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Ethnobotanical knowledge among the semi-pastoral Gujjar tribe in the high altitude (Adhwari’s) of Churah subdivision, district Chamba, Western Himalaya

  • Dipika Rana
  • Anupam Bhatt
  • Brij LalEmail author
Open Access
Research

Abstract

Background

The wild plants not only form an integral part of the culture and traditions of the Himalayan tribal communities but also contribute largely to the sustenance of these communities. The tribal people use large varieties of wild fruits, vegetables, fodder, medicinal plants, etc. for meeting their day-to-day requirements. The present study was conducted in Churah subdivision of district Chamba where large populations of Muslim Gujjars inhabit various remote villages. These tribal people are semi-pastoralists, and they seasonally (early summers) migrate to the upper altitudes (Adhwari’s) along with their cattle and return to permanent settlements before the onset of winters. A major source of subsistence of these tribal people is on natural resources to a wide extent, and thus, they have wide ethnobotanical knowledge. Therefore, the current study was aimed to report the ethnobotanical knowledge of plants among the Gujjar tribe in Churah subdivision of district Chamba, Himachal Pradesh.

Methods

Extensive field surveys were conducted in 15 remote villages dominant in Gujjar population from June 2016 to September 2017. The Gujjars of the area having ethnobotanical knowledge of the plants were interrogated especially during their stay at the higher altitudes (Adhwari’s) through well-structured questionnaires, interviews, and group meetings. The data generated was examined using quantitative tools such as use value, fidelity, and informant consensus factor (Fic).

Results

This study reveals 83 plants belonging to 75 genera and 49 families that were observed to have ethnobotanical uses. Plants were listed in five categories as per their use by the Gujjars, i.e. food plants, fruit plants, fodder plants, household, and ethnomedicinal plants. The leaves, fruits, and roots were the most commonly used plant parts in the various preparations. The highest number of plants was recorded from the family Rosaceae followed by Polygonaceae and Betulaceae. On the basis of use value (UV), the most important plants in the study area were Pteridium aquilinum, Juglans regia, Corylus jacquemontii, Urtica dioica, Diplazium maximum, and Angelica glauca. Maximum plant species (32) were reported for ethnomedicinal uses followed by food plants (22 species), household purposes (16 species), edible fruits (15 species), and as fodder plants (14 species). The agreement of the informants conceded the most from the use of various plants used as food plants and fruit plants (Fic = 0.99), followed by fodder plants and household uses (Fic = 0.98) while it was least for the use of plants in ethnomedicine (Fic = 0.97). The fidelity value varied from 8 to 100% in all the use categories. Phytolacca acinosa (100%), Stellaria media (100%), and Urtica dioica (100%) were among the species with high fidelity level used as food plants, while the important species used as fruit plants in the study area were Berberis lycium (100%), Prunus armeniaca (100%), and Rubus ellipticus (100%). Some important fodder plants with high fidelity values (100%) were Acer caesium, Aesculus indica, Ailanthus altissima, and Quercus semecarpifolia. The comparison of age interval with the number of plant use revealed the obvious transfer of traditional knowledge among the younger generation, but it was mostly concentrated in the informants within the age group of 60–79 years.

Conclusions

Value addition and product development of wild fruit plants can provide an alternate source of livelihood for the rural people. The identification of the active components of the plants used by the people may provide some useful leads for the development of new drugs which can help in the well-being of mankind. Thus, bioprospection, phytochemical profiling, and evaluation of economically viable products can lead to the optimum harnessing of Himalayan bioresources in this region.

Keywords

Gujjar Tribe Adhwari Himalaya Informant consensus factor Use value Fidelity level 

Introduction

In India, about 54 million tribal people inhabit about 5000 forest-dominated villages that constitute about 15% of the total geographic area [1]. Traditionally, these tribal groups are known to use a large number of wild plants for various purposes like medicine, food, fodder, fuel, essence, culture, and other miscellaneous purposes [2]. Thus, forests have maintained the very existence of numerous tribes and their culture for centuries, while fulfilling their social, economic, cultural, religious, nutritional, and medical needs [3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Thus, these tribal communities are a rich depository of various ethnobotanical uses of plants and guardians of indigenous traditional knowledge associated with surrounding biological resources which they have used for generations in their day-to-day life [9, 10].

Among all the tribal groups, Gujjars are described as the largest pastoral community in India [11]. The tribe is described by varying names as ‘Goojar or Gurjara’ and is believed to have originated in the times of Huns. The tribe migrated to northern India and settled in various regions of Himachal Pradesh mainly Chamba, Kangra, Una, and Bilaspur [12]. The Muslim Gujjars are known to have first set foot in the princely states of Chamba and Sirmour because of the growing inadequacy of grazing resources in the neighbouring states of Jammu and Kashmir and then gradually migrated to other localities of the state [13]. The Gujjars of Chamba and Kangra are called as the ‘Ban Gujjars’ as they are nomads/semi-nomads practicing a pastoral lifestyle and comprise primarily of the Muslim population. In Chamba, the total Gujjar population is 9784 out of which 97.12% are Muslims [14], while Gujjars of Una and Bilaspur are settled Gujjars called the ‘Heer Gujjars’ and comprise mainly of Hindu population. Despite leading diverse lifestyles, one thing common among all Gujjars is that they all rear large herds of buffaloes.

The semi-nomadic Gujjars have permanent places to stay at the lower elevations, but they temporarily leave for higher altitudes called ‘Adhwari’s’ to graze their cattle mainly comprising buffaloes from mid-May till mid-October. The temporary migration takes along a predetermined set route that is covered in about 2–3 days [15]. The pasture lands are well distributed to the various families of Gujjars through a permit by the forest department of the area, thus also witnessing the proper management of the forest area. The main source of income of the Gujjars is selling of milk and milk products in the local market.

There is no doubt that the various tribal sects like the Gujjars while living in the remote mountain regions depend largely on wild plant resources for sustenance. Their nomadic employment from the ancestry makes them a good knowledge holder as a way of obtaining food and finding pasture for livestock that makes them more dependent on the environment [16]. Thus, they have a wide knowledge of use and practices of plant resources which is passed on verbally from one generation to another [17, 18]. Thereby, documentation of ethnobotanical knowledge is essential for the conservation and utilisation of biological resources [19]. This will also ensure future research on medicinal plant safety and efficacy to validate traditional use and prevent destructive changes in knowledge transmissions between generations [20, 21].

Thereby, the present study was undertaken to investigate and document the ethnobotanical knowledge of the Gujjars of Churah region, which they inherit based on the experiences and observations from their ancestors.

