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Medicinal Uses of Some Important Spices by the Indigenous Tribesmen in India, Dr Deepak Acharya, Dr Anshu Shrivastava

by Dr Deepak Acharya and Dr Anshu Shrivastava

In the last two articles of this series, we have discussed the medicinal uses and indigenous knowledge of 10 Indian spices i.e. Onion, Garlic, Coriander, Cumin, Mango Ginger, Turmeric, Cardamom, Fennel, Kokum and Curry Leaf Tree. In this issue, we share information about Nutmeg, Long Pepper, Black Pepper, Pomegranate and Chiretta.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt.)

A decoction of the arillus part (mace) of the plant has an aphrodisiac effect (Simpson, 1962) and is also reported as anti-pyretic (Mokkhasmit et al., 1971). The plant extract is used as an abortifacient (Saha et al., 1961). A decoction of dried leaves is used to treat high blood pressure (Lim, 1977) and as a hallucinogen (Siegel, 1976). The dried fruit acts as a digestive aid and is effective against pimples, eczema (Singh, 1986), diarrhea (Gupta et al., 1993), stomach ache and ulcers (Coee and Anderson 1996). The seeds are also known as a good aphrodisiacs (Salah Ahmed et al., 1979) and abortifacient (Lozoya, 1976). The seeds work as a tonic and digestive agent and are also reported to have curative properties in the treatment of hemorrhoids and piles (Bellakhdar et al., 1991). They are also known to relieve menorrhagic pain (Mendelsohn, 1907). A decoction of dried seeds acts carminative, digestive and expectorant (Arseculeratne et al., 1985).

Indigenous Formulations

Vitality, Vigor and Sperm Count
Tribesmen in the Dang district of Gujarat prepare a special formulation for vitality and vigor in men, which consists of a mixture of Nutmeg (3g), Musli (Chlorophytum borivillianum) root powder 4g, Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) seeds 1g, Almond (Prunus amygdalus) seed powder 2g and Cuddapah Almond (Buchanania lanzan). The mixture is roasted in butter. This blend is consumed twice a day after meals. According to local herbal healers, the this mixture improves vitality and vigor and provides a tonic support in cases of low sperm count.
The healers of Patalkot in Central India prepare a blend of Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) gum 4g, Nutmeg seeds 2g and Nutmeg bark powder 2g which is administered orally for the same purpose.
Male Impotency
For treating male impotency an equal amount (10g) of Nutmeg, Red Silk Cotton Tree (Bombax ceiba) bark, Indian Oleander (Nerium indicum) roots and Cardamom seeds are taken. The mixture is boiled in Mustard (Brassica campestris) oil (100ml). After some time the oil is filtered. Once the oil cools down, it should be applied externally over the genital region.
Hemorrhoids and Bleeding Piles
A mixture of Cardamom seeds 4g, Nutmeg 2g, Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) 2g, Ironwood Tree (Mesua ferrea) bark powder 3g, Psyllium (Plantago ovata) husk 2g and butter (2g) are mixed with sugar. About 5g of this mixture should be taken three times a day along with lukewarm water.
To cure excessive urination, tribals of Central India prepare formulation consisting of Cardamom seeds (2 nos.) and Indian Kudzu (Pueraria tuberosa) rhizome powder 10g, which is fried in butter. To this mixture, Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) bud powder 1g, Nutmeg fruit powder 2g, Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root powder 3g and Cinnamom bark powder 3g is added and given to the patient.
Equal amounts of Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) leaves, Nutmeg fruit, and Camphor are put in a mortar and crushed. About 10g of this mixture is taken along with two teaspoons of Betel leaf (Piper betel) juice. It is said to be very effective in alleviating excessive urination.
Dysentery and Cholera
Equal amounts (about 2g) of Poppy seeds (Papaver somniferum), Nutmeg fruit, Clove, Saffron (Crocus sativus), and Camphor is given to the patient everyday.
Long Pepper (Piper longum)

Long Pepper (Piper longum L.)

The roots and fruits are used in problems of the respiratory tract. It is analgesic in cases of muscular pains and inflammation. The powdered fruits are snuffed in coma and drowsiness. Long Pepper has carminative, cholagogue, emmenagogue and an abortifacient properties. The plant has a wide range of applications, it is used in kidney disease (Desmarchelier et al., 1996), for fever, as a laxative (Halberstein and Saunders, 1978), in menstrual disorders, for diabetes, as a purgative, as a tonic (Dragendorff, 1898), for jaundice (Gopal and Shah, 1985), as an anti-fertility herb (Kholkute et al., 1979), and emmenagogue (Duke, 1994) as well as for malaria (Das et al., 1996). The bark and leaves are used to treat acute venereal disease (Holdsworth and Wamoi, 1982).

