Wild Plant Species Used for Food in Regional Parks of Sicily


A survey of wild plant species for food use in Sicily (Italy) – results of a 3-year study in four Regional Parks

Licata M, Tuttolomondo T, Leto C, et al.
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Feb 9;12(1):12
PubMed PMID: 26860327
Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie
Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie (Source: Martin Teetz, Wikimedia Commons)

Investigators at Università degli Studi di Palermo conducted a study of traditional knowledge on food use of wild plant species in four regional parks of Sicily: Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie, Parco Naturale dei Nebrodi, Parco dell’Etna, and Parco dei monti Sicani.

Cichorium intybus
Cichorium intybus (Source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany, Wikimedia Commons)

The team conducted interviews with 802 people over the age of 60, who had spent their entire lives in the area and who were or had been traditional farmers. The study documented 119 wild plant species for food purposes, including Cichorium intybus, Foeniculum vulgare, Borago officinalis, and Asparagus acutifolius. Sixty-four of the species were indicated as also having medicinal properties.

The authors note an increasing importance of wild food plants as part of the Mediterranean diet:

“In an effort to highlight the importance of wild plant species in our diets, a number of studies have been carried out in recent years in the Mediterranean area documenting the nutritional and medicinal properties of these plants. Compared to cultivated a number of wild plant species have been reported to contain greater levels of fiber, to have far greater antioxidant and flavonoid levels and to contain a smaller amount of lipids. A number of studies maintain that the carbohydrate, fibre, polyphenol, protein, mineral, vitamin and ω-3 fatty acid content of various parts of the wild plants can have beneficial effects on human health. This reinforces the concept of food as medicinal, first expressed by [Hippocrates] in 400 BC. The well-documented health properties of wild food plants have also contributed to increasing their importance as a part of the Mediterranean diet.”

In their conclusion, the authors recommend further research, and urge protection of these native genetic resources and the culinary traditions linked to them:

“In terms of agriculture, it is important to highlight that given the fact that only very few of the wild plants mentioned can/could be cultivated in kitchen gardens and/or crop fields, further agronomic research on these few species is essential in order to improve knowledge on their main cultivation techniques. An important result of the research is the fact that most of the wild plants are perceived as highly useful for food/medicinal purposes and this is due to the health effects of the wild plants as reported by the informants. The protection of the native genetic resources and the culinary traditions linked to them is essential if we are to preserve the cultural heritage of the Sicilian Parks concerning the food use of wild plant species and in order to cultivate a number of species of agricultural interest. Our contribution should be not considered as exhaustive and future research is necessary in order to extend investigation to the younger generations and comment on the transmission of knowledge from the old to the new generation.”

Read the complete article at PubMed.

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.

Virtual Berlinale 2016


I can’t attend the Berlin Film Festival this year, but if I could, here are nine movies I would definitely make an effort to see:

A Magical Substance Flows into Me
Palestinian Territories / Germany / Great Britain 2016, 68 min
Arabic, Hebrew, English
Jumana Manna

Posto avançado do progresso / An Outpost of Progress
Portugal 2016, 121 min
Hugo Vieira da Silva

2016, 148 min
Burmese, Mandarin
Wang Bing

Avant les rues \ Before the Streets
Canada 2016, 98 min
Atikamekw, French
Chloé Leriche

Life on the Border
Iraq 2015, 73 min
Zohour Saeid, Mahmod Ahmad, Delovan Kekha, Diar Omar, Ronahi Ezaddin, Sami Hossein, Basmeh Soleiman, Hazem Khodeideh

Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change
Canada 2010, 54 min
Ian Mauro, Zacharias Kunuk

Antes o tempo não acabava / Time Was Endless
Brazil / Germany 2016, 85 min
Portuguese, Tikuna
Fábio Baldo, Sérgio Andrade

Ghana / USA 2016, 90 min
English, Kusasi
TW Pittman, Kelly Daniela Norris

Sufat Chol / Sand Storm
Israel 2015, 88 min
Elite Zexer

Traditional Knowledge of Wild Edibles Used by the Naxi in Baidi Village, Yunnan Province


Traditional knowledge and its transmission of wild edibles used by the Naxi in Baidi Village, northwest Yunnan province

Geng Y, Zhang Y, Ranjitkar S, Huai H, Wang Y
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Feb 5;12(1):10
PubMed PMID: 26846564
Yunnan Province
Yunnan Province (Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons)

Investigators from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, World Agroforestry Centre, and Yangzhou University conducted a detailed investigation of wild edibles used by the Naxi (Nakhi, 纳西族) people in Baidi village of Yunnan Province and evaluate them to identify innovative organic food products.

The team recorded 173 wild edible plant species, including Cardamine macrophylla, Cardamine tangutorum and Eutrema yunnanense, traditionally consumed as important supplements to the diet, particularly during food shortages.

From the background:

“The Naxi people, one of the main ethnic groups in northwest Yunnan, have accumulated rich knowledge on using wild edibles. Baidi Village (Sanba Naxi Nationality Township, Shangri-La City, Deqing Prefecture) is located in … the Northwest of Yunnan Province, roughly between the two cities Lijiang and Diqing…. The mountain in its territory belongs to Haba Snow Mountain, Yunling Mountain range. Baidi … reaches an elevation of approximately 4500 m while networks of streams and rivers including Geji and Yangtze dissect numerous valleys, which make it encompass a rich diversity of plants. The village has 15 sections or groups of the settlement, eight of which belong to the Naxi. In the northwest of the village, there is a big limestone terrace, Baishuitai (literal meaning white water terrace). Local people believe this place as a shrine and perform various religious activities. It also is a famous scenic spot that attracts the considerable number of tourists all over the world.”