Methods

Study site

The present investigation was undertaken in Churah subdivision of district Chamba of Himachal Pradesh which is located in the Western Himalaya. The district lies between 32° 11′ to 33° 13′ N latitude and 75° 49′ to 77° 3′ E longitude with an altitudinal range varying between 800 and 5200 m amsl. Vegetation growth is mainly found in the Ravi basin, which is semi-tropical to Himalayan temperate and sub-Alpine to Alpine types. The maximum Gujjar population in the district consists of Muslims. These are a semi-pastoral tribe, and they seasonally (early summers) migrate to the upper altitudes along with their cattle and return back to permanent settlements before the onset of winters. They celebrate festivals like Eid-ul-Fitr, Id-ul-Zuha, and Shab-I-qader. The social status of these tribal people is generally poor, and they live an isolated life only confined to their own community. The main occupation of the Gujjars is rearing buffaloes, and they sell milk and milk products in the market. In the past, not much in-depth studies pertaining to various ethnobotanical aspects on Gujjar tribal community have been conducted [22, 23].

Data collection

Rigorous field surveys were conducted in 15 remote villages of Churah subdivision during June 2016 to September 2017 across all seasons to collect maximum information and authenticate the information provided by the local informants during the earlier visits. These villages were shortlisted on the basis of maximum Gujjar populations and thereby were selected for the surveys (Fig. 1). The interviews were conducted both at the permanent settlements and at the higher altitudes (Adhwari’s) for which trekking was done. A total of 135 informants within the age group of 11–90 years were interviewed (Fig. 2). The data helped us to analyse the trend of flow of ethnobotanical knowledge between different age classes. Traditional healers having sound knowledge of ethnomedicinal uses of plants were also interviewed in this study. The information was collected through structured questionnaires, interviews, and group discussions on various ethnobotanical aspects (Additional file 1). Trade-related information about the plants wherever available was also recorded.
Fig. 1

Map showing the location of surveyed villages

Fig. 2

Demographic description of the informants

Before the initiation of the interviewing process, the consent of the informants was also taken for participation in the study. The Gujjar informants did express some uneasiness in the beginning while sharing information, but gradually they responded quite well. A translator was hired to communicate and translate Gojri into Hindi. Details pertaining to the local name of the plant collected, plant parts used, ethnobotanical use of plants, and method of use were recorded. The informants were also asked to collect and show the plant specimens on site. The complete plant specimens, including its flower or fruit, were collected, dried, and assigned a voucher number (PLP) and then deposited as a record in the herbarium of the institute for future reference. The plant specimens were identified by using Flora of Himachal Pradesh [24]; Flora of Chamba [25]; Flowers of Himalaya [26].

Data analysis

A comprehensive data analysis was done using different quantitative indices viz. use value, fidelity, and informant consensus factor (Fic).

Use value

The relative importance of the species was calculated using the use value which is a quantitative tool [27]:

UV = ΣU/n

where U is the number of plants cited by each informant for a given species and n is the total number of informants. Use values are high when there are many use reports for a plant signifying its importance, and approach to zero (0) when the use reports are low.

Validation of plant names, family, and plant authority was carried out using the database (http://www.theplantlist.org).

Informant consensus factor

Informant consensus factor was used to test the agreement on the use of plants in the various categories between the informants. Fic was calculated using the formula [28, 29]:

Fic = (Nur − Nt)/(Nur − 1)

where Nur refers to the number of use reports for a particular use/ailment category and Nt is the number of species used for a particular use/ailment category by all informants. The product of this factor ranges from 0 to 1. A high Fic value (close to 1) indicates that relatively few plant species are used by a large proportion of the informants while a low value indicates the disagreement of the informants on the use of plant species in the different categories [30, 31, 32].

Fidelity level (Fl%)

It is used to determine the most preferred species in the same use category [33].

Fl (%) = Np/N × 100

where Np refers to use reports cited for a given species for a particular category and N is the total number of use reports cited for any given species. High Fl value (near to 100%) is observed for plants in which use reports refer to its same way of use, whereas low Fl values are obtained from plants having multiple different uses [18, 34].

Scatter diagram

A scatter diagram was used to compare the flow of ethnobotanical information among the different age classes of the informants.

Results

Attributes of the informants

The characteristics of the informants is given in Fig. 2. Maximum male and female informants who had extensive ethnobotanical knowledge belonged to the age group between 60 and 79 years. The informants below the age of 20 years also responded well depicting the obvious transfer of traditional knowledge among the younger generation (Fig. 2). The children accompany the elders to the higher altitudes and help them in collecting wild plants. They learn about the uses of various plants through observations and especially wild fruits. A similar trend has been shown in the previous studies [4, 35, 36]. The translator helped us in easy communications with the Gujjar informants and even helped in collecting plant specimens from the wild. The female Gujjar informants were more comfortable in providing information to the female researcher as they are quite reticent. The tribal people of the region have a close relationship with nature and the vast experience of resource utilisation [37].

Floristic characteristics of the plants used

The study area is floristically rich, and the local inhabitants use a large number of plant species for variable uses. A total of 83 plant species belonging to 75 genera and 49 families were recorded in the study area (Table 1). The majority of plants belonged to Rosaceae (12 species), Polygonaceae (7 species), Betulaceae (4 species), Amaranthaceae (3 species), Apiaceae (3 species), Berberidaceae (3 species), Lamiaceae (3 species), and Ranunculaceae (3 species) [38, 39, 40] (Fig. 3). The genera represented by the highest number of species are Fragaria (3 species), Prunus (3 species), Rubus (2 species), Persicaria (2 species), Rhododendron (2 species), and Berberis (2 species).
Table 1

Enumeration of plants used by the Gujjars of Churah subdivision of Chamba district

Family

Scientific name

Local namea

Voucher no.

Used inb

Part(s) usedc

Mode of usage

Uses (no. of informants)

Total citations (∑U)

Use value (UV)

Adoxaceae

         
 

Viburnum mullaha Buch.-Ham. ex D. Don

Tilhanj

PLP 17848

Hum

Fr

Fruit is edible

Edible (73)

73

0.54

Amaranthaceae

         
 

Amaranthus paniculatus L.

Seul

PLP 17851

Hum

Sd

Seeds are cracked and eaten and also used to prepare other recipes

Edible (115)

115

0.85

 

Chenopodium album L.

Bathua

PLP 17990

Hum

Lf

Used as very common vegetable

Edible (99)

99

0.73

 

Dysphania botrys (L.) Mosyakin & Clemants

Bathu

PLP 17829

Hum

Lf

Leaves are cooked and eaten

Edible (93)

93

0.69

Apiaceae

         
 

Angelica glauca Edgew.

Choru

PLP 17837

Hum/Cat

Rt

Root powder is used to cure a cold/fever both in humans and cattle. The root is kept in almost all houses to avoid the entry of snake inside the house

Medicinal (67), household (89)

156

1.16

 

Pleurospermum brunonis Benth. ex C.B. Clarke

Hewan

PLP 17905

Hum

Lf, Wp

Crushed leaf juice mixed with mild hot mustard oil to prevent skin infection. The whole part is kept by local people to avoid the evil eye

Medicinal (19), household (89)

108

0.80

 

Selinum vaginatum C.B. Clarke

Bhootkeshi

PLP 17911

Hum

Wp

The whole plant is dried and is used as an incense

Household (71)

71

0.53

Araceae

         
 

Arisaema tortuosum (Wall.) Schott

Shaungal/ Leetu/Galgal

PLP 17862

Hum

Tu

The tuber is cooked and eaten

Edible (90)

90

0.67

Asparagaceae

         
 

Asparagus adscendens Roxb.