Indigenous Formulations

Hair Disorders
An external application of the leaf extract (about 10ml) every day is helpful in the treatment of dandruff.
The seeds (about 10g) crushed in water (10ml) are applied to bald patches to stimulate regeneration of hair.
Indigestion and Constipation
Long Pepper fruit powder (2-5g) with honey is said to be helpful in indigestion.
To relieve constipation, a mixture of Long Pepper fruit powder (2g), Zedoary (Curcuma zedoaria) rhizome (2g), Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome (3g), Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) seeds (2 nos.), Chebulic Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) fruit powder (5g), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root powder (3g), Citron (Citrus medica) fruit pulp (10ml) and pinch of black salt is prepared and added to 50ml buttermilk, which is taken orally.
Fruit powder (3g), White Leadwort (Plumbago zeylanica) root powder (2g), a pinch of black salt, Chebulic Myrobalan fruit powder (2g), Ginger rhizome powder (2g) and Black Pepper fruit powder (2g) are mixed thoroughly. About (3-5g) powder is given twice a day in cases of indigestion.
Whooping Cough
Long Pepper fruit powder (4g), Ginger rhizome powder (2g) and Belleric Myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica) fruit powder (4g) are mixed and taken with honey.
In case of vomiting, 3g each of powdered Long Pepper and Ginger (3g) is given to the patient.
In Patalkot, herbal healers prescribe a mixture that contains equal amounts (5g) of powdered Long Pepper fruits, Zedoary rhizome, Chebulic Myrobalan fruits, Indian Berberry (Berberis aristata) roots, Ginger rhizome. This blend is roasted in a pan and stored. About 2g of the powder is given along with buttermilk as and when needed.
Asthma and Respiratory Disorders
Five grams of bark powder is wrapped in Betel Leaf (Piper betel) and given 3-4 times a day to patients suffering from Asthma.
Long Pepper fruit powder (1g) and honey is given 2-3 times a day.
Take the fruits of this plant (4 nos.) and crush them in Wood Apple (Limonia acidissima) juice (10-20 ml). To this add honey (5ml) and take thrice a day to cure asthma.
To prepare a remedy for treating cough and asthma, Long Pepper powder (10g), dry Pomegranate (Punica granatum) seeds (100g), Ginger rhizome powder (5g), Black Pepper seed powder (10g), Cinnamom (Cinnamomun verum) bark powder (5g) and Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) seeds (5 nos.) are added to 200g powdered sugar. Take 20-50g of this mixture with honey. It helps in alleviating various respiratory disorders including asthma.
For treating fever a leaf extract (5ml) mixed with Ginger rhizome extract (4ml) and honey (3ml) is said to be very effective.
A mixture of Glory Bower (Clerodendrum phlomidis) root powder (3g), Ginger rhizome powder (2g), Chebulic Myrobalan fruit powder (4g) is prepared to which a pinch of Long Pepper fruit powder is added and taken twice a day.
Long Pepper Fruit powder (2gm) and honey (4ml) should be mixed thoroughly and taken three to four times a day to help control diarrhea.
Equal amounts of Long Pepper fruit powder and Mango (Mangifera indica) seed powder are mixed thoroughly and given twice a day.
Arthritis and Body Pain
To treat arthritis and other body pains, water (5ml) is mixed with fruit powder (10g) to prepare a paste which is applied externally to the painful body parts.
Thoroughly mix Long Pepper fruit (40g) and Colycynth (Citrullus colocynthis) roots (20g). Take 4g powder twice a day for a week; it relieves and cures arthritic pain.
Long Pepper fruit powder (4g) mixed with buttermilk (100ml) is taken after a meal. It works very well in bleeding piles too.
A mixture of powdered Long Pepper fruit (2g), Black Pepper seeds (1g), Ginger rhizome (1g), Lemon (Citrus limon) juice (2ml) and a pinch of black salt is given in cases of jaundice.
Low Blood Pressure
Long Pepper fruit powder (2g) and Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root powder (3g) should be taken along with glassful of milk or lukewarm water.
High Blood Pressure
In cases of high blood pressure, Long Pepper fruit powder (2g), Indian Snakeroot (Rauwolfia serpentina) whole plant powder (1g), Muskroot (Nardostachys jatamansi) root powder (1g) and Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) leaf powder (2g) are mix well and take orally twice a day.
Sore Throat
Equal amounts (4g each) of powder Long Pepper fruits, Thyme-Leaved Gratiola (Bacopa monnieri) leaf, Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus), Chebulic Myrobalan, and Malabar Nut (Adhatoda zeylanica) leaf ae mixed thoroughly. This powder should be taken three times a day.
Low Sperm Count
In Patalkot, Bhumkas prepare a formulation to increase sperm count. They prepare a mixture of powder (5g each) of Long Pepper fruit, tuber of Indian Kudzu (Pueraria tuberose), Puncture Vine (Tribulus terrestris) roots, Musli (Chlorophytum borivillianum) roots, Indian Gooseberry (Emblica officinalis) fruit, black salt and sugar. They mix the powder and administer 5-6g of it with milk. This formulation should be taken for a week.
Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)

