Tag Archives: conservation

Ethnobotany, Climate Change & Conservation Strategies in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada del Cocuy-Güicán

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Ethnobotany of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy-Güicán: climate change and conservation strategies in the Colombian Andes

Rodríguez MA, Angueyra A, Cleef AM, Van Andel T
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2018 May 5;14(1):34
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5935911

Ritacuba Blanco, Parque Natural Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, Chita o Guican
Ritacuba Blanco, Parque Natural Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, Chita o Guican [Photo: Martin Roca, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators at Leiden University, Universidad de los Andes, University of Amsterdam, Wageningen University, and Naturalis Biodiversity Center conducted an ethnobotanical inventory among local farmer communities in the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy-Güicán in the Colombian Andes in an effort to determine the effects of vegetation change on the availability of useful plants in the face of expanding agriculture, deforestation, tourism, and climate change.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, the authors note the importance of research to better understand the effect of climate change on human-vegetation dynamics:

“Climate change affects altitudinal plant distribution in high-elevation tropical mountains. Perceptions on climate change in mountain ecosystems indicate that local people can give relevant insights about climate change dynamics as they are narrowly acquainted with its surroundings. From an ethnobotanical approach, climate change affects human-vegetation dynamics, like altering the patterns of planting and harvesting in the Himalayas, disrupting traditional plant practices in British Columbia, and affecting the diversity of useful flora in alpine ecosystems, and therefore threatening the traditional knowledge associated with these plants. These studies stress the need to consider local people’s perspectives to reduce the impacts of climate warming. Changes in plant diversity as a consequence of climate processes show alarming effects on plant population over time. Predictions on the effects of climate warming in the Andean ecosystems include displacement, adaptations (physiological changes), and local extinction of plant communities. Ethnobotanical research in Andean mountain ecosystems have mostly focused on medicinal plant use by local communities. Research on non-medicinal plants of importance for the inhabitants of high altitude zones, or on local perceptions on the decline of useful plants related to climate change are lacking.”

The team worked with local farmer communities to record the ethnoflora of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy-Güicán, which has been protected as a Colombian national natural park since 1977 because of its fragile páramo (high altitude tropical wetland) ecosystems, extraordinary biodiversity, high plant endemism, and function as water reservoir.

In interviews, they posed the following questions:

  • What are the plant species used by the campesinos?
  • At what altitudes do they collect useful plants?
  • What is the proportion of native versus introduced species?
  • Have the campesinos noticed a reduction in plant availability?
  • Could potentially declining plant resources be associated with climate change?

They also walked into the field and along existing mountain trails with staff from the national park and local farmers to collect useful plant specimens, documenting 174 useful plants, 68 percent native to the area and 32 percent introduced.

The farmers noted a reduction of native and especially medicinal plant resources accessible to them, with species like Niphogeton dissecta being more difficult to find, having shifted to higher altitudes, possibly due to climate change. (Temperatures have increased 2 °C in the national park in less than four decades.)

In their conclusion, the authors stress the vital importance of placing local people as key actors to help prevent or at least mollify the degradation of the páramos and their cultural plant legacy:

“This study confirms the concern among local farmers about the melting snow, so it is crucial to include people’s perceptions on climate change to design effective conservation policies. During our workshops, we noticed that local farmers worried about the preservation of their natural resources. Local concerns can be solved with the implementation of environmental policies and active participation that take into account the local population needs. Courses on environmental conservation for local farmers are highly relevant, especially for those who are directly involved in the tourist business. Employees from the NNP-Cocuy, specialists on plant resources management and local people should work together to develop conservational strategies towards sustainable tourism and practices and accomplish the policies that were implemented since the opening of the NNP-Cocuy, such as obligatory-guided heritage tours, limited number of tourists, and no garbage disposal in the environment.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

Send email to avery@williamaveryhudson.com for information about submitting qualified published research for sponsored posts on this blog.




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.

