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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2023  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 97-112

Ethno-dermatological relevance of medicinal plants from the Indian Himalayan region and its implications on cosmeceuticals: A review

Medicinal Plant Research Laboratory, Department of Botany, Ramjas College, University of Delhi, New Delhi, Delhi, India

Date of Submission08-Sep-2022
Date of Acceptance28-Jan-2023
Date of Web Publication31-Mar-2023

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Suresh Kumar
Medicinal Plant Research Laboratory, Department of Botany, Ramjas College, University of Delhi, New Delhi 110007, Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdras.jdras_140_22

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Since prehistorical times, the traditional knowledge of medicinal plants has been prevalent in India. The Indian Himalayas are one of the mega-biodiversity regions with vast reserves of medicinal plants. In dermatology, advanced healthcare solutions are not ordinarily available in rural areas; therefore, traditional medicines are used in treatment. The present review aims to emphasize and enlist the details of medicinal plants with curative action against skin disease in the Indian Himalayan region and to draw the attention of pharmacologists, botanists, and phytochemists to conduct scientific research on important ethno-dermatological medicinal plants. The review aimed to analyze the data of 112 plants from 56 families obtained from various online databases and servers. Lamiaceae and Asteraceae represent the highest number of plants against skin disorders. Leaves (44%) were the most commonly used plant part and the mode of administration of plant extract was majorly external and very few orally. The herbal formulations for skin by different cosmetic industries were studied individually to find out their key bioactive ingredients and were further listed in a table. In herbal cosmetics, Centella asiatica (L.) Urb. extract, sandalwood oil, and Aloe vera (L.) Burm. f leaf pulp are used in most herbal products because of their skin rejuvenating properties. The Indian Himalayas are the treasure box of medicinal plants but, because of increased environmental degradation, the number of plant species is declining. This review on ethno-dermatological knowledge of medicinal plants can escalate the development of drugs and new therapeutic potentials for curing skin diseases.

Keywords: Ethno-dermatology, Indian Himalayan region, pharmacologist, phytochemist, skin disorders

How to cite this article:
Singh H, Kumar S, Arya A. Ethno-dermatological relevance of medicinal plants from the Indian Himalayan region and its implications on cosmeceuticals: A review. J Drug Res Ayurvedic Sci 2023;8:97-112

How to cite this URL:
Singh H, Kumar S, Arya A. Ethno-dermatological relevance of medicinal plants from the Indian Himalayan region and its implications on cosmeceuticals: A review. J Drug Res Ayurvedic Sci [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 22];8:97-112. Available from: http://www.jdrasccras.com/text.asp?2023/8/2/97/373012

  Introduction Top

The implausible biodiversity in plant life forms in the Himalaya Centre of Plant Diversity forms a constricted band in the Himalayan Region, which is located explicitly around Himalaya’s Southern border. Indian Himalayan region (IHR), which is about 300–400 km wide, 2400 km long and altitude ranging from 300 to 800 m, consists of five different biogeographical zones, namely (i) Trans Himalaya (Ladakh), (ii) Northwest Himalaya (Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh), (iii) West Himalaya (Kumaun and Gharwal), (iv) Central Himalaya (Sikkim and Darjeeling hills of West Bengal), and (v) East Himalaya (Arunachal Pradesh).[1] The IHR stretches across thirteen Indian states/Union territories: Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Mizoram, Tripura, Assam, and West Bengal. The Indian Himalaya is a treasure house of medicinal and aromatic plants with approximately 70,000 known plant species.[2] The Alpine and tropical zones of the Himalayan Region have the highest biodiversity of medicinal plants. According to World Health Organization, 60%–80% of local people of the IHR are still dependent upon the traditional system of medicine. Plant-based derivatives are best suited for treating human diseases. The traditional medicine system for skin diseases is usually practiced in India. The rising demand for herbal medicine is because of its novel therapeutic properties and is highly economical.[3] The oldest traditional formulations of medicinal plants appeared in the treatise of Rigveda during the Vedic period of 4500–1600 BCE.[4] Characterization of medicinal plants by indigenous communities relies upon two factors, that is, traditional knowledge and indigenous practice.[5] Indigenous knowledge consists of every aspect of preparing medicine, religious practices, farming, hunting, crafts, and arts used by cultures of indigenous people.[6] Traditional knowledge is integrated into the practice, customs, and culture of ethnic groups and communities. Indigenous communities have vast natural pharmacopeia which consists of medicinal plants that are wild. Local and tribal people of IHR regularly use the different plant organs such as leaves, stems, fruits, roots, and seeds for protecting and treating numerous skin diseases, namely dermatitis, boils, carbuncle, skin ulcers, abscess, scabies, eczema, pigmentation, skin allergies, psoriasis, fungal infections, etc. There are several causes for such disorders, such as stress, hormonal imbalance, large exposure to sun rays, or some microbial attack. For many decades, several cultivated and wild plants are used for healing. Recently, medicinal plants have acquired significant importance, being used as a natural component in cosmetic products and herbal medicines. Herbal extracts are now used in the formulations of cosmetic products for the skin. Herbal cosmetics are products in which herbs are used in crude or extract form.[7] Herbal cosmetics are formulated products using several ingredients in an admissible quantity that is used to provide appropriate cosmetic advantage only.[8] In India, several dermatological treatments are being outlined in Ayurveda. This review aims to assemble the classical knowledge of medicinal plants and their use in the treatment of skin disease, particularly in the IHR, which forms the crucial portion of ethno-dermatology.

