Ethnomedicinal plant diversity in Thailand

Methee Phumthum, Kamonnate Srithi, Angkhana Inta, Auemporn Junsongduang, Kornkanok Tangjitman, Wittaya Pongamornkul, Chusie Trisonthi, Henrik Balslev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Plants have provided medicine to humans for thousands of years, and in most parts of the world people still use traditional plant-derived medicine. Knowledge related to traditional use provides an important alternative to unavailable or expensive western medicine in many rural communities. At the same time, ethnomedicinal discoveries are valuable for the development of modern medicine. Unfortunately, globalization and urbanization causes the disappearance of much traditional medicinal plant knowledge.

Aim of the study: To review available ethnobotanical knowledge about medicinal plants in Thailand and to estimate its diversity.

Methods: Information about ethnomedicinal uses of plants in Thailand was extracted from 64 scientific reports, books, and theses produced between 1990 and 2014. Plant identifications in the primary sources were updated to currently accepted names following The Plant List website and the species were assigned to family following the Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Use Values (UV) were calculated to estimate the importance of medicinal plant species (UVs) and families (UVf). Medicinal use categories, plant parts used, preparations of the medicine, and their applications were noted for each use report.

Results: We found 16,789 use reports for 2187 plant species in 206 families. These data came from 19 ethnic groups living in 121 villages throughout Thailand. The health conditions most commonly treated with medicinal plants were in the categories digestive system disorders, infections/infestations, nutritional disorders, muscular-skeletal system disorders, and genitourinary system disorders. Plant families with very high use values were Fabaceae, Asteraceae, Acanthaceae, Lamiaceae, and Zingiberaceae and species with very high use values were Chromolaena odorata (L.) R.M. King & H. Rob., Blumea baLsamifera (L.) DC., and Cheilocostus speciosus (J. Koenig) C.D. Specht. Stems and leaves were the most used plant parts, but also other parts of the plants were used in medicinal recipes. The most common way of using the medicinal plants was as a decoction in water.

Conclusion: We found 2187 plant species that were used in traditional medicine in Thailand. Of these a few hundred had high use values, suggesting that they may produce bioactive compounds with strong physiological effects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Pages (from-to)90-98
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2018


  • Ethnobotany
  • Ethnic groups
  • Traditional medicine
  • Asia
  • Use value
  • Thai
  • Medicinal use category
  • MICE


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