Sansua

PLP 17917

Hum

Rt

The outer layer of the roots is removed and immersed in mustard oil and applied on the scalp to control hair fall

Medicinal (56)

56

0.41

Asteraceae

         
 

Jurinea macrocephala DC.

Dhoop

PLP 17968

Hum

Wp

The whole part is dried and used as incense

Household (103)

103

0.76

Athyriaceae

         
 

Diplazium maximum (D. Don) C. Chr.

Khasrod

PLP 17805

Hum

Wp

A decoction of the whole plant is taken to cure body pain. Used as vegetable and pickle

Medicinal (43), Edible (121)

164

1.21

Balsaminaceae

         
 

Impatiens spp.

Nanteela

PLP 17923

Cat

Lf

Used as fodder

Fodder (67)

67

0.50

Berberidaceae

         
 

Berberis aristata DC.

Timri/Kashmal/Kemru

PLP 17998

Hum

Rt

Roots are boiled in water and the residue is used to cure an eye infection

Medicinal (63)

63

0.47

 

Berberis lycium Royle

Kashmal/Kemru

PLP 17815

Hum

Fr

Ripen fruits are eaten

Edible (99)

99

0.73

 

Sinopodophyllum hexandrum (Royle) T.S.Ying

Khakdu

PLP 17928

Cat

Fr

Fruits are ground and paste is kept inside the wheat flour dough and given to cattle to prevent bloating

Medicinal (61)

61

0.45

Betulaceae

         
 

Alnus nitida (Spach) Endl.

Koie

PLP 17864

Cat

Lf

The leaves of the plant are given as fodder to animals

Fodder (89)

89

0.66

 

Betula utilis D.Don

Bhojpatra

PLP 17901

Hum

Lf, Bk

The decoction of leaves is used to cure the urinary infection, the bark is used in thatching roofs as a waterproof medium

Medicinal (12), household (98)

110

0.81

 

Carpinus viminea Wall. ex Lindl.

Mandu

PLP 17833

Cat

Lf, Bk

Leaves are used as fodder. The bark is used for making shoes

Fodder (69), household (6)

75

0.56

 

Corylus jacquemontii Decne.

Jamun

PLP 17936

Hum/Cat

Fr, Lf

Fruits are edible. Leaves are used as fodder

Edible (91), fodder (103)

194

1.44

Boraginaceae

         
 

Onosma hispida Wall. ex G. Don

Ratanjot

PLP 17980

Hum

Rt

Dried roots are immersed in mustard oil and applied on hair scalp to control hair fall

Medicinal (59)

59

0.44

Buxaceae

         
 

Sarcococca saligna (D. Don) Müll. Arg.

Rethali

PLP 17942

Hum

St

Used for making brooms

Household (76)

76

0.56

Cannabaceae

         
 

Cannabis sativa L.

Bhang

PLP 17840

Hum

Sd

Roasted seeds are eaten as culinary by the local people

Edible (107)

107

0.79

Caprifoliaceae

         
 

Valeriana jatamansi Jones

Mushkbala, Shamak

PLP 17927

Hum

Rt

Used as incense

Household (79)

79

0.59

Caryophyllaceae

         
 

Stellaria media (L.) Vill.

Khojua/ Koku

PLP 17922

Hum

Ap

Aerial part is cooked and eaten as a vegetable

Edible (94)

94

0.70

Commelinaceae

         
 

Commelina benghalensis L.

Chura

PLP 17871

Hum

Lf

Leaves are eaten as vegetable

Edible (110)

110

0.81

Compositae

         
 

Jurinea macrocephala DC.

Dhoop

PLP 17968

Hum

Wp

The whole part is dried and used as incense

Household (103)

103

0.76

Dennstaedtiaceae

         
 

Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn

Nanoor

PLP 17931

Hum

Ap

Used as fixer between soil and timber beam for roof thatching in the construction of houses. Very often given as fodder to buffaloes

Fodder (115), household (117)

232

1.72

Elaeagnaceae

         
 

Elaeagnus parvifolia Wall. ex Royle

Ghyeen

PLP 17881

Hum

Fr

Fruits are edible

Edible (78)

78

0.58

Ericaceae

         
 

Rhododendron arboreum Sm.

Surang

PLP 18000

Hum

Fl

Flower juice is used to make drink commonly called sherbat

Edible (90)

90

0.67

 

Rhododendron campanulatum D.Don

Inga

PLP 17913

Cat

Lf

A small quantity of leaves are fed to buffalos in case of a cough

Medicinal (62)

62

0.46

Fabaceae

         
 

Bauhinia variegata L.

Kachnar

PLP 17997

Hum

Fl

The flowers are used to make pakoras (fried snack) and chutneys (sauce)

Edible (79)

79

0.59

 

Desmodium elegans DC.

Pree

PLP 17994

Cat

Lf

The leaves of the plant are given as fodder to animals

Fodder (71)

71

0.53

Fagaceae

         
 

Quercus semecarpifolia Sm.

Kharyu

PLP 17902

Cat

Lf

The leaves are used as fodder

Fodder (95)

95

0.70

Juglandaceae

         
 

Juglans regia L.

Akhrot

PLP 17892

Hum

Bk, Fr, Wd

The bark is used to clean teeth, fruit is edible, the wood used for various purposes

Edible (111), household (105)

216

1.60

Lamiaceae

         
 

Ajuga integrifolia Buch.-Ham.

Neelkanthi

PLP 17825

Hum

Rt

Root paste is applied to the snake bite affected area

Medicinal (32)

32

0.24

 

Clinopodium vulgare L.

Shyul

PLP 17817

Hum

Sd

The seeds are cracked and used in various recipes

Edible (102)

102

0.76

Lauraceae

         
 

Neolitsea pallens (D. Don) Momiy. & H. Hara

Jhlunth

PLP 17855

Cat

Lf

The leaves of the plant are given as fodder to animals

Fodder (78)

78

0.58

Liliaceae

         
 

Gagea lutea (L.) Ker Gawl.

Butti

PLP 17953

Hum

Tu

The dried form of tubers occasionally used as spices

Edible (76)

76

0.56

Malvaceae

         
 

Malva neglecta Wallr.

Sochal

PLP 17977

Hum

Lf

Cooked as vegetable

Edible (91)

91

0.67

Melanthiaceae

         
 

Trillium govanianum Wall. ex D.Don

Nag Chatri

PLP 17937

Hum

Rt

Dried root powder along with buttermilk used to cure arthritis

Medicinal (33)

33

0.24

Moraceae

         
 

Ficus spp.

