Ethnobotany, Malavettuva, Marattis, Mavilans, Koragas


The use of medicinal plants for curing various ailments is an ancient idea and a lion part of the population still rely on this indigenous mode of treatment (Mesfin et al., 2013). Nowadays A number of drugs is developed from plants, which are active against a plethora of diseases (WHO, 1991). In developed countries 25 percentage of medicinal drugs are based on plant derivatives (Principe, 2005). The use of medicinal plants is well known among indigenous people in rural areas in developing countries. India, the biodiversity hotspot, is also not an exception in the use of plant based treatments and also as nutraceuticals (Singh, 2011). Moreover, herbal medicine is important in primary health care in developing countries like India (Deviprasad et al., 2009). The WesternGhats region of Kerala is a great emporium and treasure trove of ethnobotanical wealth. Tribal medicine offers a vast scope for medicinal research with fewer side effects in cost effective ways. The present study is an attempt to investigate and document some of the medicinal plants used by different tribal groups of Kasaragod district to cure various ailments.


Study area

Kasaragod district, Northern district of Kerala which lies between 12.5°N latitude and 75.0°E Longitude (Fig 1). North and east bounded by Karnataka state, south by Kannur district and west by Arabian sea. It has an average elevation of 19 metres (62 feet). The district receives an average of about 3500 mm rainfall annually. The major source of rainfall is southwest monsoon from June to September which contributes nearly 85.3% of the total rainfall of the year. The northeast monsoon contributes nearly 8.9% and balance of 5.8% is received during the month of January to May as pre monsoon showers. The average mean monthly maximum temperature ranges from 29.2 to 33.40 C and minimum temperature ranges from 19.7 to 250 C.

Kasargod district

Fig. 1: Kasargod district

Ethnic groups

Kerala is a homeland of number of tribal communities who inhabit in the western slope of Western Ghats. Thirty six communities are listed in scheduled tribe list of the state as per 1991 census record. There are four types of scheduled tribe people present in the district which includes Koragas, Marattis, Mavilan, and Malavettuvas.


One of the most primitive tribes, living in Kasaragod Taluk only. The traditional occupation of these people is basket and skep making. They speak tulu and kannada. These people are backward financially, educationally as well as culturally. The community superstitious and reluctant to take medicine other than Gurukara (head of hamlets), who controls all socio- religious activities in a hamlet.


They are educationally and culturally forward in comparison to the other tribes in the district.


A tribal community inhabits Kannur and Kasaragod districts of North Kerala. In the past, they were dependant on forest and forest produce. They had been leading a hunting, gathering and horticulture way of life until the encroachment of Janmi (landlord) to their habitat. According to the 2001 Census, the population of Mavilan in Kasaragod district is 25110. Out of this, 12310 are males and 12800 females. Their major settlements are Chengala, Puthigae, Karadukka, Kodom, Belloor, Kinnanur, Karimthalam, Badiyadukka, Balal, Kallar and Panathady panchayath.


Community classified as an Other Eligible Community (OEC) till the Amendment (Act 10 of 2003), is a new entry into the list of Scheduled Tribes of Kerala. They are distributed only in the Ghat areas of Kasaragod and Kannur Districts. They speak a mix of Malayalam and Tulu. The headman of Malavettuvans is called ‘Kiran’ who according to tradition was appointed by their respective landlords. The ‘Kiran’ took orders from their landlord and supplied manual workers to the landlords. Traditionally Malavettuvans are experts in ‘Punamkothu’. Now they subsist mainly on agricultural labour. However the community is well organized and ready to respond to various development initiatives by the government. They reside in Kuttikol, Balal, Kallar, Kodombelur, East Eleri, West Eleri and Kinanoor – Karinthalam panchayaths.

Data collection

Ethnobotanical information was gathered from the indigenous peoples of the study area by extensive groundtruthing. During the course of exploration ethnobotanical information about plants is rather specialized and is limited to elder members in community who recognized as Vaidyar. Details of medicinal plants used, was documented by direct observation as well as through Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) along the study area.

