Medicinal Flora from Thal Desert, Punjab, Pakistan

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Inventory of medicinal flora from Thal Desert, Punjab, Pakistan

Shaheen H, Qureshi R, Akram A, Gulfraz M
Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2014 Apr 3;11(3):282-90
PubMed Central PMC4202450

Investigators from Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University conducted an ethnobotanical survey in the Thal Desert, Punjab, Pakistan to document the traditional use of medicinal flora.

From the Introduction:

“In Pakistan, ethno-botany is now well established discipline and various researchers reported good work across the country. Although 88% of the total area of Pakistan is classified as arid and semi-arid, however, less attention is being paid to carry out research on desert habitats. Only a few papers have also been published. The Thal Desert is not yet fully known with reference to ethno-botanical research. So this study was carried out to explore this region for extraction of ethno-botanical information pertaining to medicinal plants.”

The team found that the people in the area are extremely knowledgeable about medicinal flora, reporting 120 species used in treating various human diseases, which are listed in a detailed inventory including botanical name, parts used, method of preparation and diseases treated.

Achyranthes aspera
Achyranthes aspera [source: “Achyranthes aspera at Kadavoor” by “Achyranthes aspera at Kadavoor” © 2010 Jeevan Jose, Kerala, India]
Medicinal flora species identified in the study include Achyranthes aspera, Aerva javanica, Agave sislana, Aloe vera, Alternanthera pungens, Amaranthus graecizans, Celosia argentea, Digera muricata, Gisekia pharnaceoides, Limeum indicum, Phoenix sylvestris, Rhazya stricta, Trianthema portulacastrum, and Zaleya pentandra, among others.

In their conclusion, the authors note that the inhabitants’ empirical knowledge of medicinal flora “would be useful in developing health care products and preserving traditional cultures as well as phyto-diversity.”

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.

Ethnobotanical & Economic Value of Madagascar’s “Traveler’s Tree”

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Ethnobotanical and economic value of Ravenala madagascariensis Sonn. in Eastern Madagascar

Rakotoarivelo N, Razanatsima A, Rakotoarivony F, Rasoaviety L, Ramarosandratana AV, Jeannoda V, Kuhlman AR, Randrianasolo A, Bussmann RW
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Jul 15;10:57
PubMed Central PMC4106185

Ravenala madagascariensis
Ravenala madagascariensis [Source: © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / , via Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from the Missouri Botanical Garden and the University of Antananarivo report on the different uses of Ravenala madagascariensis and its importance to the people of the Ambalabe Rural Commune in eastern Madagascar.

From the paper’s Background:

“In the eastern part of Madagascar, Ravenala madagascariensis, an endemic species also known as the traveler’s palm or traveler’s tree, is considered as an iconic symbol of the island. While Ravenala madagascariensis occurs in both primary rainforest and open secondary growth, it is known to form a very characteristic vegetation called “Ravenala forest”, due to the high abundance of the species.”

The team documented a wide range of uses for the plant, with house building especially important, but notes that strategies for long-term management are needed to sustain the mature trees that are needed for construction:

Ravenala madagascariensis remains an important component in the life of local population in the Ambalabe Rural Commune, especially for house building. There are four varieties of Ravenala madagascariensis found in the study area and all of them are used. Ravenala is used primarily for construction, but other uses have also been noticed including food, medicine and tools. Using Ravenala for house building reduces the pressure on some forest trees, which contributes to the conservation of natural forests and slow growing hardwoods. However, mature trees are needed to source construction materials, and these have become increasingly scarce. While the local population has developed some practices to increase the numbers of large trees, strategies for long term management and sustainable harvests need to be developed.”

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 Knowledge of Wild Food Plants in a Few Tibetan Communities

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Traditional knowledge of wild food plants in a few Tibetan communities

Boesi A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Nov 3;10:75
PubMed Central PMC4232625

The investigator, Alessandro Boesi, presents the results of nearly a decade of field research data on wild food plant use in Tibetan regions, providing a general perspective on their significance in past and present Tibet, and examining the concept of wild edible plants as medicinal plants.

