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


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.

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