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Ethnobotanical appraisal and medicinal use of plants in Patriata, New Murree, evidence from Pakistan

Ejaz Ahmed1*, Muhammad Arshad1, Abdul Saboor2, Rahmatullah Qureshi1, Ghazala Mustafa1, Shumaila Sadiq2 and Sunbal Khalil Chaudhari1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Botany, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

2 Department of Economics, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

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Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2013, 9:13  doi:10.1186/1746-4269-9-13


The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.ethnobiomed.com/content/9/1/13


Received:13 September 2012
Accepted:19 February 2013
Published:27 February 2013

© 2013 Ahmed et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Background

This paper reflects the empirical findings of an ethnobotanical survey which was undertaken in Patriata (New Murree) of district Rawalpindi in Pakistan. The aims and objectives of the study were to document indigenous knowledge of plants particularly of medicinal, veterinary, fruit, vegetable, fodder, fuel etc.

Methods

For this purpose, the whole area was surveyed for documenting folk knowledge using a semi-structured questionnaire. A total of 93 plants species belonging to 80 genera and 56 families were found in a variety of uses by the local people for the accomplishment of their basic needs. The study further employs binary logit regression model of medicinal uses of these plants so as to identify the probability of occurrence of medicinal use of woody or non-woody plants keeping other plant characteristics in view.

Results

Ethnobotanical data shows that most plants are used for medicinal and fodder purposes (27.93% each), followed by fuel (16.90%), fruit (6.55%), vegetable (5.52%) and ethno-veterinary (3.79%). There is also an established association of medicinal use of plants to the fruits use. Non-woody plants have high tendency towards medicinal use of the plants as compared to woody plants. Annual plants are less likely to be directly associated with medicinal use of plants in the surveyed vegetation. Underground plant parts are more likely to be used for medicinal purposes as revealed from the Logit expressions.

Conclusions

The study revealed that most of the plants are used for medicinal and fodder purposes. The results of Logit Model showed that the probabilities of plant species for their medicinal use are associated to the woody or non-woody, aerial or underground, perennial or annual characteristics of plants. One should be careful in completely generalizing the results as the survey findings are sensitive to the plant species and the vegetation under consideration. But it can be specified that there exists either some positive or negative association of medicinal use of plants to the various characteristics of plant species.

Keywords:
Ethnobotany; Medicinal use of plants; Probabilities; Logit expression; Patriata; Murree; Pakistan

Background

Ethnobotany accounts for the study of relationship between people and plants for their use as medicines, food, shelter, clothing, fuel, fodder and other household purposes [1]. It deals with the interaction of indigenous plants and the local inhabitants of the area. The aim of ethnobotanists is to explore how these plants are used as food, clothing, shelter, fodder, fuel, furniture and how medicinal use of such plants is associated to other characteristics of the plant species. It is a multidisciplinary science that studies “the relationship between a given society and its environment and in particular the plant world”. They understand and collect the knowledge of valuable plants by the use of anthropological methods [2].

Humans are mainly dependant on plants for medicine and therapeutics and still 70 percent of the world population depends on medicinal plants for their primary healthcare needs [3]. Preservation and enhancement of indigenous plant knowledge is actually rescuing a global heritage [4]. Ethnobotanical studies in various areas of Pakistan have been carried out [5-9].

Since the advancement in the field of ethnobotany, importance of traditional ethnobotanical knowledge in the traditions and culture of rural populations have fully been realized and documented in most parts of the world. But in developing countries where populations are more dependants upon traditional ethnobotanical knowledge, the understanding of this fact needs to be matured.

The present study was aimed to explore the traditional utilization of plants of Patriata, New Murree located in district Rawalpindi. The study area is part of country’s richest biodiversity centre and a source of ethnobotanical knowledge. Most of the population of the area is rural with low literacy rate and they also lack modern health facilities, hence they are more dependant upon natural resources especially plants for their healthcare and to compensate their low income as well. Topographically the area mainly comprises hills and slopes and therefore very little accessed for research studies. The present study would prove very fruitful in depicting the traditional affiliation and dependence of rural people with plant resources of the area. The study further explored the probabilistic association of medicinal use of such plants with other peculiar characteristics of plants including some other domestic uses.

Method

Research area, climate and vegetation

Patriata is a famous hill station located at about 65Km North East of Islamabad. It is located at 33° 51’ N latitude and 73° 28’ E longitudes and it is present at an altitude of 2100-2743 Meters above sea level. Patriata is the highest place in the area and the hill top stands 2743 Meters above from sea level. Most of the area comprises mountain slopes with soil derived from weathering of bedrock resulting in mixed residuum and colluvium. Due to its location at high altitude, the climate usually remains pleasant from April to September, while it becomes extreme cold type during October to March. Snowfall usually happens from mid December to February and the temperature may drop up to -10°C [10].

