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Indigneous uses of herbs as cosmetics and skin care applications among tribal people of Petalkot and Dang, India

Dr Deepak Acharya and Dr Anshu Shrivastava

Man's dependence on plants for the essentials of his existence has been of paramount importance since the human race began. Primitive man probably had few needs other than food and a little shelter. Civilization, however, has brought with it an ever-increasing complexity and has increased man's requirements to an amazing degree. The man of today is no longer content merely to exist with food and shelter as his only wants. He desires other commodities as well and raw materials that can be converted into many useful articles and products, which incidentally increase his debts to plants.

Since time immemorial, medicinal plants and their uses have been a part of our social life and prove to be powerful allies against various health problems. Though, synthetic drugs have swapped herbal healing at a certain level, renaissance and awareness on herbal medication is coming back. One of the reasons that the home remedies and traditional knowledge are more accepted in the society is their availability in most Indian kitchens and neighborhoods. These medicinal plants are affordable, eco-friendly, and having less or no side effects as compared to synthetic drugs and even can be grown in household kitchen gardens. Drugs in chemical doses or synthetic form have swapped herbal healing at a certain level. But, now people have started realizing various problems related with synthetic drugs i.e. side effects, chemical pollution, cost and availability of drugs. Renaissance and awareness on herbal medication is coming back now. Anyone can easily afford these herbal medicines. Treatment of various ailments via herbs is the oldest form of health care known to all the cultures throughout history. Various parts of herbs like the stem, leaves, roots, flowers, and fruit are used to cure health and skin disorders. In the age of speeding-up medical costs and their side effects, people are turning to herbs, the 'natural medicines'. Herbs are on menu cards of conscious folks in their regular diets. People prefer green herbs not only because of low fatty oil content for good health but also to maintain and restore their vibrant beauty (Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008)

Authors Drs Acharya and Shrivastavas have been deeply engulfed in scouting for and documenting indigenous knowledge for more than 14 years. In an attempt to feature application of herbs in cosmetics and skin care, authors bring herewith a series of article focusing on the role of 20 different medicinal plants in various cosmetic applications by the indigenous tribesmen of Patalkot ( in Central India and the Dangs in Western India. There will be a total of 20 herbs discussed in a 4 part series. Each article will discuss the role of 5 herbs in indigenous formulations as applied by the tribesmen.

In part 1 we discussed 5 plants i.e. Soapnut (Acacia sinuata), Aloe (Aloe vera), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Papaya (Carica papaya) and Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) The current article focuses 5 plants i.e. Lemon (Citrus limon), Orange (Citrus reticulata Blanco.), Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.), Turmeric Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) and Trailing Eclipta or False Daisy (Eclipta prostrata (L.) L.) and their cosmetic applications by the indigenous tribal people in India. We hope that the readers enjoy this part.

lemons (66K)

Lemon (Citrus limon (L.) Burm. f.)

Family: Rutaceae

Vernacular names: Baranebu, Goranebu (Bengali); Motu limbu (Gujarati); Baranibu, Jambira, Paharikaghzi, Paharinimbu (Hindi); Bijapura, Bijuri (Kannada); Idalimbu, Thoralimbu (Marathi); Malai elumichai, Periya elumichai (Tamil); Bijapuram (Telugu); Nimbuka (Sanskrit).

Plant Profile and Distribution: Trees up to 6m in height, with small spines; leaves oblong to elliptic ovate, lanceolate, sharp-pointed, sub-serrate; flowers purple in the bud; fruits ovoid or oblong with a terminal nipple, very acid; seeds few, small. Commonly planted everywhere in India.

Medicinal Importance

Lemon is soothing, energizing and acts in toning the skin. It cures infectious diseases. It provides energy to an aching body, boosts circulation and can be used for cellulite. Lemon is effective in acne, blood circulation, corns, warts, cuts and fungus. It lightens the skin pigment. Lemons are an excellent preventative medicine. The fruit is rich in vitamin C which helps the body to fight off infections and also to prevent or treat scurvy (Chopra et al., 1986). Lemon juice is an astringent and is used as a gargle for throat problems. It is also very effective bactericide and a good antiperiodic and has been used as a substitute for quinine in treating malaria and other fevers. The stem bark is bitter, stomachic and tonic (Duke and Ayensu, 1985).

