Category Archives: Social Progress

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.

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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.

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



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.




Villagers’ Knowledge of Medicinal Plants Around Madagascar’s Analavelona Forest Shows Promise for Conservation

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The most used medicinal plants by communities in Mahaboboka, Amboronabo, Mikoboka, Southwestern Madagascar

Randrianarivony TN, Ramarosandratana AV, Andriamihajarivo TH, Rakotoarivony F, Jeannoda VH, Randrianasolo A, Bussmann RW
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Mar 9;13(1):19
PubMed Central: PMC5345199

Investigators from the Missouri Botanical Garden and University of Antananarivo conducted a study to document local use of medicinal plants in three communities around Madagascar’s Analavelona Forest.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Tabita N. Randrianarivony and co-authors note that while Madagascar hosts one of the world’s richest natural heritages, the island nation is one of the world’s poorest:

Madagascar hosts one of the richest natural heritage in the world but is classified among the least developed countries with low Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita estimated at 409$ in 2015. This poverty contributes to a rapid loss of biodiversity in a country, where exploiting natural resources are the unique available sources of incomes for most of people living in rural areas. Due to health facilities that do not meet standards, together with poor sanitary infrastructures and unmotivated medical staff, unaffordable drug costs and high consulting fees, use of medicinal plants is now often part of the first resort delivered and the only accessible therapy to people from several localities in Madagascar including communities from remote areas like Mahaboboka, Mikoboka and Amboronabo.

Based on interviews with villagers in the Mahaboboka, Amboronabo, and Mikoboka communities, the team documented 235 medicinal plant species used to treat various ailments including disorders of the blood and cardiovascular system; digestive system disorders; dental health and cranial system problems; general ailments; infectious diseases; musculoskeletal disorders; nervous system disorders; problems of pregnancy, birth, and puerperium; reproductive system disorders; respiratory system disorders; sensory system disorders; and veterinary ailments.

Leonotis nepetifolia
Leonotis nepetifolia [Source: Kurt Stueber, Wikimedia Commons]
Widely reported medicinal plants included Acridocarpus excelsus, Cedrelopsis grevei, Henonia scoparia, Leonotis nepetifolia, and Strychnos henningsii.

The authors point a way forward to sustainable use of Madagascar’s medicinal plants, many of which are endangered, encouraging collaboration with the local inhabitants, who have a sophisticated system of transmitting and preserving ethnobotanical knowledge:

Knowledge of medicinal plants in areas surrounding Analavelona forest is well transmitted orally from elders to youngers, from dominant ethnic group to immigrants and from illiterate people to school going and to the other members of society. This work is significant as it helps the conservation of medicinal plants knowledge and constitutes a written document for the next generation. Results of this study will ease decision making for the conservation of Analavelona forest. For the continuation of the project, local communities will be aware of known plants properties which exist in the area. They could benefit traditional knowledge they disclose to the scientific community especially regarding the discovery of new medicines.

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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Recognizing & Recovering Traditional Knowledge of Saraguro Healers in Southern Ecuador

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Ethnobotany of Indigenous Saraguros: Medicinal Plants Used by Community Healers “Hampiyachakkuna” in the San Lucas Parish, Southern Ecuador

Andrade JM, Lucero Mosquera H, Armijos C
Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:9343724
PubMed Central: PMC5514338

Loja Province, Ecuador
Loja Province, Ecuador [Source: TUBS, WikimediaCommons]
Investigators at Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja conducted an ethnobotanical survey in the Loja Province of southern Ecuador to learn about the use of medicinal plants by Hampiyachakkuna community healers treating the indigenous Saraguro population in San Lucas Parish.

