Indian Journal of Tradional Knowledge
Vol. 2(1), October 2003, pp. 346-356

Use of animals and animal products in traditional health care systems in District Kachchh, Gujarat

Leena Gupta, C S Silori*, Nisha Mistry and A M Dixit

Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology, P.B. No. 83, Mundra Road

Opposite Changleshwar Temple , Bhuj 370 001

Email: silori_cs@yahoo.com

Received 20 January 2003

The present article describes the traditional knowledge of local communities on ethnozoology in district Kachchh. Through structured questionnaire survey a total of 194 respondents from 29 villages were interviewed across different communities and socio-economic strata of the sampled villages. Respondents listed about 34 animal and bird species, including 28 wild and 6 domestic, which are used in primary health care needs of human beings and livestock and for other purposes also. Blood and flesh are most commonly used animal products to treat diseases such as asthma, cough, rheumatism and healing of external injuries. Of the wild animal and bird species, Indian Wild Ass and Common Indian Monitor Lizard are listed as endangered while Chinkara, Indian Flap Shell Turtle and Peafowl are listed as vulnerable in the Red Data Book of Indian Animals. The findings are more important in view of the fact that if the remedial measures, for which these animals are used, are not proved scientifically, the common man should be made aware of this, which in future will significantly help in conservation of rare and endangered animals.

Keywords: Traditional knowledge, Ethnozoology, Ethnoveterinary practices, Kachchh.


Since time immemorial extensive use of plants, animals and minerals has been made in traditional medicines. A lot of efforts has gone into documentation, use, identification and validation of plant based traditional medicines but studies on most of the animal based medicines are sporadic, despite the fact that traditionally many animal based drugs are administered all over the world1,2. In Unani and Ayurvedic system of medicines there are descriptions of many animal based medications3-7. It has been documented that in Unani system of medicines about 200 drugs of animal origin are described which are claimed to be beneficial for the treatment of various ailments8. Similarly in Ayurveda also there is description of use of several animal based drugs particularly from cow, buffalo, elephant, camel, ass, goat and sheep9. Entire organisms or their flesh, fat, excretions, bones, teeth, feathers, hair, horns and shells are used as medicines and in other purposes. These are used either singly or in compound formulations and prepared in a variety of forms i.e.: powder, ash, soups, syrup, ointments, liniments, etc.

 

The present article is an offshoot of an ongoing study on the ethnobotanical documentation in district Kachchh of Gujarat. While documenting traditional knowledge on plant based medicines, the villagers also referred to the use of several wild and domestic animals and birds for curing various diseases. Since no records on this aspect are available in the past, the authors used this opportunity to document the traditional knowledge of local communities regarding the use of animals (ethnozoology) for different purposes, including medicinal, in district Kachchh.

 

Study Area

District Kachchh, covering an area of about 45,645 km2 is the second largest district of the country. It is spread between 22o41'11" to 24o41'47" N and 68o09'46" to 71o54'47" E in the western state of Gujarat. Kachchh falls in the arid tract of the country and covers about 73% of the total arid area of the state. About 51% (23,310 km2) of the total area of district is covered by saline marshes known as Greater and Little Rann of Kachchh. Because of the predominance of arid region, district Kachchh has been classified as a separate biotic province 3A i.e, Kachchh Desert of Indian Desert Bio-geographic Zone10. The topographical variation in the district has resulted in to the diversity of habitats and flora and fauna. The floral diversity of the district is represented by more than 650 plant species11, while the faunal diversity is represented by about more than 300 birds, 51 mammals, 44 reptiles, 7 amphibians and about 115 fishes and prawns12.

