Medicinal Plants Used by the Oromo People of Ethiopia’s Ghimbi District


Medicinal plants used in traditional medicine by Oromo people, Ghimbi District, Southwest Ethiopia

Abera B
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 May 8;10:40
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4060869
Map of Ethiopia highlighting the Oromia Region
Map of Ethiopia highlighting the Oromia Region (Source: Wikimedia Commons User:Golbez)

Balcha Abera of Jimma University conducted an ethnobotanical study to identify the most effective medicinal plants used by the Oromo people of Ethiopia’s Ghimbi District, within the Oromia National Regional State.

Allium sativum
Allium sativum [source: William Woodville: „Medical botany“, London, James Phillips, 1793, Vol. 3 Plate 168: Allium sativum (Garlic), Wikimedia Commons]
Working with 30 key informants and 165 community members, Abera documented 49 medicinal plant species used to treat various human ailments, the majority of which were collected from the wild and the rest from homegardens. Three species demonstrated particularly high healing potential: Glinus lotoides (against tapeworm infection), Croton macrostachyus (against malaria), and Allium sativum (against malaria and other diseases).

Abera notes that the transfer of indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge in the region is declining from generation to generation, from a number of causes:

“Regarding the current transfer of indigenous knowledge [this study] confirmed that the traditional knowledge is declined from elder to younger age groups. On top of this, during specimen collection, interview and field visits elders express their interest by demonstration how to collect, process, administer, and prescribe medicinal plants and with great beliefs of the traditional medicine on its effectiveness on treating the diseases while the young generation showed low participation in all aspects. Thus, decreasing positive attitude towards use of medicinal plants in traditional medicine by young generation indicate the loss of vital indigenous knowledge…. Moreover, the decline of the traditional knowledge in generation is due to the … interference of and shifts to the use of more synthetic drugs not only in the urban but also extending to the rural areas…. Moreover, most of the African modern health professionals greatly undermine the contribution of traditional medicine in health care system while the scientists of developed nations intensively search for medicinal plants to seek a solution for the old and newly rising diseases. All these factors may result to a loss of this rich and useful knowledge which has been accumulated over many generations.”

He recommends incorporation of indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge into formal education before it is lost.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Use & Knowledge of Wild Leafy Vegetables in Northern Morocco


Wild leafy vegetable use and knowledge across multiple sites in Morocco: a case study for transmission of local knowledge?

Powell B, Ouarghidi A, Johns T, Ibn Tattou M, Eyzaguirre P
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Apr 4;10:34
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4008438

Regions of Morocco
Regions of Morocco [source: Tachfin, Wikimedia Commons]
Bronwen Powell of the Centre for International Forestry Research and McGill University, with colleagues from the Cadi Ayyad University, McGill, Mohammed V University and Bioversity International, conducted an ethnobotanical study to document the use and diversity of wild leafy vegetables across three regions in northern Morocco (Taza-Al Hoceima-Taounate, Tadla-Azilal, and Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz – #15, 12, and 7 on the map).

The authors discuss the importance of wild leafy vegetables in the Background:

“WLVs [wild leafy vegetables] are essential to the nutrition and food security of people around the world. WLVs add diversity to the diet; making diets healthier and more interesting. Studies have shown the significant contribution of WLVs to micronutrient content of local diets in developing countries. WLVs can be important, not just in times of food scarcity (drought) but throughout the year. In many cases, WLVs are especially important to socio-economically vulnerable groups and indigenous populations forced to live on marginal lands for social and political reasons. In such groups WLVs can decrease people’s dependence on cash-purchased market foods and provide income for those with limited access to land for cultivation of crops.”

Scolymus maculatus
Scolymus maculatus [source: Iorsh, Wikimedia Commons]
The team identified more than 30 species of wild leafy vegetables, including four that had not previously been recorded in the literature as used in Morocco. A number of species were recorded in all three regions, including Carduus tenuiflorus, Scolymus maculatus, Scolymus hispanicus, Malva spp., Emex spinosa, and Rumex spp.