Writing in the journal BioMed Research International, authors José M. Andrade, Hernán Lucero Mosquera, and Chabaco Armijos note that only a few ethnobotanical studies have reported on the use of plants in the Saraguro region and that a thorough documentation of medicinal plants used by Saraguro healers has not been done prior to this investigation. They describe an urgent need to document and preserve this cultural knowledge:

“The Saraguros are one of the best-organized ethnical groups in Ecuador and have conserved many aspects of their ancient culture and traditions for centuries. They demonstrate the latter by preserving their typical dressing, language, religion, gastronomy, architecture, social habits, and medical practices. Among their medical practice traditions, this ethnic group is known for the use of medicinal plants in their own health care system. In fact, the use of these plants as therapeutic agents is an important feature of traditional indigenous medicine and is still practiced within the Saraguro community. In particular, the Saraguros are highly recognized for the development of optimization techniques that help them select natural/plant resources to be used in their health care practices.”

The team carried out their research on several field visits, during which they interviewed four healers from the Saraguro community (a Wachakhampiyachak [midwife], a Yurakhampiyachak [herbalist], a Kakuyhampiyachak [bone-healer], and a Rikuyhampiyachak [visionary]) regarding the medicinal plants they used in their practices. Notably, while the healers are highly trusted and recognized as effective by the community, they are also well integrated into the region’s allopathic health care system and readily transfer a patient to a health center or hospital when they detect serious conditions.

Working with the healers, the investigators documented the existence of 183 medicinal plant species used in 75 different curative therapies, including nervous system treatments, cold treatments, infection treatments, general malaise treatments, inflammatory treatments of the liver and kidneys, and “mythological” treatments (for diseases determined to be of a supernatural nature).

Salvia leucocephala
Salvia leucocephala [Photo: Dick Culbert, Wikimedia Commons]
The team documented thirteen medicinal plants endemic to the region: Achyrocline hallii (sacha algodón); Ageratina dendroides (pegac chilca); Bejaria subsessilis (pena de cerro); Brachyotum scandens (sarcillo sacha); Dendrophthora fastigiata (suelda pequeña); Diplostephium juniperinum (monte de baño); Diplostephium oblanceolatum (chuquir agua); Fuchsia hypoleuca (sacha pena); Huperzia austroecuadorica (wuaminga verde pequeño); Lepechinia paniculata (shallshón); Phoradendron parietarioides (suelda grande); Salvia leucocephala (sp flor morado); Siphocampylus scandens (pena rojo de monte). Most of these plants are either vulnerable or endangered, due primarily to habitat loss.

In their conclusion, the authors stress the importance of preservation:

“This research conducted in collaboration with the members of the native Saraguro community constitutes a baseline study to help promote the preservation of this ancient medicinal knowledge by a thorough documentation of the natural resources and processing methods used. Moreover, we hope the results of this study motivate young generations to envision the potential of the use and application of traditional knowledge in medicinal practices. Finally, this scientific research and the results here reported aim at preserving and enhancing, as much as possible, a culture of the practice of natural ancient medicinal science, while preserving the environment, nature, life, culture, and sovereignty of the Saraguro 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.




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Traditional Medicine Practitioners in Togo Share Their Knowledge of Plants Used to Treat Asthma

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Ethnobotanical study of plants used to treat asthma in the maritime region in Togo

Gbekley HE, Katawa G, Karou SD, Anani S, Tchadjobo T, Ameyapoh Y, Batawila K, Simpore J
Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2016 Nov 23;14(1):196-212
PubMed Central: PMC5411872

Togo
Togo [Source: Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from the Université de Lomé and Centre de Recherche Biomoléculaire Pietro Annigoni conducted an ethnobotanical survey to document plants used in Togolese traditional medicine to treat asthma in Togo’s southernmost Maritime Region, where the main ethnic groups are the Ewe, Ouatchi, Mina, Fon, and Adja people.

For their study, the team interviewed 121 traditional healers, who use clinical manifestations such as wheezing, coughing, difficulty in speaking, dyspnea, dry cough, sweating, and increased heart rate to diagnose the disease.

Carica_papaya
Carica papaya [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen]
Writing in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, Gbekley et al. document 98 plant species used in southern Togo to treat asthma, including Carica papaya, Cataranthus roseus, Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Piper guineense, Eucalyptus citriodora, Eucalyptus globules, and Euphorbia hirta. The team conducted a literature review to assess previous relevant ethnobotanical citations related to asthma, toxicity data, and screening reports for immunomodulatory activities.

