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Ethnomedicinal survey of various communities residing in Garo Hills of Durgapur, Bangladesh

Abstract

Background

Garo Hills represents one of earliest human habitation in Bangladesh preserving its ancient cultures due to the geographic location. It is situated in the most northern part of Durgapur sub-district having border with Meghalaya of India. Durgapur is rich in ethnic diversity with Garo and Hajong as the major ethnic groups along with Bangalee settlers from the mainstream population. Thus the ethnomedicinal practice in Garo Hills is considered rich as it encompasses three different groups. Present survey was undertaken to compile the medicinal plant usage among the various communities of the Garo Hills.

Methods

The ethnomedicinal data was collected through open and focussed group discussions, and personal interviews using semi-structured questionnaire. A total of 185 people were interviewed, including the three community people and their traditional health practitioners (THPs). The usage of the plants were further analysed and are presented as use value (UV), informant consensus factor (ICF) and fidelity level (FL).

Results

A total of 71 plants from 46 families and 64 genera were documented during our survey. Gastrointestinal disorders represented the major ailment category with the use of 36 plant species followed by dermatological problems (25 species). The ICF ranged from 0.90 to 0.99, with an average value of 0.96. Leaves (41) were the principle source of medication followed by fruits (27). Trees (33) were the major plant type used in the ethnobotanical practice. A total of 25 plants showed high FL (70.91 to 100 %) with 12 plants showing maximum FL (100 %). A number of the plants appear to have unique ethnomedicinal uses.

Conclusion

Present investigation revealed a rich traditional practice in the studied region, which provides primary health care to the local community. This compilation of the ethnobotanical knowledge can help researchers to identify the uses of various medicinal plants that have a long history of use.

Background

The Garo Hills in Durgapur sub-district is one of the most remote areas of the northern part of Bangladesh. Ethnic groups like the Garos and Hajongs reside in this area from ancient times along with Bangalee settlers who have also settled in this region hundreds of years ago. The Garos are one of the eminent ethnic groups of the Indian sub-continent. Around half a million Garo population can be found at various parts of the world, but most of them live in the north-eastern part of India [1]. At present, one-fifth of the total Garo population live in different regions of Bangladesh with their habitat spread in north-central districts namely Mymensingh, Netrakona, Gazipur, Sherpur and Tangail. Garos are mainly known for their matrilineal culture and individual kinship system [2]. Garos prefer to call themselves Achik (Hilly Garos) and Mandis (Plain Land Garos), although people not familiar with their culture simply call them as Garo [3]. Hajongs are also a small indigenous community of the Garo Hills. They came from Tibet to Assam and then to Bangladesh [4]. The Bangalee settlers, who although belonging to the mainstream population of Bangladesh, have settled alongside the ethnic communities and have through cross-cultural exchanges with the ethnic communities for centuries, have to some extent adopted the cultures of the ethnic communities.

Tribal people and people who live in remote areas depend considerably on medicinal plants for their primary treatment. Due to this factor, medicinal plant usage in such communities is far richer than say, the urban population. The exploration of the therapeutic activity of medicinal plants rendered by them has a long history of use passed on from generation to generation [5]. However, in recent years, there has been a continuous decline in their traditional medicinal practice due to several reasons including scarcity of medicinal plants due to mass deforestation, easier access to modern medicines, and reduced interest of younger generation towards herbal medicine. The objective of the present study was to document the medicinal plant knowledge prevailing in the Garo, Hajong and Bangalee communities residing in Garo Hills and compare the presently obtained information with previously reported ethnomedicinal uses of the plants in Bangladesh towards obtaining fresh insights into newer ethnobotanical uses of the plants. In our present study, the ethnopharmacological knowledge was collected from knowledgeable people belonging to the Garo, Hajong and Bangalee communities and the traditional health practitioners of the three communities. The results were further analyzed for comparative evaluation of the usage of individual plant species to provide an overview of medicinal plant usage in communities living in Garo Hills.

