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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

This is the last part of the series on the medicinal uses of spices by indigenous tribal people of India. Previously we have discussed the indigenous medicinal uses of. Onion, Garlic, Coriander, Cumin, Mango Ginger, Turmeric, Cardamom, Fennel, Kokum, Curry Leaf Tree, Nutmeg, Long Pepper, Black Pepper, Pomegranate and Chiretta. In this issue, we share information about Clove, Bishop's Weed, Fenugreek, Iron Weed and Ginger.

Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merrill & Perry)

Clove (Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merrill & Perry)

The plant is used for treating insect bites (Singh, 1986), toothache (Ahmad and Beg, 2001), as a stimulant, carminative and in constipation (Ahmad and Beg, 2001). Leaves are used to treat fever (Giron et al., 1991). The flower is used as a treatment for fungal infections (Zhang and Chen, 1997), allergic dermatitis (Seetharam and Pasricha, 1987), morning sickness (Singh, 1986), leprosy (Hussein Ayoub and Baerheim-suendsen, 1981), inflammations (Cha, 1977), disorders of the spleen (Bellakhdar et al., 1991), as an abortifacient (Coee and Anderson, 1996) and for asthma (Panthong et al., 1986). The fruit is used as a contraceptive (Razzack, 1980; Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008), and in the treatment of leucorrhea, vaginitis, skin infection and mucosa (Caceres et al., 1987, Giron et al., 1988).

Tribal Formulations

Clove bud acts as an anesthetic in cases of toothache when pressed between the painful teeth.
Stomach ache
Infused Clove oil (0.5ml), taken internally on sugar candy (2g) eliminates stomach ache.
Throat Infection
Roasted Clove is chewed to alleviate throat infection
Joint Pain
External application of Clove oil (1-2 drops) on painful joints alleviates the pain.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome powder (2g), Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citrates) leaves powder (2g), Cinnamom (Cinnamomum verum) bark (1g), Clove (4 nos.) and jaggery (unrefined sugar) (5g) is mixed thoroughly and given orally for indigestion.
Polyuria (Excessive Urination)
Equal amount (2g each) of Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) seeds and Indian Kudju (Pueraria tuberosa) rhizome powder is fried in ghee (clarified butter) and to it, Clove (3 nos.), Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) fruits (3 nos.), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root powder (2g) and Cinnamom (Cinnamomum verum) bark (2g) is added. The combination is said to be very effective.
A mixture consisting of equal amounts of Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) fruit, Clove buds (Syzygium aromaticum), Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) is divided into three parts. This should be taken with lukewarm water in the morning, afternoon and at night.
A cut is made on Citron (Citrus medica) ripe fruit and filled with 2-3 clove buds, 1 Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), a pinch of Black salt, Bishop's Weed (Trachyspermum ammi) seeds (5g) and Ginger (Zingiber officinale) (3g). The fruit is then placed in the shade to dry. Once dried, it is powdered. About 1g of the powder should be given to the patient every day.
Tribals in Bijouri of Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh prepare a decoction of Chebulic Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) fruits (5g), Clove buds (5 nos.), Neem (Azadirachta indica) bark powder (3g), Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome (2g), Nutgrass (Cyprus rotundus) (3g) and Gulancha (Tinospora cordifolia) twig powder (20g). This decoction is taken thrice a day to cure various types of fever.
Cough and Cold
Indian Aloe (Aloe barbadensis) leaves (about 40g) are roasted and then crushed in 100ml water to prepare a juice to which honey (10ml) and Clove powder (10g) are added. This is given internally twice a day.
Bronchial Asthma
Bishop's Weed (Trachyspermum ammi) seeds and Clove is mixed in equal quantity and roasted in a pan. The roasted mixture is then powdered and a dose of 5g is given to the patient.
Bishop's Weed (Trachyspermum ammi (L.) Sprague)

Bishop's Weed (Trachyspermum ammi (L.) Sprague)

An extract of this plant is used as an abortifacient (Venkataraghavan and Sundaresan, 1981) and antiseptic (Singh et al., 1980). An extract of the fruit is used as an abortive (Lemordant, 1971), stomachachic (Reddy et al., 1989). Decoction of the fruits along with Evolvulus alsinoides roots is given in typhoid fever (Vedavathy and Rao, 1995). Fruits are cardio tonic. A decoction of the seeds is used in the treatment of cough (Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008) and rheumatism (Duke and Ayensu, 1985). In India, the seed extract is given as an emmenagogue (Saha et al., 1961).