The vegetables are not eaten raw; rather they are cooked, either as a side dish or used as a vegetable in a sauce poured over couscous.

In their Conclusion, the authors note that their study of knowledge and use of wild leafy vegetables across three regions in Morocco present a case study of potential importance for research in transmission of ethnobotanical knowledge, the role of markets in cultural transmission, and the nutritional value of wild leafy vegetables to local diet and nutrition:

“Knowledge of WLVs in Morocco is clearly highly nuanced, very highly variable, and susceptible to rapid change. WLVs in Morocco provide an extremely interesting case study in which to further study the horizontal and vertical transmission of traditional or local knowledge. In Morocco, markets may be an important site where food preferences and choices are shaped through cultural transmission.

“There is a great need for more research on WLVs in Morocco: nutrient composition, contribution to local diet and nutrition, as well as the potential of WLVs and other traditional foods to play a role in mitigation of the nutrition transition. We need to better understand if and how WLVs and other traditional foods can be incorporated into public health nutrition messages and food-based strategies to mitigate the double burden of nutrition Morocco now faces.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.


Traditional Botanical Knowledge of Macedonians & Albanians Living in Gollobordo, Eastern Albania


Resilience at the border: traditional botanical knowledge among Macedonians and Albanians living in Gollobordo, Eastern Albania

Pieroni A, Cianfaglione K, Nedelcheva A, Hajdari A, Mustafa B, Quave CL
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Mar 31;10:31
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3998745

Andrea Pieroni of the University of Gastronomic Sciences, with colleagues at the University of Camerino, Sofia University, University of Pristina and Emory University, conducted a cross-cultural ethnobotanical survey of Macedonians and Albanians living in Gollobordo, a region of Eastern Albania bordering the Republic of Macedonia.

From the Background:

“The portion of [traditional ecological knowledge] concerning plants is nowadays increasingly considered crucial in South and South-Eastern Europe for fostering community-based strategies of management of natural resources. It may also represent the starting point for initiatives aimed at the reevaluation of local plants devoted to both small scale food and herbal markets and eco-touristic initiatives. Additionally, studies focused on plant uses that have been conducted in Eastern Europe with an in-depth historical or ethno-historical approach or via archival research and/or contemporary surveys conducted among botanists remembering their childhood have demonstrated how plant perceptions change over time, in response to a complex interplay of socio-cultural, environmental, and economic dynamics.”

Cornus Mas
Cornus Mas [source: B. Navez, Wikimedia Commons]
The team documented 115 taxa of vascular plants that are locally used for food, medicinal, and veterinary purposes. Medicinal plants include Helichrysum plicatum, Arum italicum, Asplenium trichomanes, Cornus mas, Crataegus sericea, Juniperus communis, Origanum vulgare, Rosa canina, Urtica dioica, and Verbascum longifolium, among others.

The authors discuss potential implications of this cross-cultural ethnobotanical study in their Conclusion:

“Local environmental resources derived from plants continue to play an important role in the provision of dietary and medical care for both humans and their livestock in Gollobordo’s communities. We could confirm a more herbophilic attitude of the Macedonians, especially with regards to medicinal and veterinary plants, while the overlaps between the Albanian and the Macedonian ethnobotanies are still relatively limited (restricted to a quarter of the overall recorded plant reports). This confirms that in Gollobordo, despite the two communities having shared the same religion and the same environmental space for many decades, the “original” [traditional ecological knowledge] systems still persist, perhaps due to the geographical and cultural isolation of the area, especially with regards to the Macedonian community. Initiatives aimed at generating an endogenous rural development and especially at fostering sustainable gathering activities of local plants – as well as their small-scale trade and eco-tourism – should seriously consider these cultural divergences. This could in turn promote a tighter collaboration between the two communities and help to sustain the threatened linguistic and cultural heritage of the Macedonian minority.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Traditional Use of Insect-Repellent Plants Against Malaria in Ethiopia