From the introduction:

“Asthma is a chronic disease characterized by variable airflow limitation and/or airway hyper-reactivity with symptoms causally related to family history, environmental influences, exposure to viruses and allergens as examples. The high economic burden linked with asthma is associated primarily with health care costs, missed work or school days. The treatment of asthma in the modern medicine is based on the use of beta agonists, leukotriene modifiers and inhaled corticosteroids that allowed an acceptable control of the main symptoms. However, this therapy could not suppress all the symptoms although the better understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease. On the other hand, the requirement for daily inhalation with glucocorticoids is often a cause for patient discomfort, limiting the use of glucocorticoids in asthma therapy. In addition, the current therapy is not affordable for the patients in developing countries, who rely on the traditional medicine. Therefore, there is a significant need for new medications for the treatment of asthma that are highly efficacious, with low cost, easily managed and with few adverse effects. In the search for new medications for asthma, plants through the traditional medicine are a credible alternative.”

The authors recommend further laboratory screenings to identify specific bioactive molecules that might be responsible for the reported therapeutic activities of these plant-derived medicines, and to investigate optimal dosages as well as possible side effects.

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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Bhutan Finds Alternative Source of Medicinal Plants to Ease Pressure from Commercial Harvesting

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Medicinal plants of Dagala region in Bhutan: their diversity, distribution, uses and economic potential

Wangchuk P, Namgay K, Gayleg K, Dorji Y
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Jun 24;12(1):28
PubMed Central: PMC4921017

Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and Ministry of Health conducted an ethnobotanical survey to determine if the Dagala village block (gewog) might serve as an alternative collection site for the state-run Menjong Sorig Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures plant-based medicines for traditional g.so-ba-rig-pa hospitals in Bhutan.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Phurpa Wangchuk of James Cook University and co-authors note that the ecological pressure on medicinal plants in Bhutan has increased significantly over recent years, particularly in Lingzhi Gewog, the primary source of plants and other raw materials for medical formulations manufactured for the country’s network of traditional medicine providers:

“[Menjong Sorig Pharmaceuticals (MSP)] manufactures more than 100 different polyingredient medicinal formulations and supplies them to the traditional medicine hospitals and units across the country. The polyingredient medicinal formulations are prepared into different dosage forms as powder, capsules, pills, tablets, ointments and decoctions. The raw materials (mostly medicinal plants) for preparing these formulations are either collected within Bhutan (mostly from Lingzhi region) or imported from India. The medicinal plants, which grow in the higher elevation of alpine mountains (>2000 meters above sea level) including that from Lingzhi region, are known as the High Altitude Medicinal Plants (HAMP) and the others that grow in the temperate and tropical environment are called the Low Altitude Medicinal Plants (LAMP). Due to persistent collections of HAMP from Lingzhi region for more than 48 years, the pressure on medicinal plants has increased significantly over the recent years. Therefore, identifying an alternative medicinal plants collection site for HAMP have been one of the MSP’s top priority.”

Bhutanese g.so-ba-rig-pa medicine is with traditional Tibetan medicine one of the oldest surviving medical traditions and is in wide practice across the world, so this case study is potentially of significance not only for Bhutan but also for the other countries that use these medicinal plants.

The team chose Dagala Gewog to study because it shares several agro-climatic features with Lingzhi Gewog and has never had an ethnobotanical survey (though there were abundant anecdotal claims about medicinal lush plant growth in the region), and because the local people could potentially benefit from a sustainable collection program.

Berberis aristata
Berberis aristata [Photo: Buddhika.jm, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with a local Byjop guide, the team identified 100 medicinal plant species from Dagala Gewog, 16 of which were abundant in the region and in current use by MSP: Aconitum laciniatum, Berberis aristata, Bistorta macrophylla, Euphorbia wallichii, Gentiana algida, Geranium refractum, Juniperus pseudosabina, Juniperus squamata, Neopicrorhiza scrophulariiflora, Plantago depressa, Potentilla arbuscula, Rheum australe, Rhododendron anthopogon, Rhododendron glaucophyllum, Rhododendron setosum, and Taraxacum officinale.