From socio-cultural point of view, district Kachchh exhibits great ethnic and cultural diversity. According to 2001 provisional census the total human population of the district is about 15 lakhs. More than 70% of the population belongs to Hindu community, followed by Muslims, Jains and others. Among the Hindus, Rajput, Brahmin, Lohana, Baniya, Bhatiya, Ahir, Kanbi, Lohar and Charan are the chief castes while among Muslims, Sangar, Sodha, Haliputra, Raisiputra are major clans. Around 19% of the total population belongs to socio-economically weaker section of the society, including scheduled castes (12%), mainly represented by Meghwals and scheduled tribes (7%) represented by Koli, Paradhi and Bhils. Animal husbandry, dryland agriculture, fishing, mining and daily wage labour are major income sources for the locals.

 

Methodology

The structured questionnaire survey method was employed in the selected villages to collect information on the traditional knowledge on the use of animals and their products as medicines in primary health care system. A total of about 194 respondents from 29 villages were interviewed to generate the ethnozoological information. The respondents belonged to wide range of communities, including Scheduled Tribe represented by Koli, Paradhi, Wandhakoli, Bhils, Bhil-paradhi, Scheduled Caste, Muslims, Darbar (Rajput) and Brahmins across different age groups ranging from 15 years to above 85 years. Through questionnaire survey, the information was gathered on various aspects of ethnozoology, including basic socio-economic structure of the respondent, the knowledge on the use of the animals, type of animal/animal parts used for medicinal purposes, other purposes, catching of wild animals, and the manner in which the medicines are administered. Based on the local names, the identification of animals and birds was confirmed by showing the coloured plates to the respondents13,14.

Table 1 Ethnozoological knowledge across different communities in district Kachchh

 

Community

Total respondents

No. of respondents having knowledge

Scheduled tribes (ST)

37

19 (51%)

Scheduled caste (SC)

22

12 (55%)

Darbar

53

11 (21%)

Muslims

62

25 (40%)

Rabari

20

2 (10%)

Total

194

69 (35%)

 

Result

Ethnozoological knowledge

Of the total 194 respondents, 69 (35%) responded positively about having traditional knowledge on ethnozoology. Among these, higher proportion of knowledgeable respondents was recorded from Scheduled caste (SC), Scheduled tribes (ST) and Muslims communities (Table 1). Of the total 69 respondents, 30 (43%) responded positively about having the knowledge of use of wild animals, besides domestic animals for medicinal and other purposes. Rest of the respondents knew only about the use of domestic animals for medicinal and other purposes. Majority of the 30 respondents, mainly belonging to ST, Muslims and SC communities, were either actually catching or killing wild animals and birds or using them for medicinal and other purposes (Table 2). Of these, 13 (42%) respondents claimed that they catch or kill the wild animals using their traditional skill, although none of the respondents disclosed the traditional methods of animal catching during interviews. Majority (62%) of such respondents belonged to the ST communities such as Koli, Bhil and Paradhi, while some of the Muslims (23%) and Harijan (15%) respondents also responded positively on the catching or killing of animals and birds.

 

Use of animals for treating human ailments

The respondents listed a total of 34 animal and bird species, including 6 domestic and 28 wild which are used by the local people. Maximum of these animals belonged to mammalian group (16), followed by birds (8), marine animals (7), including crustaceans and fishes, and the rest were reptiles (3). Regarding the ethnomedicinal use, 29 animals and birds and their body parts are used for treating human and livestock ailments, while 10 species are used for other purposes, described later. Local people use different parts of animal body for medicinal purposes in different ways (Table 3). Blood and flesh are most commonly used animal products to treat various ailments in human being and livestock. Excreta of some birds are also used for treating diseases like asthma and cough. Some of the common disease treated using animal products included asthma, cough, rheumatism and healing of external injuries.

Table 2 Knowledge status of the respondents regarding use of wild animals

 

Knowledge status

Community

Total

ST

SC

Muslims

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching/killing and using themselves for medicinal and other purposes

8

2

3

13

Depending on others for animal/animal products but having knowledge of using them for medicinal and other purposes

4

6

5

15

Neither catching, nor using but having knowledge of using for medicinal and other purposes

2

0

0

2

 

Besides various parts of animal body, pathological products formed on the body of animals are also reported to be used in the preparation of different traditional medicines. For example, the stones found in gall bladder of cows, locally known as Gau-kesar, are used for treatments of epilepsy and other gynecological diseases in human beings. Similarly, some marine animals like powdered shell of Gastropods - Cypraea sp. are used for treatment of pimples and other skin diseases. A parasitic Isopod, Cythura spp.

