An Ethnobotanical Survey of Medicinal and Other Useful Plants of Khattak Tribe in Tehsil Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, Pakistan  

Musharaf Khan , Zabta Khan Shinwari , Mohib Shah , Shahana Musharaf
1. Department of Biological Sciences, FGCB Mardan, Pakistan
2. Department of Biotechnology, Quaid Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan
3. Department of Botany, Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, Pakistan
4. Department of Chemistry, GGDC, Sheikh, Maltoon Mardan, Pakistan
Author    Correspondence author
Medicinal Plant Research, 2014, Vol. 4, No. 8   doi: 10.5376/mpr.2014.04.0008
Received: 02 Jun., 2014    Accepted: 06 Jun., 2014    Published: 14 Aug., 2014
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2014 Khan et al., 2014, An Ethnobotanical Survey of Medicinal and Other Useful Plants of Khattak Tribe in Tehsil Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, Pakistan, Medicinal Plant Research, 2014, Vol.4, No.8 61-74 (doi: 10.5376/mpr.2014.04. 0008)


This paper presents the results of ethnobotanical studies on medicinal and other useful plants used traditionally by the Khattak Tribe in Tehsil Karak. The study was carried out during 2005-2007 through interview using semi-structured questionnaire and personal observation. We documented the use of 160 plants belonging to 56 families in which 22 are trees, 23 are shrubs and 115 are herbs. These plants are used in the cure of various diseases of humans and their pets. The area was investigated for the first time and information about the traditional remedies with special reference to their medicinal uses were collected and documented before they are lost. From the economic and botanical point of view the study area has great potentiality.

Ethnobotany; Medicinal plant; Conservation; Pakistan

Harshberger used the term “Ethnobotany” in 1896 to indicate plants used by the aboriginals. It is considered as a branch of ethnobiology. It deals with the study and evaluation of plant-human relations in all phases and the effect of plant environment on human society. Karak has rich biodiversity consisting of a large number of plants, some of which are used for their medicinal value. Most of the population of the area still depends on the folk medicines as they live in far flung areas where the facilities of the medical treatment are scarcely available. The area has a rural culture of old traditions and the local people have their own principle and choice for a village site house, family, dress and ornaments, weddings, childbirth, death ceremonies, cultural functions, festivals and socio-religious beliefs. So they get indigenous knowledge about the local plants. Ethnobotanical studies in various areas of Pakistan have also been carried out (Shinwari and Khan, 2000; Shinwari and Gilani, 2003; Hussain et al., 2006; Shinwari, 2010; Khan et al., 2011). The present research was aimed to collect, document and compile diverse and disperse traditional local information of century’s experienced therapeutic uses of medicinal plants of Karak. Such a study will provide evidence for their authenticity in a particular disease and hence it will give a very interesting and rewarding prepharmacological ground for undertaking its investigation on scientific basis.
Research area
The tehsil Karak is situated at 32° 47 to 33° 28 N and 70° 30 to 71° 30 E (Figure 1~Figure 3). Majority of the study area consists of curved dry hills and rough fields areas. Although the hills are very dry, but it is a fact that it contains precious minerals like salt, gypsum and gas etc. There is shortage of drinking water, so the people bring water from remote area. The Rainfall is scanty in the area. In the year 2005, 300 to 400 mm of rainfall per annum recorded on district level. The area is very hot in summer and very cold in winter. In the year 2005 the mean maximum temperature was 42°C, in the month of the June, whereas the mean minimum temperature was as low as 4°C, in the month of December and January, recorded on district level (Table 1).

Figure 1 Map of research area

Figure 2 View of research area-1

Figure 3 View of research area-2

Table 1 Meteorological data of Tehsil Karak for the year 2005

Survey and Questionnaire
The study was conducted by frequently surveying in winter, spring and summer during 2005-2007. Ethnobotanical information was gathered from each site by using a semi-structured questionnaire and the information about the medicinal uses of the plants was obtained from local experienced people through personal interview. Information about the local uses of the plants as medicinal, fuel wood, timber and fodder etc were obtained through random sampling by interviewing from different walks of life because different age group and gender use these plant for different purposes. Individual questionnaire was filled from plant collectors, housewives, shopkeepers, elders, plant traders and local healers (Hakims), who are the actual users and have a lot of indigenous knowledge about the plants and their traditional uses. The data was classified, tabulated, analyzed and concluded for final report. Plants specimens were collected, dried and identified with help of local available literature, using the herbarium, Department of Botany, Kohat University of Science and Technology Kohat, Pakistan. All plant species were divided into tree, shrubs and herbs mentioning botanical name, local name, family, parts used, floral period, method of preparation and application.
The present study includes indigenous knowledge of plants of Tehsil Karak. Total of 160 species belonging to 56 families are reported from the area comprises of 22 tree, 23 shrubs and 115 herbs (Figure 4). The dominant family is Poaceae with 16 species, followed by Asteraceae and Papilionaceae with 14 species, Solanaceae with 8 species, Amaranthaceae and Brassicaceae with 7 species, Cucurbitaceae and Lamiaceae with 6 species, Mimosaceae with 5 species, Convolvulaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Malvaceae with 4 species, Boraginaceae, Capparidiaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Rhamnaceae, Verbenaceae and Zygophyllaceae with 3 species. Alliaceae, Apiaceae, Asclepiadaceae, Cyperaceae, Moraceae, Myrtaceae, Plantaginaceae, Polygonaceae, Primulaceae and Tamaricaceae with 2 species. Aizoaceae, Aloaceae, Apocynaceae, Asparagaceae, Asphodelaceae, Cactaceae, Caryophylaceaem, Ceasalpiniaceae, Celastraceae, Fumaraceae, Geraniaceae, Hypericaceae, Meliaceae, Menispermacea, Nyctaginaceae, Orobanchaceae, Oxalidaceae, Palmae, Pedaliaceae, Punicaceae, Ranunculaceae, Rosaceae, Salvadoraceae, Sapindaceae, Sapotaceae, Scrophulariaceae Tiliaceae and Vitaceae with single specie each (Figure 5). Most species had multi uses and the plants were mostly used as medicinal. The ethnobotanical inventory is presented in Table 2~Table 4.