  Materials and Methods Top

A thorough review of the literature was conducted, and then various keywords such as ethnobotany, ethno medicine, ethno dermatology, skin diseases, herbal cosmetics, and IHR were searched in different online databases including ResearchGate, Google Scholar, PubMed, Science Direct, NISCAIR Online Periodical Repository, Web of Science, and Scopus for collecting authentic data. By searching the literature, we retrieved 109 publications, but only 59 of them met the criteria of plant selection and its relevance for curing the skin ailments. Brief accounts of 112 plant species were selected based on their usage across the IHR concerning for skin disorders. An informational table showing all the 112 plant species [Table 1] created including Botanical name, local name, habit, family, part used, disease cured, and its method of preparation. Key bioactive ingredients for skin cosmetics were recognized and tabulated [Table 2] after a thorough literature review to understand the role of each plant species in skincare. The correct botanical names were checked against the WFO (World Flora Online) Plant List and family names as per the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group IV. The methodology is illustrated in [Figure 1] through the flow diagram.
Table 1: List of medicinal plants from Indian Himalayan Region for skin disorders

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Table 2: Commonly used herbal plants in cosmetic products for skin

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Figure 1: Flow diagram of methodology used in the study

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  Results Top

A total of 112 medicinal plants belonging to 56 plant families were reviewed which were having properties to cure various skin diseases. Lamiaceae (11) and Asteraceae (9) represent the maximum number of plants [Figure 4] followed by Fabaceae (5 members); Euphorbiaceae, Lauraceae, Apiaceae, Moraceae, and Malvaceae (4 each), whereas Acanthaceae, Amaranthaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Ericaceae, and Polygonaceae are represented by three members each. Either two members or one member represents the remaining 44 families. The most commonly used plant part was found to be leaves (44%) followed by whole plant (16%), roots (11%), seeds (8%), bark (7%), fruits (4%), rhizome, flowers, bulbs (3%), and latex (1%) [Figure 2]. In the preparation of these traditional formulations, the paste was the most popular mode of administration. In herbal formulations for skin, some of the plant species including Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f, Curcuma longa L, Withania somnifera (L.), and Centella asiatica (L.) Urb. serve as a common ingredient of cosmetic products such as moisturizer, sunscreen, and skin brightening creams. This work can potentially serve as an effective measure against skin diseases.
Figure 4: Family-wise distribution of plant species

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Figure 2: Proportion of plant parts used for treating skin disease in Indian Himalayan region