Results and Discussion

The present study identified a total f 45 species of medicinal plants belonging to 28 families, which are common in use among the tribals of Kasaragod district. The documented medicinal plants are given in Table 1 with family, vernacular name and parts used along with their ethnobotanical uses. Out of the 45 plant species enumerated, 38 species belongs to dicotyledons, 6 of them are monocotyledons and 1 pteridophyte. Based on life forms, there are 13 herbs, 10 shrubs, 10 climbers/twiners and 12 trees. The dominant families analyzed and found that Bignoniaceae, Rutaceae, Asclepiadaceae, Commelinaceae and Fabaceae are represented with three species. The obtained results support the comprehensive and highly formulated ethnobotanical practices among tribal people in the region. Several ethnobotaniocal studies conducted worldwide already expressed real concern on rapid and profound loss of transmission of traditional knowledge and skill to their next generation with in communities. Documenting these knowledge banks is promising and will help to frame more treatment modalities and also newer drugs with more specificity and accuracy to combat not only emerging diseases but also superbugs (Herndon et al., 2009; Dikid et al., 2013 and Boire et al., 2013).

List of medicinal plants documented in the study

Sr no Scientific name Family Vernacular name Usage
1 Adenocalymma alliaceum Bignoniaceae Velluthullichedi Root powder used for the preparation of decoction which effective against uterine disorders
2 Aegle marmelos Rutaceae Koovalam Fresh fruit or fruit pulpgrounded make paste .the extract used orally to cure Liver cirrhosis
3 Alternanthera canella Amaranthaceae Cherucheera Leaf and stem extract administered orally against spider attack
4 Aristolochia indica Aristolochiaceae Urithooki Root and leaf make in to paste which is mixed with milk and rice medicated rice used against Snake poison
5 Asparagus racemosus Liliiaceae Sathavari Dried rhizome powder one teaspoon mix with milk, taken twice daily to cure urinary disorders
6 Baliospermum montanum Balanophoraceae Nagadandi Stem bark and leaf extract along with rice water administered orally against ulcers
7 Boerhavia diffusa Nyctaginaceae Thazhuthama Fresh whole plant sliced make into a paste the paste filtered by using cotton cloth filtered extract use thrice in a day foreye disease.
8 Capparis zeylanica Capparaceae Karthotti Leaf and stem boiled in water themedicated water called vethu which used against Arthritis
9 Cassia occidentale Caesalpiniaceae Anathakara Crude extract of leaf used against whitefields
11 Chromulina odorata Asteraceae Communistpacha Fresh leaves boiled with water the medicated water used to cure chikunguniya
12 Cissus quadrangularis Vitaceae Changalamparanda Stem extract applied externally on bone fracture,ear ache
13 Commelina bengalensis Commelianceae Neelolpalam Crused juice of herb is given twice a day for tratment of jaundice
14 Cyanoglossum zeylanica Boraginaceae Thumbakoduveli Intact plant crude extract used against diarrhoea
15 Drocera indica Droceraceae Urmbutheenichedi Intact plant make into paste, plant extract mix with water used against Diabetes mellitus
16 Ensetae superba Musaceae Kalluvazha Powdered seed mixed with milk used against Gynaec problems
17 Erythrina indica Fabaceae Mullumuriku Fissured bark grounded into paste.Paste used externally to relieve Heat burns
18 Ficus bengalensis Moraceae Almaram Leaf bud boiled with milk used to cure infertility problems
19 Ficus religiosa Moraceae Arrayal Three Leaf bud or bark extract mix with boiled milk to cure infertility problems
20 Gardenia jasminoides Rubiaceae Gandarajan Intact flower put into water overnight. Filtered water used to treat Conjunctiva . use three drops thrice in a day
21 Glycosmis pentaphylla Rutaceae Narumpanal Leaves boiled with water .medicated water used for bathing tender leaf extract used orally against viral fever
