Indigenous knowledge on medicinal plants used by ethnic communities of South India


  • Santhosh Kumar J U Department of Biotechnology Kuvemupu University Shimoga-577451 Karnataka, India
  • Krishna Chaitanya M J St. Joseph's College (Autonomous), Bangalore 560027, India
  • Andrew J Semotiuk Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside, California, 92521, USA
  • Krishna V


Ethnic group, indigenous communities, medicinal plants, traditional knowledge


Background: The information of therapeutic medicinal plants used by ethnic/indigenous communities in the south of India is constrained at best. These ethnomedicinal treatments constitute a critical local healthcare resource and potential for expanding research on phytomedicines of India. The present study aims to document and evaluate the traditional knowledge of medicinal plants as well as compare the distribution of knowledge and examine where research efforts are concentrated in order to gain a glimpse of current needs and future possibilities for research in the region.

Methods: This study conducted a literature review of multitude of ethnic/indigenous communities in regard to ethnobotany, medicinal plants, ethnic studies, and studies on traditional knowledge and included peer-reviewed journal articles, and scientific reports published between 1980 and 2016.

Results: Our study found a total of 2000 plant species belonging to 1033 genera and 215 families used in herbal preparations. Interestingly, only seven families contributed to the highest number of medicinal species and herbs used extensively for herbal preparations which include decoctions, infusions, tonics, and juice.

Conclusions: This multi-disciplinary, wide-scale study brought in data from a wide diversity of both plant species and ethnic communities. The study documents the rich wealth of indigenous knowledge and usage of medicinal plants for the treatment of various diseases and also these research highpoints the potential of continued research with these communities and highlights some areas where more research efforts could be directed. This also underlines the potential for future studies on drug screening and the need for conservation of biodiversity and traditional ecological knowledge practices.




How to Cite

Kumar J U, S., Chaitanya M J, K., Semotiuk, A. J., & V, K. (2019). Indigenous knowledge on medicinal plants used by ethnic communities of South India. Ethnobotany Research and Applications, 18, 1–112. Retrieved from



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