twelve for cardio-vascular complaints and circulatory diseases, twelve to treat fever and headache, eleven for genital and sexual diseases, six for dental problems, six for ear, nose, throat (ENT) and eyes diseases, two for nerve disorders, one species (Spiraea spec.) was used to ease childbirth, and eighteen species for other purposes (wounds, cuts, narcotic, tonic, anticancer and tumor) (Table 2). The leaves of Skimmia laureola are used for spiritual purposes.
Table 2

List of ethno-medicinal plants applied with different syndromes

Syndrome category

Plants

Gastrointestinal disorders

Aesculus indica, Ailanthus altissima, Ajuga bracteosa, Allium sativum, Artemisia scoparia, Brassica campestris var. rapa, Bupleurum longicaule, Capsella bursa-pastoris, Caltha alba, Celtis australis, Capsicum annuum, Chenopodium album, Colchicum luteum, Convolvulus arvensis, Coriandrum sativum, Cynoglossum lanceolatum, Dioscorea deltoidea, Diospyros kaki, Diospyros lotus, Euphorbia wallichii, Foeniculum vulgare, Fragaria bucharica, Heracleum candicans, Hypericum perforatum, Indigofera heterantha, Jasminum humile, Melia azedarach, Mentha spicata, Mentha royleana, Nasturtium officinale, Nepeta cataria, Oxalis corniculata, Pimpinella diversifolia, Plantago major, Platanus orientalis, Polygonatum verticillatum, Prunus domestica, Punica granatum, Ricinus communis, Rosa moschata, Sambucus wightiana, Skimmia laureola, Solanum virginianum, Stellaria media, Viburnum grandiflorum, Zanthoxylum armatum

Dermatological and topical diseases

Abelmoschus esculentus, Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Amaranthus viridis, Brassica campestris, Celtis australis, Convolvulus arvensis, Cuscuta reflexa, Cynodon dactylon, Datura stramonium, Debregeasia saeneb, Echinops echinatus, Euphorbia wallichii, Indigofera heterantha, Jasminum officinale, Juglans regia, Melia azedarach, Onosma hispida, Periploca aphylla, Pistacia chinensis, Plantago lanceolata, Plantago major, Salvia lanata, Sambucus wightiana, Silene vulgaris, Skimmia laureola, Solanum nigrum

Respiratory illness

Abelmoschus esculentus, Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Amaranthus viridis, Arisaema jacquemontii, Arenaria griffithii, Artemisia scoporia, Delphinium denudatum, Elaeagnus umbellata, Ficus palmata, Geranium wallichianum, Heracleum candicans, Melia azedarach, Morus alba, Papaver somniferum, Ricinus communis

Skeleto-muscular problems

Aesculus indica, Aconitum violaceum, Atropa acuminata, Colchicum luteum, Daphne mucronata, Lotus corniculatus, Paeonia emodi, Polygonatum verticillatum, Sambucus wightiana, Sarcococca saligna

Cardio-vascular complaints and circulatory diseases

Ajuga bracteosa, Allium sativum, Colchicum luteum, Cuscuta reflexa, Dioscorea deltoidea, Elaeagnus umbellata, Hedera nepalensis, Otostegia limbata, Pistacia chinensis, Podophyllum hexandrum, Portulaca oleracea, Taraxacum spec.

Fever, headache, analgesic

Cichorium intybus, Delphinium denundatum, Geranium wallichianum, Hypericum perforatum, Jasminum humile, Melia azedarach, Papaver somniferum, Solanum nigrum, Thymus linearis, Verbena officinalis, Xanthium strumarium, Zanthoxylum armatum

Urinary complaints

Abelmoschus esculentus, Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Capsella bursa-pastoris, Chenopodium album, Cuscuta reflexa, Foeniculum vulgare, Fragaria vesca, Hypericum perforatum, Portulaca oleracea, Quercus oblongata, Quercus floribunda, Solanum virginianum, Taraxacum spec.

Dental problems

Isodon rugosus, Juglans regia, Olea europaea, Origanum vulgare, Otostegia limbata, Rumex dentatus

ENT complaints

Ajuga bracteosa, Artemisia scoporia, Corydalis stewartii, Origanum vulgare, Primula denticulata

Nerve disorders (anodyne, epilepsy, sedative)

Ajuga bracteosa, Cannabis sativa

Genital and sexual diseases

Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Avena sativa, Celtis australis, Colchicum luteum, Geranium wallichianum, Lotus corniculatus, Polygonatum multiflorum, Polygonatum verticillatum, Quercus dilatata, Withania somnifera

Others (wounds, cuts, narcotic, tonic, tumor, anticancer and stimulant)

Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Avena sativa, Berberis lycium, Bergenia stracheyi, Cannabis sativa, Capsella bursa-pastoris, Coriandrum sativum, Cynodon dactylon, Datura stramonium, Juglans regia, Lathyrus aphaca, Paeonia emodi, Papaver somniferum, Periploca aphylla, Prunus armeniaca, Salvia moorcroftiana, Taraxacum spec.

Delivery

Spiraea spec.

A single plant species may be used to cure several human ailments (Table 2). Some of the remedies were prepared by combining different plants such as the powdered rhizome of Dioscorea deltoidea mixed with powdered root of Berberis lycium for the treatment of jaundice and ulcers. Similarly, root decoction of Geranium wallichianum with pods of Pistacia chinensis was used for curing urinary complaints, cough and fever. According to traditional healers, complex medicines of two or more plant species are more potent than those prepared with single species. This has been attributed to interactive effects of the plants [41]. The most common medicinal recipe preparation was in powder form followed by decoction, infusion, juices, poultice and paste.

