Category Archives: Social Progress

The Medicinal Plants of Bhutan’s Lower Kheng Region

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Pharmacological, ethnopharmacological, and botanical evaluation of subtropical medicinal plants of Lower Kheng region in Bhutan

Wangchuk P, Yeshi K, Jamphel K
Integr Med Res. 2017 Dec; 6(4): 372–387
PubMed Central: PMC5741394
Zhemgang Dzongkhag (District), Bhutan
Zhemgang District, Bhutan

Investigators at James Cook University, Wangbama Central School, and the Bhutan Ministry of Health conducted an ethnobotanical study to identify subtropical medicinal plants from the Lower Kheng region in the Zhemgang District of Bhutan, where Bhutanese Sowa Rigpa medicine has been practiced for centuries:

“In Bhutan, while some traditional physicians argue that Sowa Rigpa originated in the 8th century CE with the advent of Mahayana Buddhism, many scholars believe that it was only in 1616 that Lama Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal laid written foundation to this medical system. The Bhutanese Sowa Rigpa medicine (BSM) belong to the larger corpus of the Tibetan scholarly medical (TSM) system, which was derived from Chinese Traditional Medicine, Indian Ayurvedic Medicine, Greco-Roman medicine, and the Persian medicine (Galenos). However, the country’s culture, tradition, local medical practices, geography, and vegetation influenced the way BSM evolved independently over many centuries, making it specific to Bhutan.”

The authors note that theirs is the first ethnobotanical study to be conducted in the Lower Kheng region:

“The criteria and reasons for choosing these areas as our ethnobotanical study areas were: (1) there was unsubstantiated/anecdotal claim about the lush growth of LAMP in the region; (2) no ethnobotanical study has been conducted in this region to date; and (3) Lower Kheng people are poor and their engagement in the medicinal plants collection, cultivation, and marketing programs could help them generate cash income.”

Aquilaria malaccensis
Aquilaria malaccensis [Source: W. Saunders – Illustrations of the botany and other branches of the natural history of the Himalayan Mountains. Volume 2 (Public Domain)]
The research team identified 61 medicinal plants, 30 of which were found in abundance, including Terminalia chebula, Terminalia bellirica, and Phyllanthus emblica, together known as “King of Medicine” (Mengi-Pawo) or “Three Powerful Medicines.” Another species, Aquilaria malaccensis, which is considered rare in other parts of the world, was found to be abundantly cultivated in household and community gardens throughout the region. More than 20 species were found in all the villages surveyed. These included Bombax ceiba, Canarium strictum, Cassia tora, Cautleya spicata, Choerospondias axillaris, Cinnamomum impressinervium, Erythrina arborescens, Justicia adhatoda, Knema tenuinervia, Mucuna imbricata, Otochilus lancilabius, Phlogacanthus thyrsiformis, Piper mullesua, Rhus chinensis, Stephania glabra, Symplocos sumuntia, and Tinospora cordifolia.

In their conclusion, the authors recommend further work toward sustainable development and commercialization of the region’s medicinal plants:

“Many plant species have commercial and economic values. While MSP is currently viewed as the sole domestic market for these medicinal plants, many species have international significance (especially applicable to countries that practice Tibetan Sowa Rigpa medicine and Indian Ayurvedic medicine including India, Nepal, Mongolia, Tibet, Europe, and Northern America). The communities would largely benefit by domesticating or cultivating them in the household gardens or as cash crops in their family orchards. This medicinal plants program has the potential to alleviate poverty in these three Gewog communities and could enhance the happiness, wellbeing and development in Bhutan. Since the communities consume 28 medicinal plants as food grains, spices, herbs, and fruits, it can be assumed that the local people are also deriving health benefits.”

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.

