Diversity and use of ethno-medicinal plants in the region of Swat, North Pakistan

J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2013 Apr 15:9:25. doi: 10.1186/1746-4269-9-25.


Background: Due to its diverse geographical and habitat conditions, northern Pakistan harbors a wealth of medicinal plants. The plants and their traditional use are part of the natural and cultural heritage of the region. This study was carried out to document which medicinal plant species and which plant parts are used in the region of Swat, which syndrome categories are particularly concerned, and which habitat spectrum is frequented by collectors. Finally, we assessed to which extent medicinal plants are vulnerable due to collection and habitat destruction.

Methods: An ethnobotanical survey was undertaken in the Miandam area of Swat, North Pakistan. Data were collected through field assessment as well as from traditional healers and locals by means of personal interviews and semi-structured questionnaires.

Results: A total of 106 ethno-medicinal plant species belonging to 54 plant families were recorded. The most common growth forms were perennial (43%) and short-lived herbs (23%), shrubs (16%), and trees (15%). Most frequently used plant parts were leaves (24%), fruits (18%) and subterranean parts (15%). A considerable proportion of the ethno-medicinal plant species and remedies concerns gastro-intestinal disorders. The remedies were mostly prepared in the form of decoction or powder and were mainly taken orally. Eighty out of 106 ethno-medicinal plants were indigenous. Almost 50% of the plants occurred in synanthropic vegetation while slightly more than 50% were found in semi-natural, though extensively grazed, woodland and grassland vegetation. Three species (Aconitum violaceum, Colchicum luteum, Jasminum humile) must be considered vulnerable due to excessive collection. Woodlands are the main source for non-synanthropic indigenous medicinal plants. The latter include many range-restricted taxa and plants of which rhizomes and other subterranean parts are dug out for further processing as medicine.

Conclusion: Medicinal plants are still widely used for treatment in the area of Swat. Some species of woodlands seem to be adapted to wood-pasture, but vulnerable to overcollecting, and in particular to deforestation. It is suggested to implement local small-scaled agroforestry systems to cultivate vulnerable and commercially valuable ethno-medicinal woodland plants under local self-government responsibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Ecosystem
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Pakistan
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plants, Medicinal*