Traditional Tribal Formulations

Mandukparni (Centella asiatica) whole plant, Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica) root powder, Karanj (Pongamia pinnata) root oil is taken for cleansing, soothing and conditioning of male facial skin. Grind all the herbs /parts in equal amount and mix with fresh buttermilk and a few drops of Nimbu juice. Apply this paste to the face and neck. Leave on for about fifteen minutes. In another formulation for the same purpose, take Majeth (Rubia cordifolia) root, Harra (Terminalia chebula) fruit and Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) entire herb in equal amount and add a few drops of Nimbu (Citrus limon) fruit juice and honey. Grind all the herbs /parts. Apply this paste to the face. Leave on for about fifteen minutes and allow to dry until the skin feels tight and revitalized.

For suppressing male skin hair growth, a combination of Babuna ke Phool (Chamaemelum nobile) oil, Ghritkumari (Aloe barbadensis) leaf, Ruscus aculeatus rhizome, Mandukparni (Centella asiatica) whole plant and Nimbu is prepared. Delicately massage the complete mixture of herbs/ parts onto the facial skin until it is completely absorbed. Apply this formulation four to five times a week to inhibit hair growth and to reduce skin irritation and ingrown hairs. Use more often if the hair is thick and dark. Always ensure that complete absorption has been achieved before applying any other skin care cream/ lotion to the same area. Avoid contact with the eyes. If the mixture enters the eyes, gently flush with warm water. In another formulation, a combination of Kusum (Carthamus tinctorius) seed oil, Chana (Cicer arietinum) flour, Gehun (Triticum aestivum) flour, Nimbu juice and honey is prepared. This combination can be used as a face pack twice a week. Apply to the skin as a face mask and allow to dry. Once dry, it can be removed by slightly wetting it so it can be rubbed and washed off. Regular use of this application checks hair growth on facial skin after some time.

Equal amounts of Basil extract, Lemon (Citrus limon) juice and Onion (Allium cepa) extract help all types of skin diseases. Those afflicted by pimples can blend crushed Basil with Mint (Mentha virdis) and Lemon juice, and apply to the affected area.

Powder of Ginger (Zinziber officinale) rhizome (one tbsp), Indian Ginseng (Withania somnifera) roots (two tbsp), Chebulic Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) fruits (one tbsp) and Lemon (Citrus limon) peel (one tbsp). This formulation is taken once a day early in the morning. It stimulates blood circulation and tones the body.

To treat rough skin, mix one teaspoon Almond (Prunus amygdalus) oil with half a teaspoon each of milk cream and Lemon (Citrus limon). Apply every night on face and neck.

oranges (58K)

Orange (Citrus reticulata Blanco.)

Family: Rutaceae

Vernacular names: Kamla Lebu (Bengali); Narangi, Santra (Gujarati & Hindi); Kittale (Kannada); Santra (Marathi); Kamala, Santra (Oriya); Kamala, Koorg Kudagu Orange (Tamil); Kamalapandu (Telugu); Kamala, Sumthira (Assamiya); Santara (Punjabi).

Plant Profile and Distribution: Small spiny trees with dense top of slender branches; leaves lanceolate; petioles narrowly winged or slightly margined; flowers white, single or in unbranched inflorescence; fruits flattened or depressed globose, yellow or reddish orange. The plant is grown mainly in Central India for its delicious fruits, also planted widely in other parts of India.

Medicinal Importance

Orange peel oil has shown fairly good anti-fungal activity. It is used traditionally as a Sun cream. It improves complexion, nourishes and makes the skin soft. It is effective in dull, uneven complexion. It clears dark spots, discolored and pigmented skin. It is suitable for all skin types. Orange oil penetrates deep into skin to replenish lost moisture and ensure essential moisture balance, to keep the skin soft and supple (Sharma and Mishra, 1995).

Traditional Tribal Formulations

For cleansing, soothing and conditioning of male facial skin, Narangi (peel), Ghodavach (Acorus calamus) (rhizome oil), Chicory (Cichorium intybus) (seed) and honey is mixed in an equal proportions to prepare a paste. Cleanse the face and neck thoroughly with fresh water. Apply this combination all over the face and neck in upward circular motions, twice a day.

Acne occurs frequently on oily and dirty skin. To keep skin clear and young looking, take two teaspoons Orange (Citrus reticulata) peel powder and prepare a paste with yogurt. Rub it on the face in circular motions. Wash off with cold water. This removes excess oil, exfoliates the skin and opens blocked pores.

cucumber (102K)

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.)