Medicinal Plants Used by Saraguro Community Healers in Ecuador

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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. Epub 2017 Jul 4
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5514338

Investigators at the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL) conducted an ethnobotanical survey of the use of medicinal plants by community healers known as Hampiyachakkuna by the indigenous Saraguro people living in San Lucas Parish, Loja Province, Ecuador.

Writing in Biomed Research International, the authors note that this ethnobotanical knowledge is endangered by cultural changes:

“The community of healers locally known as ‘Hampiyachakkuna’ maintains the ancient medical treatments of the Saraguros. The ‘Yachak’ or ‘Hampi yachakkuna’ is the person who knows the curative properties of plants, animals, and/or minerals. Under the Andean cosmovision of the Saraguros ethnical group, the diseases they treat are thought to be produced by either cold or heat. As such, their natural medicines are classified as hot and fresh; and depending on the nature of the patient’s condition, different plants are selected for the treatment in accordance with this classification. However, although the knowledge regarding the usage of plants for medicinal practices has been transmitted orally from generation to generation, the Saraguros are experimenting cultural changes that threaten the preservation of their ancestral knowledge. These cultural changes lead to negative consequences such as the loss of traditional knowledge, a decline in the use of natural resources, and changes in the patterns of food intake, medical treatment, and, furthermore, their cosmovision. For these reasons, there is an urgent need to document and preserve their invaluable knowledge.”

Working with four healers from the Saraguro community – a Wachakhampiyachak (midwife), a Yurakhampiyachak (herbalist), a Kakuyhampiyachak (bone-healer), and a Rikuyhampiyachak (visionary) – the team documented 183 plant species used in 75 different curative therapies. Uses included mythological treatments, nervous system treatments, cold treatments, infection treatments, general malaise treatments, and inflammatory treatments of the liver and kidneys.

Siphocampylus scandens
Siphocampylus scandens [Photo: Dick Culbert, Wikimedia Commons]
Endemic medicinal species identified included Achyrocline hallii, Ageratina dendroides, Bejaria subsessilis, Brachyotum scandens, Dendrophthora fastigiata, Diplostephium juniperinum, Diplostephium oblanceolatum, Fuchsia hypoleuca, Huperzia austroecuadorica, Lepechinia paniculata, Phoradendron parietarioides, Siphocampylus scandens, and Salvia leucocephala. Most of the endemic plants in the group were determined to be in danger, threatened, or vulnerable.

The study was conducted under a technical and scientific collaborative effort of the UTPL, the Dirección Provincial de Salud de Loja, and the Consejo de Sanadores de Saraguro “with the objective of recognizing and recovering the traditional knowledge of herbal medicinal resources used by the Saraguro community”:

“Because of the increasing recognition of the importance of the different medicinal species used by the Saraguros and in an effort to preserve their knowledge, in this work we seek to contribute to the conservation strategy on the sustainable uses of the Ecuadorian medicinal biodiversity. The latter is considered a fundamental step in order to raise awareness of its cultural value and the importance of its preservation. By doing that, we intended to safeguard the popular knowledge concerning natural medicinal plants and to provide a baseline for future actions regarding scientific research programs, environmental education, social awareness, and sustainable natural resources exploitation…. The results of this research also aim at becoming a starting point to attract the attention of national and international tourists, in order to promote a self-sustaining development of the Saraguro community.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

Send email to avery@williamaveryhudson.com for information about submitting qualified published research for sponsored posts on this blog.




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.