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  Discussion Top

The Himalayan state of India has a vast storehouse of medicinal plants. In this review, we have summarized 112 medicinal plants belonging to 56 families and 107 Genera that included 53 herbs, 26 shrubs, 27 trees, 5 climbers, and 1 moss [Figure 3]. From the data presented in [Table 2], it can be concluded that most of the herbal products are either made by using single plant, two plants, or more than two plants. The usage of single plant could be of great interest for scientists to develop a novel therapeutic drug. Most herbal formulations are prepared in water, but in some cases, it can be administered with milk, coconut oil, or mustard oil. A total of 33 ethnodermatological plants were found in Kashmir Himalaya, J&K including Allium cepa L., Anagalis arvensis L., Berberis lycium Royle, Cuscuta reflexa Roxb., Daucus carota L., Euphorbia wallichia Hook.f., Lamium album L., Morus nigra L., Potentilla nepalensis Hook, Rheum australe D.Don,[18],[23] and Saussurea simpsoniana (Fielding and Gardner) Lipsch were commonly used in treating boils, skin allergies, skin inflammation, and skin eruptions. In the foothills of eastern Himalayas of Assam, a total of 85 plants belonging to 49 families for their therapeutic use against skin diseases such as Amaranthus spinosus L., Bischofia javanica Blume,[20]Curcuma longa L.,[34],[35]Desmodium gangeticium (L.) DC, Dillenia indica L., Embelia ribes Burm. f., Foeniculum vulgare Mill., Laurus nobilis L., and Melia azedarach L.,[28]Ocimum tenuiflorum L. was particularly used in treatment of urticaria, carbuncle, ringworm, leprosy and dry skin. Their study revealed that Curcuma longa L. and Melia azaderach L. constituted the major plants.
Figure 3: Percentage Distribution of Life forms of different ethno-dermatological medicinal plants

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In a study, 109 medicinal plant species belonging to 57 families and 102 genera were collected from different parts of the sub-Himalayan tract in Gujjar tribe of Uttarakhand[28] and of all these medicinal plants most commonly treated skin ailments were Boils (Brassica juncea (L.) Czern., Eranthemum pulchellum Andrews, Mallotus philippensis (Lam.) Muell.Arg.), Eczema (Celastrus paniculatus Wild., Triumfetta rhomboidea Jacq), Skin inflammation (Buddleja asiatica Lour., Leonotis nepetifolia (L) R.Br.), Skin allergy (Celosia argentina L., Crinum viviparum (Lam.) R.Ansari and V.J.Nair), Leprosy (Dalbergia sissoo DC., Ficus racemosa L.), Skin healing (Eulaliosis binata (Retz) C.E.Hubb.), Skin eruptions (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.). The status of Oral Traditional Knowledge on medicinal plants in hills of North-west Himalaya, J&k was studied and reported a total of 46 plant species that were found to be used in dermatological disorders[37] such as Daphne oleoides Schreb. (boils), Euphorbia helioscopia L. & Juglans regia L. (fungal infection), Ipomoea pilosa Cav. (skin burns), and Morina longifolia Wall. (Eczema). In the Purulia district of West Bengal, a total 33 plant species that were worthwhile for skin diseases. Some of the plant species such as Gmelina arborea Roxb. ex Sm. and Ficus tinctoria subsp. gibbosa (Blume) Corner were beneficial in the treatment of cuts. At the same time, root paste of Exacum tetragonum Roxb. was found to cure sores of leech bites; leaves paste of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. was effective for skin burns, and Litsea glutinosa (Lour.) C.B. Rob. paste was used to ease out pus from boils.[40]

Chemistry and biological activities of Anethum graveolens L. essential oil were reviewed and concluded that topical application of this plant’s seed extract was potent in treating skin rashes and fungal infection.[22] A total of 34 plant species were collected and documented from the Lohit community of Arunachal Pradesh. Hot water decoction of Ageratum conyzoides L. mixed with resin of Ficus villosa Blume was useful in treating boils. Leaf juice of Artemisia nilagirica (C.B.Clarke.) Pamp.[14],[24] and Plantago major L. was effective in cuts and burns. Jatropha curcas Linn. was valuable for treating skin blisters. Skin burns were cured by a moss, Marchantia polymorpha L. During last decades, there has been substantial decrease in the number of valuable medicinal plants such as Aconitum, Rheum, Vitex, because of over exploitation and nonsustainable harvesting. The allopathic medical system has begun to be preferred by people over the conventional medical system in recent years. This may result in the loss of vast ethnomedicinal knowledge of plants.