Insect repellent plants traditional usage practices in the Ethiopian malaria epidemic-prone setting: an ethnobotanical survey

Karunamoorthi K, Hailu T
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Feb 12;10:22
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3932844

Jimma Zone, southwest of Addis Ababa
Jimma Zone is southwest of Addis Ababa (center of map) [source: USAID/Ehiopia Map Room, Wikimedia Commons]
Kaliyaperumal Karunamoorthi and Teklu Hailu of Jimma University conducted an ethnobotanical survey to document and evaluate knowledge and usage practices of the local inhabitants on insect-repellent plants in Bechobore Kebele, Jimma Zone, Ethiopia, an area where malaria remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality.

From the Background:

“In Ethiopia, burning of dried repellent plants is one of the common phenomena to drive away insects and mosquitoes. It is usually performed by using the traditional charcoal stove (thermal expulsion) in the early evenings. In the recent years, a revived interest has been observed among the health-conscious consumers with the plant-based repellents because of their low mammalian and non-target toxicity than their synthetic counterparts. Consequently, the exploding demands and falling supply insists to conduct more ethnobotanical survey in order to formulate risks-reduced/green pesticides and repellents from the traditionally used repellent plants.”

Cupressus lusitanica
Cupressus lusitanica [source: Toby Hudson, Wikimedia Commons]
The team identified 22 plants used by the local inhabitants against mosquitoes and other insect and arachnid pests, including ticks, bedbugs, and houseflies. Commonly used insect-repellent plants included Gatirra Habasha (Cupressus lusitanica), Akaakltii Adii (Eucalyptus globulus), and Bakanissa (Croton macrostachyus). A number of respondents reported using a mixture of various repellent plants stem, root, resin, leaves and bark, called Shita.

The authors note that their findings suggest “a steady decline/erosion of knowledge and practices of repellent plants,” against which ethnobotanical surveys such as this one “may serve as a connecting-link to transfer the practical knowledge and traditional practices from the older to younger generations,” and “lay the first stone to devise affordable user-friendly next generation vector control tools to minimize the vector-borne disease burden especially malaria in the near future.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Wild Food Plants Used by Tibetans of Gongba Valley


Wild food plants used by the Tibetans of Gongba Valley (Zhouqu county, Gansu, China)

Kang Y, Luczaj L, Kang J, Wang F, Hou J, Guo Q
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Feb 6;10:20
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3933068

Gansu Province, Tibet
Gansu Province, Tibet [source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Yongxiang Kang of Northwest A&F University, with colleagues at that institution and the University of Rzeszów and the Forestry Academy of Bailongjiang Forestry Administration Bureau, conducted a study of wild food plants used by people of the Gongba Valley.

The authors note the paucity of data in this area:

“Ethnobotany research in China, concerning wild food plants, has so far been concentrated mainly on Yunnan and Inner Mongolia, also as far as wild food is concerned. Although some papers on the use of wild food plants have been published from other parts of China, some provinces are seriously under-studied ethnobotanically. An example of such a place is the province of Gansu, for which we found only one small article on wild vegetables, and only for the easternmost part of the province inhabited by Han Chinese. Gansu is an ethnic mosaic of a few ethnic groups: Han Chinese, Hui and Tibetans. In spite of the tremendous cultural diversity of different Tibetan ethnic groups and their diverse plant use, there is relatively little ethnobotanical literature devoted to the Tibetan people in China. There is a particularly scarce ethnobotanical literature concerning the use of wild food plants by Tibetans, also in other provinces, with only one major article on the wild food uses of the Tibetans in Shangri-La (NW Yunnan).”

On the basis of field research carried out in a wooded mountain valley in 9 neighboring villages in the Zhouqu (Brugchu) county, and comprising 17 interviews with single informants and 14 group interviews, involving 122 people altogether, the team documented 81 species of wild food plants.

