Traditional medicine practices of Greater Mymensingh region of Bangladesh

Bibhuti Bhushan Mitra and Dr. Md Mofizul Kabir

Department of Zoology, Jahangirnagar University, Savar , Dhaka


Traditional medicine or treatment based on traditional uses of plants, animals or their products, other natural substances (including some inorganic chemicals), religious verses, cultural practices.

Medicine has been in use almost unchanged generation after generation throughout the ages for the treatment of various physical and psychological diseases. This is called traditional. Most of the times, the type, preparation, and uses of traditional medicines are largely influenced by folklore customs and the cultural habits, social practices, religious beliefs and, in many cases, superstitions of the people who prescribe or use them.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 80% of the world’s more than six billion people rely primarily on animal and plant-based medicines. Traditional human populations have a broad natural pharmacopoeia consisting of wild plant and animal species. Ingredients sourced from wild plants and animals are not only used in traditional medicines, but are also increasingly valued as raw materials in the preparation of modern medicines and herbal preparations.(Alves and Rosa, 2005).

The use of animal products in healing is an ancient and widespread cross-cultural practice. In northeastern Brazil, especially in the semi-arid region, animals and plants are widely used in traditional medicine and play significant roles in healing practices. Zootherapies form an integral part of these cultures, and information about animals is passed from generation to generation through oral folklore. Nevertheless, studies on medicinal animals are still scarce in northeastern Brazil, especially when compared to those focusing on medicinal plants. This paper examines the use and commercialization of animals for medicinal purposes in Brazil’s semi-arid caatinga region.(Alves and others,2008). Traditional practices of both preventive and curative health care have existed for thousands of years, and today they are often used in conjunction with modern medicine.

Of the more than 300 million indigenous people in the world today, an esitimated 42 million live in the Americas. They represent thousands of different cultures and ethnic groups whose survival is due, in part, to the efficacy of their traditional health practices. Indigenous peoples in this region have several centuries, developed a complex series of practices as well as an understanding of the human body.

Animals and products derived from different organs of their bodies have constituted part of the inventory of medicinal substances used in various cultures since ancient times ; such uses still exist in traditional medicine. The healing of human ailments by using therapeutics based on medicines obtained from animals or ultimately derived from them is known as zootherapy . As Marques states, “all human culture which presents a structured medical system will utilize animals as medicines”. The phenomenon of zootherapy is marked both by a broad geographical distribution and very deep historical origins. (Alves and Rosa., 2005)

As mentioned above, traditional medicine involves the use of both material and non-material components. The material components invariably comprise parts or organs of plants and their products. They also consist of animal organs, minerals and other natural substances. The non-material components, which constitute important items of religious and spiritual medicines, include torture, charms, magic, incantations, religious verses, amulets and rituals like sacrifices, appeasement of evil spirits, etc.

Diagnosis of diseases in traditional medicine, particularly in the older forms, is based mainly on physical and psychological symptoms. The symptoms are determined (a) by directly questioning the patient, (b) from the patient’s description of the ailment, (c) through observation of the patient for any gross abnormality in his posture or breathing or body temperature or any change in his eating habit or social behaviour, (d) by delving into the patient’s past life and his family history, (e) by organoleptic examinations of the patient’s eyes, skin, urine, stool, and vomits, (f) by communication with the spirits or supernatural creatures through a trance, (g) by the use of astronomical signs and mind changing drugs, and also by analysing any recurring dreams of the patient.

Treatments in traditional medicine are carried out by internal and external application of medicaments, physical manipulation of various parts of the body, performing rituals, psychological treatment, and also by minor surgery.

The medicinal preparations of traditional medicine are usually multicomponental, which are dispensed in various dosage forms such as liquids (eg, infusions, decoctions, elixirs and tinctures), semi-solids (eg, pastes, creams and ointments), solids (eg, whole or powdered plant parts, pills and tablets), and gases (eg, incense, fumigants and inhalants). Most of these preparations are given orally or applied externally on the affected parts of the body. Some medicinal agents for specific purposes are also applied internally through the anus and vagina or by making cuts and injuries on the body or inhaled through the nose and mouth in the form of smoke or steam-absorbed gas. However, intravenous application of drugs is absent in traditional medicine. In addition to treatment by administering medicaments, other methods like therapeutic fasting and dieting, hydrotherapy (bath, massage and compression with cold or hot water), heat therapy including cauterization, blood-letting, bone-setting, spinal manipulation, massage, psychotherapy, and spiritual or faith healing are commonly used in traditional medicine.

