Medicinal Plants of the Russian Pharmacopoeia

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Medicinal plants of the Russian Pharmacopoeia; their history and applications

Shikov AN, Pozharitskaya ON, Makarov VG, et al
J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Jul 3;154(3):481-536
PubMed: 24742754

Investigators from the St. Petersburg Institute of Pharmacy, Ludwig Maximilian University, Leiden University, and UCL School of Pharmacy conducted a review to summarize and critically appraise data concerning plants used in Russian medicine that are not included in the European Pharmacopoeia.

Using the State Pharmacopoeia of the USSR (11th edition), the team selected 32 plant species that have not yet been adopted in Western and Central Europe and systematically searched the scientific literature for data regarding species, effectiveness, pharmacological effects, and safety.

Bidens tripartita
Bidens tripartita [Photo: Fornax, Wikimedia Commons]
Plants with reported pharmacologic uses included anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., Bidens tripartita); diaphoretic and anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., Viburnum opulus); hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, and choleretic agents (e.g., Gnaphalium uliginosum); bitterants (appetite stimulants) (e.g., Herba centaurii [Centaurium erythraea, C. minus, Erythraea centaurium, C. pulchellum]); astringents (e.g., Alnus incana, A. glutinosa); choleretic agents (e.g., Helichrysum arenarium); antihelmintic and choleretic agents (e.g., Tanacetum vulgare); expectorants (e.g., Ledum palustre); diuretic agents (e.g., Viburnum opulus); cardiotonic agents (e.g., Adonis vernalis); cardiovascular agents (e.g., Crataegus sanguinea); haemostatic agents (e.g., Persicaria hydropiper); spasmolytic agents (e.g., Anethum graveolens); sedatives (e.g., Herba Leonuri [Leonurus cardiaca, Leonurus quinquelobatus/Leonurus cardiaca]); polyvitamins (e.g., Sorbus aucuparia); regulation of metabolism and anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., Fungus betulinus/Inonotus obliquus); and tonics (e.g., Aralia elata).

The review includes a history of herbal medicine in Russia, including observations on the unique position of Russian phytotherapy between European and Asian traditional medicine:

“In the nineteenth century, European physicians had completely forgotten about the herbal traditions that had once predominated in their countries, whereas Chinese healers had almost no awareness of the medical developments in the West. Russian doctors were unique because they knew of both their own folk-herbal tradition and of modern Western medicine.”

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.

Folk Knowledge of Wild Food Plants in Thakht-e-Sulaiman Hills, Pakistan

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Folk knowledge of wild food plants among the tribal communities of Thakht-e-Sulaiman Hills, North-West Pakistan

Ahmad K, Pieroni A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Apr 8;12:17
PubMed Central: PMC4826518

Investigators from COMSATS Institute of Information Technology and the University of Gastronomic Sciences conducted an ethnobotanical study to document traditional knowledge of wild food plants among indigenous communities of the Thakht-e-Sulaiman hills in the North-West tribal belt of Pakistan.

The authors note both the importance of traditional knowledge of wild food plants for people in the region and factors putting that knowledge in danger:

“In spite of their great importance, [wild food plants] are vanishing from traditional diets, which poses serious concerns due to their role and contribution in the cultural history of a region as well as their nutraceutical value. In the developing world these plants are regularly ignored in governmental policies, agricultural research and extension programs. Over the past decade, the majority of tribal communities on the north-western boarder of Pakistan have been affected by the ‘war on terror’, which has destabilized their traditional knowledge systems. The present research area is semi-arid and mountainous with deficient agricultural land. The people live in extreme poverty with widespread food insecurity. They are also not considered in government developmental policies.”

Amaranthus spinosus
Amaranthus spinosus [Photo: Forest & Kim Starr, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with 72 informants from 10 different villages, the team documented 51 species used as wild food plants, including fruits, vegetables, and teas. The most highly cited species were Olea ferruginia, Amaranthus spinosus, and Ficus palmata.

The authors recommend a program of sustainable harvesting, domestication, and marketing to conserve both the wild food plants and local knowledge about their uses:

“In addition to food value, the supplementary qualities of [wild food plants] such as medicinal potential, cultural uses, marketing and storage make them more important in the local culture but also predispose them to extensive exploitation. There is a large potential for the harvesting, domestication and marketing of [wild food plants] in the area, and if done properly, they could be a source of cash income for locals. The wild relatives of the domesticated food species could help increase genetic diversity for crop improvement and yield, thus addressing the present demand of human food security. The ongoing process of domestication of wild species in the area is of the utmost importance not only for the interests of local communities but also for global food diversification.”

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 Dietary Plants Used by the Naxi People of Northwest Yunnan

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Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal dietary plants used by the Naxi People in Lijiang Area, Northwest Yunnan, China

Zhang L, Zhang Y, Pei S, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 May 12;11:40
PubMed Central: PMC4449607

Investigators from the Kunming Institute of Botany, South China Botanical Garden, and University of Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted the first ethnobotanical survey to document species used as medicinal dietary plants by the Naxi people in northwest Yunnan.