Caltha palustris
Caltha palustris [source: Jasper33, Wikimedia Commons]
The most commonly eaten fruits, which are mainly collected by children and eaten raw, include Pyrus xerophila, Prunus salicina, Berchemia sinica, Rubus spp. and Eleagnus umbellata. The most widely used wild vegetables include Eleuterococcus spp., Pteridium aquilinum, Helwingia japonica, Aralia chinensis, Allium victorialis, Pteridium aquilinum, Ixeris chinensis, Thlaspi arvense and Chenopodium album.

The authors note that “culinary use of Caltha palustris as a green vegetable is very interesting. In its raw state, marsh marigold is a toxic plant, due to the presence of protoanemonin. In this area it is dried or lactofermented before use.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Medicinal Plants Used by the Deb Barma Clan of Bangladesh


A survey of medicinal plants used by the Deb barma clan of the Tripura tribe of Moulvibazar district, Bangladesh

Kabir MH, Hasan N, Rahman MM, Rahman MA, Khan JA, Hoque NT, Bhuiyan MR, Mou SM, Jahan R, Rahmatullah M
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Feb 6;10:19
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3996145

Moulvibazar District, Bangladesh
Moulvibazar District, Bangladesh [source: Nafsadh, Wikimedia Commons]
Mohammad Humayun Kabir and colleagues at the University of Development Alternative conducted a survey of the ethnomedicinal practices of the Deb barma clan of the Tripura tribe, residing in Dolusora Tripura Palli of Bangladesh’s Moulvibazar district.

The survey is part of a larger project to document the medical ethnobotany of Bangladesh:

“Towards building up a comprehensive database of medicinal plants of the country and their traditional uses, we had been interviewing and documenting the traditional medicinal practices of folk and tribal medicinal practitioners for a number of years. The Tripura (also known as Tripuri, Tiprah or Tipperah) tribe is one such indigenous community in Bangladesh, whose various clans can be found in the Chittagong and Sylhet Divisions in the southeast and northeast parts, respectively, of the country. The various clans of the Tripura tribe include Deb barma (also known as Tiprah), Reang or Bru, Jamatia, Koloi, Noatia, Murasing, Halam, Harbang, and Uchoi. We have previously documented the ethnomedicinal practices of the Harbang clan of the Tripura tribal community residing in Chittagong Division of Bangladesh.”

On the basis of interviews of the tribal healer and the tribal community regarding their ethnomedicinal practices, with the help of a semi-structured questionnaire and guided field-walks, the team documented 44 medicinal plants used by the tribal healer for treatment of a variety of ailments, including malaria, skin infections, tuberculosis, respiratory disorders, bleeding from external cuts and wounds, chest pain, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatic pain, burning sensations during urination, bone fracture, snake bite, toothache, headache, bleeding from gums, paralysis, skin disorders, helminthiasis, chicken pox, diabetes, jaundice, eye disorders and weakness.

Persicaria glabra
Persicaria glabra [source: J. M. Garg, Wikimedia Commons]
Several plants were found to be unique in their use for medicinal purposes by the Deb barma healer, including Physalis micrantha, Persicaria glabra, Smilax macrophylla, Sansevieria hyacinthoides, Garcinia cowa, Pouzolzia zeylanica and Lantana camara, and are proposed for scientific examination for their relevant pharmacological activities.

From the Conclusion:

“…In recent years, the Deb barma clan members may have started to prefer allopathic system more than their traditional medicinal system. If this happens, the ethnomedicinal wisdom of the Deb barma clan may be lost forever, if not documented. Since already the usage of a number of their traditional medicinal plants has been validated through scientific research, it is important that the yet to be studied plants be examined scientifically as to their pharmacological properties and their phytochemical constituents. Such studies can be beneficial to human beings if new and more efficacious medicines can be discovered from these plants.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Ethnomedicine in War-Affected Pakistan


Ethnomedicine use in the war affected region of northwest Pakistan

Adnan M, Ullah I, Tariq A, Murad W, Azizullah A, Khan AL, Ali N
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Jan 31;10:16
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3932995

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan [source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Muhammad Adnan of Kohat University of Science and Technology, with colleagues from that institution and the University of Nizwa, conducted a ethnomedicinal study to document medicinal plants used in Bannu District, a region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan much affected by the “War on Terror.”