Some of the older forms of traditional medicines, particularly the religious, spiritual and folkloric ones, are still used in many developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America including Bangladesh. But they are not officially recognized as scientific medicines or methods of treatment. However, the modern types of traditional medicine, namely, the Ayurvedic and Unani medicines are now officially recognized in Bangladesh as they have undergone tremendous modernization in the country over the years. They are now practised side by side with modern allopathic medicine as an alternative and supplementary system of medicine in Bangladesh. Medicinal products of the Unani and Ayurvedic systems in Bangladesh are now prepared by using both indigenous and modern pharmaceutical technology under strict quality control measures. These medicinal products are dispensed as broken pieces or coarse and fine powders, pills of different sizes, in the form of compressed tablets, as liquid preparations, as semi-solid masses and in the form of creams and ointments neatly packed in appropriate sachets, packets, aluminum foils, plastic or metallic containers and glass bottles. The containers are fully labeled with indications/contra-indications, doses and directions for use and storage.

Ayurvedic medicinal preparations consist mainly of plant materials in the form of powders, semi-solid preparations, decoctions, elixirs and distillates. Many of them also contain inorganic chemical substances, minerals and animal products. Alcoholic extracts and alcoholic solutions of the ingredients, tinctures and elixirs are also frequently used in Ayurvedic medicine.

Whole plants or their powders or pastes or products and their extracts, infusions, decoctions and distillates constitute the major constituents of Unani medicine. Minerals, inorganic chemicals and animal products are also frequently used in preparing these medicines. However, tinctures or elixirs (which are alcoholic preparations) are not used in Unani medicine.

There are about two dozens registered herbal pharmaceuticals in Bangladesh. Of which about four big pharmaceuticals (Sadhana, Sakhti, Kundeswari and Hamdard) are now producing more than 80 percent of the traditional remedies. Almost in every market there exists at least a medicine shop trading traditional medical products. All these are controlled by Bangladesh Unani and Ayurvedic Board.

Both the Ayurvedic and Unani systems of traditional health care have firm roots in Bangladesh and are widely practised all over the country. Traditional medicine plays a very important role in Bangladesh, particularly at the primary health care level, as an estimated 70 to 75% people of the country still use traditional medicine for management of their health problems.


The earliest mention of traditional medicine is found in Rigveda, the oldest repository of knowledge in this subcontinent. Later Ayurveda, developed from the Vedic concept of life, became the important source of all systems of medical sciences. In course of time it became a part of culture and heritage of the people of the Indian subcontinent.

Traditional medicine includes not only medicinal substances of natural origin but also items like magic, charms, incantations, religious verses, spiritual methods, amulets, sacrifices, folklore customs, and even physical and mental tortures. For these reasons, the forms of traditional medicine practised today vary from highly organised and long established Chinese, Ayurvedic and Unani systems to various Folk medical practices, such as herbalism, spiritualism, and religious medical practices. Because of their origin in the remote past and the fact that most of them are still practised almost in the same way as in the past maintaining the tradition, they are collectively called Traditional medicine. The basic principle involved in traditional medicine is that it strives to treat the whole person rather than his isolated parts and thinks of him in relation to his emotional sphere and physical environment.

In one of our study in the ethnic groups of greater Mymensingh region, shows that 35 species of animals and 23 species of plants have been found which are conserved through medicinal use. Among the 35 animal species 9% are vulnerable, 7% are endangered and 11% are critically endangered according to the IUCN status. A total of 35 animal species 49% are mammal that is maximum, others are reptile-23%, bird-17%, amphibian-3%.


Maximum animal that is 23% animals are used for respirator disease and others are Gastro-intestinal-12%.A maximum animal that is 35% animals’ meat is used for medicine. Others are Liver-9%, feacal-3%, oil-9%, egg-3%, larva/saliva-9%, tail-6%, head -3%. All 35 animals are used for monotherapeutic disease.  All the drugs are prepared by mixed with other ingredients. A total of 23 plant species most frequently used treatment is gastrointestinal (5), maximum species used community is Dalu(9).