The Naxi are indigenous people of the Lijiang region who have a long-standing knowledge of diet therapy:

The Tea Horse Road
The Tea Horse Road [Map: Yerius J, Wikimedia Commons]
“The Naxi are a Burmo-Naxi-Lolo sociolinguistic sub-group of the Tibeto-Burman group within the Sino-Tibetan family. The Naxi population was formed during the southward migration of the ancient Qiang people during the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), who had originally inhabited the Hehuang area of Northwest China. The Naxi are indigenous residents of the Ancient Tea Horse Road, a trade link documented since the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) which lasted until the 1960s, and stretched across Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibetan provinces. The road promoted exchanges in culture, religion and ethnic migration, resembling the Silk Road. Given this history, the medicine of the Naxi integrates traditional Chinese, Tibetan, and Shamanic medicinal systems. Prior research indicates that the Naxi culture promotes diet therapy, and documentation of many of their traditional medicines and diet remedies exists through the world’s only remaining pictographic writing system. Despite the renewed interest in medicinal diets by scientists, consumers, and industry, not much is known about the medicinal dietary plants used by the Naxi, or their associated ethnobotanical knowledge.”

Pinus armandii with Deer and Red-Crested Crane
Pinus armandii with Deer and Red-Crested Crane [Photo: Philg88, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with 89 local participants from three Naxi villages, the team identified 55 botanical taxa (species, varieties, or subspecies) used as medicinal dietary plants to treat health conditions including fatigue; lung ailments; eye diseases; insomnia; cold; stomachache; abdominal pain; bruises; constipation; postpartum blood stasis; postpartum weakness; nervousness; and poor lactation. Aconitum stapfianum, several Cirsium species, Ligusticum chuanxiong, Pinus armandii, Polygonatum cirrhifolium, and Zanthoxylum bungeanum were among the plants most widely used for medicinal dietary purposes.

The authors recommend a rigorous scientific approach to any extrapolation of Naxi dietary plant therapy to broader populations:

“The medicinal dietary plants used by the Naxi people are diverse. The lives of the Naxi people are closely related with the use of medicinal dietary plants and their associated knowledge of these plants is extensive. These plants are easy to collect and prepare, and are widely used when needed by the Naxi people. The main theory behind the traditional medicinal diet of the Naxi people is to prevent disease by strengthening the body. A wide spectrum of disorders can be treated by medicinal diets. Most plants have a high fidelity level and are widely used. However, the safety of some medicinal dietary plants is not well understood, and the nutritional elements are unclear. Scientific evidence on the safety, detoxification, and nutrition of medicinal dietary plants of the Naxi people must be established before these medicinal dietary plants can be adopted by modern society to improve health and prevent diseases.”

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 Maonan People of Southwest China

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Ethnobotanical study on medicinal plants used by Maonan people in China

Hong L, Guo Z, Huang K, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Apr 30;11:32
PubMed Central: PMC4449599

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China [Map: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from Minzu University of China, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Kunming Institute of Botany conducted an ethnobotanical study of traditional medicinal plants and associated knowledge of the Maonan indigenous people living in Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southwest China.

The authors note both the richness and precariousness of Maonan ethnomedicinal knowledge:

“As one of the indigenous minorities, Maonan is mainly living in Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southwest China. The exceptional altitudinal range, topography and climatic variability in this region have fostered a center of plant species endemism. Here the majority of Maonan people rely on medicinal plants for self-medication. The Maonan medicine has made a great contribution to protect the health of local people. This is due to free access to medicinal herbs, cultural traditions and high cost of hospital treatments in the town nearby. Local people widely utilize endemic species, and they have developed their own traditional medicinal knowledge. Without writing language, Maonan people pass on their indigenous knowledge from generation to generation orally. Nowadays, the Maonan children spend most of their time in schools, where they are taught in Han language. This decreases their chances to learn about the uses of the medicinal plants from the old people. Therefore, important information about medicinal plants is easily lost in the transfer process of indigenous knowledge. With the impact of increasing modern health facilities and modern civilization in Maonan area, indigenous knowledge is depleting rapidly. Although a number of ethnobotanical documentations about several ethnic groups have been published during the past decades in China, few field ethnobotanical studies have been conducted in Maonan society. It is therefore necessary to carry out a survey to document the medicinal plants and associated indigenous knowledge in Maonan region.”

In this context, the team worked to document and analyze the knowledge and use of medicinal plants by Maonan people in support of further multidisciplinary research, future phytochemical and pharmacological discovery, and conservation of knowledge and biodiversity.

Houttuynia cordata
Houttuynia cordata [Photo: Bouba, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with more than a hundred participants in eighteen villages, the team documented 368 medicinal plant species used to treat 95 human diseases. The most frequently used medicinal plants were Acanthopanax trifoliatus, Buddleja officinalis, Houttuynia cordata, Litsea pungens, Murraya exotica, Nephrolepis cordifolia, Paederia scandens, Platycodon grandiflorus, Rauvolfia verticillata, Rubus parvifolius, Sargentodoxa cuneata, Talinum paniculatum, and Tetrapanax papyrifer.

In addition to their medicinal value, most of the medicinal plants were also valued for their economic, edible, and ornamental qualities. In particular, the Maonans prioritize disease prevention and emphasize the function of medicinal food in ordinary life, adding medicinal plants into food for the purposes of enhancing immunity and disease resistance.

The authors conclude with an urgent recommendation to government agencies to develop sustainable programs to conserve and transmit the Maonan’s traditional knowledge:

“The species diversity of medicinal plants used by the Maonans in the study area was very rich. Medicinal plants played a significant role in healing various human disorders in the Maonan communities. However, the conflicts between traditional inheriting system and recent socio-economic changes (and other factors) resulted in the reduction or loss of both medicinal plants and associated indigenous knowledge. Thus, conservation efforts and policies, and innovation of inheriting system are necessary for protecting the medicinal plants and associated indigenous knowledge. Awareness is also needed to be raised among local Maonans focusing on sustainable utilization and management of both medicinal plants and 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.