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Ethnobotanical studies on Thozhukanni and Azhukanni among the Kanikkars of South India

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  • Biomeitez

Abstract

Ethnobotany deals with the uses of plants by the aboriginal tribes in the local area. In Western Ghats, the Pothigai region is one of the important hot spot where the Kani tribes are largely settled. In this region, the Thozhukanni (Desmodium gyrans L.,) is naturalized and the Azhukanni (Cressa cretica L.,) is cultivated and used as an important drug for various ailments. In the present study an attempt is made to bring out the ethnobotanical uses of Desmodium gyrans L., and Cressa cretica L., Ethnobotanical information about the plants were collected and discussed.
Int.J.Pharm.Sci.Rev.Res.,14(2),2012;nᵒ23,135138ISSN0976044X
InternationalJournalofPharmaceuticalSciencesReviewandResearch     Page135
Availableonlineatwww.globalresearchonline.net

P.NagendraPrasad1,V.N.MeenaDevi*2,L.ArulMarySyndia1,M.Rajakohila1,andV.N.Ariharan1
1DepartmentofBiotechnology,SriParamakalyaniCollege,Alwarkurichi627412.TirunelveliDistrict,Tamilnadu,India.
*2DepartmentofPhysics,NoorulIslamCentreforHigherEducation,NoorulIslamUniversity,Kumaracoil,Thuckalay,Tamilnadu,India.
*Correspondingauthor’sEmail:vndevi@gmail.com

Acceptedon:27042012;Finalizedon:30052012.
ABSTRACT
Ethnobotanydealswiththeusesofplantsbytheaboriginaltribesinthelocalarea.InWesternGhats,thePothigairegionisoneof
theimportanthotspotwheretheKanitribesarelargelysettled.Inthisregion,theThozhukanni(DesmodiumgyransL.,)is
naturalizedandtheAzhukanni(CressacreticaL.,)iscultivatedandusedasanimportantdrugforvariousailments.Inthepresent
studyanattemptismadetobringouttheethnobotanicalusesofDesmodiumgyransL.,andCressacreticaL.,Ethnobotanical
informationabouttheplantswerecollectedanddiscussed.
Keywords:Thozhukanni,Azhukanni,ethnobotanicaluses,WesternGhats.
INTRODUCTION
IndiahasavastareaofforestlandsinWesternGhats,
HimalayasandEasternGhatsregions1.Theaboriginalsare
thehilltribalpeoples.Thereareabout449tribesandsub
tribesindifferentpartsofIndia.HalfofIndia’stribal
peopleliveintheforestsandforestfringesandtheir
economyislinkedwiththeforests2InSouthIndia,nearly
130communitiesoftribalpeoplesliveintheWestern
GhatsregionwhichisdistributedinthestatesofTamil
Nadu,Kerala,KarnatakaandAndrapradesh.Thereare36
tribesandsubtribesinTamilNadu.Mostofthetribal’sin
TamilNaduarecultivators,agriculturelabourersare
dependentonforestsfortheirlivelihood.Thetribal
groupsinTamilNaduaredistributedinalmostallthe
districtsandtheyhavecontributedsignificantlyinthe
managementoftheforest.