A total of 37 plant species belonging to 26 families were documented while studying in the Chirang Reserve Forest in the Northeastern Himalayan region. Bischofia javanica and Hodgsonia macrocarpa (Blume) Cogn. were highly effective against skin inflammation. Hot infusion of Alstonia scholaris (L.) R. Br. leaves was found to be beneficial for skin infections, Trema orientalis (L.) Blume was potent against various skin diseases. Mallotus philippensis (Lam.) Muell.Arg. was used by the majority of local people to treat boils.[20] The phytodiversity of medicinal plants was studied in Parvati Valley of Western Himalayas and total 50 plant species was reported. Out of these 50 plants many were responsible for curing skin diseases namely Arctium lappa L. (roots) for eczema and psoriasis, Vitex negundo L. (leaves) for skin ulcers, scabies.[23] A survey was conducted in the Zeliangrong group Manipur, in the Northeastern Himalayan Region and documented 145 medicinal plants many of which were useful against skin diseases. Mikania micrantha Kunth. was known to treat cuts and burns with 100% use reports.[49] 53 plant species from Byans Valley, a remote rural area of the IHR, were documented. Local informants were using the paste of rhizome of Paris polyphylla Smith for treating boils and whole plant beverage was prepared from Thymus linearis Benth. to heal burns and cuts.[24]

In a study, 208 local people and traditional healers of Kangra and Chamba district in the North-Western IHR were interviewed for treating several skin ailments.[17]Ajuga parviflora Benth. (Leaves) juice was used against skin infections, Kalanchoe pinnata (Lam.) Pers. (leaves) extract was effective for skin eruptions,[36]Origanum vulgare L. (whole plant) and Oxalis corniculata L. decoction for treating skin allergies and itching.

Ethnobotanical data were collected from traditional practitioners of Chungtia village, Nagaland (Eastern Himalayan Region) and recorded a total of 135 plant species belonging to 69 families and 37 of these plant species were relevant for dermatological disorders. Some of the plant species including Duabanga grandiflora (Roxb. Ex DC.) Walp., Ficus elastica Roxb.ex Hornem were known to support burns and paste of leaves of Mentha spicata subsp. Spicata was utilized by local people for treating collagen.[38] Root extract of Lagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standl. was commonly used in case of skin inflammation cuts. The Total of 61 plant species belonging to 53 genera were recorded from Pabbar valley of Himachal Pradesh, in Western Himalaya such as Aconitum violaceum Jacq. ex Stapf, Bistorta amplexicaulis (D.Don) Greene, Cassiope fastigiata (Wall.) D.Don, Cedrus deodara (Roxb. ex D.Don) G.Don, Rhododendron lepidotum Wall. Ex G.Don, Urtica dioica L. that were commonly used by local people in treating different skin ailments.[10]

From Gujjar and Bakerwal communities of Kashmir Himalaya, 60 plant species responsible for treating various ailments such as Equisetum arvense L. paste were used in the case of skin allergies; flower decoction of Malva multiflora (Cav.) Soldano, Banfi and Galasso. was used by pregnant women to treat skin infections and itchiness, and the bark of Salix alba L. was used to take bath and cure skin infections.[39]

Some important medicinal plants of Himalayan state, Uttarakhand were responsible in curing skin disorders were Cydonia oblonga Mill. for treating dermatitis, leaf paste of Mimosa rubicaulis Lam and Rumex nepalensis Spreng. are used in the case of skin inflammation.[36]

