Medicinal Plants Used in Kel, Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan


Ethnopharmacological studies of indigenous plants in Kel village, Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan

Ahmad KS, Hamid A, Nawaz F, Hameed M, Ahmad F, Deng J, Akhtar N, Wazarat A, Mahroof S
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Dec 1;13(1):68
PubMed Central: PMC5709976

Investigators at the University of Poonch Rawalakot; University of Agriculture, Multan; University of Agriculture, Faisalabad; Guizhou Education University; and G.C. Women University conducted the first published explorative study of indigenous knowledge used in the preparation of herbal medicines in Kel village in the Upper Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan.

Kel Village, Pakistan
Kel Village, Pakistan [Source: Furqanlw, Wikimedia Commons]
Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Khawaja Shafique Ahmad and coauthors note that theirs is the first effort to provide quantitative ethnobotanical data employed by indigenous people in this region, which is “characterized by its remoteness, long distance from urban centers, difficult mountainous terrain, and a lack of government services, including modern health care facilities”:

“The area has poorly developed road and other infrastructure. The people of the area rely on sustainable agriculture. Main crops include corn (Zea mays L.), turnip (Brasica rapa L.), and bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) in an integrated system. A high proportion of local people are associated with livestock. A number of the main occupations are associated with summer tourism, including rest house managers, tour guides, shop keepers, restaurant workers, and jeep drivers. In light of these demographic changes, it is vital to document the local knowledge of medicinal plant usage in this area before such information declines or is lost completely.”

Achillea millefolium
Achillea millefolium [Source: Petar Milošević, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with informants well known in the region for their medicinal expertise and knowledge about medicinal plants, the team documented 50 medicinal plants used locally, including Achillea millefolium, Ageratum conozoides, Artemisia scoparia, Berberis lycium, and Impatiens glandulifera. Newly documented ethnomedicinal uses were recorded for several species: Ailanthus excelsa (fever), Betula utilis (Jaundice), Bistorta amplexicaulis (tonic), Dryopteris ramosa (ulcer), Dryopteris stewartii (tuberculosis), Fumaria officinalis (skin allergies), Galium boreole (skin problems), Hedera nepalensis (ulcer), Impatiens glandulifera (joint pain), Inula grandiflora (liver pain), Jurinea dolomiaea (bone fracture), Plectranthus rugosus (skin allergies and diarrhea), Podophyllum emodi (cancer), Prunella vulgaris (heart diseases), Quercus ballota (dysentery), Rubus ellipticus (wound healing), Saussurea lanceolata (typhoid), and Swertia petiolata (liver pain).

In their conclusion, the authors note the importance of these often-endangered plant species for the people living in the region, and the potential for establishing their sustainable use:

“This study will help us to link ethnobotanical and chemical knowledge to understand the use of medicinal plants by traditional communities. The information obtained from this study will encourage native communities in trading off locally prepared herbal products. As a result of expanding interest, new income-generating opportunities will be available for poor rural household. Moreover, sustainable uses of plant resources will promote biological and cultural diversity which in return will promotion of local biocultural diversity through ecotourism initiatives.”

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.

Ethnobotany of the Nakuan People: Past & Present Medicinal Uses of Plants


Naukan ethnobotany in post-Soviet times: lost edibles and new medicinals

Jernigan KA, Belichenko OS, Kolosova VB, Orr DJ
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Nov 17;13(1):61
PubMed Central: PMC5693499

Investigators at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, European University at St. Petersburg, and Institute for Linguistic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences conducted an ethnobotanical study of health-related plant use among speakers of the critically endangered Naukan language in the Russian Far East, as part of a larger project to document and compare edible, medicinal, and spiritual plant use among the Naukan and Chukchi peoples of Chukotka, Russia, and the Central Alaskan Yup’ik.

Cape Dezhnev
Detail of a USCGS chart from 1937 showing Cape Dezhnev (East Cape) and the historical villages Tunkan, Uelen (Ugelen), Naukan (Nuokan), Enmitahin, and Dezhnevo (Port Dezhnev). [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, the authors begin by describing the history of the Naukan people, which is marked by forced relocation under the Soviet regime:

“The village of Naukan (originally called Nevuqaq) was built on Cape Dezhnev, at the extreme eastern end of Eurasia. Subsistence practices focused on hunting sea mammals including the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), spotted seal (Phoca largha), and bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus). This was supplemented by hunting of land mammals and gathering of plants and smaller marine organisms. During the Russian Imperial and early Soviet period, the site served as an important center for commercial and cultural exchange between the Chukchi on the Russian side and the Iñupiat on the Alaskan side of the Bering Strait. Intermarriages were common between the people of Naukan and the islands of Big and Little Diomede, in the Russian and US territories, respectively.