Tribesaremostlymingledwiththeforestecosystem
assistingthenativesocietiesto“liveinharmonywith
nature”35.Kanikkarsareoneamongtheimportantand
largestgroupoftribalpeoplelivinginthePothigairegion
whichspreadinthesouthmostpartofTamilNadu,
VezhimalaiofKanyakumari,AgasthiyamalaiofTirunelveli
districtsandthePoovaruofNeyyatinkarainTrivandrum
districtofKerala68.TheKanikkarsarepredominanthill
tribesofAgasthiyamalaibiosphereinWesternGhats,
TamilNadu.InTirunelvelizonetherearefivetribal
settlementssuchasAgasthiayarKanikudiyiruppu,
Servalar,Mayilar,PeriyamayilarandInchikuzhi.In
KanyakumaridistrictEttukani,PathukaniMothiramalai,
Kothaiyar,Chittar,Maaranmalai,Kalikesamregionsof
Kanisettlement9,10.Thereareabout30settlements
togetherinboththestates.ThePothigairegionisoneof
theimportantplacesintheHistorybecauseoneofthe
importantSiddaramongtheeighteensiddars,thegreat
sageAgasthiarlivedhere.Hehadcontributedalotinthe
Tamilliteratureinthenameof“Agasthiyam”after
“Tholkappiam”andisthefirstliteraryevidenceinthe
Tamilliterature.ThesageAgasthiarhadcontributedalot
inthefieldofinthemedicinalfieldandevenAstrology.
TheseKanikkarsinTirunelvelidistrictaremainlyfoundin
theregionwherethisAgasthiarhadsaidtobelived.They
worshipAgasthiarasaGuruandhisstatueissituatedin
thehighestpeakofsouthTamilNadu.TheAgasthia
Pothigaiisabout2800feetaltitudewhichissituatedin
theTirunelvelidistrictandistheborderareaofKerala.
ThisWesternGhatsregionisoneofthehotspotareasin
Indiaregardingbiodiversityaspect.Inthisregionabout
800medicalplantshavebeenregisteredandamongthem
80plantsareidentifiedasrareandendangeredspecies.
Ethnomedicineisoneofthesystemsofmedicinethatis
widelypracticedamongthetribalandaboriginal
populationsofourcountryforthetreatmentofailments.
Primitivesocietieshavedependedonherbalremediesfor
thetreatmentofdiseasesanddisorderssincetime
immemorial11,12.Kanitribalmedicinalexpertsarecalled
as“Philathies”.Theyaredepositoryoftraditional
medicinalknowledge.Themembersofthiscommunity
arefamiliarwithseveralherbsandwellversedinusing
thevariousherbstocurevariousailments10.Theycollect
herbs,fruitsandtubersfortheirownuseandeventhey
selltheseproductsinthevillagemarkets.Theycultivate
therareplantsinandaroundthesettlementandsellin
themarkets13.Inthepresentstudy,themedicinalvalues
oftwomedicinalplantsfromtheKanisettlementwere
evaluated.
METHODOLOGY
Frequentfieldtripsweremadeinthekanisettlementsof
Pothigairegion.IntheKanisettlement,theheadmanis
calledasPhilathyandothermembersarehavingpractical
knowledgeofmedicinalplants.Theywereinterviewed
andgotthefirsthandinformationabouttheusesof
DesmodiumgyransL.,andCressacreticaL.,were
documented.Herbariumspecimenswerecollectedand
ETHNOBOTANICALSTUDIESONTHOZHUKANNIANDAZHUKANNI
AMONGTHEKANIKKARSOFSOUTHINDIA
ReviewArticle
Int.J.Pharm.Sci.Rev.Res.,14(2),2012;nᵒ23,135138ISSN0976044X
InternationalJournalofPharmaceuticalSciencesReviewandResearch     Page136
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identifiedwiththehelpoflocalflora.Thedatacontains
vernacularname,botanicalname,family,habitat,
description,plantpartsusedanditsethnomedicinaluses.