Family: Cucurbitaceae

Vernacular Names: Khira (Bengali, Hindi, Marathi); Dosakaya (Telugu); Vellarikkai, Kakrikai (Tamil).

Plant Profile and Distribution: A trailing or climbing annual plant, with simple short tendrils; leaves alternate, five-bladed; flowers yellow, funnel-shaped; male flowers single or in 3 to 7-flowered cluster; female flowers solitary or in pairs; fruits dark green to light green; seeds elliptic, white. Widely cultivated throughout India and in the tropical and subtropical parts of the world.

Medicinal Importance

The fruits are eaten raw, cooked as a vegetable and as salad. The plant is prescribed in Ayurveda in vitiated condition of pitta and in general debility. It is equally beneficial in fever, insomnia, headache, burning sensation and jaundice. Decoction of the roots has diuretic properties. Fruits are medicinally used in hemorrhage, kidney diseases and calculi. The fruits are used externally to treat burns, sores etc. It is also very much used for various beauty care treatments. The seeds are reported to be cooling, tonic and diuretic. The juice prepared from the leaves is considered emetic and used for treatment of dyspepsia in children.

Traditional Tribal Formulations

To lighten dark complexion, a face pack is prepared from grated cucumber and tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum) fruits. This mixture is applied all over the face for 15 minutes.

Peel the cucumber and slice two thin rounds. These slices are placed over the eyes for 10 minutes and then removed. It provides a cooling effect and benefits puffy eyes.

For reducing dark circles under eyes, grated cucumber is mixed with an equal amount of grated carrot and a few drops of rose water. It is applied to the area beneath the eyes for half an hour and then rinsed with water.

To treat dark circles, a paste of cucumber is mixed with fresh cows milk and applied to the area beneath the eyes for half an hour. Wash the face with cold water after 30 minutes.

turmeric (61K)

Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.)

Family: Zingiberaceae

Vernacular Names: Haldi, Halada (Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi); Arishina (Kannada); Haridra (Sanskrit); Manjal (Tamil); Pasupu (Telugu).

Plant Profile and Distribution: Small, rhizomatous, perennial herbs, with short stem; rhizomes short, thick, yellow; leaves large, oblong-lanceolate, acuminate, distinctly nerved, tufted; flowers yellow, funnel-shaped, in long spikes. It is cultivated extensively on a large scale as vegetable and spice crop throughout in India, particularly in southern States.

Medicinal Importance

The traditional use of turmeric as an antiseptic is has an ancient history in India. It has been widely used by women in skin care, particularly to discourage facial hair and acne. Mixed with slaked (hydrated) lime, Turmeric was a well known household remedy for sprains and swellings caused by injury. In Indian systems of medicine, it is considered alterative, stomachic, antiperiodic and given as a blood purifier. Powdered rhizome has long been used as an antiseptic on cuts, wounds and to stop bleeding. The rhizomes are found useful in the treatment of common cold, fever, skin diseases, ulcers and rheumatic inflammation of joints. It is carminative, appetizer and considered as a tonic for general health. Rhizome is given orally as a digestive, stimulant, to treat blood disease and for amnesia, cancer, bronchitis and cough. Decoction of the rhizome acts as an emmenagogue and given in amenorrhea to promote menses, and for rheumatic pain of joints and limbs. Decoction of the entire plant is given orally to treat renal or urinary calculi. Juice of rhizome is taken orally for hepatitis and as a poultice for bruises. Juice of fresh plant is said to be anthelmintic (CSIR, 1948-1976; Chopra, 1958).

Traditional Tribal Formulations

A pinch of Haldi powder mixed with a teaspoon of Dhania (Coriandrum sativum) juice is an effective home remedy for pimples and blackheads.

Topical application of Haldi and Chandan (Santalum album) wood paste (prepared in rosewater) helps in curing skin infection and pimples.

A pinch of Haldi powder mixed with a teaspoon of Dhania (Coriandrum sativum) juice is a wonderful home remedy for pimples and blackheads.

Prepare face pack by mixing Haldi powder with leaves of Gamathi Phudina (Mentha piperita) and Nimbu (Citrus limon) to cure pimples.

Apply a blend of raw milk, Kakdi (Cucumis sativa) juice and Jaitun (Olea europaea) oil and add a pinch of Haldi powder to improve complexion.

For pimples, apply Haldi powder, Masur (Lens esculenta) seed powder, Arjun (Terminalia arjuna) bark powder are mixed with Rose (Rosa indica).