(locally known as Ranai) on marine fishes is used with oil for treatment of ear ailments of human beings. Cuttle Bone of Sepia, a Cephalopod, locally known as Samudrafin is used in powder form to cure wounds. The Crustaceans have very high protein contents specially the free amino acids; therefore their consumption is likely to invigorate the body thus acting as a good medicine.

 

Use of animals for veterinary diseases

Besides treating human diseases, respondents also mentioned about the use of animals and animal products for treating various veterinary diseases. About 11 animal species, including 8 wild animals and fishes are used for treating various veterinary diseases. In majority of such cases, blood was most commonly used product for treating body pain, arthritis, and healing the fractured bones of animals. Some of the respondents also mentioned about the use of spider web and powder of Sambar antler to treat the eye ailments of livestock. Whenever needed, villagers purchase the antler of Sambar from local market, because the animal is not found in  the  forests  of  Kachchh.   The   boiled

 

Table 3 Traditional knowledge on the use of animals and their products in primary health care system in district Kachchh

 

Sl. No.

English Name

Local name

Scientific name

Part used

Method of preparation and medicinal use

Birds

1

Bank myna

Kabar

Acridotheres ginginianus

Flesh

Roasted flesh is eaten to treat whooping cough.

2

Black ibis

Ran Kagdo

Pseudibis papillosa

Blood

Blood is massaged for curing burning sensation, nervous disorder, paralysis and inherent body heat.

3

Hen

Maraghi

Gallus domesticus

Blood (V)

Blood is externally massaged on the aching parts of body.

Blood is applied externally for healing arthritis and fractured bones of cattle, goats

4

House Crow

Kagado

Corvus splendens

Flesh

Roasted or boiled flesh is eaten to treat whooping cough

5

House sparrow

Chakali

Passer domesticus

Droppings

Ash of excreta is used for treatment of asthma in children (three times a day with water for couple of days)

6

Peafowl

Mor

Pavo cristatus

Legs

Legs of peafowl are boiled with oil, which is used to treat the ear pain

7

Pigeon

Kabutar

Columba livia

Blood

The blood is massaged externally to treat paralysis.

Mammals

8

Bat

Chamachidiu

Cyanopterus sphinx

Flesh

Raw flesh having blood is rubbed on the external injuries for healing and also eaten to treat whooping cough.

9

Buffalo

Bhens

Bubalus spp.

Blood (V)

Blood is applied externally on the neck of cow to reduce the body heat.

10

Camel

Unt

Camelus dromedarius

Dung

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blood (V)

 

 

Bones (V)

The dried dung is burnt and ash is applied externally on stomach for treating constipation.

 

 

Contd.

Blood is applied externally for treating arthritis.

Old bones of dead camel are burnt and ash is mixed with water and fed to the animal for healing rheumatoid arthritis

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Table 3 Traditional knowledge on the use of animals and their products in primary health care system in district KachchhContd.

 

Sl. No.

English Name

Local name

Scientific name

Part used

Method of preparation and medicinal use

 

 

 

 

Blood (V)

 

 

Bones (V)

Blood is applied externally for treating arthritis.

Old bones of dead camel are burnt and ash is mixed with water and fed to the animal for healing rheumatoid arthritis

11

Cow

Gay

Bos indicus

Dung

The dried dung is burnt and ash is applied externally to treat urticaria.

12

Dog

Kutro

Canis familiaris

Flesh

Excreta is applied and flesh is eaten to treat wounds.

13

Goat

Bakra

Capra indicus

Blood (V)

Skin used as cloth after applying turmeric powder on it to treat pneumonia and superficial injury.

