Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research (2004): Supplement 2:
2nd International Congress on Traditional Medicine and Materia Medica
Women indigenous knowledge of folk medicines
Jahanzeb College, Pakistan
This study analysed women s indigenous knowledge of folk medicines with respect to human and livestock illnesses in selected areas in upper Swat, Buner, and Chitral Districts of the Malakand region of North West Frontier Province, Pakistan in the summer 2003.
This analysis was completed by a male and female multi-disciplinary team of specialists. Interviews were conducted using Questionnaires and Medicinal Herb Data Sheets, and Transect Walks where executed in each area visited. The women’s general medical herb collection habits, use, preparations, storage and marketing were ascertained from the Questionnaires, whereas the Medicinal Herb Data sheets (using both male and respondents) provided comprehensive information on individual herbs employed in health care. The Transect Walks allowed the identified herbs of each area to be seen in their natural habitat, and provided a platform for the exploration of local herbs not known to be medicinally active by the community.
A total of 87 women interviewed during the course of this study supplied information on 143 different herb species, out of which 58 species were used for the treatment of humans and 85 species were found to bed used for the treatment of both humans and livestock.
The result of the survey showed that the knowledge of the women in all 3 districts was appreciable, but it was observed that the elder women generally, and the women from Buner District had a superior understanding of folk medicine. On combining the knowledge recorded from the men and women, and from the Transect Walks, a list of 345 different medicinal plant species can be
formulated The transect Walks revealed that on average the women only knew of 29% of the medicinally active herbs in their locality, whilst the men were familiar with 51%.
It can be stated that the use of herbs for medicinal purposes was prevalent throughout the regions visited, and this form of medication was administered to both adults and children. The advice of doctors was also sought by most women, the main reasons being for accidents, surgery and births. Preparations of medicinal herbs rarely went beyond drying (most sun-drying), some women dispensed the herbs in the forms of infusions, decoctions, syrups etc., however, the typical method employed was swallowing the dried powdered herb with water. The place and type of storage of medicinal plants varied immensely, and often poor techniques such as non-airtight containers and storing in partial sunlight were observed.
Cultivation and marketing was not a priority for the women interviewed, however, of the 3 Districts surveyed the highest incidence of cultivation occurred in Chitral District. Only 9 herbs were found to be marketed by the women throughout the survey, and this enterprise only occurred in Buner and Chitral District.
In response to the findings of this survey, a rationale has been developed for screening the ethnobotanical data base generated, and 44 species have been identified as either threatened species, and/or species of commercial value. It has been recommended that these species be included in the future planned medicinal plant research and development initiatives.
A primary recommendation concluded from this survey was the need for education of the women. This would embrace the techniques regarding medicinal herb use, including collection, preparation, storage and cultivation advice. Education, awareness, and possibly the formulation of women s enterprise groups was considered to be essential for improved health care and successful marketing.