THOZHUKANNI
ThebotanicalnameoftheplantisDesmodiumgyrans
belongstothefamilyFabaceae.ItisknownasIndian
Telegraphiplant,Dancingplant,Snakecharmer'srootin
English,ThozhukanniinMalayalam,SuriyanVanangiand
AravaattippachchilaiinTamil.“Thozhukanni”isa
herbaceousplantfoundnaturallyandcultivatedinan
aroundtheKanisettlementathigherelevations.Trifoliate
leafisaspecificnatureofthisplant.Amongthethree
leafletsthecentreoneislargerandthetwolateralsare
smallerinsize.Afterthesunrise,whenthelightraysfalls
ontheleaflets,thetwosmalllateralleavesshowsa
rithamicmovementoffoldingupwardsandrelaxlater.It
isgoingonthroughoutdaylightperiod.Becauseofthis
typeofspecificmovement,thesetribalscallthisas
“SuriyanVanangi”astheplantwelcomestheSunduring
thedaylightperiod.Physiologicallyitisanaturallight
inducedmovementinDesmodium.InEnglishitis
popularlyknownas“Telegraphicplant”becauseofthe
trifoliateleavesmovementwhichresemblesthe
Telegraphicinstrumentmovementundertheslightest
influenceoftouch,sunshine,warmthorsmallvibrations
intheenvironment.Themovementsarecausedbythe
swellingandshrinkingofmotorcellsinspecialorgans
burieddeepwithintheleaves.Themovementofwater
moleculescausesthemotorcellsintheleavestoshrinkor
swellandasthewaterentersandexits,theplant's
leafletsswitchonthisofmovementduetophototactic14.
Description
DesmodiumgyransL.,isasmallerect,diffuselybranched
herbaceousplantattainsaheightof90cmwithprostrate
branchestoo.Theleavesaretrifoliateandtheleafletsare
dissimilarinsizeandlanceolate.Theflowersarewhite,
producedracemesonterminalandauxiliary.Itblooms
duringthemonthofNovembertoJanuary.Thefruitsare
legumes,moniliformshapehaving4‐ 6jointedpodsand
seedarereniform.Theplantisbitter,thermogenicand
nervinetonic.Theplantcontainssmallamountof
Tryptaminealkaloidsinleaf,stemandroot.Itmayhave
thenarcoticeffect14
Medicinalproperties
Thefollowingaretheimportantmedicinalusesof
DesmodiumgyransL.,andinKannikarsettlementitis
beingfollowed.
Antidote:Thepowderedleafismixedwithpepperand
cuminandisgivenasanantidote.Therootpowderisalso
givenasantidoteforsnakebitebecauseofthisproperty
theplantiscalledas“Snakecharmer’sroot”.
Antioxidant:Thepowderedleafismixedwithpepperand
cuminseedandtheextractisprepared.Thisextracthas
anantioxidantproperty.
Aphrodisiac:Freshleavesweretakenintheearly
morningaftersunriseandintheeveningbeforesunset
andaremadeintoapaste.Thepasteismixedwithcow
milkorcoconutmilkandisgiventwiceadayforseven
daysconsecutivelybeforefood.ItactsasanAphrodisiac.
Carminative:Theleavesarecollected,shadedriedand
powered.Thepowderismixedwithapitchofcuminand
boiledwithwater.ThisextractisusedasCarminative.
Coughandfever:Theleavesaredriedintheshadeand
mixedwithbarkofneemandrhizomeofAlpinia
(chitarathai)andextractedisobtainedwithhotwater.
Thisextractisgivenforcommonfever,cough,asthma
andbronchitis.
Diabetes:Theleafjuiceismixedwithapinchofpepper
andadecoctionisprepared.Thediabeticpatientcan
consumethisdecoctiontoreducetheurinesugarlevel.
Digestivestimulant:Theleafjuiceismixedwithapinchof
pepperandisusedasadigestivestimulantandevenfor
foodpoison.
Febrifuge:Theleafjuiceismixedwithapinchofpeppera
decoctionispreparedandisgiventoyoungbabiesasa
febrifuge.
Menorrhegia:Thewholeplantisdriedandpowdered.
Thepowderismixedwithyoungtendercoconutwater
andyoungtenderpomegranatefruitjuiceattheratioof
1:1andgivenittwiceadaytoarrestexcessivebleeding
andMenorrhegia.
Scabies:Leavesaremadeintoapastewithpitchof
turmericandcommonsaltisappliedtotreatScabies.
Strengtheningthecardiacsystem:Thewholeplantis
powderedandextractedwithcoldwaterforovernight
andtheextractistakeninthemorningforstrengthening
thecardiacsystem.
