Tribal Herbal Therapies for Children: Cough, Cold and Throat

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Tribal Herbal Therapies for Children: Cough, Cold and Throat

Cough and cold causes significant morbidity of children in the developed and developing world (Nichol et al., 2005; Eccles, 2005). The market size of synthetic and natural drug for curing cough, cold and sore throat is rising day by day. Cough, cold and sore throat products range from single-entity to combination, with a wide variety of dosage forms, and include those proven to be effective as well as those of unknown efficacy and/or safety (Pray, 2006).

In a news reported by Gardiner Harris (2007) in New York times, the annual sale of pediatric cough and cold products in US is around $500 million every year whereas there are about 800 pediatric cough and cold products available in United States that use one or more of 39 different drugs. The report concludes that the available drugs are not at all safe for children and may cause different injuries such as chronic seizure and dullness and these drugs are of less stringent standards. It is therefore, a high time to think about better alternatives to cope up with these problems.

Indian tribesmen, particularly in Patalkot valley of Central India, perform traditional ways of medication through the means of herbs. According to them, the formulations they apply to treat these disorders are safe and non-toxic for the infants and children. Authors have been constantly involved in the scouting and documentation of indigenous knowledge of tribals of Patalkot valley. They came across many herbal formulations which seem to be potential for curing cough, cold and sore throat problem in children.

A digital library of traditional knowledge of Patalkot healers has also been prepared. The current article deals with few important herbal practices used by the local healers known as Bhumkas for curing cough, cold and sore throat in children.

The aim about bringing this article is to make people aware about the herbal wealth of Patalkot valley. Pharma companies, research organization and Universities should come forward to validate these potential herbal practices so that cheaper, safer and eco-friendly drugs can be prepared and brought in the market.

Till date, no clinical trials, in regard to the Bhumka's practices, have been carried out. Authors request the readers to take proper precautions and their family doctor's advice before applying any of the below mentioned herbal formulation. This article is meant for information and awareness purposes. English and Hindi vernacular names are also incorporated in the article (Table 1).

Herbal Formulations

  • Fresh extract of Abrus precatorius root is said to be good in cough. Roots of this plant (10 g) are scrubbed in water (10 ml) and given orally to the children twice a day for three consecutive days.
  • Tribals in Chavalpani village of Patalkot prepare a decoction of equal amount of Coriandrum sativum leaves [cilantro], Cuminum cyminum [cumin] seeds and Acorus calamus roots. Around 10 ml of this decoction is given to children after meals.  
  • In Chimtipur, tribals place rhizome of Acorus calamus within the mouth of a child. According to them, it helps in expelling the cough.
  • A mixture of Adhatoda zeylanica leaf juice (6 ml) and honey (4ml) is given in cough and sour throat.
  • Allium cepa [onion] bulb juice with honey is said to be very effective in cough and colds. For this, 1 teaspoonful raw Allium cepa juice with 1 ½ teaspoonful of honey should be kept for 3 to 4 hours and then given to the child suffering from cough and cold.
  • To treat cough and cold, chapatis are prepared from the Pennisetum typhoides flour by the tribals of Kareyam village and served along with a curry prepared from Allium sativum [garlic], Solanum melongena and Trigonella foenum-graecum [fenugreek].
  • Methi Pakoda, a special dish known for its anti-tussive properties, is prepared in tribal kitchen during the peak of winter. For this, Allium sativum [garlic], Zingiber officinale [ginger], Trigonella foenum-graecum [fenugreek] and Capsicum annum are taken, chopped and fried in Brassica campestris oil and salt is added to it. It is served hot to get relieved in sore throat and severe cough.  
  • In cough, Aloe barbadensis leaves are roasted and juice is prepared. To it, honey and Syzygium aromaticum powder is added and given twice a day to the kid.
  • Asparagus racemosus root powder (2 g) is given in a glassful of lukewarm water by the healers in Rathed village.
  • In case of whooping cough and severe sore throat, equal amount of Ocimum sanctum root, Aconitum ferox bud, Piper longum fruit, Pistacia chinensis leaves and Cyperus rotundus roots is taken and powdered. Around  2 g powder is given to the patient alongwith honey.
  • Barleria prionitis leaf juice and honey is given by the Bhumkas of Harra ka Chhar village.
  • According to Rangu, herbal healer in Patalkot, Carissa congesta leaf juice (5ml) with honey (4ml) should be given in case of dry cough.
  • Pulp of Cassia fistula fruit is given by the Bhumkas of Loutia village near Patalkot valley.
  • Tribals mark a cut on the Citrullus colocynthis fruit and to it; they fill Piper nigrum seeds (4 nos.). Fruit is dried in sun light for 5 days. The fruit should be taken alongwith honey to cure any type of severe cough.
  • Citrus medica fruit juice (1ml), a pinch of roasted Ferula foetida, Terminalia chebula fruit powder (1g), Terminalia belliricafruit powder (1g), Emblica officinalis (1g), Glycyrrhiza glabra powder (2gm) are taken and mixed thoroughly. The whole mixture should be divided in two parts. One part should be given early in the morning (empty stomach) and the other part should be given before going to bed in the night.
  • Tribals of Lavaghogri make a decoction of Coriandrum sativum [coriandor] Cuminum cyminum [cumin]and sap of Ocimum sanctum [holy basil] to cure cough.  
  • Five gm Curcuma longa [turmeric] rhizome powder added in milk and boiled to cure cough and cold. Add Curcuma longa (½ tsp) to a glassful of hot milk and give it to the patient to minimize cold and cough.
  • According to the Monjelal - healer in Harra Ka Chhar village, to combat cold and whooping cough, add Trachyspermum ammi (5g), milk (150ml) and Curcuma longa powder (2g) in an earthen pot and boil for 15 minutes. This milk should be given to the child. In Gaildubba, Trachyspermum ammi seeds are roasted along with black salt and Haldi and given to the patient who is suffering from severe cough and cold.
  • To relieve dry cough, ripe Mangifera indica fruit is roasted in earthen stove (Chulha) and given to the child.
  • In whooping cough, equal amount of Piper longum fruit powder, Zingiber officinale [ginger] powder and Terminalia bellirica powder is mixed and taken alongwith honey.
  • Cow's milk is boiled and pinch of Piper nigrum [black pepper]and sugar is added to it and given orally. 
  • In dry cough, ripe Psidium guajava fruit should be taken twice a day. Interestingly, healers in Rathed village burn unripe Psidium guajava fruit in coal and eat it to get relieved in severe cough and cold.


