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Correlation between non-conventional plants consumed during food scarcity and their folk medicinal usages: A case study in two villages of Kurigram district, Bangladesh

Rahmatullah, M., Jahan, F.I., Seraj, S., Khatun, Z., Islam, F., Sattar, M.M., Khan, T., Ishika, T., Rahman, M. and Jahan, R. (2011) Correlation between non-conventional plants consumed during food scarcity and their folk medicinal usages: A case study in two villages of Kurigram district, Bangladesh. American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 5 (2). pp. 240-246.

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Since the advent of human beings, they have probably suffered from food scarcity at various times or other as a result of a number of factors, including seasonal non-availability of food, failure of crops, and lack of game or domesticated animals. During those times, it appears to be the universal practice for humans to resort to consuming non-conventional foods, most of which are plant derived. This is more so in modern times, when the human race as a whole has become dependent on a few species of plants to serve as their staple diet. Any crop failure due to adverse weather or soil conditions lead to large-scale non-availability of food, which in its severest form is known as famine. In addition, a huge segment of the world population suffers from poverty and thus is unable to procure enough food to satisfy their hunger and nutritional requirements. This is the case also for Bangladesh where even at present, surveys indicates that around 32% of the population have incomes below the poverty level of US$ 1 per day. Additionally, the northern districts of Bangladesh suffer from a seasonal famine known as Monga during two periods every year. During these periods, the population, particularly the poorest sections of the population rely on various edible non-conventional plants to serve as their nutritional sources. We hypothesize that this choice of plants to be consumed during times of food scarcity has been a result of trial and error not only on the nutritional values of the plants, but also on their medicinal values. Diseases in a multitude of forms are present in the human population, and most of these diseases are exacerbated during malnutrition, which is a consequence of eating a less nutritional, or low amounts of diet, a phenomenon particularly present during times of food scarcity. Thus, the best choice of non-conventional plants consumed during times of food scarcity would be plants that not only serve to mitigate hunger and provide nutritional requirements, but also provide preventive as well as curative means to avoid various diseases arising out from malnutrition. To check this hypothesis, a survey was conducted among two village populations of Kurigram district in northern Bangladesh - an area prone to Monga. The non-edible conventional plant items consumed during Monga has been presented in an accompanying paper. The present study indicates that of the various plants consumed during Monga, 80% of the plants are considered to have medicinal values by the folk medicinal practitioners of Bangladesh. Moreover, the medicinal properties of most of the plants included curative properties against gastrointestinal disorders, physical weaknesses, energy deficiencies, anemia, and other disorders, which are most likely to arise from malnutrition. The results obtained in the present study validate our hypothesis that non-conventional plants eaten during times of food scarcity possess both nutritive as well as medicinal values, the latter being particularly effective against disorders arising from malnutrition.

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