Materials and methods

Study area

The Garo tribal people can be found in districts north of Dhaak district in Bangladesh. These districts are Tangail, Mymensingh, Gazipur and Netrakona. They speak six dialects of the Mandi language, which are A’tong, Abeng, Brak, Chibok, Dual, and Megam. The Garos can also be found in the the adjacent bordering areas of India like Meghalaya. Most of the Garos are poor and their main occupation is agriculture or agricultutal labourers. In recent years, they are converting in mass numbers to Christianity. The Garos call themselves A-chik Mande, literally meaning the hill people.

The Hajongs are also a tribal community living alongside the Garos and can be found in districts like Mymensingh, Sherpur, Sylhet and Netrakona districts in Bangladesh, and Meghalaya in India. They have apparently come to their present region several hundred years ago. The Hajongs are basically a farming community, and by religion close to the Hindus. The Hajongs have their own language but do not have any alphabets. Some hajongs are lately converting to Christianity. In economic terms, like the Garos, most hajongs are poor and their literacy rate is very low.

The Bangalees belong to the mainstream population of Bangladesh. They have settled in the present region of survey along side the Garos and Hajongs from as early as 50 to 100 or more years. Their interaction with the Garos and Hajongs has largely been peaceful. Like the Garos and the Hajongs, the Bangalee community is also engaged in farming, and are mostly poor and illiterate.

The survey was carried out at Garo hills, Durgapur sub-district which is under the district of Netrakona in Dhaka division, Bangladesh (Fig. 1). The area of Durgapur is 293.43 sq km. The study area is located in the most northern part of Durgapur, having the coordinates of 25.1250 °N and 90.6875 °E. Durgapur is surrounded by Meghalaya state of India on the north, Purbadhala and Netrakona Sadar on the south, Kalmakanda on the east, and Dhobaura sub-district on the west. The main rivers of this sub-district are Old Someshwari, Kangsa and Someshwari. The Garo valleys and hills are situated in the northern part of this sub-district. The Garo villages in Durgapur where the survey was conducted were Noluapara, Gupalpur, Bhobanipur, Badambari, Farongpara, Dahapara, and Fulbari. The Hajong villages were Gupalpur, Bhobanipur, Badambari, Shamnogor, and Baromari. The villages where the Bangalee communities resided and which were included in the survey were Atrakhali, Noluapara, Baromari, Fanda, and Cholk Lengura. It may be noted that the village of Noluapara contained both Garo and Bangalee communities, while the village of Badambari contained both Garo and Hajong communities, and the village of Baromari contained both Hajong and Bangalee communities. Thus to some extent, the three communities co-resided in the same village, and all the villages fell within Durgapur sub-district and thus were close to or adjacent to each other. As a result, there was a large amount of cross-cultural relationships between the three communities.

Fig. 1
figure1

Geographical location of Durgapur Garo Hills area, Bangladesh

Government establishments are the only health facilities provided for inhabitants of Durgapur which include one health complex, one health center and seven family planning centers. However, such establishments lack adequate facilities and trained medical professionals. Geologically all part of the study area is almost identical. Topographically, the study area is characterized by its large hillocks, known as tilla. The soil pH fluctuates from 6 to 6.5. This area is located in the semi-drier part of Bangladesh. The highest temperature reaches to 30 °C during May and coldest to around 10 °C during January. The most common ethnic group of this area is Garo and Hajong with Bangalee community settlers interspersed within the two communities. So far, a total of 2924 Garo households and 505 Hajong households have been recorded in this sub-district; the number of Bangalee households have been recorded as 4778 [6].

Ethnobotanical survey

The survey was conducted during the period from 10th October, 2013 to 7th May, 2014. Before starting the survey, general information was collected about the study area as well as THPs and general people. The data was collected following the standard guidelines of ethnobotanical data collection [7, 8]. A total of 185 people participated in interviews including THPs and knowledgeable people from all three communities. All were permanent residents of the study area. The highest number of respondents of our study belonged to the Garo and Hajong ethnic communities. Respondents were selected on the basis of whether they gave an affirmative answer when asked about their medicinal plant knowledge. Following an affirmative answer, detailed interviews were conducted with the respondents where they discussed their knowledge on medicinal plants and showed the plants. Multiple interviews (occasionally as many as 4–5) were conducted with the informants to gather as much detailed knowledge of the medicinal plants as possible.

