Traditional healing practices for treatment of animal bites among tribes of India: A systematic review

Singh, Stuti ; Saxena, Nishant

Abstract

Animal bites are a significant concern of public health and mortality throughout the world, wherein India reports the highest number of deaths due to snakebites. The tribes of India (Scheduled Tribes or STs), constituting about 8.6% of India’s population with a total of more than 104 million, mostly inhabit remote and inaccessible areas, with their subsistence and habitation being primarily forest-derived. This forest-based lifestyle exposes tribal populations to animal bites which are often lethal, and at the same time, it is the forest only on which tribes are dependent for getting their primary health care through the institution of traditional healer or ethnomedical practitioner who uses natural resources to cure various health issues. This system of knowledge and immense know-how of illness, diagnosis, treatment and utilization of natural resources (especially plants) in treatment of a myriad of ailments is transferred orally from one generation to another.

The present work is an attempt to assemble information related to various plants and practices being used as traditional medicine for treating animal bites by the tribes of India. The review was undertaken by categorising research articles focusing on tribes residing in different geographical zones of India (seven zones for the current purpose) and their treatment pattern involving usage of plants for various types of animal bites. We find that present work fills-in the critical gap by providing detailed analysis of 276 plant species being used in 423 herbal preparations for curing animal bites by 81 tribes of India.  It is found that tribal populations residing in Southern parts of the country report the usage of highest number of medicinal plants, whereas scarce data is available on the traditional medicinal practices for curing animal bites in tribes of the Island zone (i.e., in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands). This facet of tribal lifestyle, involving usage of natural resources around them for healthcare, is in a way exemplary of their survivability in tough forested conditions since time immemorial, and, thus should be treated as a success story in itself.

 


Keyword(s)

Animal bite, Ethnomedicine, Snakebite, Traditional healer, Tribe


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