Badur( Megaderma Lyra)  , Gukhra ( Naja Kauthia) , Daraj ( Coluber nigromarginatus), Ajagar ( Penthera tigris) , Shukar ( Sus scrofa) – are used in the Dalu community found in  Mymensingh, Sherpur, Jamalpur. Gui shap( Varanus bengelensis) , Shogon( Sarcogyps calvus) , Liuna paner Kumer( Crocodylus porosus)  used in the  Hodi community found in  Sherpur . Du( Gallus gallus) , Kola Badur ( Rousettus leschenalti)   are used in  Rajbongshi  found in  Mymensingh , Sherpur.


Nilkantha ( Badur ( Megaderma lyra) , Ram Kutta ( Cuon alpinus) , Kuno Bang ( Bufo melanostictus), Banar ( Mecaca mulatta) , Benjii ( Herpestes auropuctatus), Kokil ( eudynamys scolopacea) , Indur( Rattus rattus)  used in  Khatrio Barmnan found in Sherpur , Tangail. Kasim,( Kachuga smithi)  Purun( Capricornis sumatraensis), Oak ( Sus scrofa) , Ban Biral (Felis chaus), Hati( Elephas maximus) , Maya Harin ( Munticus muntjak) , Pahari Kasim,( Manouria emys) Bormi Mayur,(Pavo muticus)  Pann Kowri ( Phalocrocorax carbo) , Bagh ( Panthera tigris)_ , Gui Shap( Varanus bengalensis)  Chotoratchara ( Capricrnis asiaticus) , Hudhud( Upopa epos)   used in  Koch community found in  Mymensingh, Sherpur, Tangail, Netrokona. Badur( Megaderma lyra), Gukhra ( Naja Kouthia ) , Daraj ( Coluber nigromarginatus) , Ajagar( Python molurus ) , Sukor( Sus scrofa)  used in Dalu community found in  Mymensingh , Sherpur , Jamalpur. Tiktiki ( Hemidactylus flaviviridis), Tiktiki ( Hemideactylus frenatus), Shial ( Canis aureus) , Kalo gui ( varanus salavator) used in Mandi community found in Mymensingh, Tangail, Jamalpur, Netrokona.


Hibiscus rosa sinensis, Mimosa pudica, Psidium guajava, Asparagus recemosus, Centalla asiatica, Nymphia nouchali, Oxalis cornoiculata, Albizia lebbeck, Colocasia esculenta are found in the ethnic community of Dalu community lived in Mymensingh, Sherpur, Jamalpur. Tamarindus indica, Shorea robusta, Citrus aurantifolia, Cinnamomum tamala are found in the Hajong community Lived in Mymensingh, Sherpur, Netrokmona. Madhuca Longifolia, Terminalia chebula, Steudnera virosa are found in the Mandi community lived in Mymensingh, Sherpur, Tangail, Netrokona. Acacia sp, Anthocephalus chinensis are found in the Koch community lived in Mymensingh, Sherpur, Tangail, Netrokona. Cassia sophera are found in the Hodi community lived in Sherpur. Asparagus racemosus in the khatrio Barman lived in Sherpur, Tangail.



T he  Indian  sub-continent  has  a  long  history  of  traditional  medicinal  systems  among  which  the  known major  system s  are  Ayurvedic,  U nani  and  the  Sidha  system.  Besides  the  ab ove  system s,  another  system  exists, which  can  be  termed  as  folk  m edicine.  Similar  to  the  Ayurvedic  system,  the  medicinal  practitioners  of  folk med icinal  systems  are  also  known  in  B angladesh  as  K avirajes.  H owever,  unlike  the  A yurve dic  system,  which may  involve   multiple  medicinal  plants  and   complicated   systems  of  pro cessing  to   prepare   medicines,  folk medicinal  practitioners  use  mostly  a  single  medicinal  plant  and  simplified  plant  preparation  procedures  for preparation  of  various  formulations  and  treatment.  T he  K avirajes  possess  consid erab le  expertise  on  medicinal plants,  which  they  usually  guard  closely  and  information  on  which  is  passed  from  generation  to  generation within  the  fam ily.  T hus  the  medicinal  plants  used  by  the  K avirajes  in  the  fo lk  m e dicinal  system  vary  widely between  even  adjoining  areas  as  well  as  among  the  vario us  tribal  peop le  who  inhabit  B angladesh,  who  m ay inhab it  the   same   area.   W e   had   been   conducting   a   system atic   ethnomed icinal  survey  of  B anglad esh.




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One Response to “Traditional medicine practices of Greater Mymensingh region of Bangladesh”
  1. Thanks for following my blog, and thus, leading me to yours. I will spend much time here I think. You are doing fine work!

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