Uses, Knowledge & Conservation Status of Plants in Two Quilombolas Communities in the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil

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Local ecological knowledge and its relationship with biodiversity conservation among two Quilombola groups living in the Atlantic Rainforest, Brazil

Conde BE, Ticktin T, Fonseca AS, Macedo AL, Orsi TO, Chedier LM, Rodrigues E, Pimenta DS1
PLoS One. 2017 Nov 28;12(11):e0187599
PubMed Central: PMC5705149

Minas Gerais in Brazil
The state of Minas Gerais in Brazil [Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Centro de Ensino Superior de Juiz de Fora, Universidade Federal Fluminense, and Universidade Federal de São Paulo conducted an ethnobotanical and ecological survey to evaluate the uses, knowledge, and conservation status of plants in two Quilombolas (descendants of slaves of African origin) communities in the Atlantic rainforest of Brazil: São Sebastião da Boa Vista and São Bento Abade in the state of Minas Gerais.

Writing in PLoS One, the team describes Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest as one of the world’s most biodiverse and most threatened biomes:

“Brazil is one of the world’s megadiverse countries, and the Atlantic rainforest, which stretches from the northeastern to the southern regions of the country, is the most biodiverse biome of Brazil, with up to 476 plant species found in one hectare. Unfortunately, the Atlantic rainforest is also one of the most threatened forest types in the world, with nearly 90% of its original area devastated. As is the case with the majority of Brazilian protected areas, the Atlantic Rainforest is also home to many traditional communities–those that have lived in one location for a long period of time, such as the Quilombolas. According to the Living Report of World Wide Fund for Nature, 90% of tropical forests worldwide are not under formal protection and millions of people living both inside and outside of reserves rely on their resources.”

Through interviews with local Quilombolas experts, the team documented 212 ethnobotanically significant species in São Sebastião da Boa Vista (including 105 native species) and 221 in São Bento Abade (96 native species).

Medicinal and technological uses were the most important uses in both communities. Some of the most culturally important medicinal species were also among the most vulnerable, among them Dalbergia hortensis and Sparattosperma leucanthum.

In their conclusion, the authors strongly recommend “development of a sustainable management plan that considers local knowledge about management and use of plants”:

“These data illustrate the rich ethnobotanical knowledge and heritage of the communities. However, our results also suggest that more than 50% of local useful species in both communities (those ranked in Category 1 for conservation priority) may be at risk if there are no plans for the management and replanting of them. Of these plants, Dalbergia hortensis is a special conservation priority because of its great cultural significance. Other species such Sparattosperma leucanthum, Lygodium volubile in SSBV, Cecropia glaziovii in SB, and Croton urucurana in both communities rank high for cultural significance and conservation priority. Based on our results, the development of a sustainable management plan that considers local knowledge about management and use of plants is essential. Developing programs to increase populations of those species at risk, including agroforestry programs can help meet the needs of producing culturally important species and of biological conservation. It is urgent that the government demarcate Quilombolas land for cultural maintenance, quality of life and preservation of nature.”

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.

To Migrate Is Human (Why I Believe in Open Borders)

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A tourist family called me over as I was walking my dog in Riverside Park today.

“Excuse me, could you tell us, is that New Jersey?”

“Yes it is. That’s the Hudson River, and on the other side is New Jersey.”

Therein lies a tale.

My twelfth great-grandfather on my father’s side was also the grandfather of Henry Hudson, the Englishman who explored the river four hundred years ago. My immigrant ancestors followed in the 1680s, first entering this country through the Virginia Colony, traveling southwest through North Carolina, and eventually settling in Tennessee’s Sequatchie Valley in the 1800s, where they mostly stayed put until after the Second World War.

My father and mother moved to Georgia a couple of years before I was born. I moved to New York City, and at the beginning of the new century took up residence with my new family just a hundred yards or so from the river explored by my long-distant kinsman.

My life story has taught me that migration is a natural and essential element of the human condition. One might even say it is what makes us human. Moreover, any efforts to stifle this profound driver of humanity are doomed to failure — although, tragically, not before they cause awful human suffering, as we are witnessing today.

To be continued.

Sequatchie Valley News – September 24, 1903

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GOOD ROADS.

Written for the News.
The Sequatchie Valley is beautiful provided one had wings to view it by, but you positively cannot see the county for the dreadful roads.