Data collection

While some people were co-operative to our initiative, some were less interested to continue with the conversation. In most cases, the preliminary hesitation was recovered through a brief explanation of the objective of our study in the native language of the informants. As the conversation continued, we tried to build the confidence of the interviewee so the person interacted spontaneously. Senior citizens, forest office and local administrations were consulted to identify personnel with sufficient knowledge in local ethnobotanical practices. During the study period, the ethnomedicinal data was collected through the open-ended, semi-structured interviews according to Martin and Cotton [9, 10]. The information of each plant was documented along with the local name, nature of the plant, plant part used, medicinal uses, mode of preparation, routes of administration, and degree of scarcity in this area. Recorded demographic data include the gender, age, ethnicity, experiences, and educational background. All information in relevance to data collection was carefully noted down. The informants were also requested for a walk to introduce us with the plants. Necessary plant parts were collected for the purpose of identification. Pictures of the plant/plant part were also taken to assist in the identification. Plant specimens were verified as to taxonomy at the Bangladesh National Herbarium. Voucher specimens were deposited with the Medicinal Plant Collection Wing of the University of Development Alternative (MPCW-UODA) and accession numbers obtained from there. For ethical issues connected to field work permission was obtained from various bodies like the Ethical Committee and the Institutional Review Board of the University of Development Alternative, and local Government bodies dealing with indigenous/tribal people. A clear understanding was made with the people surveyed that their intellectual property rights as to the information supplied will not be violated if the results lead to any economic benefits for us.

Quantitative analysis

The medicinal uses of various plant species were listed in alphabetical order of the scientific names of the plants along with their family name, local name, nature of the plant, ethnomedicinal applications, mode of preparation, and route of administration. The results were presented and analysed further on the basis of their use and ailment categories. The diversity of the uses of medicinal plants were evaluated by calculating use value (UV), informant consensus factor (ICF), and fidelity level (FL).

Use values are computed for each plant to provide a quantitative measure of its comparative significance to the informants [11]. UV was calculated by the equation:

$$ U{V}_s={\varSigma}_iU{V}_{is}/{n}_s $$

where, ‘UV s ’ indicates the use value of a particular species, ‘UV is ’ is the number of use reports mentioned by the informants for that particular plant species and ‘n s ’ is the total number of informants participated in our study. The main objective of UV calculation is to find out the degree of ethnomedicinal use for a particular plant species. High UV value indicates the broad acceptance of that particular plant species for a particular therapeutic use.

Informant consensus factor (ICF) was calculated to measure the homogeneity of the information for a specific plant to cure a specific ailment [12, 13]. The lowest and highest values of ICF can be 0.00 and 1.00, respectively. ICF was calculated using the equation:

$$ ICF=\left({N}_{ur}-{N}_t\right)/\left({N}_{ur}-1\right) $$

Where, ‘N ur ’ refers to the total number of use reports for a particular ailment category, and ‘N t ’ is the total number of species used for this ailment category. Several diseases were sorted out into a broad ailment category depending on similarity for the ease of the distribution of the plants.

Fidelity level (FL) expresses the priority of a species over the others in the management of a particular ailment and was calculated using the following formula:

$$ FL={I}_p/{I}_u\times 100 $$

Where, ‘I p ’ is the number of informants stating the use of a species for a particular ailment category while ‘I u ’ is the number of informants stating the use of that plant for any sort of ailment category. Higher FL value indicates more frequent of use of a given plant species for treating a particular ailment category by the informants.

