Medicinal Flora & Ethnoecological Knowledge in the Naran Valley

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Medicinal flora and ethnoecological knowledge in the Naran Valley, Western Himalaya, Pakistan

Shujaul M Khan, Sue Page, Habib Ahmad, Hamayun Shaheen, Zahid Ullah, Mushtaq Ahmad, and David M Harper
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed
2013 Jan 10;9:4
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3570439

Researchers at Hazara University Mansehra, University of Leicester, and Quaid-e-Azam University undertook an assessment of medicinal plant species of the Naran valley in northwestern Pakistan on the edge of the Western Himalayas and the ethnoecological knowledge of local indigenous communities.

From the abstract:

“Mountain ecosystems all over the world support a high biological diversity and provide home and services to some 12% of the global human population, who use their traditional ecological knowledge to utilise local natural resources. The Himalayas are the world’s youngest, highest and largest mountain range and support a high plant biodiversity. In this remote mountainous region of the Himalaya, people depend upon local plant resources to supply a range of goods and services, including grazing for livestock and medicinal supplies for themselves. Due to their remote location, harsh climate, rough terrain and topography, many areas within this region still remain poorly known for its floristic diversity, plant species distribution and vegetation ecosystem service.
“The Naran valley in the north-western Pakistan is among such valleys and occupies a distinctive geographical location on the edge of the Western Himalaya range, close to the Hindu Kush range to the west and the Karakorum Mountains to the north. It is also located on climatic and geological divides, which further add to its botanical interest.”

The study identified 101 plant species used for 97 prominent therapeutic purposes, including those associated with the digestive system, respiratory and urinary systems, blood circulatory and reproductive systems, and the skin.

Podophyllum hexandrum
Podophyllum hexandrum (Source: Wikimedia Commons User Pekaje)

Important medicinal species included Dioscorea deltoidea, Podophyllum hexandrum, Berberis pseudoumbellata, Cypripedium cordigerum, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Cedrus deodara, Aesculus indica, Cedrus deodara, Aesculus indica, Aconitum heterophyllum, Aconitum violaceum, Ephedra gerardiana, Eremurus himalaicus, Hypericum perforatum, Indigofera heterantha, Geranium wallichianum, Iris hookeriana, Nepeta laevigata, Origanum vulgare, Paeonia emodi, Rheum austral, Thymus linearis, and Ulmus wallichiana. A table details the use of each species.

The authors recommend collaboration between ethnoecologists and the local population both to preserve these species and sustain indigenous ethnoecological knowledge:

“Indigenous people, although the possessor of traditional knowledge have no proper training in sustainable ways of plant collection, post collection care and processing and usually waste a considerable amount of medicinal plants. Such sort of unwise practices over a long time can cause a reduction in plant biodiversity in general and of plant species providing provisioning services in particular. It is therefore, suggested to recruit ethno-ecologists and experts to train the local people for the sustainable utilization of medicinal plant resources. Some of the problems associated with medicinal plant resources can be overcome through research on domestic growth of medicinal plants and development of processing techniques among the people. In this recent millennium, present and number of other research studies suggest urgent call for the preservation of both long-established remedial knowledge and medicinal plant resources in the developing world, particularly in the Himalayas. Furthermore, long-established knowledge about the medicinal values of plants has contributed a lot in the past in production and synthesis of synthetic drugs and market values. It has played and still plays a remarkable role in solving health related problems especially in undeveloped and remote parts of the world.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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