Dhura

PLP 17932

Cat

Lf

The leaves of the plant are given as fodder to animals

Fodder (92)

92

0.68

Morchellaceae

         
 

Morchella esculenta (L. : Fr.) Pers.

Gucchi

PLP 17995

Hum

Wp

The dried whole part is boiled in milk and given to a person suffering from cold and cough. The whole part is cooked and eaten

Edible (91), medicinal (26)

117

0.87

Oleaceae

         
 

Jasminum humile L.

Peeli chameli

PLP 17933

Hum

Rt

Roots are used to cure ringworm

Medicinal (33)

33

0.24

Orchidaceae

         
 

Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soó

Salmpanja

PLP 17969

Hum

Rt

The dried root powder is taken in a small amount (half tea spoon) with milk in case of weakness

Medicinal (60)

60

0.44

 

Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz

Dhundali

PLP 17999

Cat

Lf

The leaves are dried and burnt in front of animals suffering from evil eye

Household (58)

58

0.43

Oxalidaceae

         
 

Oxalis corniculata L.

Khati Amli

PLP 17812

Hum

Rt

Root is used to treat dyspepsia

Medicinal (43)

43

0.32

Papaveraceae

         
 

Corydalis govaniana Wall.

Phul

PLP 17950

Hum

Lf

Leaf used to cure joint pain

Medicinal (21)

21

0.16

Phytolaccaceae

         
 

Phytolacca acinosa Roxb.

Kafal

PLP 17944

Hum/Cat

Lf, Fr

Leaves are used as vegetable and fruits are used to feed the poultry

Edible (97)

97

0.72

Pinaceae

         
 

Cedrus deodara (Roxb. ex D.Don) G.Don

Dyaar

PLP 17940

Cat

Wd

Oil is applied on the feet of cattle to control maggots

Medicinal (45)

45

0.33

Plantaginaceae

         
 

Picrorhiza kurrooa Royle

Karu

PLP 17895

Hum

Rt

Used to cure fever and jaundice

Medicinal (63)

63

0.47

Polygonaceae

         
 

Fagopyrum esculentum Moench

Helangala

PLP 17843

Hum

Sd, Lf

The seeds are roasted and eaten as culinary and leaf eaten as a vegetable

Edible (88)

88

0.65

 

Oxyria digyna (L.) Hill

Chukru

PLP 17909

Hum

Lf

Leaves and young shoots are edible and used in chutney (sauce), pickles. Leaves are eaten to cure stomach disorders

Edible (87), medicinal (21)

108

0.80

 

Persicaria amplexicaulis (D.Don) Ronse Decr.

Masloon

PLP 17813

Hum

Rt

Root used in making tea

Edible (116)

116

0.86

 

Polygonum aviculare L.

Nadi

PLP 17823

Hum

Ap

Aerial part is cooked and eaten as a vegetable and is also used to cure pneumonia

Edible (104), medicinal (21)

125

0.93

 

Persicaria hydropiper (L.) Delarbre

Ganeri

PLP 17882

Hum

Lf

Leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable

Edible (83)

83

0.61

 

Rheum australe D. Don

Chukri

PLP 17899

Hum

Rt

It is used as tooth cleaning powder. An adequate amount of root powder is given to the buffalos to cure a cough

Household (89), medicinal (52)

141

1.04

 

Rumex hastatus D. Don

Khatti butti

PLP 17836

Hum/Cat

Lf, Wp

Fresh leaf juice is used to cure foot disease of the animal. The whole plant is wrapped around Arisaema tuber and boiled in water for 1–2 h to remove its bitterness.

Medicinal (31), household (116)

147

1.09

Primulaceae

         
 

Primula floribunda Wall.

Phool

PLP 17941

Hum

Rt, Lf

Root and leaves are used to wash milk containers made up of mud or steel

Household (103)

103

0.76

Ranunculaceae

         
 

Aconitum heterophyllum Wall. ex Royle

Patish

PLP17906

Hum

Rt

Used to cure a cough and fever

Medicinal (74)

74

0.55

 

Caltha palustris L.

Butti

PLP 17951

Cat

Lf

Leaf used to heal worm infected sores and wound

Medicinal (16)

16

0.12

 

Ranunculus spp.

Phool

PLP 17934

Cat

Ap

Fodder for goat and buffalos

Fodder (117)

117

0.87

Rosaceae

         
 

Cotoneaster spp.

Leo/Loon

PLP 17938

Cat

Lf

Used as fodder

Fodder (83)

83

0.61

 

Fragaria indica Andrews

Bada Mewa

PLP 17920

Hum

Fr

Ripen fruits are eaten

Edible (79)

79

0.59

 

Fragaria nubicola (Lindl. ex Hook.f.) Lacaita

Mewa

PLP 17946

Hum

Fr

Ripen fruits are eaten

Edible (105)

105

0.78

 

Fragaria vesca L.

Buti

PLP 17850

Hum

Fr

Ripen fruits are eaten

Edible (110)

110

0.81

 

Prunus armeniaca L.

Khumani

PLP 17939

Hum

Fr

Ripen fruits are eaten

Edible (121)

121

0.90

 

Prunus cornuta (Wall. ex Royle) Steud.

Jamu

PLP 17912

Hum

Fr, Sd

Fruit is edible and seed crushed and taken internally to cure diabetes

Edible (97), medicinal (33)

130

0.96

 

Prunus persica (L.) Batsch

Aaru

PLP 17947

Hum

Fr

Ripen fruits are eaten

Edible (99)

99

0.73

 

Rosa macrophylla Lindl.

Jungli gulab

PLP 17958

Hum

Fl

Flowers are used by local healers to cure stomachache

Medicinal (17)

17

0.13

 

Rubus niveus Thunb.

Aakhe/Karer

PLP 17965

Hum

Fr

Ripen fruits are eaten

Edible (94)

94

0.70

 

Sorbaria tomentosa (Lindl.) Rehder

Paddad

PLP 17926

Cat

Lf

Leaves are used as vermicide in case of animals

Medicinal (43)

43

0.32

 

Spiraea canescens D.Don.

Preud

PLP 17972

Hum

St

The stems are used to make brooms and baskets (kirra)

Household (81)

81

0.60

 

Rubus ellipticus Sm.

Aakhe/Karer

PLP 17863

Hum

Fr

Ripen fruits are eaten

Edible (87)

87

0.64

Rutaceae

         
 

Boenninghausenia albiflora (Hook.) Rchb. ex Meisn.

Pisu mar butti

PLP 17809

Hum

Lf

Leaves are used to kill bed bug

Household (78)

78

0.58

Sapindaceae

         
 

Acer caesium Wall. ex Brandis

Kajlu/ Jawandali

PLP 17900

Cat

Lf

The leaves of the plant are given as fodder to animals

Fodder (99)

99

0.73

 

Aesculus indica (Wall. ex Cambess.) Hook.

