Knowledge of Medicinal Plants on the Island of Bougainville

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An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used in the Siwai and Buin districts of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville

Julie Waruruai, Beuluah Sipana, Michael Koch, Louis R. Barrows, Teatulohi K. Matainaho, Prem P Raia
J Ethnopharmacol
2011 Nov 18;138(2):564-77
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3245962
Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea
Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea (Source: Wikimedia Commons User: Electionworld)

As part of a program initiated by the University of Papua New Guinea to systematically document and preserve traditional knowledge of medicinal plant use, researchers at University of Papua New Guinea and University of Utah undertook an ethnobotanical survey in the Siwai and Buin Districts of the Island of Bougainville.

From the Introduction:

“Initially settled around 40,000 years ago, extended habitation in diverse environs has rendered most ethnic groups in [Papua New Guinea] rich in medicinal plant knowledge. The traditional use of medicinal plants constitutes an important and threatened information reservoir that has been empirically tested and adopted through millennia of trial and error, but that is threatened by on-going development and change of lifestyle. Prior to the current University of Papua New Guinea  Traditional Medicines Database Surveys, two of which are reported here, [Papua New Guinea] medicinal plant use and corresponding pharmacological assessment was not systematically studied. The documentation of medicinal plants in [Papua New Guinea] has been haphazard and the accrued knowledge not widely disseminated internationally. We estimate that historically some 800 [Papua New Guinea] plants have been described in the literature for treatment of various ailments, but this represents only a fraction of the total number of plants actually utilized.”

The authors report that in Papua New Guinea respiratory problems, malaria and other infections, physical injury, diarrhea and obstetrical and gynecological difficulties are extremely common and many plants are used to treat these health problems.

Alstonia scholaris
Alstonia scholaris (Source: Wikimedia Commons User: Amar Chandra)

Of the medicinal plant species identified in the survey, 18 were found to used medicinally in the Siwai and Buin districts both, including six that are also harvested or cultivated for food: Barringtonia novae-hiberniae, Cocos nucifera, Ficus copiosa, Magnifera indica, Psidium guajava and Solanum torvum. Other plants used medicinally in both regions include Ageratum conyzoides, Alstonia scholaris, Angiopteris evecta, Ficus adenosperma, Hibiscus tiliaceus, Hornstedtia scottiana, Macaranga aleuritoides, Merremia peltata, Mikania micrantha, Mucuna novoguineensis, Premna serratifolia, and Pterocarpus indicus.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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