From the Introduction:

“This study has been carried out in the Frontier Region (FR) Bannu, which has suffered heavily due following the onset of the Global War on Terrorism. Various ethnomedicinal studies have been carried out in other regions of Pakistan; however, the FR has yet to be explored due to limited access. The area represents one of the country’s richest centers of biodiversity and it is a strong source of indigenous knowledge. Most of the population of the area is rural with a low literacy rate; hence they are more dependent upon natural resources, and especially on plants for their healthcare needs and livelihoods. War has crippled modern health facilities in the study area, which in turn has resulted in the spreading of gastrointestinal and skin related diseases among others. However, local people are increasingly using ethnomedicines to treat such diseases at the local level. Shinwari et al. perceived a diminishing of indigenous knowledge due to the ever increasing influence of global commercialization and socio-economic transformation, and a dire need was expressed to preserve such knowledge on medicinal plants before it disappears. Hence, the present study was designed with the following objectives: (i) to identify and explore plant species that are being used locally for the treatment and prevention of various diseases; (ii) to document traditional recipes from medicinal plants including methods of preparation and modes of administration; and (iii) to investigate the current and future status of traditional knowledge among different age groups. The present study may help in the preservation of indigenous knowledge on ethnomedicines and provide baseline data for future studies.”

Nannorrhops ritchiana
Nannorrhops ritchiana is under threat in the region due to over-collection [source: Stan Shebs, Wikimedia Commons]
The team carried out fieldwork in all seasons from March 2012 to February 2013, collecting data on medicinal plants using structured and semi-structured questionnaires from 250 local respondents. They identified 107 species of medicinal plants, used most commonly for carminative purposes (i.e., to treat gas in the gastrointestinal tract), followed by blood purification. The dominant medicinal plant species are Acacia modesta, Acacia nilotica, Calotropis procera, Dodonaea viscosa and Withania somnifera.

Two species, Caralluma tuberculata and Nannorrhops ritchiana, identified as having potential for cultivation to achieve ecological restoration and rural livelihood, are under threat due to over-collection.

The authors conclude that armed conflict in the so-called War on Terror has severely degraded the region’s ethnomedicinal knowledge, which serves as an integral source of rural livelihood:

“Traditional medicines serve as an integral source of rural livelihood in the study region in northwestern Pakistan, which is severely affected by armed conflict in the so-called War on Terror. The study area has plenty of medicinal plants to treat a wide spectrum of human ailments and local healers, although in decline, can be experts in the preparation of various ethnomedicinal remedies. Moreover, the use of specific plant parts, similar uses of same plants in different regions and multiple uses of single plants for the preparation of medicinal remedies suggest the prevalence of biologically active compounds across a range of medicinal plant species. Further phytochemical analysis, pharmaceutical application and clinical trials are therefore recommended in order to evaluate the authenticity of ethnomedicines to scientific standards. Indigenous knowledge on ethnomedicinal preparations persist more among older traditional healers, however, such knowledge is being lost to younger generations and continuing armed conflict in the region may further inhibit the transition of such knowledge. As such, studies on the documentation of ethnomedicines may be extended to other war-affected areas for the protection of traditional knowledge.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Ethnobiological Study in Kala Chitta Hills, Pakistan


An ethnobiological study in Kala Chitta hills of Pothwar region, Pakistan: multinomial logit specification

Arshad M, Ahmad M, Ahmed E, Saboor A, Abbas A, Sadiq S
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Jan 27;10:13
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3914733

Punjab Province, Pakistan
Punjab Province, Pakistan [source: Saqib Qayyum, Wikimedia Commons]
Muhammad Arshad of PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, with colleagues at that institution and Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, conducted an ethnobiological study with residents of Kala Chitta hills of Pothwar (Potohar Plateau/ (Potohar/Potowar/Pothohar) region in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, cataloging and analyzing the ethnobotanical and ethnozoological uses of plants and animals among the indigenous communities.