22 Helicterus isora Sterculiaceae Edampirivalampiri Root used along with bark of lagerstromiaflos -reginae, malaxisrheedi, zizphusrugosa and malaxisrheedi. Prepare dection which is used against psoriasis
23 Hemidesmus indicus Asclepiadacese Nannari Root used as Blood purifier. Root decoction used along with milk root paste externally applied on wounds
24 Holostema adakodiyan Asclepiadaceae Adakodiyan Root extract mixed with milk against menarche problems
25 Hydnocarpus pentandra Flacourtiaceae Marootikaya Dried fruits and seed used for oil extraction the used to cure skin disease.
26 Indigofera tinctoria Paplionaceae Neelaamari Root along with Fiushispida bark make a rice water which used against menustral problems
27 Jasminum malabaricum Rubiaceae Kattumulla Leaf and stem boiled in water the medicated water used against Arthritis Arthritis
28 Lepidagathis cuspidatus Commelinaceae Paramullu Fresh plant sliced and boiled in water. The medicated water used as Antiinflamatory
29 Murdania nudiflora Commelinaceae Paravellamkudiyan Intact plant dried and powdered, the powder mix along with piper longum and piper nigrum.the mixture make into a crude paste by using honey. The mixture effectively used against Asthma
30 Oroxylum indicum Bignonicaeae Palakapayyani Muscular pain and diarrhoea
31 Pajanelia longifolia Bignoniaceae Payyani Tender leaf paste used against ringworm infection Foot disease
32 Piper betel Piperaceae Panchurulivettila Leaf paste applied externally t treat skin disease such as scabies
33 Plumbago rosea Plumbaginaceae Chethikoduveli Processed root used for the preparation of decoction. The decoction mix with milk or ghee take two times in a day to cure Ulcers
34 Pterocarpus marsupium Fabaceae Venga Bark or hard wood put into water uptoovernight . the medicated water orally adfministered for three months to cure Diabetes
35 Ruta graveolaens Rutaceae Arutha Along with leaves of alstoniascholaris, tylophoraasthmatica, terminaliabellerica fruit powder mix with coconut oil .medicated oil externally applied against psoriasis
36 Smilax zeylanica Liliaceae Chennarvalli Stem and leaf burnt ash applied externally on wounds
37 Spondias pinnata Anacardiaceae Ambazham Tender leaf paste and fruit pulp mix with boiled water take twice in a day to cure gastric problems
38 Stereospermum colais Bignoniaceae Poopathiri Bark and root boiled in coconut oil .This medicated oil used against Backpain
39 Strychnos potatorum Loganiaceae Thettamparal Bark extract mix with milk used against Gynaec problems
40 Tamarindus indica Caesalpiniaceae Valanpuli Tenderleaves covered with cotton cloth make a small kits.The leaf kit dipped in boiled water . warmth the affected portion like joints to treat Arthritis
41 Vatakaka volubilis Asclepiadaceae Vattakakakodi Stem and leaf extract filtered in cotton cloth and filtered extract applied on eyes to cure migrain
42 Vite xnegundu Verbinaceae Karinochi Leaf extract applied on affected areas spider attack
43 Vitex altissima Verbinaceae Mayilellu Leaves crushed into paste this used externally to deep wounds and ringworm infection
44 Wrightia tinctoria Apocynaceae Dandapala Leaf soaked in coconut oil up to 7 days the oil become turned in to blue coloured, the medicated oil used against Skin disease
45 Drynaria quercifolia Filicopsida Plathadi Root tuber crushed and grinded with rice water make a paste. Paste applied on face mumps affected areas such as face and throat


Present study focuses on the utilization of plants available with tribal people of Kasaragod district in Kerala State as traditional knowledge for the treatment of various diseases. There is an urgent need for systematic documentation and scientific validation of this knowledge by using scientific tools. The intersection of technological, social, economic, political and environmental factors is the need of the hour to reshape the meanings and importance of local environmental knowledge and associated genetic resources, which paves the way for the growth and consolidation of ethnobotany, both in terms of its theoretical sophistication and its social relevance.