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Urbanites look for tribal cure
- Increasing number of people in cities depend on herbal medicines for treatment

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 20: Twenty-three-year old engineering student Amrita Routray trusts the herb Brahmi as a memory booster. She was looking for the herb and found it at an exhibition of tribal medicine in the capital.

However, Amrita is not the only follower of tribal healers and their medicines. Many people in urban areas of Orissa, including Bhubaneswar, appear to be inclined towards the traditional herbal medicine and prefer the advice of tribal healers when it comes to health issues.

“Most tribal medicines do not have any side effect. Our system of treatment comes from the indigenous theories handed down verbally from generation to generation,” says Sridhar Mahanty, a tribal healer from Satapatna, Nayagarh.

“The herbs, barks seeds and roots found in the forest plants have immense benefits for many ailments starting from gynaecological problems to arthritis,” says Birabikram Mahanty, another tribal healer from Nuagaon.

The healers and their assistants collect the medicinal plants from the forests and then prepare pastes, tablets, powders and lotions from them using traditional methods like pounding the plant parts using mortar and pestle.

“Organisations like the Orissa Development Action Forum approach us from time to time and we participate in a number of exhibitions and fairs where people come in large numbers to buy these medicines,” says Uddhaba Sahoo, a healer from Dhanwantari Baidya Seba Sangha, Kalahandi.

“Women look for herbs like the Muturi roots or Satabari. These are very effective for many disorders of child birth and various gynaecological infections,” adds Sahoo.

“With the growing demands of urbanites for these medicines, healers are coming up with tablets, powder and lotions as well as syrups of the herbs since people in the cities find it easy to use the medicines in these forms,” says William Stanley of the Orissa Development Action Forum that recently organised a workshop and exhibition for tribal healers and medicine in association with the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal.

“A strong patent system would help these healers. There is also a need to prepare a database of the knowledge of the tribal healers,” he adds.

Every district now has a network of tribal healers who are accessible to their patients through mobile phones. “I call the tribal healer on his mobile phone whenever I have a question and he even sends me medicines,” says Amrita.

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