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Acquisition of Ethnobotanical Knowlegde on Zingiberales From Tribal’s of Kollam District, Kerala, India


Department of Botany, Catholicate College, Pathanamthitta, Kerala


An ethnobotanical study was carried out to collect information on the use of Zingiberales by the tribal people of Piravanthur, Kuriyotumala, Achankovil, Ariankavu, Urukkunu, Kulathupuzha areas of Kollam District, Kerala. Information presented in this paper was gathered from five major tribal group viz Malaipandaram, Kanikaran, Malavedan, Ulladan and Malakuravan. The studies include botanical collections, group discussions, direct interaction and personal interviews. A total of 18 ethnobotanically important plant species distributed in 5 families (Zingiberaceae, Marantaceae, Costaceae, Canaceae and Musaceae) were documented. The plants used by these five major tribal groups are listed with botanical name, family, local name, parts used and uses. The data obtained were subjected to analysis such as informant consensus factor and use value. The information obtained from the study will be useful for further studies and developing new drugs.

Key words: Ethnobotany, Kollam, Malaipandaram, Kanikaran, Malavedan, Zingiberales


The tribals dwelling in remote places depend on the forest that includes rich diversity of flora and fauna to meet their lively hood and health care needs1,2,3. The former ethnobotanical studies revealed that the tribal population depend on plant based resources for medicines, food, forage, and fuel, and also play a vital role in the management of natural resources4,5.

Zingiberales are monophyletic clade of eight families and they are almost entirely restricted to tropical regions6. The order Zingiberales are with immense medicinal values is distributed widely throughout the tropics, particularly in Southeast Asia. It includes an important natural resource that provides many useful products for food, spices, medicines, dyes, perfume and aesthetics. It constitutes a vital group of rhizomatous medicinal and aromatic plants characterized by the presence of volatile oils and oleoresins of export value and widely distributed in India, and in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia.

The main objective of this study was to assess the diversity of ethnobotanically important Zingiberales used by Tribals of Kollam District and document the traditional knowledge including medicinal practices followed in healing ailments. Similar ethnobotanical studies have been reported in several parts of India to document the traditional know ledge that has been vanishing3,4,7,8,9. The documentation of traditional knowledge through ethnobotanical studies is important for the conservation of biological resources and their sustainable utilization.


Study Area and People

The study areas include tribal inhabiting area viz. Piravanthur, Kuriyote mala, Achankovil, Ariankavu, Urukkunu, Kulathupuza of Kollam District (Map1). Information presented in this paper was gathered from five major tribal group viz Malaipandaram, Kanikaran, Malavedan, Ulladan, Malakuravan. Kanikkar are distributed mainly in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam Districts and in the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu. They were called ‘Kanikkar’ by the sage Agastya, signifying ‘hereditary predator of land’. Kani means Land and Karan means owner. Earlier they subsisted on hunting, minor forest produce collection and cultivation .Now they practice settled agriculture like cultivation of rice and tapioca. Malaipandaram are found on the eastern hill areas of Kollam Pathanamthitta Districts. The social organization of Malaipandaram is typically of territorial nomadic forest dwelling communities as they remain for some time in one place and move on to another in search of non-timber forest produces. Malavedans are found mainly in the Districts of Kollam, Pathanamthitta, and Kottayam. They are also scattered in neighbouring areas. Malavedans who subsisted mainly on food gathering and hunting have turned as manual labourers. Ulladans are living in eastern regions of Pathanamthitta District. They were semi nomadic in the past. They have the indigeneous knowledge of collecting medicinal herbs which they sell in the local markets. Malakkuravan’s are mainly found in Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, and Kottayam districts. They are engaged in hunting, collection of honey and agriculture. Women are engaged in fire-wood collection, fortune-telling and palmistry10. 

Collection of Ethnobotanical Information

The ethanobotanical studies were conducted in five major tribal inhabiting area of Kollam District viz. during September 2016 to May 2017. The field trips were carried out to villages and areas inhabited by tribal people. The data were collected through group discussions, direct interaction and personal interviews. The information obtained was documented in a data sheet. The data included the botanical name, local name, location, useful part, uses, mode of preparation, administration and their utility as remedy for treating diseases.