Traditional Tribal Formulations

Indigestion, Constipation and Acidity
Tribals in Patalkot prescribe a teaspoonful of seeds with a little rock-salt for treating indigestion. Roasted seeds (5g) are said to be very effective in constipation. It is also given to patients who are experiencing nausea. To control acidity, powdered Bishop's Weed seeds, powdered Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) seeds and sugar is mixed in equal proportion and taken along with water or ghee after meals.
Or, the seed powder (3g), Aonla (Emblica officinalis) powder (3g) and Ginger (Zingiber officinale) powder (3g) are added to milk (100 ml) along with sugar and taken orally.
Bishop's Weed (20g), Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome (10g), and black salt (5g) are ground together and taken in 3g doses along with lukewarm water.
About 3-5g powdered seed is taken with lukewarm water. It relieves pain.
Bronchial Asthma
Bishop's Weed seeds are mixed with Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) in equal amounts and roasted in a pan. The mixture is then powdered and 5g of it is given to the patient.
Cough and Cold
The seeds provide a fantastic remedy for treating the symptoms of the common cold and powerfully relieve nasal congestion. The seeds are roasted and packed in a cotton cloth. This package is positioned near pillow to ease nasal congestion.
A combination of Bishop's Weed seeds, powdered fruits of Chebulic Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) and black salt is mixed in equal proportion to provide an effective cure for cough and cold.
In some areas of Tamia the seeds (5g) are roasted along with a pinch of black salt and Turmeric (Curcuma longa) (2g). This is given to patients suffering from severe cough and cold.
Inhaling the smoke of the seeds is said to cure migraine. The smoke should be inhaled repeatedly for a few minutes. Pharyngitis
The seeds (20g) are boiled in water (250ml) and salt (5g) is added to it. Once cooled down this liquid can be used as a gargle to treat acute pharyngitis, sore throat, congestion hoarseness due to colds or shouting.
Tribals in Dangs blend the seeds (50g) with kernels of Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) (10g) and fry these in pure ghee (150ml) and jaggery (20g) and preserve it. A dose of 5g of this mixture is taken twice a day. According to them, it increases sperm count and cures premature ejaculation.
Grind mixture of Bishop's Weed seeds, Indian Bdellium (Commiphora wightii) stem powder and Staff Tree (Celastrus paniculatus) leaves in equal quantities (about 20g each); add a small amount of water to prepare a paste. A dose of 4g of this mixture is given every day along with milk to relieve arthritis.
For controlling worms in children a mixture of Bidanga (Embelia ribes), Bishop's Weed seed powder and black salt is prepared in equal proportion and given to children every day at bedtime.
To treat diarrhea, roasted seeds (5g), Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) seeds (2g) and a pinch of black salt is mixed in buttermilk and given after meals.
Equal amounts of Bishop's Weed seeds, Jequirity (Abrus precatorius) leaves and Henna (Lawsonia inermis) leaves are mixed and given to the patient.
In Dangs, equal amounts (50g each) of Bishop's Weed seeds and Sesame (Sesamum indicum) seeds are roasted and powdered. This mixture is taken twice a day to control excessive urination and diabetes.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.)

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.)

In traditional medicine, Fenugreek is used to treat severe skin inflammations (Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008), chapped lips and mouth ulcers (Dweck, 1997). According to the traditional practice, Fenugreek leaves cure pimples, blackheads, dryness and early appearance of wrinkles. A decoction of aerial parts is used to treat sore throat and as an expectorant (Donsbach, 1977) and emmenagogue (Saha et al., 1961; Razzack, 1980). A decoction of the entire plant is used for treating impotency (Duke and Ayensu, 1985), colic pain (Ghazanfar and Al-sabahi, 1993), diabetes (Sulman and Menczel, 1962). Dried leaves demonstrate an anti-diabetic effect (Jain and Sharma, 1967). The seeds are also anti-diabetic (Day and Bailey, 1988; Kar et al., 1999), lactagogue (Salah Ahmed et al., 1979) and given in urinary tract infections (Al-khalil, 1995). In Oman, a decoction of the seeds is used for bronchitis and cough (Ghazanfar and Al-sabahi, 1993).