“These 16 species that are found in abundance have the economic potential since MSP require them in bulk quantities to prepare g.so-ba-rig-pa medicines. Since g.so-ba-rig-pa is also practiced across the globe, these medicinal plants could be in demand by other countries including India, Nepal, Mongolia, Tibet and Switzerland (PADMA company based on Tibetan medicine). However, the first priority would be to focus on meeting the domestic demand of MSP for these medicinal plants. MSP currently engage yak herders for collecting medicinal plants from Lingzhi. As a result of medicinal plants collection program, the Lingzhip (local inhabitants of Lingzhi region) have improved their socio-economic status and contributed significantly to the realization of country’s ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) indices including preservation of traditional medical knowledge, conservation of environment and socio-economic prosperity.”

The team concluded that it was feasible to establish an alternative medicinal-plant collection center in Dagala Gewog:

“Establishing an alternative HAMP collection centre in Dagala Gewog has multi-pronged benefits. The tangible and immediate benefits would include: a) Dagala communities could generate decent income through medicinal plants collection program and elevate their socio-economic status, b) MSP could obtain sustainable supply of HAMP to meet the demand of g.so-ba-rig-pa medicine production, c) training on sustainable collection of HAMP (always provided by MSP as a package of collection program) would educate Dagala Jops on the values, protection and preservation of plants, d) establishing this alternative collection center would ease the pressure on Lingzhi HAMP and could enable MSP to collect the plants on a rotational basis, and e) since Dagala region is known for eco-tourism, having the medicinal plants collection centre and the herb garden would enhance the in-flow of eco-tourists especially the botanists and the herbalists.”

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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Ethnopharmacological Preparations of Monpa People in Arunachal Pradesh

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First Report on the Ethnopharmacological Uses of Medicinal Plants by Monpa Tribe from the Zemithang Region of Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalayas, India

Chakraborty T, Saha S, Bisht NS
Plants (Basel). 2017 Mar 2;6(1)
PubMed Central: PMC5371772

Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalayas, India
Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalayas, India [Source: Filpro, Wikimedia Commons]
Researchers at Jiwaji University, University of Freiburg, Forest Research Institute, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education conducted a study to document, for the first time, ethnopharmacological preparations of ethnomedicines among the Monpa people in the Zemithang region of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Their study is published in the open-access journal Plants.

From the introduction:

“Before coming to our research objectives, we would like to briefly mention the state of the art of ethnopharmacological research in the Himalayas. There are plenty of research works on the listing of the traditional uses of medicinal plants from the Himalayas. A search with the terms “medicinal plants * Himalayas” yielded 163 peer-reviewed articles listed in ISI Web of Knowledge on 20 February 2017. However, out of those 163 articles, 19 articles were found from the Eastern Himalayas and only two were on the Monpa tribe…. Haridasan et al., in the seminal works produced in 1998 and 1990, comprehensively listed medicinal and edible plants of the Monpa tribe and other tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Recently, Namsa et al. (2011) listed 50 plant species and recorded their ethnobotanical uses among people of the Monpa tribe at the southern range of their habitation (i.e., Kalaktang circle of West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh). These two publications provided general descriptions of the plants, traditional uses of the plants to cure certain diseases, and traditional ways of consumption of these plants or plant parts (e.g., pills, syrups, decoctions, etc.). Nevertheless, no ethnopharmacological studies have yet reported how, and in what proportion, multiple plant parts from different species can be used to prepare specific ethnomedicines for healing of diseases among the Monpa tribes or any other tribes of the Eastern Himalayas as per our literature research as of 20 February 2017. In addition, the traditional knowledges of the people of the Monpa tribe residing at their northern habitation range (i.e., Zemithang circle of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh) are still not adequately documented due to the remoteness of the location.”