The area falls under Sub-tropical and Moist temperate forests in which Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii) and blue pine (P. wallichiana) are the most dominant tree species in the area. Due to cool and humid conditions for most of the year, the vegetation in the area comprises a wide variety of trees, herbs, shrubs and climbers. Ground cover comprises a wide variety of angiosperms along with ferns and mosses.

Field work and collection of data

The ethnobotanical knowledge was documented through a semi-structured questionnaire. During field visits, interviews were conducted from 37 local people especially older people and rural herbalists (Hakeems) who were familiar with traditional uses of plants particularly for medicinal, veterinary, fruit, vegetable, fodder, fuel and others. The queries were repeatedly made to increase the reliability of the data. Identification of plant samples was done by using the available literature [11-14]. Plant specimens were collected, pressed, dried and identified in the Herbarium of, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. After proper identification, these plant specimens were deposited in the Herbarium, Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi as voucher specimen for future references.

Logit model

Logit expression is helpful in understanding the in-depth probabilistic relationships among various variables. In the present case, medicinal use is attributed to various characteristics and traits of the plants. By analyzing data through logit model we become able to empirically estimate the probability of medicinal use of plants due to woody and non-woody, aerial and underground, perennial and annual nature of plants in addition to the use of plant as fodder or as fruit.

There is wide use of Logit Model in Plant and Animal sciences particularly to verify the probability of occurrence of an event (for instance, the probability of use of woody or non-woody plants in medicinal use). By using this model we become confident to relate the characteristics of plant species in a particular ecosystem. This is the inherent beauty of the model that it takes into account the exogenous variables like overall vegetation in a particular ecosystem. In order to incorporate taxonomies of different plant species in the same model, a huge set of data and associated information is required which is beyond the scope of this study. At least, we authenticate our findings by employing Logit specifications which otherwise remain a perception and indigenous observation. The advantage of Logit results are that the findings can be applied and specified for having a broad picture in other ecosystems as well. Moreover, the typical probabilistic relationships further help in pursuing research on important variables across regions of the similar flora.

The study employs binary logit regression model of medicinal use of 93 plants species of Patriata region because we consider the case where response Medicinal Use (MU) is binary that will take the value of 1 if yes is associated with the plant; zero (0) is taken if there is no medicinal use of plant. The logit model for medicinal use of plant thus took the form

<a onClick="popup('http://www.ethnobiomed.com/content/9/1/13/mathml/M1','MathML',630,470);return false;" target="_blank" href="http://www.ethnobiomed.com/content/9/1/13/mathml/M1">View MathML</a>

Where dependent variable Logit (Li) is log of odd ratios and Xi is the vector of all explanatory variables used in the regression analysis i.e. Woody and Non-Woody (WDN) Plants (by taking 1 for Woody Plants and 0 for non-woody Plants), Perennial and Annual (PAN) plants (by taking 1 for Perennial Plants and 0 for Annual Plants), Aerial and Undergrounds (AUG) plant parts (by taking 1 for Aerial Plant parts and 0 for Underground Plant parts), use of plant as Fruit (by taking 1 if there is use of plant as fruit otherwise 0) and fodder (by taking 1 if there is use of plant as fodder otherwise 0) while Li is constructed for Medicinal Use (MU) of plant.

Dependent variable in logit model is logit rather than a mean so coefficients are in logit. βi represents the change in the logit of the probability associated with a unit change in the respective predictor holding all other predictors constant [15]. These types of interpretations are unfamiliar so an appropriate way is to interpret the marginal effects in the logit model. We constructed Marginal Effects for our analysis. Hence, to interpret parameter estimates through marginal effect, the slope coefficients of the logit model were transformed to yield estimates of the marginal effects i.e. the change in the predicted probability associated with the change in the covariates [16,17].

Results and discussion

Ethnobotanical importance

A total of 93 plant species belonging to 80 genera and 56 families are reported in the present communication being used by the natives for multi-purpose. The detailed inventory is provided in Table 1, which includes botanical names, followed by local name, family and ethnobotanical uses.

Table 1. Ethnobotanical uses of plants of Patriata, New Murree

The study showed that people of the area are much dependant on the native flora for acquiring their basic requirements such as fodder, medicines, fruits, vegetables, fuel, furniture, roof thatching, fencing, etc. One of the major reasons is that the whole area is rural in nature and most of the people are not very well off. Therefore, most of them keep livestock along with other source of income. The analysis of the ethnobotanical data shows that a large number of plant species are used for fodder/forage purpose (27.93 percent). The area is a rangeland blessed with high number of palatable species, so there is great potential for livestock farming.

