Medicinal Uses of Wild Food Plants in Italy’s Middle Agri Valley


Ethnobotanical survey of wild food plants traditionally collected and consumed in the Middle Agri Valley (Basilicata region, southern Italy)

Sansanelli S, Ferri M, Salinitro M, Tassoni A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Sep 6;13(1):50
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5586000

Investigators from the University of Bologna conducted an ethnobotanical survey in a scarcely populated area of Italy’s Middle Agri Valley to record local knowledge of the traditional uses of wild food plants, and to collect information regarding the medicinal uses related to these plants.

Asparagus acutifolius
Asparagus acutifolius [photo: Hectonichus, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with local informants, the team identified six species of wild food plants that were also noted for their therapeutic value: Asparagus acutifolius (kidney wellbeing), Cichorium intybus (liver wellbeing), Foeniculum vulgare (digestion), Glycyrrhiza glabra (feet sweating), Leopoldia comosa (soothing of burning eyes), and Sambucus nigra (stomachache).

The authors noted a relative paucity of reported medicinal properties of wild food plants in the region, which they attributed to a possible loss of ethnomedicinal knowledge:

“Some plant species previously reported … as phytoremedies, such as Laurus nobilis and Origanum vulgare, were also mentioned by the informants but only to be used as food and without any relation to possible therapeutic properties, indicating the loss of such knowledge over the years. This pattern was also confirmed by comparing the present results with other studies carried out few years ago in Basilicata region both among Italians and Arbëreshë communities. In particular, many species mentioned in the present research as having only food use, were previously indicated as also showing a medicinal application such as A. rusticana (anti-rheumatic), C. vitalba (heal mouth inflammation), C. cardunculus (anti-rheumatic, digestive), L. nobilis, F. carica, G. glabra, M. domestica and Z. jujuba (heal sore-throat), Rubus spp. and P. spinosa (hepato-protective), S. marianum (laxative), S. oleraceus (anti-gastritis), P. rhoeas (mild sedative)…. In addition, some species that have a well-known medicinal use in other parts of Italy, were not mentioned as having particular therapeutic effects in the Midlle Agri Valley. In particular, no medicinal properties were reported for Urtica spp., which in many other studies in Italy and abroad is known both as food and for medical use (refreshing, against kidney problems and for arthritis), and for Taraxacum officinale Weber and Sonchus spp., that have previously been defined as medicinal foods with both high nutritional values and depurative, blood cleaning and refreshing effects.”

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