From the paper’s Background:

“Wild plants have always represented an important resource for Tibetan populations, notably for cattle breeding, house construction, tool manufacture, as a source of fuel (mainly in the form of yak dung), dying materials, and perfumes. For more than a millennium Tibetan medical practitioners have been relying, to prepare their remedies, on many plants growing in the wild, several of which have also been collected and traded by professional and occasional dealers. In meadows and pastures Tibetan children play with flowers. People place on altars in houses and temples flowers collected in the wild. Greatly appreciated for their beauty and fragrance as offerings to divinities, plants are also used in religious ceremonies. Tibetan medical texts describe the miraculous creation of certain plants through the intervention of divinities and religious personages. And, last but not least, wild plants have been collected to be consumed as food, the subject matter of this article.”

Potentilla anserina
Potentilla anserina [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Rasbak]
The author documents 75 total wild food plants and mushrooms used as vegetables, spices\condiments, fruits, ferments to prepare yoghurt and beer, substitutes for tsampa (roasted barley flour, the traditional staple food of Tibetan people), substitutes for tea, and to prepare other beverages. Among these are a number wild edible plants that are well-known and/or exploited over Tibetan regions including Allium spp., Potentilla anserina, and Polygonum spp.

From the Conclusion:

“Tibetans have traditionally exploited few wild food plants. These mainly compensate for the lack of vegetables and fruit in traditional Tibetan diet, notably among pastoralists, and are far more important during famines as substitutes for roasted barley flour. Today few wild food plants are regularly consumed, less in the main towns and villages and moreso in remote areas and among pastoralists. Younger generations from towns have almost lost traditional botanical knowledge. Owing to modernisation and globalisation processes, many local people have specialised in collecting natural products increasingly demanded in China and abroad. Tibetan people strongly benefit from these activities. Tibetan medicine sees diet as a way of curing diseases and medical treatises describe therapeutic properties of several wild food plants that Tibetans nowadays consume.”

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 Traditionally Consumed in Bologna, Italy

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Wild food plants traditionally consumed in the area of Bologna (Emilia Romagna region, Italy)

Sansanelli S, Tassoni A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Sep 25;10:69
PubMed Central PMC4189172

Investigators at the University of Bologna recorded the local knowledge concerning traditional uses of wild food plants and related practices, such as gathering, processing, cooking, therapeutic uses, with the aim of preserving an important part of the local cultural heritage of the province of the city of Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy.

From the background:

“Before the so-called economic boom (1950–1970), Italy was mainly an agriculture-based economy and society. Poverty, dryness and wars made it difficult to meet subsistence needs and, therefore, edible wild plants represented an alternative food source or sometimes the only one. Wild food plant gathering practices and their way of consumption were slowly integrated into the customs of a territory, becoming part of the Traditional Local Knowledge (TLK). The process of industrialization and urbanization changed the way of living and society, which became less and less rural. The use of mechanized agriculture and the development of transport improved the availability of vegetables and, consequently, wild food plant practices and the related local knowledge, strongly connected with rural societies, almost totally disappeared. Furthermore, intensive agriculture, which generally involved extensive use of pesticides, and pollution largely impaired wild flora biodiversity, reducing the availability of some wild plants used as food in the past….

Wild food plants are generally characterized by high nutritional and low energy values. In comparison to the corresponding cultivated species, wild food plants have a higher fibre content, are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids and contain very low amounts of lipids. Many were proven to have important beneficial effects in preventing several chronic diseases of modern society, such as age-related and heart pathologies, diabetes and some types of cancer.”

Taraxacum officinale
Taraxacum officinale (source: Wikimedia Commons, Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen)

The team documented 66 wild food plants, including greens (leafy plants eaten as vegetables), fruits and semi-wild plants, such as Crepis vesicaria and Taraxacum officinale, and 11 plants indicated as having therapeutic effects: (T. officinale, C. vesicaria, Lippia citriodora, Salvia pratensis, Mentha spp., Rosmarinus officinalis, Crataegus monogyna, Urtica spp., Sonchus spp., Crepis sancta, and Sambucus nigra).

In their conclusion, the authors note the potential nutritional and economic benefits of an increasing interest in wild edibles:

“In the era of large-scale distribution, which has generally led to a decrease in food quality, the interest in wild edibles is increasingly gaining media attention. In Italy and in many other European countries, it is possible to find guide books, workshops, and new culinary vogues associated with wild edible plants. A great impulse to this increased interest has also been given by the gastronomy elite, always in search for new stimuli, culinary experiences and healthy food, but also by agritourism farms and local rural restaurants desirous to put dishes of the traditional culinary heritage on their menus. Our contribution in preserving local knowledge and traditions will hopefully reinforce this new growing trend to become a habit, so as to enrich the local diet with new ‘old traditional’ foods beneficial for human health.”

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.