Category Archives: Health

Ethnomedical survey of plants used by the Orang Asli in Kampung Bawong, Perak, West Malaysia

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Samuel AJ, Kalusalingam A, Chellappan DK, et al. Ethnomedical survey of plants used by the Orang Asli in Kampung Bawong, Perak, West Malaysia. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Feb 7;6:5. PubMed PMID: 20137098; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2843656. [full text]

Investigators at Masterskill University College of Health Sciences in Malaysia carried out a qualitative ethnomedical survey among a local Orang Asli tribe to gather information on the use of medicinal plants in the region of Kampung Bawong, Perak of West Malaysia to evaluate the potential medicinal uses of local plants used in curing different diseases and illnesses.

Their survey revealed 62 medicinal plant species that grow in the wild naturally and have medicinal properties that are crucial in traditional medicine of the Orang Asli.

From the conclusions:

“…The local government and village authorities need to act fast to conserve the ethnomedical knowledge of Orang Asli in the village Kampung Bawong, and the medicinal plants require preservation in addition to the ethnobotanical and ethnomedical knowledge recording. The preservation of these herbs along with the traditional knowledge of how to use them is an indispensable obligation for sustaining traditional medicine as a medicinal and cultural resource. Thus a future extensive research of these plants in this locality is recommended to identify and assess their ethnomedical claim.”

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.

Ethnozoology of the Garasiya, State of Rajasthan, India

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Jaroli DP, Mahawar MM, Vyas N. An ethnozoological study in the adjoining areas of Mount Abu wildlife sanctuary, India. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Feb 10;6:6. PubMed PMID: 20144243; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2836285. [free full text]

Zoologists at the University of Rajasthan and Govt. P.G. College did a study of the use of animal products among the Garasiya people of Rajasthan, a large, geographically diverse state in northern India. The team focused on areas around the Mount Abu wildlife sanctuary in the Aravalli Range, one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges.

The team documented a total of 24 animal species used for medicinal and religious purposes, including five species considered endangered, vulnerable, or near threatened. From their conclusion:

“Our study also shows that the Garasiya people have very rich folklore and traditional knowledge in the utilization of different animal[s]. So there is an urgent need to properly document to keep a record of the ethnomedicinal data of animal products and their medicinal uses. Further studies are required for scientific validation to confirm medicinal value of such products and to include this knowledge in strategies of conservation and management of animal resources. We hope that this information will be helpful in further research in the field[s] of ethnozoology, ethnopharmacology and biodiversity conservation…”

The article includes a comprehensive background section, outlining the history of zootherapy in India and documented in works like Ayurveda and charaka Samhita.

Important note: 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 in Babungo, Northwest Region, Cameroon

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Simbo DJ. An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants in Babungo, Northwest Region, Cameroon. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Feb 15;6:8. PubMed PMID: 20156356; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2843657. [free full text]

An investigator at University of Antwerp Groenenborgerlaan reports on a survey that identified and recorded 107 plants species from 54 plant families, 98 genera used for treating diseases in Babungo.

From the conclusion:

“The survey shows that a large number of medicinal plants are used in Babungo for treating different ailments. The knowledge of the use of plants to treat diseases has been with the people for generations but has not been recorded. This knowledge remains mostly with the traditional medical practitioners who are mostly old people. Most of the medicinal plants are sourced from the wild. In addition to their medicinal uses, some of these plants have other uses. The local population should be educated on sustainable methods of harvesting plants to treat diseases today without compromising their availability for future use. The youth should also be encouraged to learn
the traditional medicinal knowledge to preserve it from being lost with the older generation.”

Important note: 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.

Herbal Mixtures in Traditional Medicine in Northern Peru

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Bussmann RW, Glenn A, Meyer K, et al. Herbal mixtures in traditional medicine in Northern Peru. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Mar 14;6:10. PubMed PMID: 20226092; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2848642 [free full text]

Researchers at the Missouri Botanical Garden undertook a study of plant mixtures used in traditional medicine in Northern Peru, yielding nearly a thousand herbal preparations used to treat more than a hundred different afflictions.