Vadha:Thewholeplantisdriedandmadeintopowder
mixedwiththippili(Piperlongum),kurumiliagu(Piper
nigrum)anddriedgingerandisadministratedforVadha,
PidhaandKapha.Itismainlyusedinvitiatedconditionof
Vadha.
Wounds:Theleafpasteappliedonthefreshcutwounds
forwoundhealing.
AZHUKANNI
TheBotanicalnameoftheplantisCressacreticaL.,
belongstothefamilyConvolvalaceae.Itisaverysmall
herbaceousplantcommoninsandyshoreofSouthIndia.
Thetribalpeoplemostlycultivatethisplantinthelow
elevations.ThevernacularnameoftheplantisAzhukanni
becauseduringthedaytimeaverytinywaterdroplets
sheddingfromthetipofthisleaveswhichresemblethe
tears.Thedropletsarehavingsalttasteasthetears.Soit
iscalledas“Uppucanakai”inTamil.InSanskrititiscalled
asRudhuravanthibecauseitishavinggreatmedicinal
potentialities14,15.
Int.J.Pharm.Sci.Rev.Res.,14(2),2012;nᵒ23,135138ISSN0976044X
InternationalJournalofPharmaceuticalSciencesReviewandResearch     Page137
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Description
Thisplantisgenerallyknownasalkaliweed,shrubby,
growingaheightof30cm.InIndiaitiscommonlyfound
alongthesandyseashores.Theleavesaresmalldensely
arranged.Theleavesarenumerous,stalkless,small,
ovate,acutetipped,hairyorashyvelvety.Flowersare
small,pink,nearlystalklessandariseintheupperleaf
axis,formingamanyfloweredhead.Flowersarefunnel
shaped.FloweringoccursinthemonthofDecember
February16
Medicinalproperties
Antihelmintic:Thewholeplantisdried,powderedand
extractedwithhotwaterandisusedasAntihelmintic.
Aphrodisiac:Freshplanttwigwithleavesandflowersare
collectedandjuiceisextractedwithwaterandistaken
immediatelyatanemptystomachfor41daysbefore
takinganyfood.ThiswillactasAphrodisiac.
Asthma:Freshleavesarecollectedandmixedwiththe
leavesofTylophoraasthmaticaandAlliumcepa,Cumin
andPepperandaremadeintoapaste.Thispasteistaken
for3daysafterfoodtocureasthma.
Bilious:Leavesmadeintoapastewithapinchofturmeric
andappliedontheboilsous.
Bloodpurifier:Thewholeplantisdried,powderedandis
extractedwithwateralongwithfreshgingeror
cardamomumandthisextractisusedasbloodpurifier.
Constipation:Thedecoctionofplantistakeninthenight
toremoveconstipation.
Diabetes:Freshleaveswerecollectedandjuiceis
extractedwithwaterand5mljuiceistakenearlymorning
forsixconsecutivedaysbeforetakinganyfood.
Heathtonic:Thewholeplantextractisusedasaheath
tonic.
Jaundice:Thewholeplantiscrushedinwaterwithfew
blackpepperandsugarcandyandthemixtureistakenfor
fewdaystocurechronicfeverandjaundice.
Scabies:Theleavesaremadeintoapastealongwith
Curcumaaromaticaandpitchofturmericforscabies.
Sores:Theleavesaremadeintopasteandareappliedon
sores.
Stomachic:10gramofrootisboiledwithonetumblerof
waterandreducedto1/3volume.Therootextractis
takenassuchforStomachic
Tonic:Thedriedpowderofrootsandleavesareextracted
inhotwaterandistakenastonicafterhardwork.