A go-cart, a carriage, a wagon or an automobile are out of the question. Only a mule and a man who has lost all sense of feeling, physical, moral, political and religious, can travel such roads, I was going to say, but I will change it and say only a man who has infinite patience, unending endurance, and who has vowed never to break the second commandment should risk his life or his reputation upon them.

Nature gave to the valley beautiful scenery, a fertile yielding soil, and such environments should produce progressive, public-spirited men. Every man in the county who opposes any measure whatsoever that assures us good roads should be buried alive to the tune of Tom Hood’s

“Rattle his bones over the stones,
Only a poor pauper whom nobody
owns”

When Rome of old conquered the then known world, she hewed her way into every country by the building of the famous Roman roads, and civilization followed fast in the way of every Roman road.

There is nothing else under the sun so civilizing as well kept roads wherever you find them tor you can count on good schools, thritty [sic] churches, and prosperous people. The man who hauls his produce to market over a fine road holds his head more erect, carries himself more proudly than the man who has all the style thumped out of him jolting over the stones and in to the ruts. Progress and prosperity go hand in hand with good roads. Let us all join bands and girdle the county with a system of fine roads.

A WOMAN.

Read the entire newspaper at the Library of Congress.

Sequachee Valley News – August 19, 1920

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Ninety per cent. of the woman colored voters of California vote while the white woman vote is only 20 per cent. Two points are involved. California went democratic and gave us a peace president, and the colored woman voter appreciates a good thing.

Why American Women Want the Ballot

LOWEST INFANT DEATH RATE IN FULL SUFFRAGE COUNTRIES; BALLOT SAFEGUARDS THE HOME

New Zealand, First Country to Grant Suffrage to Women, Has Lowest Infant Mortality Rate in the World—Women Use Ballot to Further Legislation for Home and State.

In days gone by dire accusations were brought against women who dared nurse an ambition to have voice in the government of their country. Every unlovely epithet in the English dictionary—and there are several-was bestowed upon them. They were home-wreckers, child-haters, family destroyers. But year by year woman suffrage was tried out, country by country, state by state, and lo! it was discovered that woman was using her vote, not to wreck the home, to protect it; not to the hurt of children, to their great good; not to destroy the family, to strengthen and secure it. So widespread has been the discovery that opponents of woman suffrage no longer dare make these charges save in backwoods places or places that they consider backwoodsy. In view of the facts, It is to flout the intelligence of a community to tell it that to give a woman the right to protect her home and her children by a vote is to make her hate home and children. Every time and everywhere that woman gets a chance to vote she proceeds to use that vote for the benefit of home and children. Consider the record:

  • Over 300,000 babies die every year in the United States before they are one year old. The National Conservation Commission estimates that an individual is worth $2,900 to society. At this rate the 300,000 babies represent a yearly loss of $870,000,000 to the United States.
  • Five countries have a lower infant death rate than the United States. They are New Zealand, with an infant death rate of 50 per 1,000 births; Norway, 68 per 1,000; Australia, 72 per 1,000; Sweden, 72 per 1,000, and France, 78 per 1,000. The women In all five countries leading the list now have full or municipal suffrage. Women have had the vote in New Zealand for twenty years and New Zealand has the lowest Infant death rate in the world.
  • In the United States, California, a full suffrage state, is the banner Baby State. It has the highest birth rate in the Union, and a very low death rate. One of the lowest infant death rates In the United States, 47.7, is in Berkeley, California.
  • In Portland, Oregon, the infant death rate is 55.1 per 1,000 births; In Spokane, Washington, 57.7. Kansas has reduced its rate from 120 to 70 since it adopted a Public Nursing Association In 1913. Washington gave women the vote in 1910, California in 1911, Kansas and Oregon in 1912.

When, of all the civilized world, the country that has had woman suffrage the longest has the lowest death rate, and the countries with the next lowest rate all have woman suffrage, can there be a doubt that woman suffrage helps to bring about healthier living conditions for all the people?

Isn’t it evident that when mothers are represented in government and their opinions and interests are consulted, babies have a better chance? Isn’t it proved that women with the ballot do not neglect their homes and babies?

Giving the ballot to women not only helps them to do their own work more effectively, but actually increases the wealth of the nation, both in man power and in dollars and cents.

