The number of tribes present within Bangladesh has been estimated to approximate one hundred and fifty. Information on traditional medicinal practices, particularly of the smaller tribes and their clans is lacking. It was the objective of the study to document the tribal medicinal practices of the Deb barma clan of the Tripura tribe, which clan can be found residing in Dolusora Tripura Palli of Moulvibazar district of Bangladesh. A further objective was to determine the extent of the community households who still prefer traditional treatment to other forms of treatment, particularly allopathic treatment.
Interviews of the tribal healer and the tribal community regarding their ethnomedicinal practices were carried out with the help of a semi-structured questionnaire and the guided field-walk method. All together 67 clan members were interviewed including the Headman, tribal healer, 19 Heads of households and 46 other adult members of the clan. Information on number of members of household, their age, gender, educational status, occupation of working household members and preferred mode of treatment was obtained through the semi-structured questionnaire. In the guided field-walk method, the healer took the interviewers on field-walks through areas from where he collected his medicinal plants, pointed out the plants, and described their uses.
The clan had a total of 135 people distributed into 20 households and had only one traditional healer. Use of medicinal plants, wearing of amulets, and worship of the evil god ‘Bura debta’ constituted the traditional medicinal practices of the clan for treatment of diseases. The healer used a total of 44 medicinal plants distributed into 34 families for treatment of various ailments like pain, coughs, cold, gastrointestinal disorders, cuts and wounds, diabetes, malaria, heart disorders, and paralysis.
Available scientific reports validate the use of a number of plants by the traditional healer. A number of the plants used by the clan healer had reported similar uses in Ayurveda, but differ considerably in their therapeutic uses from that reported for other tribes in Bangladesh. The present survey also indicated that in recent years the Deb barma clan members are inclining more towards allopathic medicine.