Results and discussion

Demographic characteristics of participants in the study

The Garo tribe is one of the leading indigenous communities of Bangladesh which claims to be distributed among approximately 45 clans. The last population estimation of Garos was in 1991, when it was numbered at 68,210. While known to all as Garos, they refer to themselves as Aa’chik or Mandi. Anthropologists accept as true that they are a Tibetan-Burmese sub-group of the Mongoloid race which possesses language, shared history and culture. The Garos are divided into four sects, namely, Chatchi, Marakh, Momin, and Sangma. Their society is matriarchal with daughters inheriting their mother’s belongings. Garo’s novel religion used to be Shangsharik, but recently about 99 % of the Garos have converted to Christianity and belong to a variety of denominations like Baptists, Presbyterians, Protestants, Roman Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists.

Scholars do not have a clear opinion on the Hajong’s history, even the Hajong themselves. Some say the Hajong originated in the Hill Tracts of Chittagong, Bangladesh and afterward migrated to the northern areas of Bangladesh and into India. Another important opinion is that the Hajong tribe came from Tibet as descendents of the Kachhari people and settled in the Kamrup area of Assam state for several years. The northern Dhaka division, which constitutes the land of the Hajong in Bangladesh, consists of districts like Netrakona, Mymensingh, Sherpur and Jamalpur. Today, the Hajong of the Durgapur area continue to live primarily in Hajong villages together with Bengalis (Bangalee or Bengali/Bangla-speaking mainstream population) and other tribal communities, such as Garo and Koch, whose village homes are simple but clean. Women perform the family cooking in a separate attached hut adjacent to the living house, cooking rice as their staple food. Hajong are mainly a farming community and some work as hired day laborers in the fields, whereas others farm their own land. Some Hajong of Durgapur areas are also involved in collecting and selling wood from the Garo hills along the border. In terms of religion, Hajongs are close to Hindus. Hajongs worship Durga as well as other Hindu gods and goddesses. But Shiva is their principal deity. Hajongs wear ‘paita’ (a thread) on their bodies similar to Hindu Brahmans. Hajongs are believers in reincarnation too, like the Hindus.

The Bangalee community belongs to the mainstream population of Bangladesh, who speak Bengali or Bangla. While some families claim to have settled in the general areas of the Garos and Hajongs for more than a hundred years, others claim to have settled in the area in comparatively recent times like about 50 years ago. But in general, the Bangalee community lives in close association with the Garos and the Hajongs and the cultural practices of the three communities have intertwined in some aspects, the major difference being that most Bangalee settlers belong to the Muslim religion.

The survey was conducted among all three communities. The participants consisted of 62.16 % male and 37.83 % female. Out of 185 informants, 30 were THPs, 60 Bangalee people and the remaining 95 were tribal people from the Garo and Hajong communities (that is a total of 155 persons were non-traditional health practitioners but claimed to have good knowledge on medicinal plants). Prior Informed Consent was first obtained from all informants. According to the age, most of the informants (42.16 %) were 50–60 years old followed by informants (25.41 %) who were 40–50 years old (Table 1). Among 30 traditional health practitioners, 50 % had 10–20 years of experience in ethnomedicinal practice in their present area. According to the educational background, majority of the informants were illiterate (42.62 %), with only two persons holding post-graduate degrees. Among the participants, it was observed that as a general rule, THPs do not disclose the plant name or the formula of their preparation to other people (however, they provided this information to us after proper explanation as described before). They transfer their knowledge verbally either to one or more of their family members or to their assistant (known as the ‘Sishya’ of the THPs). On the other hand, non-THPs always reveal their knowledge to their family member or anyone from their community who is interested in such knowledge.

Table 1 Demographic data of the informants

Medicinal plants recorded

Through this survey, a total of 71 plant species belonging to 46 families were recorded, that have various medicinal uses in the study area. The highest number of medicinal plants belong to Fabaceae (6 species), followed by Rutaceae (4 species), Anacardiaceae (3 species), Asteraceae (3 species), Combretaceae (3 species), Myrtaceae (3 species) and Zingiberaceae (3 species). The results are shown in Table 2.

Table 2 Distribution of medicinal plant species of Durgapur Garo Hills according to their family

Botanical families including Fabaceae, Rutaceae, Anacardiaceae, Asteraceae, Combretaceae, and Zingiberaceae have previously been shown to be the major medicinal plant families of Durgapur Garo Hills [6]. Similar results were found in surveys carried out in the Eastern Himalayan region of India [14]. The family Fabaceae reportedly has the highest number of species, more than any other plant family in the world [15, 16].