Goon

PLP 17858

Cat

Lf

The leaves of the plant are given as fodder to animals

Fodder (56)

56

0.41

Saxifragaceae

         
 

Bergenia stracheyi (Hook.f. & Thomson) Engl.

Kapdolu

PLP 17952

Hum

Rt

Used to cure kidney stone

Medicinal (49)

49

0.36

Scrophulariaceae

         
 

Verbascum thapsus L.

Jungli tambaku

PLP 17975

Cat

Sd

Seeds are ground and mixed with wheat flour and given to cattle suffering from indigestion

Medicinal (31)

31

0.23

Simaroubaceae

         
 

Brucea javanica (L.) Merr

Hala

PLP 17854

Hum

Fr

The fruit is used to make chutney (sauce)

Edible (111)

111

0.82

 

Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle

Ramban

PLP 17996

Cat

Lf

The leaves of the plant are given as fodder to animals

Fodder (45)

45

0.33

Solanaceae

         
 

Solanum nigrum L.

Makoi

PLP 17831

Hum

Lf, Fr

The tender leaves are eaten to treat dysentery and fruits are edible

Edible (55), medicinal (49)

104

0.77

Taxaceae

         
 

Taxus wallichiana Zucc.

Nagdaun/Brahmi

PLP 17904

Hum

Bk

The bark is very often used in flavouring tea

Edible (81)

81

0.60

Thymelaeaceae

         
 

Daphne papyracea Wall. ex G. Don

Nera

PLP 17954

Cat

Lf

Leaves are given to cattle in case of cough and cold

Medicinal (55)

55

0.41

Urticaceae

         
 

Urtica dioica L.

Ain

PLP 17818

Hum/Cat

Lf

The leaf paste is applied to injuries to reduce swelling. The leaves are cooked very often as a vegetable in anaemic condition.

Edible (113), medicinal (69)

182

1.35

New or lesser known ethnobotanical uses are indicated in bold

aLocal name: in the local dialect; bUsed in: Cat cattle, Hum human

cPart(s) used: Ap aerial parts, Bk bark, Fl flower, Fr fruits, Lf leaf, Rt roots, Sd seeds, St stem, Tu tuber, Wp whole part, Wd wood

Fig. 3

Dominant families in the study area

The most frequently used plant parts are leaves, fruits, roots, seeds, and whole part (Fig. 4). This result is similar to other investigations [41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48]. Easy availability of leaves with its higher metabolite content can be the reason for its preference [49, 50].
Fig. 4

Representation of plant parts used for various categories

The use value of plants

Maximum plant species (32) were reported for ethnomedicinal uses followed by food (22 species), household uses (16 species), fruits (15 species), and fodder (14 species). Use value is an important tool for selecting the most valued plants of any region for its detailed pharmacological investigation [51]. Highest use value was reported for the plant species which had multiple uses in the area. On the basis of use value (UV), the most important plants in the study area were Pteridium aquilinum (1.72), Juglans regia (1.60), Corylus jacquemontii (1.44), Urtica dioica (1.4), Diplazium maximum (1.21), Angelica glauca (1.16), Rumex hastatus (1.09), and Rheum australe (1.04) (Table 1). More than one plant part is used for about 13% of the species. For example, the bark of Juglans regia is used in cleaning teeth, its fruit is edible, and the wood is used in various household purposes. Similarly, the fruits of Phytolacca acinosa are fed to poultry while its aerial parts are eaten as a vegetable. The fruits of Solanum nigrum are edible while the tender leaves are eaten to cure dysentery. The leaves of Betula utilis are used to cure the urinary infection, and the bark is used in thatching roofs as a waterproof medium.

Informant consensus factor

The highest informant consensus values were obtained for food and fruit plants (Fic = 0.99), followed by fodder plants and household uses (Fic = 0.98) while it was least for the plants used for ethnomedicine (Fic = 0.97) (Table 2). Ethnobotanical uses of wild plants reported during the present investigation were found in agreement to previous studies [52, 53]. This reveals that wild plants play an important role in the sustenance of the people of the region. The various forest products not only fulfil their essential household requirements but wild vegetables and fruits provide essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy life [54]. A higher number of plants used for ethnomedicine by the tribal people indicate their dependency on locally available plant resources for curing various human and cattle related ailments. The complex ailments are healed by the local healers. This also signifies the unavailability of appropriate health care facilities in these remote regions. Aconitum heterophyllum, Bergenia stracheyi, and Verbascum thapsus with similar ethnomedicinal uses have been mentioned in the previous studies [55]. Roots were mostly used for curing various ailments because of easy availability in the dried form throughout the year [56].
Table 2

Use category and their factor informant consensus (Fic)

Use category

Number of plant species

Use citations

F ic

Food plants

22

2127

0.99

Fruit plants

15

1410

0.99

Fodder plants

14

1179

0.98

Household

16

1358

0.98

Ethnomedicinal plants

32

1349

0.97

Fidelity level

The fidelity level varied from 8 to 100% in all the use categories (Table 3). Phytolacca acinosa (100%), Stellaria media (100%), and Urtica dioica (100%) were some of the species with high fidelity level used as food plants. The important species of wild fruits in the study area include Berberis lycium (100%), Prunus armeniaca (100%), and Rubus ellipticus (100%). Some of the important fodder plants with high fidelity values (100%) were Acer caesium, Aesculus indica, Ailanthus altissima, and Quercus semecarpifolia. Only a few plants with 100% fidelity were observed for ethnomedicine which were Aconitum heterophyllum, Angelica glauca, and Ajuga integrifolia while maximum plants in this category showed lower percentages of fidelity values varying from 10.91 to 47.12%. For the household use, least fidelity percentage was observed for Carpinus viminea (8%) while Angelica glauca and Boenninghausenia albiflora showed 100% fidelity values (Table 3). The fidelity level (Fl) helps in identifying the most preferred species for a particular use category. The high value of fidelity level (100%) indicates the same method of use for a specific plant [57]. Seventy-one plant species had 100% fidelity level. The ethnomedicinal plant use category had the maximum of 22 species with 100% fidelity level followed by food plant category with 18 species with 100% fidelity level.
Table 3

Fidelity level (Fl%) of some important plant species for various use categories

Use category

Important plants

Fl (%)

Food plants

Diplazium maximum

73.78

Morchella esculenta

77.78

Polygonum aviculare

83.2

Phytolacca acinosa

100

Stellaria media

100

Urtica dioica

100

Fruit plants

Berberis lycium

100

Corylus jacquemontii

46.91

Juglans regia

51.39

Prunus armeniaca

100

Prunus cornuta

74.62

Rubus ellipticus

100

Solanum nigrum

52.88

Fodder plants

Acer caesium

100

Aesculus indica

100

Ailanthus altissima

100

Carpinus viminea

92

Corylus jacquemontii

53.09

Pteridium aquilinum

49.57

Quercus semecarpifolia

100

Ethnomedicinal plants

Aconitum heterophyllum

100

Angelica glauca

100

Ajuga integrifolia

100

Betula utilis

10.91

Diplazium maximum

26.22

Morchella esculenta

22.22

Oxyria digyna

19.44

Pleurospermum brunonis

17.59

Polygonum aviculare

16.80

Prunus cornuta

25.38

Rheum australe

36.88

Rumex hastatus

21.09

Solanum nigrum

47.12

Household (taboos, incense, basketry, brooms, etc.)

