Plants Used as Medicine & Food in the Basque Country

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Medicinal and local food plants in the south of Alava (Basque Country, Spain)

Alarcόn R, Pardo-de-Santayana M, Priestley C, Morales R, Heinrich M
J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Oct 16
PubMed PMID: 26481607

Researchers at the University of London School of Pharmacy, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, and Real Jardín Botánico conducted an ethnobotanical study of local and traditional plant usage in the Alava region of the Basque Country, to evaluate their uses as food and medicine.

Province of Álava, Spain
Province of Álava, Spain [Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
The region has large areas of forest and undisturbed regions with high levels of biodiversity, including two nature reserves, Valderejo Natural Park and Izki Natural Park.

Based on interviews and field walking and collection of samples as directed by the local participants, the team identified 184 species used as medicines, food, and health food. Of these, 36 species were used exclusively for medicinal purposes, reflecting an important overlap between food and medicines:

“This calls into question an important paradigm in ethnopharmacology, and we need to consider ways to present medicinal and food properties in an integrated way. Our informants generally do not draw a very strict line between food and medicinal plants, highlighting the ambivalent nature of these two categories. The majority of the informants recognise that food plants can prevent or heal disease or “cleanse” the body.”

Jasonia glutinosa
Jasonia glutinosa [Source: Juan José Girón Ruiz, Wikimedia Commons]
Among the plants that illustrate this overlap between food and medicines are three species that are commonly used as important social beverages: Jasonia glutinosa, Chamaemelum nobile, and Prunus spinosa.

From the conclusion:

“There is no sharp line dividing local food and medicine. This is a culturally constructed division and also influenced by environmental conditions, cultural background, traditional knowledge of the natural resources (useful plants in this case), education, economy, political movements, etc. From the analysis it also becomes apparent that these categories are dynamic. The preparations are characterized by having multiple methods of preparations and flexibility to use under subcategories of food and medicinal properties.”

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.

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