Similar studies were conducted in Mornaula Reserve Forest of Kumaun, West Himalayan Region and many plant species were reported with effectiveness against skin ailments. Arisaema jacquemontii Blume, Ageratum conyzoides L., Jasminum grandiflorum L., Melia azedarach L., and Thymus linearis Benth. were plant species responsible for treating skin disorders. Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f leaves extract gave compelling results in skin diseases and Thysanolaena latifolia (Roxb. Ex Hornem.) Honda root extract was known for treating boils and burns.[15],[19] Many people, especially those living in rural locations, are turning back to herbal treatments since they have fewer side effects even though allopathic medicines may treat a wide range of disorders. This is because of the high cost of allopathic medications and their adverse effects. Conventional medicine is a viable therapeutic approach that can be applied topically or orally to treat a variety of skin disorders. It emphasizes the value of mono- and poly-herbal formulations in treating skin conditions. Numerous studies have been conducted to show how traditional medicines are used to treat various skin diseases. An effort has been made in this review to give ethnodermatological evidence of medicinal plants from the IHR together with its effectiveness, preparation methods, and administration. Ethnodermatology is now a recognized international field of study, and various new practices have been established in numerous nations. The subject is extremely important because many skin problems are purportedly treated using traditional medicines as an alternative to or in addition to Western treatments. The available research strongly supports the effectiveness of conventional formulations, but it is important to keep in mind any potential safety concerns that could arise when using these medications.

Herbal formulations for skin

With increasing consciousness toward skin care and its beautification, there is rise in demand for herbal cosmetic products. The key bioactive phytomolecule in plants such as terpenoids, antioxidants, tannins, essential oils, vitamins, alkaloids is excellent for skin and hair. Cosmetic industries are primarily focusing on plant-based products because of some benefits namely chemical free, no side effects, ecofriendly, rich in vitamins, etc. [Table 2] summarizes some of the important herbal cosmetic products for skin with their key ingredients. Some plants have dual properties, that is, acting as cosmetic as well as treating dermatological problems. [Table 2] presents different herbal formulations for skin made by herbal cosmetic industries such as Khadi Natural, Biotique, Ayur, Himalaya, Patanjali, and JustHerbs. Sandalwood oil is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is best suited for skin eruptions[63] and therefore it is a constituent of skin moisturizer in India. The key bioactive molecule in Curcuma Longa L. is curcumin which is known to possess anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting production of leukotriene and Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f leaf extract promotes skin smoothness[64] so they are used in the preparation of herbal cosmetics. Some of the Indian cosmetics consist of jojoba oil, olive oil, wheat germ oil, and sunflower oil which are known to have anti-oxidant and ant-inflammatory properties and also enhance the skin barrier homeostasis.[65] Cucumber and Papaya pulp plays an imperious role in rejuvenating and protecting the skin[56]; thus, it forms a crucial component of herbal skin brightening creams [Table 2]. Carthamus tinctorius L. and Calendula officinalis L. essential Oil, and Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze are highly rich in antioxidants[66] and can act as UVB rays blocker; therefore, they form the essential component of sunscreen lotions. There are numerous medicinal plants that possess dual usage as a therapeutic and also as cosmetics.[67]

  Conclusion Top

The present review provides comprehensive information about traditional herbal medicines for skin disorders. The knowledge of traditional medicine is the most classical approach for therapeutic strategy in treating skin disorders. Over the past decades, there has been tremendous advancement in understanding herbal formulations for the skin. We conclude that most formulations are taken externally or topically and very few are administered internally or orally. Dermatologists all over the world prefer chemical formulations for skin diseases that merely give complete results. However, plant-based natural medicine will take a lot of time to show the results, but it will give promising results. Large-scale clinical studies must be done for in vitro testing of the plant extracts, and Ayurvedic formulations can be prepared. Studies have shown that specific formulations have proved to be highly efficient against skin burns and therefore this topic is of paramount importance in dealing with skin-related issues through traditional medicine in conjunction with advanced medicine systems. This review of ethnobotanical dermatology will allow researchers and cosmetic industries to develop herbal formulations with novel therapeutic potential against skin diseases. In the future, the potential of herbal cosmetics can be intensified using nanotechnology-based formulations as it can increase their affinity for the skin more effectively. Nanoantimicrobial agents can be created by encapsulating bioactive agents from plants into a Molecular organic framework (MOF) and coordination framework, as they are excellent candidates for drug release.[68]


The authors are grateful to Prof. Manoj K Khanna, Principal, Ramjas College and Prof. Suman Lakhanpaul, Head, Department of Botany, University of Delhi, for their constant motivation and guidance in writing this manuscript. The authors are acknowledging the experts for reviewing the manuscript for further improvement.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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