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A survey on the linkage between use of traditional medicinal plants and high life expectancy of communities living near the Sinharaja rainforest

Author Affiliations

  • 1Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Kelaniya, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
  • 2Department of Geography, University of Ruhuna, Matara, 81000, Sri Lanka
  • 3Department of Geography, University of Ruhuna, Matara, 81000, Sri Lanka

Int. Res. J. Social Sci., Volume 6, Issue (5), Pages 8-14, May,14 (2017)


Sinharaja is a tropical rainforest located between 60 21’ – 60 26’ latitude North and 800 30’ – 800 34’ longitude East. It sprawls across 11,187 hectares of land in the Galle, Matara and Ratnapura districts. Over the centuries, the communities living around the periphery of Sinharaja have interacted with the forest in many ways. Basically, their livelihood is dependent on the forest resources. One of the major forest resources gathered and used by them are medicinal plants. The primary objective of the research was to study the effect of traditional medicinal plants on the life expectancy of the population living near the Northwestern (NW) slope of Sinharaja forest’s periphery. Other objectives were to study the types of medicinal plants used, exact locations from which medicinal plants were gathered, inhabitants’ knowledge of medicinal plants, the food habits of the elderly people and to assess the current trend in the use of medicinal plants by the younger generation living in the same area. Two Grama Niladari divisions comprising six villages were selected for the study done in the NW slope of Sinharaja forest’s periphery. These were Kudawa, Pethiyakanda, Pitakele and Buthkanda villages of Kudawa GN division and Suduwelipotha and Miyanapalawa villages of Weddagala North GN divisions, all of them situated in the Kalawana District Secretariat Division of the Ratnapura District. The total number of elderly persons (those over 60 years of age) was 60, and an age stratified random sampling of 82.0% was done; from the younger population (18-35 years of age) numbering 156, a sampling of 20% was done. All of these persons were inhabitants of the six villages. A house to house survey was conducted using a questionnaire, interviews, case studies and field observation to collect data for the study from the overall population, while in addition a focus group discussion was held with the younger group. The 18-35 age group sampling did not necessarily coincide with that of the older age group. The study was done over the period May-December, 2011.Results showed that the oldest respondent in the sample was 99 years old and in good health. The elderly population had regularly utilized the traditional medicinal plants. They said that 42.9% of the medicinal plants they gathered were from the forest, 30.6% were from their home garden, 16.3% from the village and 10.2% from the nearest market. According to the study, 43 medicinal plants have been commonly used by the elderly persons and these were mostly gathered from the forest. At present, the majority of younger persons get their medicines from the nearest market.


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