Use Categories

Based on the information obtained from the traditional healers and house wives in the study area, the ailments were categorized into 9 ailments and 3 other categories viz. Genito urinary ailments (GUA), Respiratory system disorder (RSD), Dermatological infections/disorders (DID), Gastro intestinal ailments (GIA), Ear infection (EAI), Eye infection (EYI), Kidney stone (KS), Poisonous bites (PB), Tooth pain (TP), Food products (FP), Spice (SP), Others (OT). The information gained were included under any of these categories and used for analysis. 

Collection of specimens and Taxonomic Studies

The specimens were collected from the study area and taxonomic studies were carried out in the laboratory. Detailed descriptions were prepared and photographs were taken. The specimens were identified using relevant literature and Flora11,12. Voucher specimens of each taxon were deposited at Catholicate College Herbarium (CATH) and specimens are conserved at Catholicate College Botanical Garden.

Data analysis

Informant consensus factor (Fic)

The informant consensus factor (Fic) was used to find out if there was an agreement in the use of Zingiberales in the ailment categories between the plant users in the study area. The Fic was calculated by the following formula13.

Fic = Nur-Nt / Nur – 1

Where Nur refers to the number of use-reports for a particular ailment category and Nt refers to the number of taxa used for a particular ailment category by all informants. The product of this factor ranges from 0 to 1. A high value (close to 1.0) indicates that relatively few taxa are used by a large proportion of the informants. A low value indicates that the informants disagree on the taxa to be used in the treatment within a category of illness.

Use value (UV)

The relative importance of each plant species known locally to be used as herbal remedy is reported as the use value (UV) and it was calculated using the following formula14.

UV = / N

∑U n where UV is the use value of a species, U is the number of use reports cited by each informant for a given plant species and n is the total number of informants interviewed for a given plant.


Documentation of Ethnobotanical Knowledge

The ethnobotanical studies on Zingiberales of Kollam District were carried out among 5 tribal’s viz. Malaipandaram, Kanikaran, Malavedan, Ulladan and Malakuravan (Figure 1). A total of 18 ethnobotanically important plant species distributed in 5 families such as Zingiberaceae, Marantaceae, Costaceae, Canaceae and Musaceae were recorded.

Informant consensus factor (Fic)

Fic was determined for 12 categories (Respiratory system disorder (RSD), Dermatological infections/disorders (DID), Genito urinary ailments (GUA), Kidney stone (KS), Poisonous bites (PB), Eye infection (EYI), Ear infection (EAI), Tooth pain (TP), Food products (FP), Spice (SP), Others (OT)) (Table 1). The value of FIC for these 12 categories was ranging from 0.25 to 1 (Table 3). Commonly the value of FIC for disease treatment depends upon the availability of plant species in that area15. The highest value of FIC was reported for Eye infection and Ear infection (1.0). A single species Costus speciosus is used for curing both ailments. The lowest value of Fic was for tooth pain (0.25), and lowest values of Fic may be due to lack of communication among the informants15.

Table 1: Ailments and other categories

S/N Ailment categories Biomedical terms
1 Genito Urinary Ailments (GUA) Menstrual problems, postnatal care
2 Respiratory System Disorder (RSD) Chest pain, fever, cough
3  Dermatological Infections/Disorders (DID) Pimple, skin irritation, burning injury, dandruff
4 Gastro Intestinal Ailments (GIA) Stomach pain
5 Ear Infection (EAI) Ear irritation,
6 Eye Infection(EYI) Eye disease
7 Poisonous Bites (PB) Spider poison, snake bite
8 Kidney Stone (KS) Kidney stone(kidney disease)
9 Tooth Pain (TP) Tooth pain
10 Spice (SP) Spices
11 Food products (FP) Food, baby food, body immunization.
Others (OT) Pooja, house cleaning, food serving, fish hunting, dyes

 Table 2: Informant consensus factor (Fic) of Zingiberales used by tribal’s of Kollam District