Ethnobotanical use categories are shown in Figure 1, which shows that almost equal proportion of species were used for medicinal as well as fodder for their domesticated animals (27.93 percent each). It was followed by fuel (16.90 percent), others (11.38 percent), wild fruit (6.55 percent), vegetable (5.52 percent) and ethno-veterinary (3.79 percent). With reference to their medicinal use (Figure 2), leaves were commonly used parts for making indigenous recipes (36.61 percent), followed by fruits (24.11 percent). Availability status of the species was also analysed and recorded in Figure 3, which shows that 37.23 percent species are abundantly present in study area, 43.62 percent species are common, 13.83 percent species are rare and 5.32 percent species are endangered in the area and need their conservation.

thumbnailFigure 1. Ethnobotanical uses of flora of Patriata, New Murree.

thumbnailFigure 2. Part used for ethnomedicinal purpose of flora of Patriata, New Murree.

thumbnailFigure 3. Availability of plants of Patriata, New Murree.

Due to absence of fuel source “local population” is totally dependant upon fuel wood species for their survival. They are extensively cutting forests for their fuel wood requirements without any knowledge of their extinction, so a number of species are rapidly decreasing in the study area. One way to reduce this pressure on the natural vegetation is that, people may be provided with alternate fuel sources like natural gas.

During interviews with the local people, it was noted that the ethnobotanical knowledge is becoming restricted only to the elder people, Hakeems, and pensaries (local herb sellers). Young generation is totally ignorant of this wealth. Advancement in science and technology has changed social setup; therefore young generation is leaving traditions and culture.

Some significant findings from logit expression

The results reported in Table 2 reflect the logit estimates for medicinal use analysis for 93 plants. The table represents logit coefficients as well as odd ratios but a more comprehensive and meaningful interpretation was made through marginal effects (marginal probabilities). The effect of the variable WND shows that probability of woody plants to be used for medicinal purposes is 45.26 percentage point lower than that of non-woody plants. Thus, among the surveyed 93 species, non-woody plants have high tendency towards medicinal use of the plants as compared to woody plants (keeping the socio-economic characteristics of the communities in respective region constant). The probability of a perennial plant for medicinal use is about 95.18 percent higher than that of annual plants. So, there is likelihood of the fact that more the plant a perennial one, higher is the chance of its medicinal use in the specific region keeping all other probabilities constant. Annual plants are less likely to be directly associated with medicinal use of plants in that particular ecosystem. All such results are statistically significant.

Table 2. Maximum likelihood estimates for medicinal use logit regression

On the other hand, probability of aerial plant parts in medicinal use is about 0.24 percent lower than underground plant parts. In other words, the aerial and underground plant parts of species of Patriata Ecosystem are almost equally eligible for the medicinal values. Similarly, the probability of fruits of plants for medicinal use is about 2 percentage point higher than non-fruit parts. The probability of fodder plants in medicinal use is 0.004 percentage point lower than non-fodder plants. This value is too low to be effective and also statistically insignificant showing that plants used as fodder are ineffective in medicinal use. All the variables are highly significant at less than 1 percent except fodder (which is statistically insignificant which might be due to the ignorance of the local community). The Wald Chi-Square test statistic is also very high with probability value less than 1 percent showing that model is highly significant. The overall significance of the model further authenticates the findings related to medicinal use of plants. All other empirical specifications including descriptive statistics have been shown in Additional file 1: Appendix-A.

Additional file 1. Appendix-A. Table A-1 Descriptive Statistics. Table A-2 Coefficients in Logit Analysis. Table A-3 Odd Ratios in Logit Analysis. Table A-4 Marginal Effects in Logit Analysis.

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One should be careful that the survey results are sensitive to the plant species and the vegetation under consideration in addition to socio-cultural characteristics of the dwellers of the region. But it can be specified that there exists either positive or negative association of medicinal use to the various characteristics of plant species. The probability of medicinal use of plants is fairly linked to the probability woody and non-woody, perennial and annual, aerial and underground characters of plants.

Conclusion

The present study reveals that ethnobotanical knowledge is found restricted to indigenous culture, so change in traditional culture will surely result in loss of this valuable treasure. There is need of hour to document this hidden treasure to avoid its extinction and the present study is a part of this effort. Based on the present investigation, there is need to authenticate medicinal and forest products of plants on scientific lines. On the other hands, conservation status should be determined of the native flora required for conserving endangered species. It has been determined that the probabilities of plant species for their medicinal use are associated to the woody or non-woody, aerial and underground, perennial and annual characters of plants. There is also an established association of medicinal use of plants to the fruits use. Non-woody plants have high tendency towards medicinal use of the plants as compared to woody plants. Annual plants are less likely to be directly associated with medicinal use of plants in the surveyed ecosystem. A further exploration in the same fashion in other ecosystems can lead us to some solid understanding of medicinal use of plants and its probabilistic association with other features of plant species and their respective taxonomies.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

MA designed the research project, provided comments and suggestions on the draft. EA conducted the field work, analysed the data and wrote the draft of manuscript. RQ conducted the field work and provided comments on the draft. GM and SKC conducted field work and analysed the data. AS and SS have conducted statistical analysis and analysed the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

Acknowledgments

The authors are highly grateful to the local informants of Patriata, New Murree who fully cooperated and provided the important ethnobotanical data to them. Without their cooperation this research project would have never been completed.

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