Folk medicine alludes to those conventional therapeutic practices that do not form a part of formal medical training and normally involve the use of plant-extracted medication, honed specifically by one socio-geographical population. This knowledge, although not documented, is propagated verbally by our ancestors since many generations. The use of these medicines is generally confined to a particular geographical region or group of people such as a tribe or caste community. Primeval folk practitioners accomplished their expertise by observation, examination, and imitation. A number of communities belonging to rural/ native/cultural societies depend on folk medicine which performs a pivotal role in remedial of illness. The vast majority of people from developing and underdeveloped countries, who do not have access to contemporary medicine, depend on the traditional / native herbal medicine for their health care in spite of great advancements in contemporary medicine.
Folklore medicines have been extensively used since ancient times and are recognized by general practitioners and patients for their better remedial value as they have negligible undesirable effects in correlation to allopathic medicines (Goyal et al. 2011; Thakur et al. 2011). Local communities in developing countries have depended on the exploitation of folkloric plant-derived bioactive secondary metabolite extractions for the healing of numerous diseases and ailments. Usage of herbs and mineral products along with “enchantment” was the foundation for early folklore medication. The primeval sources like the Atharvaveda indicated the usage of plants and herbs as healing medication which dates back 1200 BC, subsequently by the Kahun in Egypt (Petrie collection) in 1880 BC and the Avesta from Persia (around 6th century AD).
Simple medicinal herbs, porridges, broths, and filtrations were integrated into Folk medicine for an effective medication. For example, folk medicines viz., Psidium guajava leaf extract, Azadirachta indica (neem) leaf extract, Ocimum sanctum boiled with tea leaves, Momordica charantia extract, and Carica papaya leaf extract, were being used for curing numerous diseases. Folk medicine is generally practiced in secluded areas and several folk medications are of surprisingly high curative significance. A huge percentage of inhabitants in a number of developing countries still rely on conventional practicians, including midwives, herbalists and bone healers who are dependent on indigenous medicinal plants to gratify their primary health care needs. In South Asia, despite of the accessibility of a large number of practitioners with dissimilar specializations, millions of common people still rely on self-medication using indigenous remedies based on medicinal plants. In south Asian provinces, numerous indigenous plant species are used in these preparations. Many pharmaceutical companies rely on the scientific information about tribal and folk practices which assist in identifying potential lead molecules for future drug preparation, while the pharmaceutical medicines are derived from plants, almost 75 percent of these were discovered by screening these potential plants in folklore medicine. In India, use of plant extracts has been a practice since ancient times which plays a crucial role in the wellbeing of communities.
In Vedas, the vital knowledge about herbal or plant-extract based treatment and their effectiveness was conveyed by word of mouth from one generation to another. In traditional medicines, for primary health care the use of plant extracts are involved by nearly 80% of the world population (Sandhya, Lathika, Pandey & Mishra, 2006). However, for principal healthcare, roughly 70% of rural populations are reliant on traditional medicine such as Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Amchi, and folk medicine (Pandey et al. 2013). The prehistoric and primordial science of Ayurveda had in-depth knowledge of the medicinal plants in Indian medical systems. The effectual treatment has always been endowed by ancient knowledge combined with scientific knowledge to combat and to eliminate certain diseases. Folkloric knowledge of the uses of medicinal plants has provided many important drug preparations. The medical utilities of several of these plants have been documented; however, there are many more, whose potentials are yet to be explored.
As reported by Anthropological Survey of India, the majority of India’s populations consisting of more than 4,635 tribes are spread throughout the country living near jungles, in rural areas and villages depend on folkloric medicine for their primary health care. Because, India has varied a religious, cultural and multilingual group of people, numerous medicinal systems have been developed. The development of folklore medicine is hindered by the advancement of modern allopathic medicine and facilities. India is a domicile for a large diversity of plants with unique medicinal and pharmacological Potential. Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation Ltd(TRIFED) under the ministry of Tribal Affairs & National Medicinal plants board(NMPB), Ministry of AYUSH aimed at promoting Madicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs), forest produced for livelihood development of tribal people by promoting primary level value addition to MAPs produce from tribes. Germany regulatory authority’s herbal watchdog agency called “Commission E” carried out extensive literature survey on 300 common medicinal herbs, assessing the eminence and uses of medicinally useful herbs.
The enrichment of folk medicine was undertaken by reputed companies like American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, American Botanical Council and British Herbal Compendium. The Indian government has documented the Indian folklore knowledge, which can be obtainable in the public domain which safeguards the autonomy of this folklore knowledge and to safeguard them from being misused in patenting on non-patentable inventions. “Traditional knowledge digital library” (TKDL), is an original proprietary database, which is fully protected under national and international laws of Intellectual Property Rights and is maintained and developed by government with the joint collaboration of AYUSH and CSIR is an exclusive digital repository of folklore medicine of India. The database is available online and is publically available and documents the in-depth information about the herbal formulations of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Yoga etc. The vital information in the database contains divergent plants names, therapeutic formulations and Ayurvedic narration of diseases along with their contemporary names (Mukherjee et al. 2007). TKDL automatically converts the information from Sanskrit into various languages.