  • The lowest death rate recorded in the 1920 World Almanac figures was in equal suffrage Seattle, Wash., where In 1917 it was 6.9 per 1,000 population. The nest lowest was 7.0 per 1,000 in Boise, Idaho, in 1018, and the next was 7.3 In Berkeley, Cal., in 1917.
  • Full suffrage Colorado pays $1.43 per capita for charities, hospitals and corrections as against Florida’s $1.61.
  • Colorado has 610 prisoners per 100,000 population committed in 1910 as against Florida’s 1,307 per 100,000 population—less than half as many.
  • According to the United States census for 1910, the number of paupers in almshouses in full suffrage Kansas was 735 as against Connecticut’s 2,244.
  • According to the same census, Connecticut has the second largest number of paupers of any state in the Union, 201.3 per 100,000, the largest number being In New Hampshire, 230.2 per 100,000. Both of these are male suffrage states. Kansas has 43.5 paupers per 100,000 population. Oklahoma, another full suffrage state, has the lowest record of all, 2.9 per 100,000.

A little injustice has been done A. F. Shockley, the principal of the colored school in this district. He was teaching for $80, but asked for $10 more per month, so as to equalize his salary with that of other colored teachers of the county who have less scholars in attendance. He was denied this raise, which is equivolent [sic] to only $3.33 buying capacity, and disgusted, resigned his school. He is a teacher of ability and the difference should be paid him.

FAST DRIVER INJURES CHILD

Chas. Webb, driving a Ford car at a rapid rate at Jasper last Thursday, struck the eight year-old daughter of Mrs. D. A. Lawson, the child running into the street before the automobile. She was badly bruised and a leg broken. A touching incident in connection with the affair is that the child on recovering from the anesthetic given her in setting the broken leg, asked for her father, who has been dead about a year, saying, “Where’s pappy?”

Marionville

Special to the News.

  • Rain seems to be the order of the day.
  • Red Campbell was seen going down the road this morning.
  • Myrtle Pittman is going to school every day.
  • School at Marionville is progressing very fast. Have about twenty in roll now.
  • Mr. Hoback and Pete Tate went to Sequatchie to day.
  • Faster Hrice still enjoys going to the Valley on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Bill Foster and Foster Price returned to Marionville Sunday night about nine o’clock in their Ford.
  • Mr. Bill Lee went to South Pittsburg Saturday night.
  • Miss Myrtle Barker had a rainy day for coming back to Marionville Sunday.
  • Mr. Bill Tate was seen in Whitwell Friday afternoon.
  • Hugh Lewis still calls to see Miss Myrtle Pittman.
  • Wonder why Miss Maud Holoway looked so sad Sunday afternoon.
  • Mr. Norwood Dykes and Bud Hooper were out riding Friday afternoon.
  • Wonder why Arther Campbell enjoys coming to the store every afternoon. He visited the school at Marionville Monday.
  • Mr. Gilliam Barker was out here Friday.
  • Foster Bryant went to Jasper Monday.
  • Mrs. Hoback is liking the mountain fine.
  • John and Dave Barker called on the girls Saturday night.
  • They are planning to have a Box Supper at Hicks Chapel Saturday night.
  • School started at New Hope last Monday.
  • Mr. Raymond Barber called on Miss Mabel Barker.

X

Read the entire newspaper at the Library of Congress.

Medicinal Plants Used in Kel, Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan

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Ethnopharmacological studies of indigenous plants in Kel village, Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan

Ahmad KS, Hamid A, Nawaz F, Hameed M, Ahmad F, Deng J, Akhtar N, Wazarat A, Mahroof S
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Dec 1;13(1):68
PubMed Central: PMC5709976

Investigators at the University of Poonch Rawalakot; University of Agriculture, Multan; University of Agriculture, Faisalabad; Guizhou Education University; and G.C. Women University conducted the first published explorative study of indigenous knowledge used in the preparation of herbal medicines in Kel village in the Upper Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan.