Discussion
Thekanikkartribalshastheabilitytodiscernthe
characterofvariousplantsandtheirbeneficial
properties17.Thepioneerworkerinfieldofethnobotany
especiallyinKannikkar’swasE.K.JanakiAmmal.Followed
bymanyworkerslikeWilliamJebaDhass(1978),
NagendraPrasadandE.K.JanakiAmmal(1980),Ayyanar
andIgnacimuthu(2005),JohnDeBritto(2007)andmany
othersmadesomenovelattemptontheethnobotanical
studies18‐21invariouspartsofIndiaandinotherpartsof
theworld2225.
Thozhukanniisreferredasatruly“LittleknownJewel”
becausenotmuchofresearchworkisnotcarriedoutin
theplantbutitpossesslotofmedicinalproperties.The
medicinalpropertyismaybeduetothepresenceof
Tryptaminealkaloidandthehormonewhichinducethe
wellknowntelegraphicmovement.Somescientists
considerthismovementisduetolightorsome
ultrasound.SincetheKannikkarsarenemotic
agriculturalistandtheyliveinjungleoftenmetwith
poisonouscreatures.DesmodiumgyransL.,isusedas
wellknowncommonAntidoteinthekannikarsettlement.
Insearchofsanjeevani,Azhukannihasbeenplacedatthe
topofthelistof17plantspeciesthatreflectthefeatures
ofSanjeevani.Sanjeevaniisamythicalherbfromtheepic
Ramayana,saidtopossestheabilityto‘resurrect’life26.
Thesheddingoftearslikedropletofthisplantleafisa
hormonalactivitywhichisinducedbyeitherlightorsmall
soundvibration.Thecurativepropertyofthisplantisdue
tothepresenceofflavones,microelementslikelead,
copper,zincandnickel.Cressacreticacontained
moderateamountofterpenesandtanninsandsmall
amountofsaponinsandflavonoids.Boththeplantshave
manycommonuseslikeanthelmintic,stomachic,asthma,
urinarydischargesandforskindiseases2729.Itisreported
thatrecentlythisplantattainsimportantasittesticular
functionandantifertilityactivityandboththeplantshave
specificmedicinalpropertiesasAphrodisiac,blood
purifierandcardiactonic30.
CONCLUSION
Duringthelastfewdecadestherehasbeenan
exponentialgrowthinthefieldofherbalmedicineand
thesedrugsaregainingpopularityindevelopedand
developingcountriesbecauseoftheirnaturalresources
andithasfewersideeffectsforhumanbeings.AsIndiais
adevelopingcountryandhavinggreatnaturalresources
inthefieldofethnobotanyisemergingasoneofthenew
fieldinthemedicalsciences.MoreoverinSouthIndia,
theKanitribesarethelargestgroupofpeopletheyare
usingtheherbsinandaroundthemfortreatingtheir
ailments.
Inthepresentstudy,theethnobotanicalusesof
DesmodiumgyransandCressacreticaplantsarewidely
usedintheirtreatise.Bothplantshavemanycommon
medicinalproperties.Boththeplantsareusedfor
commonailmentslikeVadha,Pidha,Kapha,diabetic,
asthma,skinailments,antihelmintic,antiinflammatory
andfever.Inadditiontothattheseplantshavebeenused
asabloodpurifier,cardiotonicandespeciallyas
Aphrodisiac.Thisinformationwillthrownewlightsinthe
fieldofmedicopharmacologicalstudies.Itisnotonly
essentialtoconservethewealthofinformationlingering
amongthetribalsbutalsotoapplythemonmodernbio
Int.J.Pharm.Sci.Rev.Res.,14(2),2012;nᵒ23,135138ISSN0976044X
InternationalJournalofPharmaceuticalSciencesReviewandResearch     Page138
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medicalandagrotechnologicallinestomeetaever
increasingrequirementsofmankindinmedicineand
agriculture.
Acknowledgements:Oneoftheauthor(P.Nagendra
Prasad)isgratefultotheUniversityGrantsCommission
UGCNo.F.3525/2009(SR)forfinancialassistancetocarry
outthisinvestigation.
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