Author Topic: 'PLANTS TREASURES, TRADITIONAL KNOWDEGE AND BALOCH SOCIETY' By Panah Baloch  (Read 5344 times)

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Bi-Annual Research Journal,  "Balochistan Review",  Volume XXVIII,No.1.2013, ISBN: 1810-2174, Balochistan Study Centre, University of Balochistan, Quetta.

PLANTS TREASURES, TRADITIONAL KNOWDEGE AND BALOCH SOCIETY
Muhammad Panah Baloch*, Muhammad Yousuf Marri **, Muhammad Afzal Qaisrani***, Abdullah Baloch*
*Arid Zone Research Center, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Quetta.
**Coastal Agricultural Research Institute, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Lasbella.
***Social Sciences Research Institute, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Quetta.

ABSTRACT
This paper covers Indigenous Knowledge of medicinal plants, its application in Baloch area and its importance in the rural life and impact on the Baloch society.  Baloch society possesses rich history and culture of tribalism and nomadism with regard to indigenous knowledge of folklore plants. The uses of medicinal plants are diverse and for the treatment of jaundice, cold, fever, stomachache, headache, diarrhea, gonorrhea, dysentery, eyes and skin diseases, kidney pain, toothache, typhoid, hairfall, abortion purpose, sunstroke, joints pain, swelling of body, purification of blood, constipation, intestinal worms, pimples, chest infection, liver complaints, snake and insect bites, diabetics, high blood pressure, backache problem, birth related troubles, and child diseases.  Pupu, one of the main character of this study, centuries old expert in traditional knowledge on useful folk medicines known to the pupu women through experience of ages is usually passed on from generation to generation, developed over time and continuous to make use of it.  Pupu women are illiterate in the sense that they have no education except some knowledge of medicinal plants and their usages. Generally, the indigenous knowledge about folklore plants is demolishing, hence further research on these beneficial plants, location identification and composition is required for larger development and conservation of these precious floras. No body knows the collection date of all the medicinal plants are being sold in various pansar shops. There are more than 50 medicinal shops in Quetta city. Only pupus are not responsible to bring medicinal knowledge to the end users but hakims are the right practitioner to take care of medicinal herb knowledge for human treatment.
There is growing demand for plant-based medicines, health products, food supplements; cosmetics etc in the regional and international markets. It is suggested that their value addition may bring foreign exchange for the country.  The transmission of knowledge from folk had been decreasing, however due to involvement ethno botanical research, awareness of local community and overall global trend towards resurgence of transmission of knowledge from herbalist to community will bring modern knowledge to the end users.
 
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INTRODUCTION
Indigenous knowledge (often called traditional knowledge, folk wisdom and/or folk knowledge) is a local knowledge of any field of human inquiry that does not originate in academic or corporate research institutions but rather is based on local level accumulated knowledge that is inherited through tribalism and culture (Niazi, A.R., 2011). Indigenous knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society which provides pedestal for agriculture, health care, food preservation, education, environmental conservation and other life processes on the local level (Thomas 1995). Indigenous communities for different localities of the world have developed their own specific knowledge on the plant resources, its usage, natural resource management and conservation (Cotton, 1996). Developed countries needs to access biodiversity resources and developing countries seek to ensure that access is regulated and to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits through transfer of technology (Latif & Shinwari, 2005). In the Baloch area the local communities of different regions have centuries old knowledge and traditional practices for the usage of medicinal plants and treatment of various diseases (Bhardwaj & Gakhar, 2005). This knowledge of plants has been transferred from generation to generation through oral communication and personal experiences (Shinwari, 2010). In early 1950 up to 84% of Pakistani population was dependent on indigenous medicines for traditional health practices, but now this is practiced only in the remote areas (Ibrar et al., 2007) because Indigenous knowledge develops and changes with the passage of time, medicinal plants and health facilities.     
Baloch are living in the hefty populated area comprising some 350,000 km of western Pakistan and a further 400,000 km of southern Iran and southwestern Afghanistan. The Baloch are the inhabitants of the arid and desert areas of Balochistan.  The climate is arid to semi- arid, ranging from coastal tropical to cool temperature in north. Major ecological zones are upland, plain, coastal and desert. The annual rain fall ranges from 100 mm along the Makran coast to 350 mm in the Northeast of Zhob. Most of rains fall occurs in winter and monsoon rainfall can be significant along the southern (Khuzdar & Lasbela), north east (Sibi, Musakhail, Barkhan,Loralai). Higher altitudes get snow as well. Summer temperature shoots up as high as 47 0C in Turbat, Sibi and winter the temperature falls to -18 0C in Kalat.  Humidity is generally less than 10 percent it rises during rainy season. Thus, Balochistan is blessed with diverse climate, flora and fauna (Khan A.M.). The flora of Balochistan is Persian in character and very much less than Afghanistan: but it is northern enough to contain a violet, a primula, the English hawthorn, an anemone, a gentian and plants of many genera familiar in North-Western Europe (Burkill, I.H., 1969).
 The structure, behavior and social set up of Baloch society in its essence is influenced by nomadism and tribalism. Nomadism which is one of the basic elements of Baloch socio-political organization retains its presence in Balochistan (Dashti, N.,2008).     Baloch pastoralists are basically nomad/semi-nomad and used to travels round the year along with their animals within Balochistan. During travelling and stay at either ends, they have very limited access to health facilities, so their reliance on medicinal herb treatment is natural. Migration of Baloch pastoralists from upland to low land in winter and return back as the summer set up is centuries old tradition (Dashti, N., 2008). Change in life pattern, security and expansion of agriculture on pasture land has dwindled considerably their movement and they settled in upland region. On their way, stay on both ends, they used to collect medicinal plants and carry them as medicine for their own use. Balochistan is naturally prosperous of medicinal plants habitat due to various ecological zones. Their poetry and songs celebration signify that are both nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists and very difficult to reconcile with a settled life. The most celebrated of their poems, which are they use as a favorite, begins (Baloch, M.S.K, 2012):
The Baloch forts are their mountains
Their storehouses are in pathless rock faces
Their peaks are better than an army
The lofty heights are their friends
Their refreshment is from flowing springs
The leaf of the dwarf palm their bed
The hard ground their pillow……………