Kel Village, Pakistan
Kel Village, Pakistan [Source: Furqanlw, Wikimedia Commons]
Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Khawaja Shafique Ahmad and coauthors note that theirs is the first effort to provide quantitative ethnobotanical data employed by indigenous people in this region, which is “characterized by its remoteness, long distance from urban centers, difficult mountainous terrain, and a lack of government services, including modern health care facilities”:

“The area has poorly developed road and other infrastructure. The people of the area rely on sustainable agriculture. Main crops include corn (Zea mays L.), turnip (Brasica rapa L.), and bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) in an integrated system. A high proportion of local people are associated with livestock. A number of the main occupations are associated with summer tourism, including rest house managers, tour guides, shop keepers, restaurant workers, and jeep drivers. In light of these demographic changes, it is vital to document the local knowledge of medicinal plant usage in this area before such information declines or is lost completely.”

Achillea millefolium
Achillea millefolium [Source: Petar Milošević, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with informants well known in the region for their medicinal expertise and knowledge about medicinal plants, the team documented 50 medicinal plants used locally, including Achillea millefolium, Ageratum conozoides, Artemisia scoparia, Berberis lycium, and Impatiens glandulifera. Newly documented ethnomedicinal uses were recorded for several species: Ailanthus excelsa (fever), Betula utilis (Jaundice), Bistorta amplexicaulis (tonic), Dryopteris ramosa (ulcer), Dryopteris stewartii (tuberculosis), Fumaria officinalis (skin allergies), Galium boreole (skin problems), Hedera nepalensis (ulcer), Impatiens glandulifera (joint pain), Inula grandiflora (liver pain), Jurinea dolomiaea (bone fracture), Plectranthus rugosus (skin allergies and diarrhea), Podophyllum emodi (cancer), Prunella vulgaris (heart diseases), Quercus ballota (dysentery), Rubus ellipticus (wound healing), Saussurea lanceolata (typhoid), and Swertia petiolata (liver pain).

In their conclusion, the authors note the importance of these often-endangered plant species for the people living in the region, and the potential for establishing their sustainable use:

“This study will help us to link ethnobotanical and chemical knowledge to understand the use of medicinal plants by traditional communities. The information obtained from this study will encourage native communities in trading off locally prepared herbal products. As a result of expanding interest, new income-generating opportunities will be available for poor rural household. Moreover, sustainable uses of plant resources will promote biological and cultural diversity which in return will promotion of local biocultural diversity through ecotourism initiatives.”

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.

Women’s Knowledge of Medicinal Plants – Mecca

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Medicinal plants used by women in Mecca: urban, Muslim and gendered knowledge

Alqethami A, Hawkins JA, Teixidor-Toneu I
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Nov 17;13(1):62
PubMed Central: PMC5693532

Investigators at the University of Reading and Umm Al-Qura University explored medicinal plant knowledge and use among Muslim women in the city of Mecca, to “document lay, female knowledge of medicinal plants in an urban centre, interpreting findings in the light of the growing field of urban ethnobotany and gendered knowledge and in an Islamic context.”

With the participation of thirty-two Meccan women, the team collected more than a hundred vernacular names corresponding to approximately 110 plants, thirty-nine of which had not been previously cited in Saudi Arabian medicinal plant literature.

Trigonella foenum-graecum
Trigonella foenum-graecum [Source: Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, WikiMedia Commons]
The most cited medicinal plants included helba (Trigonella foenum-graecum), kamun (Cuminum cyminum), yansun (Pimpinella anisum), qurfa (Cinnamomum verum) and zanajabil (Zingiber officinale). More than half of the plants were not native to Saudi Arabia, and 41 percent of the plants cited by the Meccan women was not found in a review of the existing literature.

Ailments treated with medicinal plants included digestive, general and unspecified and respiratory issues along with gynecological problems (e.g., menstrual cramps and other menstrual disorders, polycystic ovaries, pregnancy and postpartum issues). Most of the women preferred to use medicinal plants rather than allopathic biomedicines, but roughly a third of the women (many of them younger women) preferred allopathic biomedicines, which could lead to the erosion of medicinal plant knowledge.