Angelica glauca

100

Betula utilis

89.09

Boenninghausenia albiflora

100

Carpinus viminea

8.00

Juglans regia

48.61

Pleurospermum brunonis

82.41

Pteridium aquilinum

50.43

Rheum australe

63.12

Rumex hastatus

78.91

Table 4

Plants used for commercial purposes and their local market value in Tissa

Scientific name

Common name

Family

Part used

Value

Aconitum heterophyllum

Patish

Ranunculaceae

Roots

3500 रु/kg

Dactylorhiza hatagirea

Salampanja

Orchidaceae

Roots

2000 रु/kg

Jurinea macrocephala

Dhoop

Leguminosae

Roots

117 रु/kg

Morchella esculenta

Gucchi

Morchellaceae

Whole plant

7500 रु/kg

Picrorhiza kurroa

Karu

Plantaginaceae

Rhizome

500 रु/kg

Selinum vaginatum

Bhootkeshi

Apiaceae

Roots

200 रु/kg

Valeriana jatamansi

Mushakbala

Caprifoliaceae

Roots

220 रु/kg

Plants used for commercial purposes

With the onset of summer, the Gujjars start migrating to the higher altitudes with their cattle and stay in the temporary settlements called ‘Adhwari’s’. During this period, they uproot commercially important medicinal plants from the wild which they sell to local traders for financial gains [58]. The common medicinal plants harvested by them include Aconitum heterophyllum, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Morchella esculenta, and Picrorhiza kurrooa (Table 4). Such indiscriminate exploitation of plant materials from nature can stress the natural population of these medicinal plants [59, 60]. Many of the plant species are categorised as threatened in the state that includes Aconitum heterophyllum, Angelica glauca, Berberis aristata, Betula utilis, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Jurinea macrocephala, Sinopodophyllum hexandrum, and Taxus wallichiana (Table 5). Though these plant resources play an important role in the subsistence of the people, it may not be sustainable in the near future [61].
Table 5

Comparison with the previous ethnobotanical studies

Scientific name

Uses in the present study

Earlier use reports

Acer caesium Wall. ex Brandis

Sapindaceae

Fodder

The wood is used for making agricultural implements, fuelwood, soil binder, fodder [72, 73]

Aconitum heterophyllum Wall. ex, Royle # Ranunculaceae

Medicinal

It is used to treat a cough, cold, fever, and abdominal pain [22, 53, 55]

Aesculus indica (Wall. ex Cambess.) Hook. Sapindaceae

Fodder

Fodder, treatment of joint pains, fruits are edible [59, 74, 53, 66]

Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle Simaroubaceae

Fodder

Fodder, reduce body swelling, bark juice mixed with milk to cure dysentery and diarrhoea [75, 76, 77]

Ajuga integrifolia Buch.-Ham.

Lamiaceae

Medicinal

Roots are used to treat snakebite, malaria, jaundice, mouth ulcers [22, 78]

Alnus nitida (Spach) Endl.

Betulaceae

Fodder

Medicinal, construction, furniture, fencing, roofing, fuel wood, fodder, utensils [78]

Amaranthus paniculatus L.

Amaranthaceae

Edible

Eaten as a vegetable, the seed is edible [79, 55]

Angelica glauca Edgew. #

Apiaceae

Medicinal, household

Snake repellent, root powder used to cure flatulence, dyspepsia, oedema, arthritis [80, 60, 23]

Arisaema tortuosum (Wall.) Schott

Araceae

Edible

Tubers are boiled and eaten, aerial parts are eaten as vegetable [80, 60, 23]

* Asparagus adscendens Roxb.

Asparagaceae

Medicinal

Carminative and demulcent [64]

Bauhinia variegata L.

Fabaceae

Edible

Young shoots, leaves, and flowers are eaten as vegetable, used to make pickle [36, 55]

Berberis aristata DC. #

Berberidaceae

Medicinal

Piles, eye infections, fruits edible [81, 23, 82, 55, 66]

Berberis lycium Royle

Berberidaceae

Edible

Whole plant part used to cure eye infections and diabetes, gum problems, kidney problems, fruits edible [23, 53, 66, 83]

Bergenia stracheyi (Hook.f. & Thomson) Engl. Saxifragaceae

Medicinal

A decoction of the rhizome is taken twice a day while a paste is applied topically on eyelids, used as fuel wood, diuretic [63, 69]

*Betula utilis D.Don #

Betulaceae

Medicinal, household

Bark, leaf, and resin are used in rheumatism, bone fracture, joint pain, swellings, asthma, blood purification, anti-cancerous, roof top and umbrella cover, fodder [84, 85, 86]

Boenninghausenia albiflora (Hook.) Rchb. ex Meisn., Rutaceae

Household

Antimicrobial, repel lice, fleas, and other insects [62, 87]

* Brucea javanica (L.) Merr

Simaroubaceae

Edible

Fodder, seed decoction taken orally for diarrhoea, malaria, and chronic diarrhoea [88, 89]

* Caltha palustris L.

Ranunculaceae

Medicinal

Diuretic, urinary infections, inflammation, used to clean the hands, gonorrhoea, kill maggots [68, 69]

Cannabis sativa L.

Cannabaceae

Edible

Joint pains, analgesic, sedative, antispasmodic, roasted seeds are eaten [23, 64, 83, 55]

* Carpinus viminea Wall. ex Lindl.

Betulaceae

Fodder, household

Fodder, the wood is used for making agricultural implements, sports equipment, and construction of houses, used to heal bone fracture [90, 91, 92]

Cedrus deodara (Roxb. ex D.Don) G.Don Pinaceae

Medicinal

Bitter, stomachic, anthelmintic, febrifuge, wounds, and cuts [78, 93]

Chenopodium album L.

Amaranthaceae

Edible

Used as vegetable, fodder, laxative, jaundice, and urinary diseases [94, 43, 82, 64, 81, 83]

* Clinopodium vulgare L.

Lamiaceae

Edible

Antibacterial, antitumour, leaves are edible [95]

Commelina benghalensis L.

Commelinaceae

Edible

Used to cure epilepsy, vaginal infection, eaten as vegetable [43, 55, 96]

Corydalis govaniana Wall.

Papaveraceae

Medicinal

Muscular pain, headache, leprosy, and rheumatism [97, 69, 68]

Corylus jacquemontii Decne.

Betulaceae

Edible, fodder

Medicinal, nuts edible, leaves used as fodder [98, 99]

Cotoneaster spp.