Blood is massaged externally on the fractured part and tied with cloth bandage.

14

Hyena

Zarakh

Hyaena hyaena

Flesh

Fat is applied externally for healing arthritis; blood is applied on cloth and the dried cloth is fumigated to cure asthma

15

Indian wild ass

Ghudkhar

Equus hemionus khur

Blood (V)

Blood is massaged externally for healing arthritis

16

Jackal

Shiyad

Canis aureus

Flesh

 

Blood (V)

Roasted flesh is eaten to cure asthma and sciatica.

Blood is massaged externally for healing arthritis in goats

17

Pale hedge hog

Shero

Paraechinus microlapus

Skin (V)

Ash of skin is used for respiratory problems and cold.

Skin is fumigated for curing mouth diseases of cattle

 

 

 

 

 

Contd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Table 3 Traditional knowledge on the use of animals and their products in primary health care system in district KachchhContd.

 

Sl. No.

English Name

Local name

Scientific name

Part used

Method of preparation and medicinal use

18

Porcupine

Shedhadi

Hystrix indica

Squills (V)

Squills are fumigated for respiratory problems in children;

and for curing mouth diseases of cattle.

19

Rufous-tailed hare

Sasla

Lepus nigricollis ruficodatum

Blood, Tail

Blood is applied externally for healing swelling; the ash of tail is mixed with oil and the prepared paste is applied for curing burning sensation.

20

Rat

Undar

Ratus ratus

Whole

The animal is roasted and ash is mixed with mustard oil. This paste is then mixed with the crushed leaves of Rivea hypocrateriformis (Fangvel) and flowers of Azadirachta indica (Neem) and applied on the bald head. It is claimed that hair start growing within 3-4 days of application.

21

Sambar

Sabar/Harnu

Cervus unicolor

Antler (V)

Powder of antler is applied in eyes for eye ailments of cattle

Reptiles

22

Indian flap shell turtle

Kachbo

Lissemys punctatus

Carapace (V)

 

Carapace is burnt and ash is used for healing of internal injuries, pruritis and cough; and for healing superficial blunt injuries of cattle.

23

Spiny tailed lizard

Sandho

Uromastix hardwickii

Whole body

The whole animal is boiled in oil and the oil applied externally for joints pain and rheumatism.

Contd.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 


Table 3 Traditional knowledge on the use of animals and their products in primary health care system in district KachchhContd.

 

Sl. No.

English Name

Local name

Scientific name

Part used

Method of preparation and medicinal use

Crustaceans

24

Hermit Crab

Karachalo

Uca pugnex

Whole body

Crab is boiled in water and then taken for asthma; also, it is boiled in oil and used externally for curing ear pains

25

Sandy shore Crab

Kurchal

Mututa victor

Whole body

Crab is boiled in water and then the inner watery part taken for asthma; boiled in oil and used externally for curing ear pains. Crab is eaten for the treatment of tuberculosis.

Fishes

26

 ?

Gorad Machchhi

?

Brain (V)

Rubbed with water and drank to treat the problems associated with kidney stone. Also used to treat the urinary problems in livestock in the same manner.

27

Hammer head shark

Magro

Zygaena blochii

 

Fat

Fat is applied externally for treating joints pain.

28

Sea horse (?)

Ghoda machchhi

Hippocampus cuda

Whole animal (V)

Dried animal is powdered and mixed with the fodder to cure stomach pain of horses

 

 

 

 

 

 

V- indicates the use of animal/animal products for veterinary purpose also

?- Confirmation required

 

flesh of some of the marine fishes is also used by the locals to cure the foot and mouth disease of livestock, which is a very common disease in the area, while powder of Ghoda Machchh, probably sea horse, is used to treat the stomach ache of horses.

Use of animals for other purposes

Other than medicinal uses, local people also use animals and birds for other purposes. Some of the animals such as Chinkara and rabbit and birds such as grey partridge are hunted for meat by local people in certain parts of the  district

Table 4Non-medicinal uses of animals and their body parts

 

Sl. No.