“Meccan women may learn about medicinal plants from their family and social networks, but increasingly, written sources and mass media are becoming important sources of knowledge. This, along with a higher preference for biomedical services amongst the younger generation, could result in the erosion of medicinal plant knowledge. Ethnobotanical knowledge erosion has been observed in the Middle East both among herbalists and the general population. The diffusion of non-local knowledge about medicinal plants through mass media is characteristic to urban settings and has a homogenizing effect on oral pharmacopoeias. Mass media often disseminates information on the uses and properties of commercial plants, increasing their visibility and, alongside availability factors, could also contribute to explain the high proportion of food and spices used among the Meccan women interviewed.”

The authors urge continuing documentation efforts for the preservation of the diversity of medicinal plant knowledge in Saudi Arabia, particularly studies of women’s use of medicinal plants, which has been largely overlooked until now.

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.

Please consider visiting my advertisers. Advertisements do not imply endorsement, but your clicks translate into the only revenue I receive for this blog.



The Useful Argan Tree

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Ethnobotanic, Ethnopharmacologic Aspects and New Phytochemical Insights into Moroccan Argan Fruits

Khallouki F, Eddouks M, Mourad A, Breuer A, Owen RW
Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Oct 30;18(11)
PubMed Central: PMC5713247

Researchers at the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum and Facultés des Sciences et Techniques d’Errachidia reviewed current data on the argan tree (Argania spinosa) and its fruit, including geographical distribution, traditional uses, environmental interest, and socioeconomic role.

Goats on an Argan tree in Morocco
Goats on an Argan tree in Morocco [Source: Marco Arcangeli, WikiMedia Commons]
Writing in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, the authors detail existing ethnobotanical, ethnomedical, and phytochemical data on argan fruits and offer insights about new natural products derived from them.

From the introduction:

“The argan tree Argania spinosa (L.) Skeels, an endemic species of Morocco with tropical affinities, is typically a multi-purpose tree, and plays a very important socio-economic role in this country, while maintaining an ecological balance. This species is the only representative of the tropical family Sapotaceae in Morocco. The tree is the second largest forest species, after oak and before cedar, and can live up to 200 years. The tree was recognized as a biosphere reserve since 1998 and was declared as a “protected species” by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“The argan tree has very specific chemical compositions which fortify their potential in particular for use in food, cosmetic, and medical preparations. The argan tree supports the livelihood of rural populations as a source of income and therefore they depend on the aganeraie. The various botanical parts of the tree also make a large contribution to biodiversity.”

The authors note the environmental importance of the Argan tree, whose roots develop deeply, helping prevent wind erosion and desertification of the soil. The trees provide shade for a number of crops, and help maintain soil fertility. One hundred plant species have been recorded growing near the argan tree, which speaks to the genetic importance of the tree itself as well to other animal and plant species.

After a fuel crisis in 1917, during which thousands of hectares of argan tree were destroyed, the Moroccan state took ownership of the tree while preserving the right of inhabitants of the region to benefit from the forest, including the right to harvest. The tree and its products are increasingly important to the Moroccan economy:

“The Arganeraie constitutes an important source of income for the Moroccan Berber populations. The press cake is used for fattening cattle, while fruit pulp and leaves also constitute a fodder for animals. The wood of the argan tree is extensively used as an energy bioresource, in the form of coal. The most economically viable part of the tree is its fruit, which provides food and cosmetic oils. The global demand for this oil is now increasing in the North American, European Union, Asia Pacific (China and Japan), Middle East and South African markets. The number of personal-care products on the US market including argan oil as an ingredient increased from just two in 2007, to over one hundred by 2011.

“The argan tree has created many jobs through the creation of women’s cooperatives. The global argan oil market was 4835.5 tons in 2014 and is expected to reach 19,622.5 tons by 2022.”

The authors review and update current research on the phytochemistry, ethnopharmacology, and ethnobotany aspects of the argan tree and catalog a number of bioactive compounds that may play an important role against several ailments, including arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, skin diseases, cardiovascular disorders, and cancer.

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.

Please consider visiting my advertisers. Advertisements do not imply endorsement, but your clicks translate into the only revenue I receive for this blog.