Medicinal Plants Used by Balti People in Pakistan’s Shigar Valley

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Medicinal plants used by inhabitants of the Shigar Valley, Baltistan region of Karakorum range-Pakistan

Abbas Z, Khan SM, Alam J, Khan SW, Abbasi AM
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Sep 25;13(1):53
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5613401

Skardu, Shigar Valley, Pakistan
Skardu, Shigar Valley, Pakistan [Photo: Rizwan Saeed, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators at Hazara University, Quaid-i-Azam University, Karakoram International University, and COMSATS conducted an ethnobotanical study to document medicinal uses of plant species by the inhabitants of the Shigar Valley in the Karakorum Range of Northern Pakistan. This is the first such study in the region, which is home to ethnic Balti people of Tibetan descent:

“Baltistan is an archetypal mountainous region of the Northern Pakistan with average altitude of 3555 m above sea level. Historically, it has often been referred as “Western Tibet” or ‘Little Tibet’. The territories of the Baltistan region lie sparsely at acclivities and in deep mountains of Karakorum and Himalaya with unique landscape, climate, flora and fauna. However, remoteness, difficult access and inadequate funding may be the major handicaps to conduct field survey in these areas. Only few workers have conducted ethnobotanical survey in some parts of Northern Pakistan. Therefore, very limited ethno-botanical literature is available in the region. Shigar valley is located in the Karakorum Ranges, and is the home of various peaks (including K2), glaciers and hot springs, which have always been the most preferred tracking places for visitors across the country and abroad. Ethno-botany is a recently introduced and rapidly flourishing field in this region, and is gaining adequate attention by researchers. Although, various ethnobotanical surveys have be conducted in different parts of Pakistan. However, Northern parts of country are still poorly explored. Therefore, present survey aimed to provide the first inventory on ethno-pharmacological application of medicinal plant species used by the inhabitants of Balti community of Shigar valley, Karakorum Mountains-Pakistan.”

Allium carolinianum
Allium carolinianum [Photo: Sherpaworld, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with local respondents, the team identified 84 medicinal plant species used primarily to treat abdominal, respiratory, and skin ailments. Commonly used plants included Allium carolinianum, Hippophe rhamnoides, Tanacetum falconeri, and Thymus linearis. Roughly a quarter of the species were identified for medicinal uses for the first time and included Aconitum violoceum, Arnebia guttata, Biebersteinia odora, Clematis alpina, Corydalis adiantifolia, Hedysarum falconeri, and Saussurea simpsoniana.

The authors found the results to be significant for scientific purposes, as well as for conservation and cultural/economic development:

“Present study illustrated diverse medicinal flora in the territories of Gilgit-Baltistan mountains. The exclusive alliance of medicinal plants, mountain restricted distribution and high level disagreement in traditional uses corroborate the significance of this study. Being the first inventory on medicinal flora of Shigar valley, present study offers baseline data for researchers, particularly interested in high mountains phyto-diversity and related traditional knowledge. The sub-alpine species in environs are practicable for conservation and cultivation. The abundance of medicinal plant species in the study area could enhance the economic status of local communities by marketing and sustainable utilization. Local inhabitants can make their home gardens or micro park system of medicinally important species on their own land.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

Send email to avery@williamaveryhudson.com for information about submitting qualified published research for sponsored posts on this blog.




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.

Ethnobotanical Use of Medicinal Plants in Sheikhupura District, Punjab, Pakistan

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An ethnopharmacological evaluation of Navapind and Shahpur Virkanin district Sheikupura, Pakistan for their herbal medicines

Zahoor M, Yousaf Z, Aqsa T, Haroon M, Saleh N, Aftab A, Javed S, Qadeer M, Ramazan H
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 May 8;13(1):27
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5422909

Punjab Province, Pakistan
Punjab Province, Pakistan [Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from the Lahore College for Women University conducted an ethnopharmacological survey to document the medicinal uses of wild plants in the villages of Nava Pind and Shahpur Virkanin in the Sheikhupura district of Punjab province in eastern Pakistan. This is the first quantitative ethnobotanical documentation of medicinal plants to be undertaken in the region.

