Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research (2004): Supplement 2:
2nd International Congress on Traditional Medicine and Materia Medica
Documentation of indigenous knowledge about medicinal plants of Pakistan
Shinwari Muhammad I., Shinwari Maryum I.
Pakistan Museum of Natural History, Islamabad, Pakistan
Indigenous knowledge of wild and cultivated plant use is linked to local culture and history. It should be regarded as a body of knowledge that has continually developed over time without the outside assistance of formal science. Pakistan has 18 different types of ecological zones with a variety of habitat types like the coastal Mangrove forests, the desert subtropical foothills dry and moist areas, the alpine pastures etc. with diverse ethnic composition and ancient civilization. It has rich flora of over 6000 species of flowering plants, conifers and ferns with about 4000 fungal species and 1000 algae are so far reported to occur in different provinces including Kashmir. A very large number is found in northern and northwestern parts of the country.
It was estimated in early 1950 that up to 84% of the Pakistani population is dependent on traditional medicine for all or most of their medical needs. Even now, in some parts of the reported area the percentage may be the same or even higher. Western-style allopathic medicines are relatively expensive compared to the traditional herbal medicine, and for people living in hilly areas, usually not available. The use of medicinal plants to cure diseases and relieve physical suffering of both humans and animals, goes back to ancient times.
It has been reported that approximately 400-600 medicinal plants are more frequently used in herbal preparations and while several species, which are common in certain areas, are known to be used locally in traditional preparations, they have not been scientifically investigated for wider use. A lot more work therefore needs to be done with regard to collecting and compiling indigenous knowledge of plants, especially amongst living in the western mountains.