To remove black spots from face, tuber powder, Chandan (Santalum album) powder, Varun (Crataeva nurvala) powder is mixed with buttermilk and applied to face.

For skin fairness, Haldi powder, Aonla (Emblica officinalis) fruit powder, Mulethi (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Chandan (Santalum album) and Til (Sesamum indicum) powder are mixed and added to a bucket of water to add to a bath. Follow this procedure regularly for a month (Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008, 2011).

Trailing Eclipta (73K)

Trailing Eclipta or False Daisy (Eclipta prostrata (L.) L.)

Family: Asteraceae

Vernacular Names: Kesuti, Keshukti (Bengali); Bhangra (Gujarati); Bhangra, Bhringraj (Hindi); Garagadasoppu (Kannada); Kyonni (Malayalam); Bhringuraja, Maka (Marathi); Kesarda (Oriya); Bhringaraja (Sanskrit); Garuga, Kayanthakara (Tamil); Galagara, Quntagalijeru (Telugu).

Plant Profile and Distribution: Prostrate or decumbent, hirsute, annual herbs, often rooting at lower nodes; leaves subsessile, opposite, strigose; flowers in hemispherical, solitary heads, white; achenes angular, compressed, tuberculate, brown, with thickened margins and ciliate ring of pappus. Common plant of aquatic and marshy habitats, grows extensively along water channels and drainage.

Medicinal Importance

Plant is used in the treatment of asthma, inflammation, ring worm, skin vesicles, infections, leprosy, as a haemostatic, in elephantiasis and jaundice. The aerial part is used as a purgative, emetic and cholagogue. It is given to treat snake bite, diarrhea and headache.

Traditional Tribal Formulations

Bhringraj powder is boiled for 20 minutes in coconut oil. This oil is applied regularly to hair to promote hair growth and as a conditioner.

Oil made from Bhringraj is a natural cure for thinning of hair and balding or alopecia. This oil is massaged into the scalp twice daily for three months.

For dandruff mix Bhringraj with fruits of Amla (Phyllanthus emblica), Reetha (Sapindus emarginatus) and Sikakai (Acacia concinna) and steep in water overnight. Filtrate of the above mixture is used as shampoo.

(Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008, 2011).

(To be continued)

Coming up next: Emblica officinalis (Indian Gooseberry), Helianthus annuus (Sunflower), Lawsonia inermis (Henna), Lycopersicon esculentum (Tomato), Musa paradisiaca (Banana)

Acknowledgement: We acknowledge tribesmen of Patalkot, Dangs and Aravallis for sharing their much valued information with us.


Acharya, D. and Shrivastava,
A. 2008. Indigenous Herbal Medicines: Tribal Formulations and Traditional Herbal Practices. Aavishkar Publishers Distributors, Jaipur. ISBN 978-81-7910-252-7.
Acharya, D, Shrivastava, A.
2011. Ethnomedicinal Plants of Gujarat State. Forest Department, Gujarat, Gandhinagar. ISBN 8190311484. 412pp.

Author's Profile

Dr_Deepak_Acharya (21K)

Dr Deepak Acharya (MSc PhD) is Director, Abhumka Herbal Pvt Limited. He can be reached at deepak at or deepak at For more information about him, please visit and

Dr Anshu Shrivastava (MSc PhD) is Botanist at Abhumka Herbal Pvt Limited, contact him at anshu at or ansh24 at

Dr_Anshu_Shrivasta (14K)

book_cover (17K)Acharya, D. and Shrivastava, A. 2008. Indigenous Herbal Medicines: Tribal Formulations and Traditional Herbal Practices. Aavishkar Publishers Distributors, Jaipur. ISBN 978-81-7910-252-7.

For questions or comments email:

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Please note that although all the references to edible and medicinal herbs are tried and tested, their efficacy cannot be guaranteed and has not been approved by the FDA. Furthermore, everybody responds differently to various plants, and adverse reactions cannot be ruled out. Historical information regarding poisonous plants is included for educational purposes only and should not be tried out at home. Everybody uses herbs at their own risk and thus must make themselves fully aware of their potential power. Any information given here is educational and should not replace a visit to the doctor should this be necessary. Neither Sacred Earth nor Kat Morgenstern accepts responsibility for anybody's home experimentation. Links to external sites are included as pointers to further resources - we do not endorse them or are in any way responsible for their content, nor do we thus verify that their content is accurate.