English name

Local name

Scientific name

Part used

Uses

Birds

1

Grey partridge

Tetar

Francolinus pondicerianus

Flesh

Food

2

Peafowl

Mor

Pavo cristatus

Feathers

Handicraft items

 

Mammals

3

Goat

Bakra

Capra indicus

Skin

Drum sheet

4

Indian Gazelle

Haran

Gazella gazelle

Skin, Flesh

Drum sheet, edible

5

Rufous-tailed hare

Sasla

Lepus nigricollis ruficodatum

Flesh

Food

6

Camel

Unt

Camelus dromedaries

Skin

Handicraft items, shoes

7

Wild boar

Jangli bhund

Sus scrofa

Whole body

Food

 

Reptiles

8

Monitor lizard

Patla gho

Varanus bengalensis

Whole body

Food

 

Invertebrates

9

Green Crab/ Mud Crab

Kurchal

Portunus pelagicus

Whole body

Food

10

Bivalves

Chhip

Mactra sp.

Shell

Ornament

11

Sacred Shell

Shankh

Xancus pyrum

Shell

Religious purpose

 

(Table 4). Also the skin of goats and Chinkara is used for making drum sheets, while leather of camel is used for making various handicraft items in Maldhari dominated areas such as Banni and Pachchham in northern part of the district. The Banni region is well known for the traditional handicraft items of not only camel leather, but also for other kinds of cloth based traditional handicraft.

 

Discussion

The animal based medicines have always played a significant role in the healing practices, magic rituals, and religions of indigenous and western societies all over the world15,16. However, as compared to the ethnobotanical documentation, the therapeutic use of animals and animal products to treat common human and domestic animal ailments have been little researched. There have been sporadic attempts within the country on the documentation of animal based traditional medication system9,17-19. Though the present article is perhaps the first ever attempt to document the traditional ethnozoological knowledge of local communities in district Kachchh of Gujarat, further attempts are required to have a better understanding on the subject. Moreover, it was felt necessary because during interviews at some places respondents were not very open about the use of some more wild animals, probably because of their awareness of such act being illegal under the forest conservation laws.

Another important aspect of this study, which needs to be mentioned, is that the findings regarding the use of animals for medicines are purely based on the traditional beliefs of local communities and none of these animal based medicinal prescriptions has been authenticated or tested during the course of the study. Nevertheless, the healing properties of some of the animal products have been proved scientifically in the past8,16,20, yet this aspect of traditional health care system needs further research not only to confirm the medicinal value of such animal based remedies, but also to facilitate more ecologically and socially sound development2.

From ecological point of view, present study holds importance because some of the animals used by the locals for medicinal and other purposes are vulnerable or endangered or facing severe threats due to several kinds of anthropogenic pressures operating in the region21. It is important to mention here that species such as Indian Wild Ass and Common Indian Monitor Lizard are listed as endangered while Chinkara, Indian Flap Shell Turtle and Peafowl are listed as vulnerable in the Red Data Book of Indian Animals22. On the other hand study carried out by GUIDE23 in district Kachchh listed Chinkara and Indian Wild Ass as rare species while Spiny Tailed Lizard and Monitor Lizard are listed as endangered species. Situation like this emphasizes the need of conservation programme for such species to be properly formulated and implemented. The existence of these animals is not only threatened by hunting for various purposes mentioned above but also because of the loss of habitats and other anthropogenic pressures. It is more important in view of the fact that if the remedial measures, for which these animals are used, are not proved scientifically, the common man should be made aware of this, which in future will significantly help in conservation of rare and endangered animals. The local people who hold the traditional ethnozoological knowledge can be roped in for implementation of participatory conservation programmes for such animals.

 

Acknowledgement

Authors are thankful to the villagers of district Kachchh for sharing their traditional knowledge on ethnozoological uses. Dr. G A Thivakaran, Scientist, GUIDE is thanked for helping in identification of marine fauna.

