Going back to the grassroots

ICCBS's survey has made information available on herbal remedies for skin diseases

Our Correspondent October 09, 2015
ICCBS's survey has made information available on herbal remedies for skin diseases. PHOTO: NNI

KARACHI: Around 140 plant species from 27 different districts in Sindh have been identified for the treatment of skin diseases. This folk medicinal knowledge, that is in reality an oral tradition practiced by the people of Sindh, has now been documented and preserved through the efforts of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) and the government of Sindh's planning and development department.

The efforts

A 12-member team surveyed over 1,250 villages from Badin to Tharparkar and interviewed more than 7,000 people. The study that took place over a period of four years involved collecting folk knowledge from people, gathering plants and herbs, used and recommended by the people, and finally, clinical and lab tests and trials to establish their efficacy.

Nausheen Hussain, a biochemist at ICCBS, said the basic challenges of going to these less-developed areas of Sindh was earning the trust of the people. This, combined with language barriers, posed small hurdles for Durre Shahwar, a PhD student, it was the tabulation of results that was the most cumbersome. "By the end of the visits, we would have tons of forms and responses, so coming back and making sense of it all was the real work," she shared.

The findings

A total of 200 species of plants were collected and identified, out of which 140 have been identified for the treatment of skin diseases ranging from eczema and vitiligo to boils."Contrary to the belief that cities tend to have more diseases than rural areas, we found that the infectious category of skin diseases was more widespread in villages," said Professor Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary, ICCBS director. "Sindh has lots of unbroken traditions that are fast disappearing and that have never been documented before," he said.

Choudhary said that people from the rural areas outlive those in urban areas even when they have never had access to synthetic medicines. "This is because they have always used traditional medicines. For things as lethal as a snake bite, onions are used for treatment. More than 25 per cent of people are affected by skin diseases in Sindh and this information should be available to everyone," he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2015.


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