Black Pepper (Piper nigrum L.)

This plant is used in cases of sexual debility, as an emmenagogue and as an abortifacient (Gimlette, 1939). Leaves are used in diabetes (Singh and Ali, 1989). Fruits are effective in gonorrhea (Bajpai et al., 1995) and are also used as an abortifacient (Malhi and Trivedi, 1972), anti-tussive (Bellakhdar et al., 1991), anthelmintic (Deka et al., 1983), aphrodisiac (Elisabetsky et al., 1992), contraceptive (Razzack, 1980), anti-diarrheal (Perez and Anesini, 1994) and respiratory and to treat urinary infections (Perez and Anesini, 1994). It is said to be effective in the treatment of fever (Khanom et al., 2000), wounds, ulcers, bruises, sores, skin disease, irritations (Caceres et al., 1987), bronchial asthma (Reddy et al., 1989), cold, cough, toothache (John, 1984), throat diseases, urinary discharges, paralysis and as a purgative (Deka et al., 1983).

Indigenous Formulations

Whooping cough
Black Pepper seed powder (0.5g), honey (3ml) and a pinch of sugar is said to be very effective in the treatment of whooping cough.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) leaf juice (5ml), and a pinch of Black Pepper mixed with honey is an effective cure for malaria.
Black Pepper seed powder (5g) and Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia bracteata) leaf juice (5ml) are mixed and taken orally.
Pinch of Black Pepper seed powder in 'Thumbai' (Leucas aspera) leaf juice (20 ml) is added and taken orally to cope up with malaria.
Cough and Cold
A pinch of Black Pepper is added to boiled cow's milk. Add sugar (to taste) and take orally.
To treat cough and cold, cut a Colocynth fruit and fill it with Black Pepper powder (3g). Let the fruit dry in the sun for 5 days. Take with honey.
Bhringraj (Eclipta alba) whole plant juice (10ml), a pinch of Black Pepper and Rice (Oryza sativa) flour (5ml) are placed in a pot to prepare a paste. Apply to the forehead.
In Patalkot, a steam bath, prepared from Five-Leaved Chaste Tree (Vitex negundo) leaf juice and a pinch of Black Pepper is advised.
Black Pepper fruit powder (5g) and East Indian Globe Thistle (Sphaeranthus indicus) plant juice (5ml) are added to 20 liter of water to be used as a shower.
Curd/ Yoghurt (10ml), Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus) root powder (2-3g) and Black Pepper seed powder (2-3g) are taken on an empty stomach.
In Patalkot healers prescribe a different formulation. Black Pepper seed powder (1g), Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) leaf (3g) & twigs (3g), Pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) seeds (6g) and Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) fruit (3 nos.) are mixed and crushed. 3g of this powder is added to milk and given to the patient suffering from hysteria.
Weight Gain
To gain weight, seeds (4 nos.) are taken internally together with Betel (Piper betel) Leaf for two months. Cold water should be drunk after taking this formulation. Administer for 2 months.
Weight Loss, Obesity
To treat obesity, Black Pepper seed powder (5g), Drumstick (Moringa oleifera) pod powder (15g), Turmeric (Curcuma longa) rhizome powder (1g) and Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) seed powder (5g) are boiled in water (150ml) and taken internally.
Equal amounts of Black Pepper, roasted Carum (Trachyspermum ammi) seeds and a pinch of black salt are mixed and blended with buttermilk (100ml). This is taken after meals.
In Gujarat, tribal healers prescribe a mixture of equal quantities (4g each) of Black Pepper seed powder and Indian Prosopis (Prosopis cineraria) leaves and bark. About 2g of this powder should be given at an interval of 4 hours.
Healers in Patalkot valley prescribe a formulation to cure leucoderma. They combine Black Pepper seed powder (5g), juice of Indian Beech Tree (Pongamia pinnata) leaves (4ml), White Leadwort (Plumbago zeylanica) leaf juice (5ml) and a pinch of black salt. This mixture is then added to curd/ yoghurt (50ml). Half of this blend should be taken before lunch and the second half after dinner. This should be continued for 3 months.
Hemorrhoids and Bleeding Piles
Tribals of Central India prescribe a formulation for the treatment of bleeding piles. They use roots and leaves of Blumea (Blumea mollis) 5g each, Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) leaves 3g and about 5 seeds of Black Pepper. The mixture is chewed and taken on an empty stomach early in the morning. The practice is followed for 15 days.
Black Pepper seeds (5 nos.), and Green Chirayta (Andrographis paniculata) leaves (11 nos.) are crushed in water, filtered and taken twice a day for 10 days.
For controlling severe fever Patalkot healers give a mixture of Black Pepper seeds (12.5g), Green Chirayta plant powder (25g) and crushed Sweet Flag roots (3g). About 3g of this powder is given to the patient 3 to 4 times a day.
A mixture of powdered Black Pepper seeds (1g), Long Pepper (Piper longum) fruit (2g), Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome (1g), Lemon (Citrus limon) juice (2ml) and a pinch of black salt is given to treat jaundice.
Powdered Black Pepper seed (2g) and Ginger rhizome (2g) are added to 'Thumbai' (Leucas aspera) leaf juice (2 teaspoon) and taken orally twice a day for a month. It controls high blood sugar levels.
Gastric Troubles
To treat gastric troubles, a pinch of Black Pepper fruit powder is added to a blend of Five-Leaved Chaste Tree leaf juice (2 teaspoon) and butter (1/2 teaspoon). This is said to be effective for gastritis.
Snake Bite
To treat Snake bites, Ink- Berry (Cocculus hirsutus) roots (5-10g) are crushed in 20 ml water and Black Pepper (3g) seed powder is added. This should be filtered and given to the patient 2-3 times every 15 minutes. This causes vomiting and the poisonous effect is minimized.
Black Pepper seed powder (2g), Lady's Finger (Abelmoschus esculentus) fruit powder (10g), Cinnamom (Cinnamomum verum) bark powder (5g), Cardamom seeds powder (2g) and Fenugreek seed powder (Trigonella foenum-graecum) 10g are mixed and taken twice a day. This blend should be taken for two months for better results.
To treat diabetes, Wild Indigo (Tephrosia purpurea) root powder (4g) are mixed with Black Pepper seed powder (2g) and taken orally every day after meals.
Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.)

Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.)

Pomegranates are a good source of sugars, vitamin C and iron. Pomegranate has several therapeutic uses. It is antimicrobial, anthelminthic and used to treat bronchitis and cholera. The plant is used for burns (Siang, 1983). The bark is used in dysentery and for sore throat. It has diuretic and astringent properties (Rivera and Obon, 1995). It is used against abortion , diarrhea (Ramirez et al., 1988), ulcers (Boukef et al., 1982), leprosy, leucorrhea and menorrhagia. The Leaves are anti-emetic, the flowers are used in cases of diarrhea, digestive disorders, (Bellakhdar et al., 1991) and diabetes (Jafri et al., 2000). The fruit is used to treat diarrhea (Singh, 1986), as an anthelmintic (Ghazanfar and Al-sabahi, 1993), for wounds, ulcers, bruises, sores, mouth lesions, stomatitis, leucorrhea, vaginitis, conjunctivitis (Caceres et al., 1987), as an astringent, diuretic, and as a digestive aid (Vazquez et al., 1997), as a cooling agent, in dysentery (Arseculeratne et al., 1985) and in the treatment of jaundice (Singh, 1986).

Indigenous Formulations

Roasted and powdered Pomegranate seed (5g), Carum (Trachyspermum ammi) seeds (5g) and sugar (5g) are mixed and taken 2-3 times a day.
Diarrhea and Dysentery
Pomegranate seed powder (4g), Lemon (Citrus limon) fruit juice (4ml), Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) seed powder (2g) and pinch of salt are mixed thoroughly and given to treat dysentery.
To treat diarrhea, Pomegranate fruit bark powder (3g) and Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome powder (2g) is mixed and taken orally with lukewarm water.
Juice of Pomegranate fruit (50ml) with Leptadenia (Leptadenia reticulata) leaves (10ml) is effective in treating diarrhea.
Pomegranate seed powder (10g) & root powder (50g), Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis) root powder (6g), False Pepper (Embelia ribes) fruit powder (10g) are mixed and a decoction is prepared in water (200ml). About 100 ml of this decoction is taken after dinner. It kills intestinal worms.
Dry Pomegranate seeds, Ginger rhizome powder, Black Pepper seed powder, Long Pepper fruit (Piper longum) powder, Cinnamom (Cinnamomum camphora) bark powder and Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) seeds are taken in equal quantity (50g each) with 200g sugar. Mixed thoroughly, 20-50g of this mixture is taken every day with honey.
Dysuria and Poor Urine Flow
In case of insufficient urination and burning sensation while urinating, Cardamom seed powder (5g) is added to Pomegranate seed juice (250ml) and take orally.
Juice of fresh seeds (100ml) & flower (20ml), Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon) leaf juice (10ml) and sugar (20g) are mixed and taken internally. 2-3 drops of the same juice is also applied to the nasal cavities.
To induce menstruation, Pomegranate flower buds (about 15) are crushed with a pestle and mortar and added to Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon) leaf juice (20ml). This formulation should be taken internally at least twice a day for 3 days.
Pomegranate seed powder (5g), leaf juice (10ml), slices of Lady's Finger (Abelmoschus esculentus) pods (2 nos.), Lemon fruit juice (5ml) and Small Gooseberry (Phyllanthus niruri) leaf juice (25ml) are mixed thoroughly and added to 100ml water. This blend is left in a dark room overnight and taken internally the next morning.