In the current study, high UVs were observed for Ananas sativus (1.96), Aegle marmelos (1.88), Terminalia arjuna (1.85), Zingiber officinale (1.75), Bombax ceiba (1.72) Terminalia bellirica (1.71), Ocimum tenuiflorum (1.71), Carica papaya (1.65), and Adhatoda vasica (1.65) indicating their wide usage in the ethnomedicinal practices in the study area. Multipurpose use of above plants might have contributed towards their high UVs [1].

The lowest UVs were obtained for Cassia fistula (0.21), Lannea coromandelica (0.24), Cinnamomum verum (0.28), Ipomoea aquatica (0.29), and Acacia catechu (0.33) (Tables 3, 4 and 5). However, a low UV does not nullify the merit of the medicinal value of a plant species as the low UV might be linked to low availability of the plant in the study area.

Table 3 List of medicinal plants of the Durgapur Garo Hills reported by THPs and local knowledgeable people of three communities
Table 4 Ailments grouped by major ailment categories
Table 5 Informant consensus factor (ICF) for categorized ailments

The fidelity level (FL) of the plants, which were cited 25 times or more for any particular disease are listed in Table 6 with the lowest and highest FLs being 70.91 % and 100 %, respectively. The highest FL of 100 % was recorded for 12 plant species of which, three species namely, Aegle marmelos, Carica papaya, Terminalia chebula were used for gastrointestinal disorders. Thus, among 36 plant species used in gastrointestinal disorders, three were found to be used extensively. Among 25 plants used for dermatological problems, only Azadirachta indica scored 100 % FL.

Table 6 Fidelity level (FL) of medicinal plants cited for 25 or more times

Plants having high FL values in other ailment categories are Ananas sativus, Averrhoa carambola, Bombax ceiba, Citrus grandis, Ocimum tenuiflorum, Syzygium cumini, Terminalia arjuna, and Zingiber officinale. These plants are widely used in many ethnobotanical practices around the world with sufficient scientific validations of their ethnomedicinal use [1618].

Information regarding the preparation

Various plant parts including leaves, root, stem, fruits, bark, flowers, seeds, whole plant, and rhizomes were widely used for the treatment of diverse types of ailments. Leaves were found to be the most used plant part in the ethnomoedicinal practice of Garo Hills, which was followed by fruits (23 %), and root (9 %) (Fig. 2). Similar to our present finding, leaves were found to be the most used plant part in many other ethnomedicinal practices [1923]. Metabolically the most active part of the plant, leaves are known to synthesize a wide range of secondary metabolites [24, 25]. Leaves are also the first choice in ethnomedicine due to the easy collection and preparation procedure [26, 27].

Fig. 2
figure2

Pi chart representing relative uses of various plant parts in traditional practice

There are several modes of preparation of ethnomedicines, including juice, decoction, powder, paste, oil, etc. The major mode of ethnobotanical preparations in Garo Hills was found to be juice (35 %), followed by fresh fruits (25 %), decoction (16 %), and paste (16 %) (Fig. 3). The local people of Garo Hills often add salt, sugar, banana, milk or lemon (e.g., see Asparagus racemosus) to enhance the effectiveness or palatability of a preparation. Paste is prepared using mortar and pestle, and then often mixing it with mustard oil, coconut oil or ginger (e.g., Cassia occidentalis). For THPs, it is more common to use more than one plant in the formulation of a preparation, to be used for the treatment of a particular ailment. A comparison of the mode of administration of the preparations is presented in Fig. 4, which has a similar trend as that of some other ethnobotanical reports [28].