Aconitum ferox
Aconitum ferox [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen]
The team describe 24 ethnomedicines prepared by traditional healers based on 53 plant species, including Aconitum ferox, Bergenia stracheyi, Campanula latifolia, Fragaria nubicola, Gentiana depressa, Hedychium spicatum, Iris clarkei, Leontopodium himalayanam, Meconopsis grandis, Onopordum acanthium, Panax pseudoginseng, Rheum australe, Swertia chirayita, Tanacetum gracile, and Vaccinium nummularia.

In their conclusions, the authors urge further scientific work based on the know-how of Monpa healers, with an eye toward conservation of their traditional ethnopharmacological knowledge:

“We have documented for the first time the vernacular names combined with ethnopharmacological preparations of ethnomedicines among Monpa tribes from the Zemithang region of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Past studies on ethnobotany in the Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalayas, had listed uses of medicinal plants, however, we found that traditional healers use diverse species and plant parts in specific proportions for drug preparations. Our study illustrates the diversity of medicinal drug preparations and traditional knowledge that has passed through generation after generation of Monpa people. The ethnopharmacological documentation presented in this study should motivate researchers to carry out further scientific work on pharmacology, bioprospecting, and the cultivation of medicinal plants for the socioeconomic development in the region. Under ongoing warming of the Himalayas and mass migration of people from the mountain areas to cities, our study also highlights the need to document the traditional knowledge regarding the use of local flora and to develop strategies to conserve them before the traditional knowledges are lost or forgotten.”

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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In Slovenia, A Tradition of Using Media to Advance Ethnomedicinal Knowledge

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Folk use of medicinal plants in Karst and Gorjanci, Slovenia

Lumpert M, Kreft S
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Feb 23;13(1):16
PubMed Central: PMC5324297

Researchers from the University of Ljubljana conducted an ethnobotanical study in two remote Slovenian villages, Karst and Gorjanci.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Mateja Lumpert and Samo Kreft note that only a few rigorous ethnobotanical studies have been conducted in Slovenia:

“The use of plants has been scarcely investigated in Slovenia, and only a few ethnobotanical studies have been conducted. The Karst region is a limestone plateau in southwestern Slovenia that continues on the Italian side of the border. The Italian part of the Karst region, also known as Trieste Karst, was included in an ethnobotanical study of the Venezia Giulia region in 1988, and a list of 59 plants that were used in Trieste Karst was reported. Guštin Grilanc investigated the folk herbalist tradition in both the Italian and Slovenian parts of the Karst region and published a list of 124 plants used for healing, food, toys, superstitions, and folk traditions with short descriptions; however, the methodology of the work was not described, and only a detailed list of informants was given. Gorjanci is a mountain range in southeastern Slovenia that runs southwest to northeast along the Croatian border. From 1950 to 1983, ethnographic researchers collected testimonials on the natural and magical treatment of the people in Dolenjska and Bela Krajina, two regions where Gorjanci is located. Makarovič analyzed the collected testimonials and concluded that the ethnographers’ notes contained random and generalized data on knowledge about natural medicines and magical practices; those data were collected unsystematically and were incomplete. As a result, this analysis provided a very rough estimation of the use of medicinal plants.”

Working with local herbalists, Lumpert and Kreft documented 78 medicinal plants used in Karst and 82 in Gorjanci.

Sambucus nigra
Sambucus nigra [Photo: Willow, Wikimedia Commons]
Sambucus nigra was the most frequently reported plant in both villages. Other frequently reported plants were Rosa spp., Salvia officinalis, Thymus serpyllum, Mentha spp., Melissa officinalis, Matricaria chamomilla, and Tilia spp. in Karst and Achillea millefolium, Tilia spp., Matricaria chamomilla, Urtica dioica, Hypericum perforatum, Rosa spp., Centaurium spp., and Vaccinium myrtillus in Gorjanci.