Figure 4 Number of plant species in different strata of research area

Figure 5 Total number of families in research area

Table 2 Economically important trees of Tehsil Karak, botanical name, local name, family, parts used, floral period (FP) and uses

Table 3 Economically important Shrubs of Tehsil Karak, botanical name, local name, family, parts used, floral period (FP) and uses

Table 4 Economically important herbs of Tehsil Karak, botanical name, local name, family, parts used, floral period (FP) and uses

These plants which are growing naturally in different seasons of year in this area are used for different purposes. The benefits of about 160 plant species were studied and described by local people and habitants. All these species are the main source of medicine and other requirements of the local communities, because of the shortage of trained manpower and resources. Shenji (1994) suggested that ethnobotany is the science of documenting the traditional knowledge on the use of plants by the indigenous people and for further assessing human interactions with the natural environment. It is a collaborative venture between people in local communities and various scientists and specialists. So the indigenous knowledge, accordingly, continue to provide the building blocks for development in rural communities because the medicinal plants are the precious economic resources of the area and wild are used in the crude form locally or collected and transported into the drug markets inside the area and country. The people depend upon the local resources around them particularly on plants. 600 Individual questionnaires were filled from plant collectors, housewives, shopkeepers, elders, plant traders, bee keepers and local healers (Hakims). It was observed that 80% among men and 55% among women were knowledgeable about plants. It was noted that elder people had more knowledge about the folk uses of medicinal plants than younger generation. In the remote areas, modern health care facilities are lacking. Health authorities in Pakistan are not able to provide services to greater part of the rural population. According to WHO reports more than 80% of Asia’s population cannot afford formal health care facilities and therefore relies on wild medicinal plant species owing to their cultural familiarity, easy access, simple use and effectiveness (Anon., 2008). Many of the important medicinal plants are sold at higher prices in the market. Most of the plants used by the local people are not conserved but are over exploited. Similar finding were reported from Khan and Musharaf (2014). Therefore, the wide spread use of folk herbal remedies appears to be not only a case of preference but also a situation without other native choices. Such a system of medical treatment on which the majority of the population has been relying upon for generations with considerable success, should not be overlooked for further medical investigation, specially on those plants which have not been looked at for medical research, although the same have been in use by local inhabitants over hundreds of years. The present study indicated that the leaves and fruit are the most common parts of plant like Withania somnifera, Withania coagulans, Monotheca buxifolia, Zizyphus maurtiana etc used against different diseases (Table 2~Table 4). Similar finding were also reported from other areas of Pakistan (Hussain, et al., 2006; Shinwari et al., 2006; Shinwari, 2010, Khan et al., 2011a, 2011b; Khan et al., 2013). Ecological problems like cutting, overgrazing and up rooting of medicinal plants for fuel wood and commercial exploitation has resulted in poor vegetation cover, promoted soil erosion and deterioration of habitat in the area. The local people depend on fuel wood and other needs on these plants. According to Singh and Pandey (1980), rapid deforestation caused by over– harvesting and exploitative trade of medicinal plants has significantly reduced the availability of the medicinal plants in arid and semi–arid region. In the present study it was noticed that the large numbers of plants like Withania somnifera (L) Dunal., Withania coagulans Dunal., Vitex negundo L., Saccharum bengalense Retz., Rhazya stricta Dcne., Zizyphus maurtiana Lam., Monotheca buxifolia (falk) A.DC., Gymnosporia royleana Wall., Capparis deciduas (Forssk). Edge worth., Prosopis farcta (Banks & Sol.) J.F. Macbr., Salvadora oleoides Decne., Otostegia limbata (Benth.) Boiss. are over harvested. Therefore it is an urgent need of conserving these plants that in future the coming generations could be benefited from these precious plants that are a real gift of nature for the mankind. During research work it was notice that a large number of plant fossils are present in the hills of research area (Figure 6~Figure7). No research work was done in such approach. The people of the area demolish such historical wealth due to lack of knowledge and importance of fossils. Honey production is widespread in Karak. The most important indigenous flora for honey production includes Ber (Zizyphus maurtiana) and Phulai (Acacia). Ber honey is very popular. Due to the fine quality of honey, it is exported to markets at provincial and national level. Most of the honey entrepreneurs producing Ber honey were outsiders. Bee keepers are to be encouraged and train them in the production and processing of high quality honey because the demand for this product is very high. The local organizations leader should facilitate them in promotion of their services among communities and organizations. A chief goal of present study is to ensure that local natural history becomes a living tradition in communities used with great interests and are active participants in the trade and economy of the country.

Figure 6 Fossil of plant species in research area-1

Figure 7 Fossil of plant species in research area-2

The present study show that the people of the area possessing good knowledge of herbal drugs but as people are going to modernization; their knowledge of traditional uses of plants may be lost in due course. The investigated area has a rich diversity of medicinal plants and provides a conductive habitat and ideal conditions for their growth. Native healers should be encouraged to accurately share their knowledge to others. Such studies may also provide some information to biochemist and pharmacologist in screening of individual species and in rapid assessing of phyto-chemical constituent and bioanalysis for authentic treatment of various diseases.
The paper is a fraction of MPhil thesis. Authors are grateful to the local people of area who have revealed the precious information about plant species and assistance. We cannot forget all our class fellows and friends for all support they accorded us during the period we carried out this study.
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