Fig. 3
figure3

Pi chart of mode of preparation

Fig. 4
figure4

Mode of administration of ethnomedicinal preparation

Habit, habitat, and nature of the plants

Among the recorded 71 medicinal plant species of Garo Hills, 35 % are trees followed by 30 % herbs, and 10 % shrubs (Fig. 5). While some plants are grown in home gardens, most of them can be found growing naturally in places including pond side, roadside, riverside or in the hills. Trees and herbs enjoy a higher usage in ethnomedicinal practice because of their greater availability [29, 30]. Of the recorded 71 plant species; THPs reported the highest number of plants species used by them as trees during our current study.

Fig. 5
figure5

Type of plants used in the traditional medicine of Garo Hills

Comparative ethnomedicinal uses of the plants in Bangladesh

A review of the comparative ethnomedicinal uses of the 71 medicinal plants by the Garo, Hajong and Bangalee communities in the present study versus previously reported ethnomedicinal uses of those plants in Bangladesh is shown in Table 7. Of the 71 plant species obtained in the present survey, 39 plant species appears to be quite extensively used by folk and tribal medicinal practitioners in other parts of Bangladesh as judged from the various ethnomedicinal uses of those plant species reported in the published literature. These plant species are Abroma augusta, Achyranthes aspera, Adhatoda vasica, Aegle marmelos, Aloe barbadensis, Amaranthus spinosus, Andrographis paniculata, Asparagus racemosus, Azadirachta indica, Bombax ceiba, Carica papaya, Cassia alata, Centella asiatica, Cissus quadrangularis, Clerodendrum viscosum, Coccinia cordifolia, Colocasia esculenta, Curcuma longa, Cuscuta reflexa, Cynodon dactylon, Datura metel, Emblica officinalis, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Kalanchoe pinnata, Mangifera indica, Mikania cordata, Mimosa pudica, Moringa oleifera, Nyctanthes arbour-tristis, Ocimum tenuiflorum, Psidium guajava, Scoparia dulcis, Streblus asper, Syzygium cumini, Tamarindus indica, Terminalia arjuna, Terminalia bellirica, Terminalia chebula, and Zingiber officinale. All of these plants have multiple uses, and the uses observed in the present survey match at least one of the reported uses.

Table 7 Other reported ethnomedicinal uses of the plants in Bangladesh

The question naturally arises as to whether there are any unique uses of the various plant species used by the Garo, Hajong and Bangalee traditional medicinal practitioners. In fact, there are a number of uses which are unique to these three communities and which previously have not been reported. A. catechu, which was observed in the present study to be used for diarrhea and skin diseases, has been previously reported to be used for blood dysentery [31]. The various uses of A. chinensis described in the present study have not been reported before. A. malaccensis was used by the practitioners for body pain, skin diseases, ulcer, edema and jaundice. The only previously reported use of this plant was for treatment of headache [32]. The use of A. racemosus for treatment of epilepsy and stomach ulcers has not been reported before. B. oleracea, used to treat gynaecological disorders and as a tonic has no previously reported ethnomedicinal uses in Bangladesh. C. officinalis was used by the practitioners to treat old wound, itches, menstrual problems, stomach upset, ulcer and inflammation. The previously reported use of this plant was against ear ache, skin infections, and insect bite [33]. The use of C. occidentalis to treat leg pain is new.

Other hitherto unreported uses of the various plant species include use of C. asiatica for skin lesions; use of C. tamala for headache; use of C. verum for coughs; use of C. quadrangularis for stomach upset, stomach ulcer and malaria fever; use of C. grandis for scabies, eczema and itches; use of C. cordifolia for wounds; use of C. dactylon for diabetes; use of D. regia for piles and boils (the previously reported use of this plant was to increase sexual energy [34]); use of D. indica for fever and coughs; use of D. peregrina for dysentery and cholera; use of E. cardamomum for asthma; use of F. limonia for pimples; use of I. aquatica for piles; use of L. coromandelica for urinary problems and diabetes; use of N. arbor-tristis for constipation; use of P. sylvestris for nervousness, coughs and fever; use of P. guajava for menstrual disorders; use of S. dulcis for fever; use of S. indicum for fistula, burns associated with infection, pain and blisters; use of S. aromaticum for asthma; use of S. cumini for excessive bleeding during menstruation; and use of T. indica for sinusitis and chronic cold. Thus this study adds to the reported ethnomedicinal uses of the plant species mentioned, which in turn can lead scientists to perform further relevant research on the pharmacological properties of the various plant species, isolation of bioactive constituents and validating the traditional uses.