The authors note a long tradition in Slovenia of herbalists using written sources to advance ethnomedicinal knowledge:

Title page of Tabernaemontanus "Neuw Vollkommentlich Kreuterbuch", 1625
Title page of Tabernaemontanus “Neuw Vollkommentlich Kreuterbuch”, 1625 [Source: Wikimedia Commons]

“In Slovenia, knowledge about plants is transmitted from generation to generation and is also influenced by written sources. The beginning of this practice goes back to Comments of Dioscorides written by Pietro Andrea Mattioli. He lived and worked from 1540 to 1554 in Gorica, a town in northeastern Italy populated by a Slovene-speaking minority, and he was the first to describe plants of Slovenian flora. In the 18th and 19th centuries, folk healers in Slovenian ethnic territory used folk medicine manuscripts, which were translations of mostly German medicine and veterinary books, especially herbals (or Kräuterbücher) from the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century. Most manuscripts were translations of Gart der Gesundheit (1485), Kreutterbuch by Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1590), Neu Vollkommenes Kräuter-Buch by Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1678), Vollständiges Kräuterbuch by Adam Lonicer (1557), and Neu Vollkomentlich Kreuterbuch by Jakob Tabernaemontanus (1613). Later, the translated books were manually transcribed many times, and the transcribers added their own observations to the manuscripts. In the second half of the 19th century, the first original (non-translated) Slovenian works about medicinal plants were published, and manuals for the wild collection, drying and use of Slovenian medicinal plants were issued later. Throughout the 20th century, there was steady growth of published books about medicinal plants; some of them were original Slovenian works, and some were translations from foreign authors; most were written by pharmacists and only some by folk healers.”

With an important and widespread practice of plant collection combined with a nearly 100% literacy rate, Slovenia offers a rare, perhaps unique, perspective on the evolution of ethnomedicinal knowledge in literate societies, where books, television, journals, and the internet join oral transmission between individuals, potentially to bring very rapid cultural change.

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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Ethnobotanical Heritage of the Shuar People

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Ethnobotanical Research at the Kutukú Scientific Station, Morona-Santiago, Ecuador

Ballesteros JL, Bracco F, Cerna M, Vita Finzi P, Vidari G
Biomed Res Int. 2016;2016:9105746
PubMed Central: PMC5198176

Researchers from Universidad Politécnica Salesiana and the University of Pavia conducted an ethnobotanical study on the uses of medicinal plants by indigenous people near the Kutukú Scientific Station, which is located on the Kutukú mountain range in the Morona-Santiago province of southeast Ecuador.

About seven indigenous communities live in the study area, all of them members of the Shuar ethnic group:

“The ethnobotanical study performed in this work gave us a real panorama about the natural remedies used by the inhabitants in the territory of the Kutukú Scientific Station of the Morona canton of the province of Morona-Santiago, south of Ecuador. This research was realized with “Shuar” community, which is very different from the “Achuar” community cited in the article by Giovannini, even the geographical location and the altitude are different.”

Acmella ciliata
Acmella ciliata [Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Ks.mini]
With guidance from the Shuar, the team identified recorded therapeutic uses of 131 medicinal plants, including Acmella ciliata, Byrsonima arthropoda, Citharexylum poeppigii, Croton lechleri, Ilex guayusa, Siparuna harlingii, Verbena litoralis, and Virola pavonis. Most of the plants are native to the region. Therapeutic uses included aids for wound healing, “mal aire,” diarrhea, nourishment, kidney and bladder affections, fever, and rheumatism.

The authors note the urgency to preserve the cultural patrimony of the Shuar through sustainable research and development:

“In this work we analyzed the ethnobotanical patrimony of Kutukú Scientific Station, located on the Kutukú mountain range in the Morona-Santiago province, Ecuador. By doing that, we intended to safeguard the popular knowledge concerning plants and to produce a database of plant uses and advantages. This data could be used by the citizens themselves and could be the base for future actions in programs of scientific investigations, environmental education, social awareness, and natural resources exploitation, as well as the start point of touristic attraction based on the sustainable development of the territory.”

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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