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Ethnopharmacological survey on medicinal plants used in snakebite treatments in Western and Sabaragamuwa provinces in Sri Lanka

Dharmadasa, R.M., Akalanka, G.C., Muthukumarana, P.R.M., Wijesekara, R.G.S.
Journal of ethnopharmacology 2016 v.179 pp. 110-127
Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae, Malvaceae, Phyllanthaceae, Poaceae, Rutaceae, accidents, agroecological zones, antivenoms, buds, bulbs, creaming, eyes, flowers, fruits, head, health services, indigenous knowledge, interviews, latex, leaves, medicinal plants, nose, oral administration, questionnaires, roots, seeds, snake bites, snakes, steaming, surveys, traditional medicine, washing, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a great diversity of snake species. In this relation, over 40,000 cases of snakebite accidents are reported annually from different agro-ecological regions of the country. Since more than 95% of victims rely on traditional treatments, there is an urgent necessity to improve the system. Traditional knowledge on snakebite treatments has been passed on from generation to generation within families. Unfortunately, there has been a limited update of information on pertinent issues related to this subject. In the present study we conducted a comprehensive survey on the types of medicinal plant materials, including the specific plant parts that are available for this purpose. In addition, various treatment types, frequency index, heavily used and rare materials, family wise distribution, challenges faced by traditional practitioners and future prospects were also explored.The present survey covered two provinces with a high population of traditional practitioners for snakebites treatment in Sri Lanka.Information was gathered from a total of seventy-four (74) traditional practitioners from the Sabaragamuwa and Western provinces. A questionnaire was prepared and pre-tested by 10–15 respondents prior to the survey. Actual data were gathered through face-to-face interviews. Collected data were tabulated and analyzed.A total of 341 different plant species belonging to 99 families were documented. The highest number of plants was reported from the family Fabaceae (32 species). This was followed by Malvaceae (16 species), Asteraceae (15 species), Rutaceae (13 species Apocyanaceae (14 species), Lamiaceae (11 species), Poaceae, Euphorbaceae and Phyllanthaceae (10 species per each) respectively. Different parts of the plant such as leaves (53.67%), barks (26.10%), entire plant (14.08%), roots (10.26%), bulbs (8.80%), seeds (7.62%), fruits (6.45%), buds (5.87%), flowers (3.23%) stems (2.93%) and latex (2.05%) were used for the preparation of nine different types of formulae. These formulae include oral administration (172 plant species), external bandaging (167 plant species), oiling for external application (34 plant species), steaming (33 plant species), creaming for wounds (6 plant species), nasal treatments (40 plant species), head treatments (23 plant species), treatment for eyes (4 plant species) and washing of wounds (9 plant species). Moreover, plants used for the different snake types, constraints faced by traditional practitioners, and their constructive suggestions were also discussed.A pioneering attempt was made to exploit local knowledge on snakebite treatments for the conservation of valued medicinal plants and to promote primary health care needs in Sabaragamuwa and Western provinces in Sri Lanka. The documented plants together with the traditional knowledge could be effectively utilized for the isolation and characterization of antivenom for different snake species.