Relevance of the findings for public health and/or environmental issues

Bangladesh is a developing country with the vast majority of people (including tribal/indigenous communities) living in rural areas with inadequate access to modern doctors and clinics. Moreover, such doctors, clinics and allopathic medicine are not affordable to these people. As such, any scientific studies carried out with medicinal plants used traditionally and involving pharmacological activity studies, isolation and identification of bioactive components, followed by clinical trials can go a long way in mitigating the sufferings of these poor illiterate communities, for these plants are still to some extent available and easily affordable. From that view point, ethnomedicinal studies like this can spur scientific interest leading to scientific validation of traditional uses of medicinal plants.

The other relevant point is such studies and findings can spur conservation efforts in preserving both plants and knowledge of their uses, for both are fast disappearing because of rapid deforestation caused from increases in population, and rural people forgetting their traditional knowledge because of the introduction of ‘city culture and habits’. Such introduction is causing the rural people to somewhat disdain their traditional way of living and culture, considering these as ‘primitive’ and not fit for the modern age. Plants have always formed a good source for many efficacious allopathic medicines and thorough documentation of traditional ways of using medicinal plants to cure various diseases can provide a modern day scientist with important research material and ideas to conduct relevant disease-alleviating research.

Conclusion

The three communities, namely Garo, Hajong and Bangalee of Garo Hills heavily depend on the ethnopharmacological remedies for primary health care, especially fever, cold, coughs, headache, body pain, diarrhea, dysentery, constipation, indigestion, wounds, boils, skin diseases, helminthiasis, and urinary troubles. One of the important finding from this study reveals that the THPs never considered the importance of the preservation and documentation of their knowledge. The focus group discussion and personal interviews reflects the reluctance of the young generation towards their native ethnobotanical practice. The present study provides an overview of the medicinal plant usage in Durgapur Garo Hills area. The current investigation identified a total of 71 plant species used for 82 different ailments, which can be further subdivided in 16 major ailment categories. Extensive use of plants to manage dermatological (25 species) and gastrointestinal disorders (36 species) signifies that these two diseases are quite widespread in the study area. Unplanned urbanisation is adversely affecting the natural habitat of numerous plant species with important medicinal values. Inclination towards modernisation is creating a negative attitude towards the age old practice of ethnobotanical medicine, whereas, prescribing allopathic medicine by non-professionals is putting the health system at risk. Our present investigation created positive impact especially on the local people who expressed their interest after learning the fact that there is sufficient scientific basis of the healing power of the plants. This will help in developing public awareness towards the conservation of the traditional knowledge as well as to preserve the plant diversity for the future generation. This is a necessity because a number of uses of plant species for medicinal purposes are unique to this study and may contribute to further research and development of novel drugs.

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Acknowledgements

We are enormously grateful to all the people of Garo Hills who shared their ethnopharmacological knowledge with us. We are also grateful to the Forest Officer and personnel of Durgapur sub-district. We would like to thank the scientists of Bangladesh National Herbarium for extending their help in the identification of the plants. We also like to thank Swapan Hajong, General Secretary of Hajong Mata Roshimoni Kalyan Parishad, Durgapur, Netrakona, Bangladesh for helping us in data collection. Jamil A Shilpi is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Natural Products and Drug discovery, University of Malaya (Research grant No. UM-C/625/1/HIR/MOHE/SC/37).

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Correspondence to Mohammed Rahmatullah.

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Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

MAK performed the field work and carried out the survey. MAK and MKI designed the study, analyzed the data and drafted the manuscript. MKI, MAS, SS, AKB, KA, MMR, JAS, and RJ, EI and MR analyzed the data and re-wrote the draft manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Keywords

  • Garo hills
  • Tribal people
  • Use value
  • Informant consensus factor
  • Fidelity level