Tribal Formulations

According to indigenous herbal healers in India, diabetic patients should consume 25g to 50g of Fenugreek seeds every day. This helps to reduce glucose levels in blood and urine.
Equal amounts of Fenugreek seed powder and Jambolena (Syzygium cumini) is beneficial for diabetics.
Fenugreek seed (20g) powder, Indian Whitehead (Enicostema axillare) leaves (5g), Turmeric (Curcuma longa) rhizome powder (1g) and Aonla (Emblica officinalis) fruit powder (20g) is mixed and made into a fine powder. Half a teaspoon of this mixture should be given after meals.
Fenugreek seeds (20g) made into a paste can be applied to the scalp. Leave it for an hour, then wash and dry. This may cure dandruff.
Hair loss
Application of Fenugreek extract to the scalp promotes hair growth and prevents loss of hair.
Pimples and Black Heads
A paste of Fenugreek leaves (20g) in 20ml water is applied to the face to help prevent pimples and black heads.
Apply the fresh juice (20ml) of the leaves to the face every night for 10-15 min before washing it off. This prevents pimples, blackheads and wrinkles.
Polyuria (Excessive Urination)
To reduce excessive urination, Dangi healers mix leaf juice (50-100g), Cutch Tree (Acacia catechu) bark powder (0.5g) and sugar (3g).
To kill intestinal worms, leaf juice (1-2 teaspoon) is administered and Chebulic Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) fruit powder (2g) is given to chew at night.
Cough and Cold
In Patalkot, tribals make a special dish known as Methi Pakoda. For this, the fresh rhizome of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) (3g), Garlic cloves (Allium sativum) (2 nos.), Fenugreek leaves (200g) and Chillie (Capsicum annum) (2 nos.) is taken and fried in Mustard (Brassica campestris) oil (50ml). Methi pakoda is given to alleviate the symptoms of cough and cold.
Iron Weed (Vernonia anthelmintica (L.) Willd.)

Iron Weed (Vernonia anthelmintica (L.) Willd.)

The seed powder is given to reduce fever (Singh and Maheshwari, 1994). Seed powder is given in the treatment of diarrhea (Girach et al., 1994), eczema and body pain (Singh, 1995). The plant is used in cardiovascular diseases (Siddiqui et. al., 1990), scabies (John, 1984), and as an abortifacient (Lemordant, 1971). The seeds are diuretic (Burkill, 1966), and emmenagogue, and are used as a kidney stimulant (Burkill, 1966), antispasmodic (Perrot and Paris, 1971), galactogogue (Zawahry, 1964), diaphoretic (Zawahry, 1964), abortifacient (Malhi and Trivedi, 1972), vermifuge (Burkill, 1966; Al-Khalil, 1995), stomachic, carminative, depurative, pectoral, sudorific (Al-Khalil, 1995), anti-asthmatic (Bellakhdar et. al., 1991; Al-Khalil, 1995), anti-tussive and in influenza (Bellakhdar et. al., 1991; Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008).

Traditional Tribal Formulations

Regular and Painless Menstruation
About 50-100g of Iron Weed seed powder is given twice a day with honey or hot water.
Iron Weed seed powder (3g), Glory Bower (Clerodendrum phlomidis) leaves (25 nos.), Yellow-Fruit Nightshade (Solanum virginianum) leaves (5 nos.), Radish (Raphanus sativus) seeds (3g) and jaggery (10g) are mixed together and prepared as a decoction. This is given twice a day for 3 days prior to menstruation.
Iron Weed seeds (20g) are crushed in Lemon (Citrus limon) juice (10ml) and applied to pimples at night.
Joint Pains
For joint pain, use the seed oil (5ml) to massage the painful joints and also take 1g of seeds powder with milk twice a day.
Lice Killing
The powdered seeds (5g) are mixed with Lemon (Citrus limon) juice (5ml) and applied topically to the scalp and left overnight. Wash hair the foloowing morning.
Seed powder (3-5g) should be taken orally with hot water.
To eliminate intestinal worms, the seed powder (5g) should be mixed with luke warm water (100ml). A few drops of Castor oil (Ricinus communis) is added and the liquid is given orally.
Iron Weed seeds (10g), Glory Bower (Clerodendrum phlomidis) root bark (4g) are mixed with White Emetic Nut (Gardenia gummifera) powder (3g), and Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome powder (4g) and crushed in a mortar. The mixture is applied topically to the affected area.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.)

Ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.)