Chiretta (Swertia chirata (Roxb. ex Flem.) Karst.)

Chiretta (Swertia chirata (Roxb. ex Flem.) Karst.)

This plant is used as a tonic, laxative, and febrifuge (Ray et al., 1996), to treat skin infections, and diarrhea and as an anthelmintic, (Suwal, 1970). It is used to treat fever (Lama and Santra, 1979), cough, typhoid, weakness, leucoderma, inflammations, burning sensations, urinary discharge, asthma, bronchitis, leucorrhea, hemorrhoids, and 'bad taste in mouth' (Sharma and Mishra, 1983), leprosy (Zafarullah et al., 1980), malaria (Atahar et al., 1990), epilepsy and scanty urine (Ghosal et al., 1973). Aerial parts are used for the treatment of fever, to purify the blood, for skin disease and malaria. The stem is used for diabetes, peptic ulcers, worms and fever (Khanom et al., 2000).

Traditional Tribal Formulations

Patalkot tribals prepare a decoction of fresh Chiretta leaves (20g), Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome powder (5g) and Gummy Gardenia (Gardenia gummifera) fresh leaf (10g). This decoction is divided in 3 parts and given three times a day.
In Dangs, tribals prescribe a decoction of the plant. 15 ml is given 2-3 times a day.
To control fever, a decoction of Chiretta leaf (4g), Neem (Azadirachta indica) twigs (10g) and Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) leaves (10g) is prepared and given orally.
In gastric troubles and gastritis, equal amounts (20g) of Chiretta leaves, Moth Bean powder (Vigna aconitifolia) and Giloe (Tinospora cordifolia) stem powder are used to make decoction with 150 ml water. The whole dose should be taken internally. It relieves stomach ache and gastric problem.
To stimulate milk production in non-lactating mothers, a decoction is prepared with Chiretta (10g) fresh leaves, Giloe (Tinospora cordifolia) leaves (5g), Indian Sarsaparilla (Hemidesmus indicus) root (3g), Ginger rhizome (3g) and Wild Asparagus (Asparagus racemosus) root (4g) and 100ml water, which is given orally.
Chiretta leaf powder (3g), Jambolan Plum (Syzygium cumini) seed powder (6g), Turmeric (Curcuma longa) rhizome powder (2g), Five-Leaved Chaste Tree (Vitex negundo) roots (4g), Chebulic Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) fruit powder (3g) and Neem (Azadirachta indica) bark powder (4g) is thoroughly mixed and taken twice a day.
Heart Tonic
In Patalkot, healers prescribe a mixture of Chiretta leaf powder (4g), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root powder (5g) and sugar (4g) as a cardiac tonic.
A decoction is prepared using equal amounts (5g) of Chiretta bark, False Pepper (Embelia ribes) seeds, Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) seeds, Ginger powder and Carum (Trachyspermum ammi) seeds and given orally twice a day.

(To be continued…)
Coming up next: Syzygium aromaticum, Trachyspermum ammi, Trigonella foenum-graecum, Vernonia anthelmintica and Zingiber officinale
Acknowledgement: We acknowledge tribesmen of Patalkot, Dangs and Aravallis for sharing their much valued information with us.

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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