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Plants prescribed for both preventive and therapeutic purposes by the traditional healers of the bede community residing by the turag river, dhaka district

Rahmatullah, M., Ishika, T., Rahman, M., Swarna, A., Khan, T., Monalisa, M.N., Seraj, S., Mou, S.M., Mahal, M.J. and Biswas, K.R. (2011) Plants prescribed for both preventive and therapeutic purposes by the traditional healers of the bede community residing by the turag river, dhaka district. American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 5 (3). pp. 325-31.

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The Bede community people are an indigenous community of Bangladesh and because of their preference for living and travelling on boats are also known as the river gypsies. They seldom reside for long at any given place but travel constantly on the waterways to ply their trade at various riverside villages. The community keeps mostly to themselves except when interacting with village people to sell sundry items, catch snakes, and practice their traditional medicinal system, which consists of cupping (drawing blood) and selling medicinal products containing plant, animal or fish parts. Medicinal plants form the chief item in their formulations for treatment of diverse ailments. The community has various professional groups within them based on their profession, among which one such group being the Dhanantari Vaidyas, who supposedly are able to cure all diseases. In recent times, the Government is trying to settle them by various riversides so as to enable them to get access to education and modern health care. The older generation, however, still prefer their traditional medicines to allopathic medicines. One such Bede group was located by the Turag River in Kamar Para village on the outskirts of Dhaka city in Dhaka district, Bangladesh. During the course of an ethnomedicinal survey among this community, it was observed that the Dhanantari Vaidyas advocated consumption of a number of plants in the cooked form for not only therapeutic but also preventive purposes. It was the objective of the present study to document the use of these plants. It was observed that 32 plant species were prescribed by the Vaidyas for regular consumption (preventive) or consumption during times when a particular disease occurred (therapeutic). These species were distributed into 20 families; the Fabaceae family contributed 4 species, while the Amaranthaceae, Asteraceae, and Cucurbitaceae families provided 3 plants each. Most of the plants were leafy vegetables with their leaves and stems prescribed for consumption following cooking; however, a few of them had their roots or fruits prescribed for consumption without cooking. Four plants (Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Capsicum frutescens and Coriandrum sativum) were used as accessories when cooking other plants. Among these four plants, Allium sativum was also used by itself for prevention and treatment of any type of dysentery and stomach problems, and Coriandrum sativum used by itself for prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and to increase appetite. Only two plant (Eclipta alba and Curcuma longa) parts were administered topically. Consumption of plants or plant parts for preventive purposes can be a cost-effective form of health care. As such, the plants prescribed for consumption by the Dhantari Vaidyas of the Bedes merit further scientific studies to assess their full curative potentials.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: American-Eurasian Network for Scientific Information
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