 

References

1         Pushpangdan P, Animal and animal products in the local health traditions in India, Proceeding IInd International Congress on Ethnobiology, 1990, 189.

2         Neto E M C, Traditional use and sale of animals as medicines in Feira de Santana City, Bahia, Brazil, Indigenous Knowledge Development Monitor, 7 (1999) 15.

3         Shukla M R, Unani Chikitsa Sagar (Hindi), (Motilal Banarasi Das, Varanasi), 1950.

4         Ali S A M & Mahdihassan S, Bazar medicines of Karachi: The drugs of animal origin, Medicus, 23 (1961) 72.

5         Wahid A & Siddiqui H H, A Survey of Drugs, (Institute of History of Medcine and Medical Research, New Delhi), 1961.

6         Puri H S, Drugs of animal origin used in Indian systems of medicine, Nagarjun, 13, (1970), 21.

7         Vohora S B & Khan S Y, Animal Origin Drugs used in Unani Medicine, (Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi), 1979.

8         Sharma M P, Drugs of animal origin in Unani medicine: The need for scientific evaluation, in: Ethnobiology in Human Welfare, edited by Jain S K, (Deep Publications, New Delhi), 1996, pp. 206.

9         Pandey V N, The products of animal origin as recipes in Ayurvedic medicaments, in: Ethnobiology in Human Welfare, edited by Jain S K, (Deep Publications, New Delhi), 1996, pp. 203.

10      Rodgers W A & Panwar H S, Planning a Wildlife Protected Area Network in India, Vol. I & II, (Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun), 1988.

11      Silori C S, Dixit A M, Gupta L & Mistry N, A study on traditional knowledge of ethnobotanical resources of district Kachchh, First Year's Progress Report. Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology (GUIDE), Bhuj, 2001.

12      GUIDE. Kachchh sub-state biodiversity strategy and action plan. Prepared under National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, executed by Ministry of Environment and Forests (Government of India), technical implementation by Technical and Policy Core Group (TPCG) coordinated by Kalpvriksha and administrative coordination by Biotech Consortium India Ltd. Funded by Global Environment Facility through United Nations Development Programme, 2002. 123 pp.

13      Ali S, The book of Indian Birds, (Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay), 1996.

14      Prater S H, The Book of Indian Animals, (Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay), 1965.

15      Angeletti L R, Agrimi U, Curia C, French D & Mariani-Costantini R, Healing rituals and sacred serpents. The Lancet, 340 (1992) 223.

16      Rosner F, Pigeons as a remedy (segulah) for jaundice, New York State J Medicine, 92 (1992) 189.

17      Dutta A, Borkotoki A, Kalita J, Sharma D K & Borthakur S, Use of animals and animal products in indigenous system of treatment in Assam, India, in: Ethnobiology in Human Welfare, edited by Jain S K, (Deep Publications, New Delhi), 1996, pp. 209.

18      Ghose A K & Maiti P K, Investigation of the animal drugs (mammals) used by the tribal people in India, in: Ethnobiology in Human Welfare, edited by Jain S K, (Deep Publications, New Delhi), 1996, pp. 200.

19      MoEF, All India Coordinated Research Project on Ethnobiology. Man and Biosphere Programme. Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi, 1996.

20      Tajuddin & Amin K M Y, The scientific evaluation of Castoreum: A drug of zoological source, Proceeding IInd International Congress on Ethnobiology, 1990, 186.

21      GEER and GUIDE. Ecological status of Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary with a management perspective. Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation, Gandhinagar and Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology (GUIDE), Bhuj, 2001.

22      The Red Data Book of Indian Animals Part-I: Vertebrata (Mammalia, Aves, Reptilia & Amphibia), (Zoological Survey of India, Calcutta), 1994.

23      GUIDE. Conservation of Rare and Endangered Biodiversity of Gujarat (CREB), Inception Report. Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology (GUIDE), Bhuj, 1998.