Ethnobiology of the Nilgiri hills, India
The Nilgiri is a popular massif towering high in the Western Ghats in South India with an altitude of 2623 m. Nature has been magnanimous in bestowing Nilgiri district with rich evergreen temperate to tropical forests. A high degree of biodiversity, marked by varied flora and fauna of good therapeutic potential as well as the varied number of indigenous groups of people in this area, makes it very popular among herbalists. The district has six anthropologically well defined ethnic groups namely Todas, Kotas, Kurumbas, Irulas, Paniyas and Kattunayakas living here possibly since 1200 B.C. The present review highlights the ethnobiological profile of six indigenous populations and their dependence on ambient flora and fauna for traditional health care needs. It has been observed that about 2700 therapeutically potent plant species are available in this hill station of which almost all have come from local medicine. Some have been explored scientifically. However, about 150 plant species are still to be explored for their therapeutic potential. The ethnography, phytochemical and therapeutic uses as well as the anthropological perspectives of the local medicines have been discussed in this review.
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