Pahwal (nomads) are the frequent user of medicinal herbs for various diseases. Elderly pahwal women are expert in knowledge of herbal medicines, who examine the patients and recommend treatments for them (Baloch, M.A.,1988). The elderly women in a Baloch household are often specialist in knowledge and techniques of popular treatments. They have knowledge of home remedies for number of problems. Some settlements have an elderly female of one household act by default as the sole herbalist, masseur and traditional midwife (Baluk) for the whole settlement ( Dashti, N., 2008).   
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OBJECTIVES
Objectives of this study are:
i)   To identify the Indigenous Knowledge that is used in herbal treatment,
ii)   To document the role of folklore plants in health care in the Baloch society and
iii)   To make recommendations/suggestion to save these naturally grown plants for the betterment of human beings.




METHODOLOGY
To carry out the study objectives, the following methods were applied for data collection. The information was collected through Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) through using check list in interviewing Baloch nomadic women, pupu and pansars. Two groups of Nomads were interviewed in Dasht valley at the opening of Bolan pass whereas 3 pupu were interviewed in Sabzi mandi and two in Mastung. Five pansars were interviewed in sariab and Thana road, Quetta. The study districts included in this study were Quetta, Bolan and Mastung.  A checklist was prepared in the light of literature review and personal information gathered. Pupu belong to Baloch tribe which is recognized as plant collector, its user in healthcare and selling to rural and urban populations are the only medicinal herb promoters and health practitioner. Locally pupu are known as herbal hakim. Their profession is the only source of their major livelihood. They are rich in experience for the preparation of traditional medicine and got this profession from their forefathers, were also interviewed. It was difficult for the survey team to cover all pansars located in Quetta city, however, five Pansaars located in city were also included in this study to verify the plant source, its usage in human heal.  Secondary data from published material as well as on internet was also used where it was necessary.
DISCUSSION
   Herbal medicine is also known a botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology and phytotherapy. The human and even Neanderthals have used the plants to treat their ailments for the least ten of thousand years; most likely even longer then. The first written accounts of herbal use originate in china, although all other civilization from the ancient world was using plants as natural remedies for their ailments. Western herbal medicine dates back to ancient Greece and its doctors like Hippocrates and Galen (UK-SkepticsC-2004). Hippocrates advocated the use of a few simple herbal drugs along with fresh air, rest, and proper diet. Galen, on the other hand, recommended large doses of drug mixture- including plant, animal and mineral ingredients. The Greek physicians compiled the first European treatise on the properties and uses of medicinal plants, De Materia Medica (Herbalism- Wikipedia).  The 15th and 17th centuries were the most popular time for herbalism in Europe.  Herbal remedies are still relatively popular today, mainly due to the fact that, they are regarded as harmless because they are natural.
      Balochistan is native home of some herbal plants. In Balochistan various wild herbs are being collected and sold in the local market by local community on below the market price. During the survey, the pansars have listed 43 medicinal plants out of 156 produced in various parts of Balochistan are purchased through their agents residing near to collection point. They also mentioned that dry year produces low quantity of herbs, so they import from India and Nepal to fulfill the market demand. Local produce is fresh and can be stored for a longer period whereas imported medicinal plants have no record of collection, stated by herbal dealers. Karachi and Lahore are the main market for medicinal herbs, so Balochistani herbal shops are bound to buy from them. Every plant produced in nature definite have expiry period but medicinal herbs have no check and balance about their expiry. There should be some rules and regulations on these medicinal plants as human life matters. The drug Inspectors should be involved to collect samples from pansar shops for analysis. Most of the medicinal herbal products do not have expiry date. However, very limited scientific knowledge is available on the potential herbs, which can be cultivated and utilized for different purposes. The vulnerability of medicinal herbs and species to over- exploitation and extinction needs to be dealt pragmatically (Khan, A.M.,2011).  There are 6,000 plants species in Pakistan (Shinwari-1996). Out of which only 1010 species are so far identified as having medicinal value. Of these 456 medicinal plants are traded in the domestic market and their sustainability and availability never cease and form a potential source for the indigenous herbal industry (Usmanghani-2000)   
