India to document, popularise ‘folk medicine’ of tribals

February 25th, 2008 - 2:34 pm ICT by admin  

By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) India will document, validate and popularise folk medicine practices of tribals across the country and even start institutes for their study to save these traditions from extinction. “Folk medicine is different from ayurveda, homeopathy or unani. These are local medicinal procedures practised by tribals across India. We are trying to document, digitise and scientifically validate them,” said Verghese Samuel, joint secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

“Due to modern systems of medicine, this health heritage is losing its popularity. We are trying to save these good practices through the initiative,” Samuel told IANS.

Sanjeev K. Chadha, director, department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Sidha and Homeopathy) in the ministry, said: “Because of folk medicine practices, tribals in India have a very good immune system. If they are getting benefits out of these practices then there must be something good about these practices.

“These age-old traditions should not be lost in the wilderness. We will do research on these practices and record them. All the good practices would also be considered from patenting.”

There are over 130 tribal groups in India, many from northeastern states.

Chadha said the health ministry had decided to establish a North Eastern Institute of Folk Medicine at Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh. The state government has already given over 40 acres of land for the purpose and the institute will come up at a cost of nearly 330 million.

“The institute will dedicate itself to the cause. Research and scientific validations will also be done there. The institute may soon have branches in states like Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh among others.”

Talking about the institute’s location, he said northeastern states were full of folk medicinal practices. “From malaria, to diarrhoea to wounds, people in this region use folk medicines and it’s better to start from there.”

Chadha said folk medicine was “a pool of knowledge” that had to tapped.

“The practices are very utilitarian. We as a nation with diverse culture can’t allow a body of knowledge to perish. Like manuscripts, here is a pool of knowledge that needs to be tapped for a greater cause, for betterment of millions of people.

“Who knows it may give India a different pedestal in the health community of the world.”

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