In 1958, the Soviet government closed Naukan as part of a larger program of consolidation of local population centers, and residents were forced to move to the neighboring Chukchi villages of Nunyamo and Uelen. Nunyamo, in turn, was closed in 1977, and local people moved from there to the villages of Lavrentiya and Lorino, where most reside today.

Following relocation, the Naukan people and their culture experienced significant changes in spiritual worldview, subsistence practices, social structure, and language proficiency. Waves of military and civilian migrants from other parts of the Soviet Union also contributed to these broad changes through direct personal interaction, including intermarriages. Although Naukan people did not experience the acculturative influences of missionary activity that were widespread on the Alaskan side of the Bering Strait, shamans were persecuted and the accompanying spiritual practices were greatly challenged by the dominance of materialism under Soviet rule.”

Artemisia tilesii
Artemisia tilesii, Denali National Park and Preserve [Source: Wikimedia Commons, NPS / Jacob W. Frank, Public Domain]
Working with Naukan speakers in Russia and Alaska, the team documented 42 ethnobotanically useful species with Naukan names. While participants reported a decrease in the number of edible species harvested from what they recall from their youth, the number of species considered to be medicinal increased significantly. These medicinal plant species included Alaria marginata, Angelica gmelinii, Artemisia tilesii, Empetrum nigrum, Epilobium latifolium, Laminaria saccharina, Petasites frigidus, Polygonum tripterocarpum, Rhodiola integrifolia, Rhododendron tomentosum, Rubus chamaemorus, Salix pulchra, and Vaccinium vitis-idaea.

In their conclusion, the authors note a broadening in focus from the specifically therapeutic to include more preventative applications of medicinal plants by the Naukan-speaking people who have survived into the modern era:

“The most surprising result of this research is the direction of change in medicinal plant use. The Naukan present an interesting case where acculturative forces appear to have significantly expanded the botanical pharmacopeia through the borrowing of ethnic Russian traditions. Older Naukan participants often said that their original concept of medicine emphasized prevention. For example, the leaves of willows (Salix pulchra Cham.) and willow herb (Epilobium latifolium L.) aid the digestive system and help prevent stomach upset when they are eaten as part of a meal. This traditional emphasis on staying healthy reflects findings by researchers working in some other parts of the arctic as well.”

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.

Women’s Knowledge of Medicinal Plants – Mecca


Medicinal plants used by women in Mecca: urban, Muslim and gendered knowledge

Alqethami A, Hawkins JA, Teixidor-Toneu I
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Nov 17;13(1):62
PubMed Central: PMC5693532

Investigators at the University of Reading and Umm Al-Qura University explored medicinal plant knowledge and use among Muslim women in the city of Mecca, to “document lay, female knowledge of medicinal plants in an urban centre, interpreting findings in the light of the growing field of urban ethnobotany and gendered knowledge and in an Islamic context.”

With the participation of thirty-two Meccan women, the team collected more than a hundred vernacular names corresponding to approximately 110 plants, thirty-nine of which had not been previously cited in Saudi Arabian medicinal plant literature.

Trigonella foenum-graecum
Trigonella foenum-graecum [Source: Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, WikiMedia Commons]
The most cited medicinal plants included helba (Trigonella foenum-graecum), kamun (Cuminum cyminum), yansun (Pimpinella anisum), qurfa (Cinnamomum verum) and zanajabil (Zingiber officinale). More than half of the plants were not native to Saudi Arabia, and 41 percent of the plants cited by the Meccan women was not found in a review of the existing literature.

Ailments treated with medicinal plants included digestive, general and unspecified and respiratory issues along with gynecological problems (e.g., menstrual cramps and other menstrual disorders, polycystic ovaries, pregnancy and postpartum issues). Most of the women preferred to use medicinal plants rather than allopathic biomedicines, but roughly a third of the women (many of them younger women) preferred allopathic biomedicines, which could lead to the erosion of medicinal plant knowledge.