The Interplay of Language & Knowledge: Plant Species Used by the Chácobo

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Traditional knowledge hiding in plain sight – twenty-first century ethnobotany of the Chácobo in Beni, Bolivia

Paniagua Zambrana NY, Bussmann RW, Hart RE, Moya Huanca AL, Ortiz Soria G, Ortiz Vaca M, Ortiz Álvarez D, Soria Morán J, Soria Morán M, Chávez S, Chávez Moreno B, Chávez Moreno G, Roca O, Siripi E
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Oct 10;13(1):57
PubMed Central: PMC5634836

Beni Department of Bolivia
Beni Department of Northeastern Bolivia [Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Missouri Botanical Garden and Instituto Linguistico Chácobo conducted an ethnobotanical inventory of the indigenous Chácobo population, with interviews and plant collection conducted directly by Chácobo counterparts in the Beni department of northeastern Bolivia.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, the team describes the Chácobo Ethnobotany Project, in which they trained 10 indigenous Chácobo participants in ethnobotanical interview and plant-collection techniques. In turn, the interviewers collected ethnobotanical information from 301 Chácobo participants, representing almost the entire adult Chácobo population.

About the Chácobo people (from the paper’s Methods section):

“The Chácobo belong to the Panoan linguistic group, which includes about twelve tribes (Chácobo, Pacahuara, Matis, Matses, Yaminahua, Ese Eja and others). At the end of the 1890s, the Chácobo lived as semi–nomadic hunters and cassava and maize cultivators, probably in two groups, one with six families and one with four, in north Bolivia, between Lake Roguagnado and the river Mamore, south of their current territory. During the rubber boom in the early 1900s, they were forced by more aggressive tribes to move north, where rubber tappers, who also brought disease and epidemics to the tribe, threatened them. While other tribes were enslaved to work in rubber stations, the Chácobo managed to avoid most of the outside influences. Their first permanent contact with the outside world occurred only in 1953 with members of the the Tribes Missions, and in 1954 the Bolivian government established an agency about 15 km from the current location of Puerto Limones. The missionary linguist Gilbert Prost arrived in 1955 under the auspices of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL)…. In 1964, Prost managed to buy a territory in the north of the Chácobo’s ancestral lands, forming the community of Alto Ivón, and most of the remaining population moved there. In 1965, the Bolivian government finally assigned 43,000 ha of land to the Chácobo, although this area was less than 10% of their original territory. The influence of the SIL caused profound cultural change among the Chácobo, including the reported abandonment of traditional costume and dances in 1969. The official indigenous organization of the Chácobo (Central Indígena de la Región Amazónica de Bolivia (CIRABO) estimates a current population of the Chácobo community of about 1000 people…. The current territory of the tribe according to CIRABO encompasses 450,000 ha, and is roughly equivalent to the original extent of the tribe’s ancestral lands.”

Dysphania ambrosioides, formerly Chenopodium ambrosioides
Dysphania ambrosioides (Chenopodium ambrosioides) [Source: USDA, Wikimedia Commons]
The project documented 331 plant species used by the Chácobo people, including a large number of plants with specifically medicinal uses. Medicinal plants included Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Anacardium occidentale, Chenopodium ambrosioides [Dysphania ambrosioides], Cymbopetalum brasiliense, Mangifera indica, and Tapirira guianensis, among others.

The team worked exclusively with Chácobo interviewers in an effort to avoid the limiting influence of foreign interviewers. In their Discussion, the authors note a possible link between traditional knowledge and traditional language, with indigenous language proficiency correlating with ethnobotanical knowledge:

“The observation that local and indigenous languages often package rich traditional ecological knowledge has led to the question in many studies of whether indigenous language abilities influence plant knowledge, i.e. if native language speakers have a higher knowledge than participants only speaking a mainstream language. In our study, the link between language proficiency and other metrics of traditional knowledge (plants and uses reported) does support at least the correlation of these variables, and suggest the possibility of simultaneous language and knowledge retention (or erosion).”

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.