Rosaceae

Fodder

Fodder, walking sticks, baskets, fuel [100, 101]

Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soó # Orchidaceae

Medicinal

Given to person suffering from weakness [22]

*Daphne papyracea Wall. ex G. Don Thymelaeaceae

Medicinal

To cure bone disorders, intestinal complaints, ripen fruits edible, bark used for making paper [72, 101, 54, 102]

Desmodium elegans DC.

Fabaceae

Fodder

Fodder, leaf paste applied on cuts and wounds to avoid infection to stimulate healing, the bark is used to clean teeth [103, 38]

Diplazium maximum (D. Don) C. Chr. Athyriaceae

Medicinal, edible

Muscular pain, young shoots are eaten as a vegetable [23, 36, 66, 102]

Dysphania botrys (L.) Mosyakin & Clemants Amaranthaceae

Edible

Popular flavouring for a soup of meat, cheese, and barley [104, 105]

Elaeagnus parvifolia Wall. ex Royle Elaeagnaceae

Edible

Fruits edible, medicinal [78, 54]

* Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz

Orchidaceae

Household

Used to treat insanity, gouts, headache, and stomach ache [106]

Fagopyrum esculentum Moench

Polygonaceae

Edible

Stomach ulcer, tumour, jaundice, vegetable [63, 66]

Ficus spp.

Moraceae

Fodder

Fodder, purgative, antiseptic [107, 78]

Fragaria indica Andrews

Rosaceae

Edible

Fruits are edible [99]

Fragaria nubicola (Lindl. ex Hook.f.) Lacaita Rosaceae

Edible

Fruits are edible [82, 55]

Fragaria vesca L.

Rosaceae

Edible

Fruits are edible [52]

Gagea lutea (L.) Ker Gawl.

Liliaceae

Edible

Dried tubers used as spice [108]

Impatiens spp.

Balsaminaceae

Fodder

Fodder, the colour obtained is used as nail paint [100, 78]

Jasminum humile L.

Oleaceae

Medicinal

Powdered roots used as anthelmintic, diuretic, skin diseases, headache, mouth rash, ringworm [109, 77, 110]

Juglans regia L.

Juglandaceae

Edible, household

Fruit edible, fuel, timber, fruit tonic taken for back pain [103, 94, 89, 53]

Jurinea macrocephala DC. #

Asteraceae

Household

Roots are used during religious ceremonies for incense, root decoction is given once per day to treat cold and cough [111]

Malva neglecta Wallr.

Malvaceae

Edible

A cough, cold, malaria, kidney disorders and cooked as a vegetable [23, 69, 112]

* Morchella esculenta (L.: Fr.) Pers. Morchellaceae

Edible, medicinal

Cooked and eaten, protect the stomach, nourish the lungs, and strengthen immunity [65, 66, 67]

Neolitsea pallens (D. Don) Momiy. & H. Hara

Lauraceae

Fodder

Fodder, juice of fruits is used to treat scabies and eczema, seeds oil is used as an antidote [103, 44, 113]

* Onosma hispida Wall. ex G. Don Boraginaceae

Medicinal

Fever, pain relief, wounds, infectious diseases, hair colour [114, 115]

* Oxalis corniculata L.

Oxalidaceae

Medicinal

Blood purifier, appetiser, cure piles, diarrhoea, toothache, cough cure scorpion stings and skin diseases, aerial part is eaten as a vegetable [116, 117, 118, 55, 119, 43, 64, 120]

Oxyria digyna (L.) Hill

Polygonaceae

Edible, medicinal

Used to make chutney, digestive and purgative [66]

* Persicaria amplexicaulis (D.Don) Ronse Decr., Polygonaceae

Edible

Used to treat skin diseases, jaundice, dysentery, leucorrhoea, fever, headache, indigestion, stomach pain, and blood purifier, effective in flu, fever, and joints [121, 122, 123, 124, 53]

Persicaria hydropiper (L.) Delarbre Polygonaceae

Edible

Eaten as vegetable, dye plant [119, 52]

Phytolacca acinosa Roxb.

Phytolaccaceae

Edible

Used to treat acne, eaten as a vegetable, root decoction is taken for cervical erosion, digestibility ulcer, liver ascites, constipation, diuresis [23, 94, 89]

Picrorhiza kurrooa Royle #

Plantaginaceae

Medicinal

Fever, jaundice, improve appetite and skin infection [125, 22, 23]

* Pleurospermum brunonis Benth. ex C.B. Clarke

Apiaceae

Medicinal, household

Whole plant used to cure jaundice, fever, insect repellent, incense [62, 63]

* Polygonum aviculare L.

Polygonaceae

Edible, medicinal

Eaten as a vegetable, treat dysentery and diarrhoea [119, 43]

* Primula floribunda Wall.

Primulaceae

Household

Used to treat headache, rheumatism, flowers are believed to have supernatural power to ward off devils and people knowing witchcraft, flowers increase the beauty of hair of ladies [70, 71]

Prunus armeniaca L.

Rosaceae

Edible

Heal constipation in cattle, fruits are edible [53, 66]

* Prunus cornuta (Wall. ex Royle) Steud.

Rosaceae

Edible, medicinal

Used to cure anaemia, fruits are edible [23, 66]

Prunus persica (L.) Batsch

Rosaceae

Edible

Fruits are edible [66]

Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn

Dennstaedtiaceae

Fodder, household

Tender fronds used as vegetables, green fronds as fodder, good soil binder, used to cure diabetes, abdominal oedema [126, 23]

Quercus semecarpifolia Sm.

Fagaceae

Fodder

Fodder, timber, construction, furniture, fencing, roofing, fuel wood, medicinal [78, 127]

Ranunculus spp.

Ranunculaceae

Fodder

Fodder plant, counter irritant swelling in testes, fever, stomach worms [78, 127]

Rheum australe D. Don

Polygonaceae

Household, medicinal

Cleaning tooth, given to animals lost their appetite, asthma, fever, pneumonia, vegetable [22, 63]

Rhododendron arboreum Sm.

Ericaceae

Edible

Used as local brew, used to make chutney [128, 66]

* Rhododendron campanulatum D.Don, Ericaceae

Medicinal

Leaves are mixed with tobacco and used as snuff to cure a cold [68]

Rosa macrophylla Lindl.

Rosaceae

Medicinal

Used in cold and cough, flowers are edible, fruits are edible, stomach ache [23, 82]

Rubus ellipticus Sm.

Rosaceae

Edible

Fruits are eaten to cure indigestion [23]

Rubus niveus Thunb.

Rosaceae

Edible

Fruits are edible [94, 36]

* Rumex hastatus D. Don

Polygonaceae

Medicinal, household

Used to cure foot disease in cattle, used to cure jaundice, leaves eaten as a vegetable [23, 43, 82]

* Sarcococca saligna (D. Don) Müll. Arg.

