Note: This article is for informational purposes only. This is not an attempt to suggest any kind of cure and medication. This information in the article is based on the experience and traditional medicinal knowledge of Adivasis. Please consult your doctor before consuming these medicines.
Translated from Kokborok by Hamari Jamatia
Humans have a long history of depending on plants and shrubs to stay healthy. These plants contain many medicinal properties that help in countering common health ailments. In Tripura, this system of herbal medicine is called ‘Bonoji’. This knowledge is familiar to only a select number of people in villages who serve as the first responders to sick residents. They rely on plants and bushes around the house and the village to concoct cures for stomach ache, irritable bowels etc. Here is one such medicine for stomach aches:
The first ingredient is samsata, or an indigenous species of Menispermaceae. It is a plant that grows in small bunches on the ground. Its leaves have a slightly bitter taste and are eaten by the indigenous communities of Tripura in the form of boiled curry. It is considered nutritious and is known to ease stomach ache. It comes in two varieties: samsata mugili and samasata kotor. Whereas both have more or less the same benefits, samsata kotor is easily available. It can grow on its own in backyards. To make the bonoji medicine, we need a handful of fresh leaves of this plant.
Fresh leaves of guava are another excellent ingredient to ease stomach ache and loose motion. Sometimes, people boil the leaves and drink the water to cure stomach ache. You have to pluck the young and soft leaves of the guava tree, and not the mature ones. They can easily be found in indigenous homes alongside other trees.
Shirata grows on its own in abundance in the backyard. It is a highly bitter plant that is converted into juice for diabetic patients. It is believed that the plant stabilises insulin. For our bonoji treatment, fresh leaves are plucked.
The leaves of samsata, goyam, and shirata are washed properly in clean water. They are then crushed into a paste and run through a sieve so that the juice is collected in a tumbler. The person suffering from stomach ache and loose motions is given the juice early in the morning on empty stomach. It is known to rapidly cure the person.
In this way, the indigenous people of Tripura make use of plants and trees to keep themselves healthy. It is an easy and trusted way that the tribals use to cure ailments without having to spend money on visiting doctors and buying allopathic medicine. The system of Bonoji medicine is extensive and needs to be researched so that more people can benefit from it. The research will support these communities to pass down this knowledge from one generation to another and keep the knowledge alive.
Note: This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.