The traditional healers and local herbalists of the region usually utilize every part of the plant. However, the use of a particular plant part depends on the plant habit and user’s needs. The most frequently used plant parts in the preparation of herbal remedies were leaves (29%), followed by fruit (18%), roots and rhizomes (17%), and whole plants (7%). Seeds (9%), flowers (8%), bark (7%), bulbs (2%), capsules, floral shoots and insect galls (1% each) have also been used. The use of specific plant parts suggests that these parts have strongest medicinal properties but it needs biochemical analysis and pharmaceutical screening to cross-check the local information. Our findings of the frequent use of green leaves in the preparation of remedies corroborate the results of [4246].

Different liquids such as water, juices, sugar, tea, honey, mustard oil, desi ghee (butter) and milk are mixed with plants or plant parts during the preparation of the remedies. The prepared remedies are mostly administered orally (77%), less frequently dermally (10%) or both orally and dermally (12%). Only 1% is administered through ears or eyes.

Habitats and conservation of ethno-medicinal plants

Eighty-two out of 106 medicinal plants are indigenous to the area while the others are cultivated (19) or established alien plants (5). The latter groups are of no conservation concern as they are common (17) or scattered (7) in the study area. Also among the indigenous medicinal plants the majority of species is common (59%) or scattered (35%) in the area, thus neither of immediate conservation concern. Only five medicinal plant species (6%) are rare in the study area: Aconitum violaceum, Colchicum luteum, Elaeagnus umbellata, Jasminum humile and Sambucus wightiana. Sambucus and Elaeagnus are woodland shrubs of which leaves and fruits or leaves and flowers, respectively, are collected for medicinal purposes. Since this kind of harvesting is non-destructive, the rarity of the shrub species is apparently not caused by overcollection. In contrast, populations of Aconitum violaceum, Colchicum luteum and Jasminum humile may be harmed since rhizomes, corms or whole plants are collected, respectively. In these cases, plant populations should be monitored to avoid overcollection.

The synanthropic flora (i.e., occurring in arable fields or ruderal sites) contains a high proportion of the ethno-medicinal plants. Slightly under 50% (51) out of the 106 ethno-medicinal plant species occur in man-made habitats (in arable fields 27 species, most of which being cultivated; another 24 in ruderal sites). Since they can be expected to grow abundantly in or near settlements, or are even cultivated and harvested, they may be collected without much effort, and in suitable quantities. Slightly more than 50% (55) of the ethno-medicinal plant species encountered in the study area occur in semi-natural habitats (though extensively grazed or otherwise used). Most species of the latter group (47) occurred in different kinds of woodland, while only few occur in wetlands (4) and mountain grasslands (4). Mountain grassland medicinal plants known in the Miandam valley comprise Colchicum luteum, Corydalis stewartii, Nepeta cataria and Thymus linearis. Since Himalayan mountain floras are rich [4547] and the local almost certainly contains more species of pharmaceutical value, we assume that the habitat is too remote and too difficult to access to be of much interest as a “medicinal plant hunting area” for the people in the Miandam valley.

Woodlands are the main source for non-synanthropic indigenous medicinal plants. They comprise 21 woody plants (apart from the climber Hedera nepalensis, seven trees and thirteen shrubs), two short-lived and 24 perennial herbs. Almost half of the perennial herbs are dug to collect the stem base (Primula denticulata) or chiefly the rhizomes (Aconitum violaceum, Arisaema jacquemontii, Bergenia stracheyi, Delphinium denudatum, Dioscorea deltoidea, Paeonia emodi, Podophyllum hexandrum, Polygonatum multiflorum, Polygonatum verticillatum). Except the latter two, these species are range-restricted taxa of Himalayan or narrower distribution. Due to their biochemical components they are largely unpalatable for livestock, hence fairly resistant under the widespread practice of wood-pasture, but may be vulnerable to overcollecting for medicinal purposes, although so far only Aconitum violaceum is considered rare in the study area. A currently more serious threat to the ethno-medicinal plant wealth of the woodlands as well as to the social and economic basis of the rural population in northern Pakistan is excessive timber exploitation leading to deforestation and habitat destruction.

Conclusion

The Miandam valley in northern Pakistan is very rich in commercially and pharmaceutically important ethno-medicinal plant species. The locals, in particular traditional healers, have centuries-old knowledge regarding the uses of the plants, and the locals use these species in a traditional way for curing a wide spectrum of diseases. Few species were found to be vulnerable probably due to overcollection. Especially perennial woodland herbs with rhizomes are of conservation concern. The local inhabitants depend on plants for the treatment of diseases but not all are familiar with the proper collection, parts to be used, preservation and storage. In contrast, local traditional healers are familiar with proper collection and use of medicinal plants, and they should be involved in efforts of conservation and sustainable use of ethno-medicinal plant resources. In view of the outstanding importance and ecosystem services of woodlands and forests in northern Pakistan the currently widespread and uncontrolled deforestation is a serious threat both to ecological and social sustainability as well as to the long-term economic basis of the local population [19]. It is also a threat to the ethno-medicinal plant wealth. For purposes of plant conservation and to increase the locals’ income we suggest to cultivate vulnerable woodland medicinal plants of commercial value in newly designed and locally administered self-government agroforestry systems. Due to the specific habitat demands of many woodland plant species better results may be obtained through well managed agroforestry systems than in ex-situ sites [48].

Declarations

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by HEC (Higher Education Commission of Pakistan) under the Faculty Development Program of the Islamia College University Peshawar, Pakistan. We are indebted to all villagers, guides and informants who shared their knowledge with us.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Botany, Islamia College University
(2)
Department of Vegetation Analysis and Phytodiversity, Albrecht von Haller Institute of Plant Sciences, Georg August University
(3)
Centre of Plant Diversity, University of Peshawar
(4)
Department of Botany, Kohat University of Science and Technology

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