Emerging side effects of allopathic drugs and new-age children's response to sensitive climatic conditions and synthetic drugs has been a matter of worry. There is a greater need to seek alternative options to combat such challenging conditions. Herbs can play a vital role in this regards and when it is added with tried and tested feedback in the form of traditional knowledge, it can serve as boon. Traditional knowledge can serve as a clue to modern science. It is need of the hour to validate potential herbal practices and perform rapid clinical trials to establish the tried and tested facts of age old practices. In the whole process, rights and responsibilities and Intellectual Property Rights of indigenous people should not be forgotten. 


Author is grateful to the herbal healers of Patalkot for sharing their valuable information.


  • Acharya, Deepak and Shrivastava Anshu (2008): Indigenous Herbal Medicines: Tribal Formulations and Traditional Herbal Practices, Aavishkar Publishers Distributor, Jaipur- India. ISBN 9788179102527. pp 440.
  • Eccles R. 2005. Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza. Lancet Infect Dis. 5: 718-725.
  • Gardiner Harris, 2007. Cold drug ban for children is advised: FDA panel says those under 6 aren't helped, New York Times News Service October 20.
  • Nichol KL, D'Heilly S, Ehlinger E. 2005. Colds and influenza-like illnesses in university students: impact on health, academic and work performance, and health care use. Clin Infect Dis, 40: 1263-1270.
  • W. Steven Pray.  2006. A Look at the Cough and Cold Market. US Pharmacist, 31(1).

Table1: English and Hindi names of plants mentioned in the article

Botanical name

English Name

Hindi Name

Abrus precatorius

Crab's Eye


Aconitum ferox

Indian aconite


Acorus calamus



Adhatoda zeylanica



Allium cepa



Allium sativum



Aloe barbadensis

Indian Aloe


Asparagus racemosus

Indian Asparagus


Barleria prionitis



Brassica campestris



Capsicum annum



Carissa congesta

Christ's Thorn


Cassia fistula

Golden Shower


Citrullus colocynthis



Citrus medica



Coriandrum sativum



Cuminum cyminum



Curcuma longa



Cyperus rotundus

Nut Grass


Emblica officinalis

Emblic Myrobalan


Ferula foetida



Glycyrrhiza glabra



Mangifera indica



Ocimum sanctum

Holy Basil


Pennisetum typhoides

Pearl Millet


Piper longum

Indian Long Pepper


Piper nigrum

Black Piper

Kali Mirch

Pistacia chinensis

Chinese pistachio


Psidium guajava

Common Guava


Solanum melongena

Eggplant, Brinjal


Syzygium aromaticum

Clove Tree


Terminalia bellirica

Belliric Myrobalan


Terminalia chebula

Chebulic Myrobalan


Trachyspermum ammi



Trigonella foenum-graecum



Zingiber officinale




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