From the conclusion:

“Our research indicates that a large number of plants used in traditional healing in Northern Peru are
employed in often sophisticated mixtures, rather than as individual plants. Peruvian curanderos appear to employ very specific guidelines in the preparation of these cocktails, and seem to have a clear understanding of disease concepts when they diagnose a patient, which in turn leads them to often apply specific mixtures for specific conditions. There seems to be a widespread exchange of knowledge about mixtures for treatment of bodily diseases, while mixtures for spiritual, nervous system and psychosomatic disorders appear to be more closely guarded by the individual healers.”

Important note: 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.

Snakebit in Brazil – A Village’s Beliefs and Practices about “Offensive Snakes”

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Fita DS, Costa Neto EM, Schiavetti A. ‘Offensive’ snakes: cultural beliefs and practices related to snakebites in a Brazilian rural settlement. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Mar 26;6:13. PubMed PMID: 20346120; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2853519 [free full text]

Investigators at Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana undertook fieldwork in a Brazilian rural settlement in 2006, totaling 53 days of living in the village and a followup stay of 15 days in 2007. They recorded a total of 23 types of ‘snakes’, based on their local names. Four of them, belonging to the family Viperidae were considered the most dangerous to humans, and causing more aversion and fear in the population.

From the conclusion:

“Ethnozoological information on the injuries caused by snakes and other potentially dangerous animals must be available to the community as didactic-scientific texts, written in a clear language and accompanied by illustrations. It is understood that the ethnozoological knowledge, customs and popular practices of the Serra da Jibóia inhabitants result in a valuable cultural resource which should be considered in every discussion regarding public health, sanitation and practices of traditional medicine, as well as in faunistic studies and conservation strategies for local biological diversity.”

Important note: 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.

Breast Cancer as an Infectious Disease?

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Lawson JS, Glenn WK, Whitaker NJ. Breast cancer as an infectious disease. Womens Health (Lond Engl). 2010 Jan;6(1):5-8. PubMed PMID: 20088725 [free full text]

Researchers at the University of New South Wales review evidence for a role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in the etiology of at least some forms of breast cancer, complemented by their laboratory work to identify HPV sequences from breast tumors.

Identifying low viral load as a possible explanation for failure to detect HPV in previous studies of breast tumors, the authors employed repeated PCR analyses using SYBR Green for greater sensitivity, and were able to detect HPV in nearly half the tumors tested.

From the conclusion:

“When considered in the context of previously published evidence related to HPV and breast cancer, these recent findings strongly suggest a causal role for HPVs in some breast cancers. However, we must wait for the development of further evidence before this relationship can be stated definitively.

“The immediate importance of this work is that it brings with it the possibility, for the first time, that primary preventative measures for some breast cancers are likely to be immediately available. This is because the high-risk HPV types that we and many others have identified in breast tumors (principally HPV types 16 and 18) are the same types for which the new HPV vaccines are most effective. These vaccines are already available and are being used on a worldwide basis.”

Important note: 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.

A Second Green Revolution – One Man, One Cow, One Planet

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Across India, farmers are rejecting chemical agriculture and turning to sustainable organic practices.

On one side, an American multinational, Monsanto, which sells genetically modified seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. On the other, Indian farmers and an ally from New Zealand, who work together to grow crops independently.

By all means, question the science behind biodynamic farming. But look at the results. And apply the same skepticism to the science behind Monsanto’s selling of chemical agriculture and genetically modified crops.

Start here:

Film website

Ethnopharmacology of the Horse Warriors – Medicinal Plants of the Tamang

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Uprety Y, Asselin H, Boon EK, et al. Indigenous use and bio-efficacy of medicinal plants in the Rasuwa District, Central Nepal. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Jan 26;6:3. PubMed PMID: 20102631

Ecologists at Vrije Universiteit Brussel interviewed plant collectors, medicinal plant cultivators, traditional healers, and traders among the ethnic Tamang people to document 60 medicinal formulations from 56 plant species.