The plant is used to treat colic (Zamora-martinez and Pola, 1992), diabetes (Mahabir and Gulliford, 1997), abdominal disease, anemia, choleric diarrhea, chronic fever, bloatedness and phantom tumor (Lama and Santra, 1979). The leaves are used in the treatment of cough (Holdsworth and Balun, 1992). The rhizome to relieve toothache (Milliken and Albert, 1996), menstrual disorders (Lucas, 1977), stomach-ache (Gill and Akinwumi, 1986; Russo, 1992), diarrhea (Russo, 1992), cough (Barrett, 1994), fever (Giron et al., 1991; Barrett, 1994), belly pain, gas, sore throat (Barrett, 1994), as a blood purifier, in malaria, indigestion, headache (Gill and Akinwumi, 1986), as an expectorant, in bronchitis (Ghazanfar and Al-sabahi, 1993), as an aphrodisiac (Roig, 1945; Fleurentin and Pelt, 1982), in arthritis (Khanom et al., 2000), as a carminative (Gill and Akinwumi, 1986; Ramirez et al., 1988), anti-conceptive (Ramirez et al., 1988), astringent (Al-yahya, 1986), as a tonic (Panthong and Tejasen, 1975) and as a cardio tonic (Hantrakul and Tejason, 1976; Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008).

Traditional Tribal Formulations

Cut Ginger (20g) into small pieces, add Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) leaves (4g) and two cups of water. Boil to reduce to one cup. Add one-cup of sugar and simmer on a low flame. Once cooled down, add a little Lemon (Citrus limon) juice. Take every 3 hours to alleviate cough.
Mix a little honey (about 3ml) to Ginger rhizome extract (5ml) and take internally to ease a cough.
Crush Ginger rhizome (10g) and add equal amounts of ghee and jaggery. Take this mixture every day to alleviate symptoms of cold and cough.
Indigestion and Constipation
Mix Ginger extract (10ml) with an equal amount of Lemon juice, a little rock salt and crystal salt. Keep this mixture in a closed bottle in the sun for a week. Filter and take the mixture after meals to assist digestion.
Take equal amounts of Ginger extract and sugar (about 5g) and boil in half a cup of water. This mixture is given after meals as a digestive aid.
To a decoction of Ginger (5ml) add 2-3 teaspoons of Castor oil (Ricinus communis) This is administered at bedtime to treat chronic constipation.
Lemon (Citrus limon) juice (3ml), Ginger rhizome powder (4g), a pinch of black salt, Garlic (Allium sativum) cloves (3nos.) are crushed in a mortar and given before meals to relieve nausea or constipation.
To a small amount of chopped Ginger (2g), add two spoonfuls of Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) seed powder and boil in two cups of water till it reduces to 1 cup. Add a little jaggery and mix thoroughly. This is given in cases of heartburn stomach or acidity.
In cases of acidity, Ginger rhizome powder (3g), Bishop's Weed (Trachyspermum ammi) (3g) powder and Aonla (Emblica officinalis) powder (3g) should be mixed in milk (100 ml) with sugar and taken orally.
One teaspoon of Ginger powder with a little sugar helps in stomach pain.
Take a teaspoonful of fresh Ginger rhizome extract and add Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum ) leaf decoction (10ml) and honey (3ml) to it. This mixture acts as an excellent expectorant in the treatment of asthma.
Apply the paste of Ginger powder ( tsp) to the forehead in case of headache. A burning sensation may occur but nothing to worry about.
Polyuria (Execessive Urination)
To treat excessive urination, mix Ginger rhizome juice (20ml) with sugar and take twice a day.
Joint pains
Ginger rhizome powder (20g) and Castor oil (Ricinus communis) (5ml) should be boiled and taken every day at night for 2 months. Thereafter, it should be taken once a week.
Ginger rhizome powder (10g), Zedoary (Curcuma zedoaria) rhizomes (5g) and Spreading Hogweed (Boerhavia diffusa) whole plant (4g) are mixed together and decoction is prepared and taken every day.
Ginger rhizome powder (5g) and Coneru (Holarrhena antidysenterica) powder (3g) is mixed in 50ml water and taken orally.

Conclusion: Spices play major role in curing human health ailments. There is an urgent need to validate all above mentioned herbal practices with the tools of modern science so as to provide cheaper, safer and eco-friendly herbal options. Authors request readers to consult their family physicians before application of any herbal practice mentioned in this series of the article as the practices are not validated scientifically. This series of article is mentioned for information purposes only. Within the framework of benefit sharing developing drugs and remedies based on traditional knowledge can shorten the period necessary for developing new drugs and minimize the budget yet benefit the sources of such indigenous knowledge Acknowledgement: Authors wish to acknowledge indigenous tribesmen from Patalkot (Madhya Pradesh) and Dangs (Gujarat) for sharing their much valuable information.

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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