Category Archives: Health

Ethnobotany of the upper Varaita

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Pieroni A, Giusti ME. Alpine ethnobotany in Italy: traditional knowledge of gastronomic and medicinal plants among the Occitans of the upper Varaita valley, Piedmont. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2009 Nov 6;5:32. [open access]

Researchers at the University of Gastronomic Sciences and Università degli Studi di Firenze undertook a gastronomic and medical ethnobotanical study among the Occitan communities living in Blins/Bellino and Chianale, in the upper Val Varaita, in the Piedmontese Alps of Northwestern Italy. Traditional uses of 88 plants were recorded.

Sustainability is a serious concern:

It is … evident that traditional knowledge in the Varaita valley has been heavily eroded. This study also examined the local legal framework for the gathering of botanical taxa, and the potential utilization of the most quoted medicinal and food wild herbs in the local market, and suggests that the continuing widespread local collection from the wild of the aerial parts of Alpine wormwood for preparing liqueurs (Artemisia genipi, A. glacialis, and A. umbelliformis) should be seriously reconsidered in terms of sustainability, given the limited availability of these species, even though their collection is culturally salient in the entire study area.

This paper must be downloaded, not least for the incredible photography.

Medicinal plant knowledge of the Bench

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Giday M, Asfaw Z, Woldu Z, Teklehaymanot T. Medicinal plant knowledge of the Bench ethnic group of Ethiopia: an ethnobotanical investigation. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2009 Nov 13;5:34 [open access]

Researchers at Addis Ababa University documented and analyzed medicinal plant knowledge of the Bench ethnic group in Ethiopia. Malaria, respiratory tract infections, intestinal parasites, skin-related diseases and typhoid fever are the major human health problems among the people. The study revealed 35 medicinal plant species used by the Bench.

From the conclusion:

“The immediate and serious threat to the local medical practice in the study area seems to have come from the increasing influence of modernization. As there is no adequate modern healthcare service provision in the study area, loss of local medical knowledge and practice could negatively affect the healthcare system of the people. To arrest or slow down the trend, awareness on the contribution of traditional medical practice towards fulfilling the primary healthcare needs of the local people should be created among the youth.”

An old story. Past time to start listening.

Beyond pathways

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Kreeger PK, Lauffenburger DA. Cancer systems biology: a network modeling perspective. Carcinogenesis. 2010 Jan;31(1):2-8 [open access]

Two biomedical engineers at the University of Wisconsin and Massachusetts Institute of Technology review the literature to develop a critique of, and contribution to, pathway-centric oncogenesis research, toward a systems biology approach.

From the introduction:

“Pathways … cannot properly be considered to operate in isolation of one another, as an alteration of one pathway can lead directly (via protein–protein interactions) or indirectly (via transcriptional/translational influences) to changes in others. Accordingly, cancer—along with other complex diseases such as arthritis and diabetes—is most productively conceived of and strategized for treatment as a dysregulation of a multipathway network.”

Not the easiest paper, but well worth reading until you get it.

Global cancer burden to double, prevention urged

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Thun MJ, DeLancey JO, Center MM, et al. The global burden of cancer: priorities for prevention. Carcinogenesis. 2010 Jan;31(1):100-10. [open access]

Researchers from the American Cancer Society project that cancer deaths will more than double worldwide over the next 20-40 years, with the increase driven largely by growth and aging of populations in economically developing countries, in combination with tobacco use, an increase in obesity and physical inactivity, and prevalent chronic infections.

The authors recommend a number of preventive measures, including strengthened efforts in international
tobacco control and increased availability of vaccines against hepatitis B virus and human papilloma virus, along with “action-oriented translational research to adapt programs that have proven to be effective in high-income countries to every setting in which they are needed.”