“Meccan women may learn about medicinal plants from their family and social networks, but increasingly, written sources and mass media are becoming important sources of knowledge. This, along with a higher preference for biomedical services amongst the younger generation, could result in the erosion of medicinal plant knowledge. Ethnobotanical knowledge erosion has been observed in the Middle East both among herbalists and the general population. The diffusion of non-local knowledge about medicinal plants through mass media is characteristic to urban settings and has a homogenizing effect on oral pharmacopoeias. Mass media often disseminates information on the uses and properties of commercial plants, increasing their visibility and, alongside availability factors, could also contribute to explain the high proportion of food and spices used among the Meccan women interviewed.”

The authors urge continuing documentation efforts for the preservation of the diversity of medicinal plant knowledge in Saudi Arabia, particularly studies of women’s use of medicinal plants, which has been largely overlooked until now.

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.

The Useful Argan Tree


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.

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

The Interplay of Language & Knowledge: Plant Species Used by the Chácobo


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.

Medicinal Plants Used in Iran to Treat Hyperglycemia & Diabetes


Traditional uses of medicinal plants to prevent and treat diabetes; an updated review of ethnobotanical studies in Iran

Asadi-Samani M, Moradi MT, Mahmoodnia L, Alaei S, Asadi-Samani F, Luther T
J Nephropathol. 2017 Jul;6(3):118-125
PubMed Central: PMC5607970

Investigators at Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences and the University of Michigan conducted a database search to identify medicinal plants and their traditional uses to prevent and treat diabetes according to ethnobotanical studies undertaken in different regions of Iran.

Urtica dioica
Urtica dioica [Photo: WAH]
Writing in the Journal of Nephropathology, the team records 49 species of medicinal plants used in different cultures across Iran to treat hyperglycemia and diabetes, including Capparis spinosa, Citrullus colocynthis, Juglans regia, Teucrium polium, Trigonella foenum graecum, and Urtica dioica.

The authors note that many of the medicinal plants identified by their survey contain high concentrations of phenolic compounds, which may help account for their anti-diabetic effects:

“It is believed that oxidative stress contributes to development of vascular complications in patients with diabetes. Increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels in diabetes may be due to decreased destruction and/or increased production of catalase (CAT–enzymatic/non-enzymatic), superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GSH–Px) antioxidants. The variations in the levels of these enzymes cause the tissues to become susceptible to oxidative stress, leading to development of diabetic complications. The results of this review indicated the majority of the reported plants are from families Lamiaceae (eight species), Asteraceae and Apiaceae (six species) that have high concentrations of phenolic compounds. Anti-diabetic effects of phenolic compounds have already been confirmed. Phenolic compounds may have a protective effect against hyperglycemia-induced chronic diseases through both protection of antioxidants and inhibition of starch digestion. Co-application of phenolic compounds and synthetic enzyme inhibitors may decrease the effective dose of synthetic enzyme inhibitors that are needed to control postprandial glycemia.”

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.

Conservation in Conflict with Ethnobotanical Culture in Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley


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


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.





Recognizing & Recovering Traditional Knowledge of Saraguro Healers in Southern Ecuador


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.






I recently launched a new open-access website to capture one of my abiding interests: tropical medicine and certain related disciplines, including ethnomedicine, ethnobotany, and ethnopharmacology.


The site is, and it delivers continually updated information on current peer-reviewed research about medicinal plants, indexed by species and sponsoring organization.


EthnomedicineWatch is one of two websites that I maintain to provide information relevant to health care. The other site,, provides continually updated information on peer-reviewed journal articles and current clinical trials in cancer treatment, indexed by cancer type.

My epistemological method for these websites derives from “As We May Think,” a 1945 Atlantic Monthly essay by Vannevar Bush, FDR’s science adviser during and after World War II. Bush’s vision of a personal knowledge base (memex) led to the development of the hyperlink and the World Wide Web.

PubMed (an archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature) and (a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world) are essential to EthnomedicineWatch and OncologyWatch. Virtually every update to my two sites originates with either PubMed and, both of which are maintained by the US National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine—surely two of the most useful and most efficient instances of US taxes at work.

To make full use of EthnomedicineWatch and OncologyWatch, you may also want to follow my blog posts and Twitter feed as I work to integrate these information streams into a unified, open-access “knowledge machine” to support the work of environmental stewards and promoters of human health and creativity. (On that, more to come.)

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.