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Conservation in Conflict with Ethnobotanical Culture in Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley

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Traditional knowledge on wild and cultivated plants in the Kilombero Valley (Morogoro Region, Tanzania)

Salinitro M, Vicentini R, Bonomi C, Tassoni A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Mar 9;13(1):17 PubMed Central: PMC5345176

The Kilombero River floodplain of Tanzania, from Udzungwa Mountains National Park
The Kilombero River floodplain of Tanzania, from Udzungwa Mountains National Park [photo: Jens Klinzing, Wikimedia Commons]
Researchers from the University of Bologna and MUSE (Museo delle Scienze) investigated and recorded traditional knowledge about the use of wild and cultivated plants in villages adjacent to Udzungwa Mountains National Park in Tanzania’s Kilombero River floodplain.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, the team reports findings from interviews with ten traditional local healers selected with the collaboration of Associazione Mazingira, a group affiliated with MUSE that runs environmental education projects in the area and maintains close contact with the local people.

Cajanus cajan
Cajanus cajan [Art: Francisco Manuel Blanco, Wikimedia Commons]
The traditional healers described 196 plant species used for ethnomedicinal and other everyday purposes like food, fibers, and timber, 118 of which the team could classify botanically. Species highly cited for medicinal purposes included Cajanus cajan (teeth and gums, otitis); Hibiscus surattensis (eye diseases, gastrointestinal diseases); Kigelia africana (pain and inflammation, gastrointestinal diseases); and Vitex doniana (weakness and fainting).

The authors note that forests in Tanzania are under severe threat, with deforestation in the Kilombero Valley in particular caused by competition for land by agriculture, teak and eucalyptus plantations, and charcoal production. In contrast to the lowlands, forests in the neighboring Udzungwa Mountains are protected along the entire range, increasingly restricting the access of local people to harvesting areas, to the detriment of ethnobotanical knowledge in the region:

“For years, local healers could bypass the restrictions for access to National Parks, but given the increasingly strict rules, they have lately been forced to change their places of collection with a serious impact on everyday life. In fact, the knowledge and experience of each traditional healer are deeply linked to the place where he/she learned and practiced plant collection over the years. There are now few forest areas in Kilombero Valley that can provide therapeutic plants. These are located far from the villages, and some of the collection methods, such as decortication [removal of a plant’s outer layer], could be extremely impactful when carried out in small areas, making the plants unusable after a few years….

“Since the founding of Udzungwa Mountains National Park, more than 24 years ago, there has been a depletion of the traditional medical culture, due to the forced abbandonement of familiar areas of collection, as well as the progressively more difficult transmission of knowledge to and training of young healers. Finally, the cost of traditional medicine is now starting to grow, causing a significant problem for people who have always relied on this method for their healthcare.”

The creation and subsequent management of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park has had the unintended consequence of reducing collection areas for plant species essential to the lives of people living in the Kilombero Valley, intensifying the harvesting pressure on the few remaining areas of unprotected forest and endangering ethnobotanical culture and knowledge developed over many generations:

“Harvesting practices like root excavation and stem decortication are causing a progressive depletion of many medicinal plant species. In addition, deforestation makes medicinal species harvesting areas increasingly scarce, forcing many local healers to abandon the practice. In the light of these facts, it is essential, in the immediate future, to educate traditional healers as well as common people to the sustainable use of the surrounding natural heritage. It seems also necessary to provide the populations with additional means to increase the forested areas, such as the distribution of seedlings for biomass production. Although some efforts have already been made in the studied territory, and in spite of a firm tradition in Tanzania of community-based forest conservation, the situation remains critical and the state of unprotected forests near these villages is deteriorating year after year. This situation, if not quickly reversed, may lead to an unprecedented environmental crisis and to the loss of much of the traditional ethnobotanical culture. In this context, the present study wishes to contribute, at least to some ex[t]ent, to preserving the knowledge present in the investigated populations, still deeply connected to nature, and to passing down this unevaluable tradition to future generations.”

In passing, the authors state that “no actions have been taken to solve problems related to plant gathering practices.” Might this area of neglect motivate some new initiatives to solve a perennial problem, how best to balance the aims of forest conservation with the rights and needs of indigenous people?

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.