Hypericum forrestii
Hypericum forrestii (Source: Prashanthns, Wikimedia Commons)

The article details the diversity of wild edibles used by the Naxi (including wild vegetables, wild fruits, teas, and one honey source, Hypericum forrestii) and the traditional wisdom of the Naxi regarding the use of these plants. In their conclusion, the authors propose sustainable investigation of nutritional value and market opportunities, while promoting conservation of traditional knowledge:

“The traditional food knowledge of the Naxi in Baidi is dynamic, affected by social factors and communicated with the outsiders’ food knowledge. Overall, this study provides a deeper understanding of the Naxi traditional knowledge on wild edibles. The study suggests some wild edibles might have an interesting dietary constituent, which necessitates further investigation on the nutrition value as well as market opportunities. With scientific evidence on nutrition value and market opportunity, more people will be attracted toward the wild edibles that will help in addressing food security issues along with conservation of traditional knowledge of the aboriginal population.”

Read the complete article at PubMed.

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.

This Machine Makes Knowledge


A Knowledge Machine


What is a website but a machine, powered by electricity and information?

I am developing a website to chronicle my search for knowledge to support new collaborations for sound environmental stewardship and the promotion of human health and creativity.

My method derives from “As We May Think,” a 1945 Atlantic Monthly essay by Vannevar Bush, President Roosevelt’s science advisor during World War II. Bush’s vision led to the development of the hyperlink and the World Wide Web.

Today at its launch, the machine captures three areas of investigation:

  • Ethnobotanical Herbarium: local knowledge about useful plants. Open access to peer-reviewed journal articles in ethnobotany, via my blog. Includes real-time updates from PubMed and the Encyclopedia of Life, and a gallery of photos of medicinal plants on display at leading botanical gardens in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe.
  • Native Cinema: films with a local POV. Movies about people, places, and cultures, with real-time updates via IMDb and producers’ websites and links to my blog posts from film festivals focusing on independent world cinema.
  • Sacred Places: sustainability from the ground up. A guide to biosphere reserves, natural parks, and other protected areas. Includes links to my blog posts, park websites, and profiles on UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme MaB Database of biosphere reserves and the World Database on Protected Areas.

At the same time that I’m developing this new resource, I am reaching out to more than a hundred institutions around the world that have engaged my attention via the machine, to offer my services as a consulting writer, providing:

  • writing and editorial services (including but not limited to key messages, press materials, white papers, website development, and social media campaigns)
  • development and publicity support
  • strategic counsel (especially for startups and established groups facing novel opportunities and challenges)

My intent is to make good use of my ability and experience to promote the work of those groups to potential partners and funders globally.

I invite you to follow this blog and my Twitter feed as I integrate new resources and continually tweak the machine to become more efficient and comprehensive.

The information on my websites 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 Plant Knowledge of Herbalists in Sulaymaniyah Province, Kurdistan, Iraq


Ethnopharmacobotanical study on the medicinal plants used by herbalists in Sulaymaniyah Province, Kurdistan, Iraq

Ahmed HM
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Jan 28;12(1):8
PubMed PMID: 26821541
Sulaymaniyah Province in Iraqi Kurdistan
Sulaymaniyah Province in Iraqi Kurdistan (Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons)

Hiwa Achmed of Sulaimani Polytechnic University conducted an ethnobotanical survey to document traditional knowledge about uses of medicinal plants among traditional healers in the Province of Sulaymaniyah (Kurdistan, Iraq).

This is the first ethnobotanical study in Sulaymaniyah, reported to be “the most famous and important area of Kurdistan, and possibly even all of Iraq, with lofty mountains and scattered flora, many of which are still unexplored from taxonomic and medicinal points of view.” Several medicinal plant species and new properties of medicinal plant species were found that have not been reported before in Kurdistan.

Zingiber officinale
Zingiber officinale (Source: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, Wikimedia Commons)

The study documented 66 plant species used to treat respiratory issues, inflammations, and gynecological diseases, among other illnesses. Plants of particular medicinal importance included Zingiber officinale, Matricaria chamomilla, Adiantum capillus-veneris, Thymus vulgaris, and Pimpinella anisum.

From the conclusion:

“These findings suggest that medicinal plants and folk medicines used by healers in Southern Kurdistan may represent a starting point for further comparative cross-cultural ethnobiological research, which may contribute to increase the current knowledge of folk medicinal plants and could lead to the conservation strategies aimed at protecting possible rare plant species. The current research contributed to the existing ethnobotanical literature by identifying a number of new plant uses and their perceived health benefits to humans. Perhaps, more importantly, the results of this study could assist small-scale companies to utilize local plant resources for medicine, as natural products meet the demand of patients, who also in Kurdistan desire less pharmaceuticals; moreover, medicinal plants may provide economic benefits to local communities as well, in an area of the Middle East, which have gone through hard times in the last decades.”

Read the complete article at PubMed.

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.