A number of tribes and clans live in the region, including Pathan, Awan, Malik, Gujjar/Gurjar, Maliar, Syed/Sayyid, Sheikh and Mughal.

From the Background:

“Due to a combination of hills, plains and dynamic climate, [the Kala Chitta hills are] rich in floral and faunal diversity. Therefore, this is considered a hotspot for biodiversity and ethnobiology. The people of the area cannot enjoy the fruits of modern facilities of civilizations due to lack of infrastructure and communication. The specific and distinguished socio-economic conditions of the region keep them closer to the natural resources. The area is rich in rural culture and folk traditions. People’s livelihoods are highly dependent on indigenous plants and animals. The importance of ethnobiology is reflected in their lifestyle including dressings, weddings, death ceremonies, childbirths, festivals, cultural functions and socio-religious beliefs. This area was not considered for the study of ethnobiological potential in the past for being far away from the main city and somehow prohibited by the Armed Forces. The present study is designed to document the traditional ethnobiological knowledge and association between ethnobotanical and ethnozoological facts. The inhabitants of Kala Chitta hills live in the area of great biological diversity that provides potent phytozootherapeutic remedies. People of this region have limited access to modern health facilities and public services. However, due to lack of money and the remoteness of the hilly range, plants and animals continue to play an important role in their daily life. The health services are based on use of medicinal plants and animals which is inexpensive and remedies are easily available. The historically close association between nature and locals of this Hilly range, almost all of the inhabitants have some rich knowledge about the use of medicinal plants and animals for treating a range of ailments.”

Acacia nilotica/Vachellia nilotica
Acacia nilotica/Vachellia nilotica [source: Mimosa nilotica Tafel 595 Afbeeldingen der artseny-gewassen met derzelver Nederduitsche en Latynsche beschryvingen (1800), Wikimedia Commons]
The team documented traditional uses of 91 plant species and 65 animal species, with medicinal uses predominant. Many plant species have multiple medicinal uses, including Acacia nilotica/Vachellia nilotica (lumbago, kidney pains, diabetes, sexual disorders, phlegm, dysentery, and as a tooth powder and astringent); Mentha longifolia (dysentery, colic pain, asthma, jaundice, stomach diseases) and Triticum aestivum (inflammations, diabetes, sexual disorders, piles, lumbago, constipation, and as a caloric).

The authors propose consideration of policy measures to sustain this indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants, which they note has been put in danger through “the loss of traditional community life, widespread hunting of biodiversity and extensive use of fuel wood amidst deforestation”:

“The collected ethnobiological data may provide basis to formulate a policy for biodiversity conservation and community development. Therefore, it is articulated that such ethnobiological studies can make significant contributions to indigenous knowledge as well as to the sources of raw materials for the development of commercial pharmaceuticals and neutraceuticals. The native biota of Kala Chitta hills is threatened by factors such as extensive fuel wood consumption, hunting of wild animals, grazing, expansion of new agricultural lands, buildings, roads and unsustainable picking of plants to generate income. Punitive measures should be taken to ensure the inclusion of relevant flora and fauna within conservation designations.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Medical Ethnobotany of Naxi Homegardens


Comparative homegarden medical ethnobotany of Naxi healers and farmers in Northwestern Yunnan, China

Yang L, Ahmed S, Stepp JR, Mi K, Zhao Y, Ma J, Liang C, Pei S, Huai H, Xu G, Hamilton AC, Yang ZW, Xue D
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Jan 10;10:6
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3907136

Lijiang in Yunnan Province
Lijiang in Yunnan Province [source: Lincun, Wikimedia Commons]
Lixin Yang of Minzu University, with colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Montana State University, University of Florida, College of Forestry and Vocational Technology in Yunnan, Southwest Forestry University (Bailongshi) and Yangzhou University, documented medicinal plant species in homegardens of healers and farmers and associated ethnomedical knowledge in two Naxi (Nakhi, 纳西族, 納西族, Nàxī zú) communities in Lijiang Prefecture in Northwest Yunnan Province of China.

