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Acanth Fact of the Day

Like the majority of flowering plants, Acanths utilize pigments such as anthocyanins to give color to their flowers. Recent studies in Acanths have shown that changes in the anthocyanin pathway can have a major impact on pollination ecology -- of both the flowering plants and the animals that visit them.
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The Malayali people of Dharmapuri, India

Summary provided from “Ethnomedicinal Perspectives of Botanicals used by Malayali Tribes in Vattal Hills of Dharmapuri (TN), India” by S. Ramya et al.

The Malayali tribe of India is located within the Vattal Hill ranges of the Dharmapuri district.  This particular tribe makes up 47.6% of the 427 tribal populations in India with over 300,000 people.  The native language of the Malayali is called Tamil, which is used to conduct the interviews of this study.  With over 200 million people in India living without modern health care, the rural way in which communities like the Malayali live make traditional medicine an extremely important asset in treating disease.

In this study, five male and two female healers are interviewed and observed as to their medical practices and the plants they utilize.  27 plant species within 16 families were identified for use in traditional remedies, of which 3 of the species belonged to the acanthaceae.

Table 1.  Acanthaceae utilized in traditional healing of the Malayali people. 

Scientific Name

Condition for use

Adhatoda zeylanica

Paste eaten to treat fever.

Andrographis lineata

Paste applied topically to snake bite wound

Phlebophyllus kunthiamum

Paste applied topically to treat nervous system disorders

As the table above indicates, the paste form of medication is the preferred choice used by the Malayali tribes whereas the Nandi preferred a liquid mixture when using acanths. Along with the healers in the African tribes of Nandi, the preparation of the natural remedies are indeterminate and vary according to the particular aliment.  Additionally, occasionally a healer may use a combination of several plant species for certain diseases. Furthermore, healers in the tribe believe in synergistic properties of combining multiple plants; if a particular plant species used to commonly treat a condition is not found or is too dry, then a combination of different species will be used to treat the same disease. Along with using the plant mixtures (usually derived from fresh leaves, roots or stems), a ritual is also preformed with the patient. Medications in other plant families are typically ingested orally, though the most common use for the acanthacaeae is a topical administration of an Andrographis paste to treat snake bites.  Like the case study of the Nandi, the Malayali play an integral role in the natural resource management of their homeland and further ethnobotanical research could provide additional incentives for local governments to help tribes protect biodiversity. 

S. Ramya et al. "Thnomedicinal Perspectives of Botanicals used by Malayali Tribes in Vattal Hills of Dharmapuri (TN), India". Ethnobotanical Leaflets. 12. 1. (2008). 1054-1060.