From the background:

“The Rasuwa district presents some of the best examples of graded climatic conditions in Central Himalaya. Pronounced altitudinal gradients, coupled with complex topography and geology, have resulted in a rich biodiversity and unique vegetation patchwork. Therefore, the district harbours a rich diversity of medicinal plants. The Chilime VDC [Village Development Committee] lies in the northern part of the district, bordering the Tibetan part of China, and comprises temperate to alpine climates within 2000-4700 m altitude. The local inhabitants are part of the Tamang indigenous people, which comprises 98% of the total Chilime VDC population. People from the Tamang ethnic group have a rich culture and possess sound traditional knowledge. However, they are economically and socially marginalized and far from having their basic needs fulfilled.”

The Tamang people use medicinal plants to treat cuts and wounds, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal disorders, cough and cold, musculoskeletal problems, fever and headache, weakness and dizziness, menstrual disorders, dermatologic infections, ophthalmologic problems, and toothache, among other ailments.

The authors recommend phytochemical and pharmacological studies of the Tamang’s traditionally used medicinal plants, perhaps starting with potentially high-value species including Astilbe rivularis, Berberis asiatica, Hippophae salicifolia, Juniperus recurva, and Swertia multicaulis. They note that while medicinal plants provide huge opportunities for community development and livelihood improvement, local people are often deprived of the benefits. Proper management of medicinal plants could serve as a sustainable income source for the Tamang, which in turn could help generate incentives for biodiversity conservation.

Breathless – A New View of Carcinogenesis

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López-Lázaro M. A new view of carcinogenesis and an alternative approach to cancer therapy. Mol Med. 2010 Mar;16(3-4):144-53. Epub 2009 Dec 28. Review. PubMed PMID: 20062820; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2802554.

Miguel López-Lázaro of the University of Seville posits that the altered metabolism of oxygen by tumor cells presents a target for cancer therapy that may be more productive than genetic signatures. According to the argument, alteration in the metabolism of oxygen is a common feature of cancer cells and plays an important role in carcinogenesis. The development of any cancer requires that the future tumor cell both acquires a complex set of DNA alterations and develops an alteration in the metabolism of oxygen. Because tumor cells and normal cells metabolize oxygen differently, this difference could be exploited to target tumor cells selectively.

From the conclusions:

“In addition to building up a complex set of DNA changes, evidence suggests that the development of any cancer requires that tumor cells acquire an alteration in the metabolism of oxygen. Interestingly, this alteration in the metabolism of oxygen can make cancer cells vulnerable to therapeutic intervention. Their increased basal levels of H2O2 and their higher dependence on glycolysis for their survival make cancer cells more susceptible than normal cells to treatment with prooxidant agents and glycolysis inhibitors. Because this alteration in the metabolism of oxygen seems to be a common feature of tumor cells, this therapeutic approach could be used for the treatment of a wide range of patients with cancer.”

Metaphors Matter – Ovarian Cancer as the Silent Killer

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Jasen P. From the “silent killer” to the “whispering disease”: ovarian cancer and the uses of metaphor. Med Hist. 2009 Oct;53(4):489-512. [full text]

Patricia Jasen, a history professor at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, has written a comprehensive and thoughtful history of metaphorical language about ovarian cancer from the first characterizations of the disease to the present day.

From the conclusion:

“The association of the ‘silent killer’ metaphor with ovarian cancer was exceptionally tenacious, and it arguably played a role in diverting attention away from systematic attention to symptoms which were later deemed relevant by a growing number of researchers. This history provides support for the conclusion that medical metaphors do have a role in defining “notions of reality” and therefore deserve close scrutiny.”

The article is most readable. Understated. How many women died before their time because they were not properly diagnosed in the early stages of disease? The symptoms have been clear for decades.