From the background:

“The ethnomedical systems of China’s numerous socio-linguistic groups play a crucial role for community health in the country’s indigenous areas, many of which are located in habitats of high biodiversity. China’s 55 minority socio-linguistic groups are recognized to utilize more species of medicinal plants compared to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system of the dominant Han population…. The gathering of medicinal plants also provides an important livelihood activity for many indigenous communities in China.

“China’s Northwest Yunnan Province is recognized for its rich biodiversity and cultural history associated with the management and utilization of medicinal plants. NW Yunnan is located in the Three Parallel Rivers region and is listed as a World Natural and Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO, making it global priority site for biodiversity conservation. The region’s exceptional altitudinal range, topography and climatic variability have fostered centers of plant species endemism. NW Yunnan harbors over 3,500 endemic plant species, many of which are utilized by local communities including the Naxi.

“The Naxi are a Burmo-Naxi-Lolo sociolinguistic sub-group of the Tibeto-Burman group within the Sino-Tibetan family. They primarily inhabit the highlands of Lijiang Naxi Autonomous Region in the eastern Himalaya of China’s Northwest Yunnan Province with a population of approximately 300,000. Historically, the Naxi relied on an indigenous system of Bon practice to treat health conditions primarily through consultation with local shaman priests known as Dongba (Dto’mba) as well as through herbal healers and self-care. The traditional Bon practice is founded on animist and shamanistic traditions with links to pre-Buddhist and Buddhist Tibetan practice and many of these traditions remain through the world’s only remaining pictographic writing system.”

Surveying local healers and farmer households, the team identified 106 medicinal plants cultivated in Naxi homegardens, which they classified into medical condition groupings based on systems of the body, e.g., inflammation, circulatory system disorders, nervous system disorders, detoxification, digestive system disorders, muscular-skeletal system disorders, genitourinary system disorders, skin conditions, respiratory system disorders, and cold and flu.

Fallopia multiflora
Fallopia multiflora [source: Doronenko, Wikimedia Commons]
The most frequently inventoried species of medicinal plants included Aconitum carmichaeli, Aucklandia lappa, Chaenomeles sinensis, Fallopia multiflora, Foeniculum vulgare, Gentiana robusta, Lactuca sativa, Ligusticum chuanxiong, Mentha spicata, Paeonia delavayi, Paris polyphylla, Platycodon grandiflorus, Prinsepia utilis and Zanthoxylum bungenum.

The authors found that healers maintained greater medicinal plant species richness in their homegardens compared to farmers, and had greater knowledge of medicinal functions of plants. Healers cultivated medicinal plants primarily for healing whereas farmers cultivated medicinal plants for commercialization and household healthcare. They argue that both types of homegardens are “ecologically and culturally important spaces for the transmission and preservation of ethnomedical knowledge that support community wellbeing and livelihoods”:

“Naxi homegardens provide in situ conservation spaces for medicinal plant germplasm as well as a shelter for native, rare and endangered plants. Medicinal plants maintained within Naxi homegardens are valued for diverse properties including edible, economic and ornamental properties. In addition, Naxi homegardens provide important habitats for the introduction and domestication for wild medicinal plants and as a nursery for plant propagation. These ecologically and culturally important spaces for the transmission and preservation of ethnomedical knowledge that support community wellbeing and livelihoods are at risk with rapid socio-economic, policy, land use and environmental changes in China. Conservation efforts and evidence-based policies are necessary to preserve the ecological and cultural base that maintains medicinal plant use and community wellbeing by both healers and farmers in Naxi homegardens. Economic incentives provided by markets are one way to ensure the protection of ethnomedical plant knowledge in Naxi communities. Future studies can shed insight on the success of such policies and market-based conservation efforts.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.