Buxaceae

Household

Timber, fodder, fuel, and leaves in the ceiling of a roof of houses as a waterproof medium [129, 130]

Selinum vaginatum C.B. Clarke

Apiaceae

Household

Used in making brew and incense making [62, 66]

Sinopodophyllum hexandrum (Royle) T.S.Ying #

Berberidaceae

Medicinal

Cancer curing, bloating and appetite loss in cattle, fruit is edible [23, 53, 94, 52]

* Solanum nigrum L.

Solanaceae

Edible, medicinal

Vegetable, headache, fruits edible [119, 55, 53]

Sorbaria tomentosa (Lindl.) Rehder

Rosaceae

Medicinal

The flowers are grinded in milk and the resulted paste is applied to burns and wounds, fruits smoked in the treatment of asthma [38, 39, 131]

Spiraea canescens D.Don.

Rosaceae

Household

Basket making [69, 103]

Stellaria media (L.) Vill.

Caryophyllaceae

Edible

Leaf paste applied to cure joint pains and swellings, seed powder is given to children with milk to cure skin infection and allergy and leaf paste is applied to heal wounds caused by burning or frost, eaten as a vegetable [132, 43, 133]

Taxus wallichiana Zucc. #

Taxaceae

Edible

Refreshing tea, cancer curing, and thatching roofs [22, 23]

* Trillium govanianum Wall. ex D.Don

Melanthiaceae

Medicinal

Used to cure dysentery, reproductive disorder [125, 103, 23]

Urtica dioca L.

Urticaceae

Edible, medicinal

Used to treat skin diseases, soup making, eaten as a vegetable [23, 82, 36]

Valeriana jatamansi Jones

Caprifoliaceae

Household

Roots used to cure a stomachache, valerian root has been used for a century as a relaxing and sleep promoting plant [59, 23].

Verbascum thapsus L.

Scrophulariaceae

Medicinal

Indigestion in cattle [55]

Viburnum mullaha Buch.-Ham. ex D. Don Adoxaceae

Edible

Used to cure a cold and cough, fruits eaten [23, 53]

*Plants with new or lesser known ethnobotanical uses reported in the present study

# Threatened wild plants of Himachal Pradesh, India [134]

Comparison with the previous ethnobotanical studies

The extensive literature review revealed the lesser known or new uses for 21 plant species from the study area (Table 5). Out of these, 13 plant species had ethnomedicinal uses, six household uses, and three edible uses. In the present study, leaf juice of Pleurospermum brunonis was used to cure skin infections while it was reported to cure jaundice and fever and used as an insect repellent in the previous studies [62, 63]. The root of Asparagus adscendens was used to control hair fall while previously it has been reported as carminative and demulcent [64]. The decoction of leaves of Betula utilis was used to treat a urinary infection while the dried root powder of Trillium govanianum was used to cure arthritis. Morchella esculenta besides eaten as a vegetable was also used to cure a cold and cough while in the previous reports it is known to protect the stomach, nourish the lungs, and strengthen immunity [65, 66, 67]. The root of Oxalis corniculata was used to treat dyspepsia, and aerial part of Polygonum aviculare was used to cure pneumonia. Seed powder of Prunus cornuta was administrated orally to cure diabetes while the same species was reported against anaemia [23]. The tender leaves of Solanum nigrum were reported to treat dysentery while it is known to cure a headache [55]. The animal ailments like a cough and a cold of buffalos were cured using leaves of Rhododendron campanulatum and Daphne papyracea. The worm-infected sores and wounds of cattle were healed using leaves of Caltha palustris while it has been reported to cure various other ailments like urinary infections and inflammation in the previous studies [68, 69]. A number of plants were used by people for household uses like leaves and roots of Primula floribunda for cleaning milk containers to remove the oiliness and odour of the utensils while it has been reported for its use to ward off devils and as a hair decorator by women [70, 71]. Very interesting information was provided by the Gujjars about the use of root of Persicaria amplexicaulis in tea making which they consume very often because of easy availability of the plant, good flavour, and a number of health benefits. Fruits of Brucea javanica were used in making chutney (sauce) while the cracked seeds of Clinopodium vulgare were used in various recipes. They make brooms from the stems of Sarcococca saligna and shoes from the bark of Carpinus viminea. The poor economic conditions of the Gujjars and remoteness of the area have made them adopt indigenous knowledge passed through their ancestry.

Conclusions

The Gujjars of Churah region constitute an important segment of the population in the region who have in-depth knowledge of diverse plant uses that can be linked back to their hereditary profession of pastoralism (Fig. 5). The infinite ethnobotanical knowledge of this tribe can also be related to their greater dependency on the wild plant resources for their sustenance because of poor living standards, illiteracy, and poverty. The younger generation is also actively involved in the seasonal activity of semi-nomadic pastoralism, and therefore, they had sound knowledge of the traditional knowledge though it was mostly concentrated in the older informants.
Fig. 5

Glimpses of photographs clicked during the entire period of study

The present study revealed the in-depth ethnobotanical knowledge of the Gujjars. The local communities have accumulated this immense knowledge through experimentation and modifications since centuries. Knowledge and use of medicinal plants to cure various ailments is part of their life and culture that requires preservation of this indigenous knowledge. In the present scenario, it forms an essential component of sustainable development. But this traditional knowledge which is transferred from one generation to another through the words of mouth is eroding exigently. Thus, there is an urgent need for the documentation of this traditional knowledge and in-depth phytochemical investigations to evaluate potentially active compounds of the plant species to prove their efficacy.

It is essentially required to develop agro technological tools for plant species for which the same is lacking to ensure plantation in the forests/community lands available in the villages to check unsustainable harvesting of wild edibles. Value addition and product development of wild fruit plants can provide an alternate source of livelihood to the rural people. Thus, bioprospection and phytochemical profiling and evaluation of economically viable products can lead to the optimum harnessing of Himalayan bioresources in this region.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors are thankful to the Director, CSIR-IHBT, Palampur for providing facilities and encouragement. We are grateful to DST, Govt. of India for the financial assistance provided under a sponsored project entitled “Network programme on the convergence of traditional knowledge system for sustainable development in the Indian Himalayan Region” and Prof. S.C. Garkoti, JNU for his constant support and cooperation. We are highly grateful to the Gujjars of the Churah region for sharing valuable information without any hurdle and support of officials of various line departments is also duly acknowledged. We are grateful to the Editor and the Reviewers for their valuable suggestions which helped us in improving this manuscript.

Funding

Funds for the study were provided by DST, Govt. of India funded project GAP-0189.

Availability of data and materials

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article.

Authors’ contributions

DR and AB carried out field surveys and data recording and prepared the manuscript. BL designed the study and edited the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Prior consent of the informants was taken while conducting these studies. This was done to adhere to the ethical standards of human participation in scientific research.

Consent for publication

Not applicable

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary material

13002_2019_286_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Additional file 1: Questionnaire for documentation of ethno-botanical related TKS in the IHR from local resource persons and traditional healers (DOCX 19 kb)

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.High Altitude Biology DivisionCSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource TechnologyPalampurIndia

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