The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock was initiated a project captioned as “Introduction of Medicinal Herbs and Spices as crop (IMHSC)”. One the objective of the project was documentation of the indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants and spices. Another project captioned “Production of Medicinal Herbs in the Collaboration with Private Sector” also completed with results the of documentation of 92 plants. However in other project some value added productions of herbal plants like, Chamomile Herbal Tea, Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano and a Mint mouthwash are produced at Arid Zone Research Centre, Pakistan Agricultural Council, Quetta at small scale. Some regional and national companies like, Hamdard Laboratories (Waqf) Limited, Qarshi Industries (Pvt) Limited, Dittu Sons, Merck Marker (Pvt) Limited and other are using medicinal and other useful plants for production of herbal medicines, health products, food supplements, cosmetics, pharmaceutical etc. and earning billions of rupees.     
   Although Pupus are illiterate but are rich in knowledge using medicinal herbs for human treatment. They have mentioned that some of the medicinal herbs have demolished with the passage of time, overgrazing and occurrence of frequent droughts. Now we purchase these herbs from pansar stores. They further stated that medicinal plants are not only used in treatment but their seed, roots, shoots and flowers are equally important. After collection of these plants, we cleaned, dried up in shade and grind manually. A pupu stated that single plant has multiple usages for dissimilar diseases. When enquired about detail, she refused to explain.
Traditional medical knowledge of medical plants and their use by indigenous cultures are not only useful for conservation of cultural traditions and biodiversity but also for community healthcare and drug development in the present and future (Thirumalai-2010). Elderly women of Baloch society having Indigenous knowledge of use of medicinal plant from centuries and preparation for home remedies (pounding, grinding, mixing, and cooking) from the roots, shoot, bark, leaf, flower, seed, and/or fruit of plants are also carried out by these elderly women. The remedies used frequently at home could include herbs and plants are easily available in area. These family healers transfer their expertise to their offspring or daughter in law. Archeologist in Mehrgarh in Balochistan province in the present day of Pakistan discovered that the people of Indus Valley Civilization from early Harppan periods (c.3300 BC) had knowledge of medicine and dentistry (Pre-Historic medicine: Wikipedia). Another writer narrated that “Plants remains were recovered in all parts of the excavation and the recovery methods used varied to suit the different parts context” (Costatini, L., 1985).  This is fact that in old times the hakims (the herbalists) were very much respected by the kings and they were treated as family doctor. 
   Herbal remedies are the basic pillars in Baloch folk medical practices but due to unavailability of medicinal plants and their lengthy procedure discouraged young generation. Now they prefer to get treatment from doctors as they prescribed medicine have quick response. Family healers, herbalists and hakims use variety of herbs in their concoctions and mixtures. Hakims and herbalists also use animal products in their medicines but the basic ingredients consist of herbal products. The majority of herbs are collected from jungle and mountains. Farmer also grows some in the fields on a commercial basis. Pupu, the Herbalists personally collect herbs but many herbs are also available in town passer shops (Dashti, N., 2008).
   Almighty Allah has mentioned in Holy Quran that every plant has certain usages and nothing created useless in this world. The folk plants are commonly used in Baloch society for many diseases like jaundice, cold, fever, stomachache, headache, diarrhea, gonorrhea, dysentery, eyes and skin diseases, kidney pain, toothache, typhoid, for hair, abortion purpose, sunstroke, joints pain, swelling of body, purification of blood, constipation, intestinal worms, pimples, chest infection, liver complaints, snake and insect bites, diabetics, high blood pressure, backache and may other ailments.
   There are thousands of medicinal and other useful plants available in Balochistan and need to be documented along with indigenous knowledge, however some indigenous knowledge of folklore plants in Baloch society are as under. These plants are used individually as well as various mixtures as and when needed in certain diseases. Pupu or Hakims have the knowledge of medicinal herbs quantity of various combinations.  In this regard local nomadic knowledge has proved its authenticity.

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