S/N Ailment category/Food/Spice No. of use report No of Taxa Average (Fic)
1 Respiratory system disorder (RSD) 44 4 0.93
2 Dermatological infections/disorders (DID) 93 6 0.94
3 Genito urinary ailments (GUA) 4 2 0.66
4 Gastro intestinal ailments (GIA 99 4 0.96
5 Kidney stone (KS) 42 2 0.97
6 Poisonous bites (PB) 16 2 0.93
7 Eye infection (EYI) 6 1 1
8 Ear infection (EAI) 7 1 1
9 Tooth pain (TP) 5 4 0.25
10 Food products (FP) 67 8 0.89
11 Spice (SP) 16 4 0.8
12 Others (OT) 70 7 0.91

Use Value (UV)

The species with highest UVs are Curcuma amada (2.0), Curcuma longa (1.98), Costus speciosus (1.88) and Eletteria cardamomum (1.88). The plants with the highest UV indicate species that are considered most important for the Tribal people. The details are given in Table 3. UV has also been associated with issues of conservation, based on the idea that the most important species will suffer the greatest harvesting pressure16 

Table 3: Use value (UV) of Zingiberales used by tribal groups of Kollam District

S/N Binomial name No. of use reports(U) Total no. of informants(N) Use value
1 Curcuma longa 99 50 1.98
2 Curcuma zedoria 23 14 1.64
3 Curcuma amada 30 15 2
4 Curcuma aromatica 39 27 1.44
5 Zingiber officinale 81 54 1.5
6 Zingiber zerumbet 4 3 1.33
7 Alpinia calcarata 13 8 1.62
8 Alpinia galanga 27 21 1.28
9 Kaempferia galanga 63 37 1.70
10 Kaempferia rotunda 1 1 1
11 Eletteria cardamomum 17 9 1.88
12 Enseta superbum 37 20 1.85
13 Hedychium coronarium 17 16 1.06
14 Maranta arundinaceae 12 11 1.09
15 Costus speciosus 17 9 1.88
16 Canna edulis 8 7 1.14
17 Musa acuminata 3 3 1
18 Costus pictus 2 2 1

Plant Parts Used and Mode of Utilization

Most of the time drugs are utilized in the fresh form. It is found that rhizome is the main part used for medicine, food etc. The most frequently used preparations being raw, juice, powder, decoction, paste. The methods and period of administration may be widely different. The details are given in Table 4, Figures 2 & 3.

Table 4: List of Zingiberales used by tribals of Kollam District

S/N Botanical name (Family) Local name Parts used Preparation
1 Curcuma longa


Manjal Rhizome Raw, Paste, Powder.
2 Curcuma zedoria


Manja koova/channa Rhizome Raw, Powder
3 Curcuma amada


Manga inchi Rhizome Raw
4 Curcuma aromatica


Kasthuri manjal Rhizome Paste
5 Zingiber officinale


Inchi Rhizome Juice, Raw, Powder, Decoction
6 Zingiber zerumbet


Channa Rhizome Juice
7 Kaempferia galanga


Kacholam Rhizome Juice, Raw
8 Kaempferia rotunda


Cheganeer kizange Rhizome Raw
9 Eletteria cardamomum


Elam Seeds Powder
10 Hedychium coronarium


Kalyana sougandhikam Flower, Rhizome Raw
11 Alpinia calcarata


Chittaratha Rhizome Juice, Raw
12 Alpinia galangal


Kolinchi Rhizome Juice, Raw
13 Musa acuminata


Vazha Fruit Powder
14 Enseta superbum


Kallu vazha Seed, root Powder , Juice
15 Canna edulis


Vazha chembu Rhizome Raw
16 Maranta arundinacea


Vella koova Rhizome Raw, Powder
17 Costus speciosus


Chenthi / shinkaluru thandu Stem, Leaves Juice, Raw
18 Costus pictus Prameha chedi Leaves Raw, Juice


This documentation of diversity of Zingiberales and their applications shows the rich tradition in ethnobotanical knowledge among tribals of Kollam District. However, the results may also imply that this knowledge is deteriorating from the younger generation. The present investigation could open a path for future pharmacological research works and serve as reference for future quantitative ethnobotanical investigation.


The authors are grateful to Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) for the financial assistance to the research project on Ethnobotanical studies on Zingiberaceae of Kerala (029/SRSLS/2014/CSTE) and UGC (MRP(S)-0601/13-14/KLMG016/UGC-SWRO) for the project on Zingiberaceae. Thanks are due to the Department of Forests, Kerala State for providing necessary forest permission.


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