Knowledge of Medicinal Plants in Pre-WWII Ukraine & Poland Documented by Historical Study


Fischer’s Lexicon of Slavic beliefs and customs: a previously unknown contribution to the ethnobotany of Ukraine and Poland

Kujawska M, Łuczaj Ł, Typek J
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Dec 24;11:85
PubMed Central: PMC4690239

Researchers from the University of Łódź and University of Rzeszów documented traditional uses of plants in western Ukraine in the 1930s, based on the work of the Polish ethnographer Adam Robert Fischer (1889-1943).

The authors note that the country has changed significantly since World War II:

“After World War II, due to the shift of borders in Poland imposed by Stalin and accepted by the Treaty of Jalta (1945), around two million Poles were re-settled from the eastern part of the country, mainly to western and northern Poland, to the areas taken by Poland from Germany. Additionally, a few hundred thousand Poles were murdered during ethnic cleansings performed by Ukrainians, particularly in the Volhynia area. This made western Ukraine an ethnically Ukrainian region. Later, however, during the Soviet times, many Russians or Russian-speaking Ukrainians settled in western Ukraine as well. Thus the ethnobotany we are dealing with in this article concerned a country which was very different ethnically (mixed Ukrainian and Polish, with Jewish admixtures), than the present day western Ukraine (Ukrainian with Russian admixtures).”

Achillea millefolium
Achillea millefolium (Photo: Petar Milošević, Wikimedia Commons)

The team documented 179 taxa of plants used or remembered by peasants in the region in the 1930s, including yarrow (Achillea millefolium), garlic (Allium sativum), lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor), St. John’s wort (Hypericum sp.), and juniper (Juniperus communis).

Medicinal plants represented the largest category of uses, with 87 taxa used for a wide range of ailments, including coughs, zawianie, wounds, stomachache, headache, and gynecological problems. Important medicinal plants included A. millefolium, A. sativum, Hypericum sp., J. communis, Tussilago farfara, Veratrum album, Artemisia absinthium, Viola tricolor, Arnica montana, and Matricaria chamomilla.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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