“The village[s] NavaPind and ShahpurVirkan [of the] district Sheikhupura are floristically quite rich tropical regions of Punjab. Ethnobotanical study of this area has never been conducted. The climate of the area is subjected to extreme variations. Wheat, Rice and Sugarcane are the main cash crops. Guavas, Strawberries and Citrus are grown at a larger scale in this district. Literacy rate of the villages is very low. Generally it is observed that most men in these areas are engaged in unskilled labor, while women are self-employed in petty trade of agriculture especially in the collection and trade of wild food and medicinal plants. Mostly plants are used for many purposes like food, shelter and therapeutic agents. However, lack of scientific knowledge about the useable parts, proper time of collection and wasteful methods of collection lead to mismanagement of these plants. So, the indigenous knowledge is going to be depleted. Hence ethnobotanical survey is planned for NavaPind and ShahpurVirkan district Sheikhupura, province Punjab to document the traditional uses of medicinal plants in the area before the information is lost.”

Ocimum sanctum
Ocimum sanctum [Photo: WAH]
Working with indigenous local informants, the team identified 96 plant species used for medicinal purposes, including 12 species that had not been previously reported for medicinal properties: Allium roylei, Asthenatherum forkalii, Carthamus tinctorius, Conyza erigeron, Digitaria ciliaris, Digitaria nodosa, Jasminum nudiflorum, Malva verticillata, Melilotus indica [Melilotus indicus], Ocimum sanctum, Schoenoplectus supinus, and Tetrapogon tenellus. Therapeutic applications included abdominal pain, respiratory disorder, cholera, and use as a skin tonic, among others.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

Send email to avery@williamaveryhudson.com for information about submitting qualified published research for sponsored posts on this blog.




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.

Medicinal Plants Used by Traditional Medical Practitioners in Dega Damot District, Amhara, Ethiopia

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Ethnopharmacologic survey of medicinal plants used to treat human diseases by traditional medical practitioners in Dega Damot district, Amhara, Northwestern Ethiopia

Wubetu M, Abula T, Dejenu G
BMC Res Notes. 2017 Apr 18;10(1):157
PubMed Central: PMC5395840

Amhara Region of Ethiopia
Amhara Region of Ethiopia [Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators at Debre Markos University and Addis Ababa University conducted an ethnopharmacologic survey of medicinal plants used to treat human diseases by traditional medical practitioners in Dega Damot district, in the Amhara region of northwestern Ethiopia.

Writing in BMC Research Notes, the authors note that although about 90% of the population in the district relies on traditional health products for primary health care, no studies have previously been conducted on the use and practice of traditional medicine in the region.

Allium sativum
Allium sativum [Source: William Woodville: “Medical botany” (London: James Phillips, 1793), Wikimedia Commons]
Working with 45 traditional medical practitioners chosen with the help of community leaders and local authorities, the team documented 60 species of medicinal plants used for the treatment of 55 disorders including evil eye, malaria, wounds, peptic ulcers, and rabies. Important medicinal plant species included Allium sativum (for evil eye), Phytolacca dodecandra (for rabies), and Croton macrostachyus (for malaria).

The authors note that drought, overgrazing, and firewood collection are among the threats to sustainability of medicinal plants in the area:

“According to the results of this study, drought is the most serious threat to medicinal plants followed by overgrazing. This is in conformity with the survey conducted in Gemad district and Kilte Awulalo, but according to a study done in Loma and Gena Bosa, agricultural expansion was the major threat followed by timber and other demands. This is probably due to the increasing number of population. However, study done in Hawasa city indicated urbanization as the most serious threat for medicinal plants.”

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.

Where Cultures Meet: An Ethnobotanical Study of a City on the Silk Road

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An ethnobotanical study in Midyat (Turkey), a city on the silk road where cultures meet

Akgul A, Akgul A, Senol SG, Yildirim H, Secmen O, Dogan Y
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2018 Feb 7;14(1):12
PubMed Central: PMC5804065

Investigators at the University of Florida, Mississippi State University, Ege University, and Dokuz Eylul University conducted an ethnobotanical study in Midyat (Mardin Province), in southeastern Turkey, to document uses of local plants and to make an inventory of uncommon plants used ethnobotanically in the area.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, the authors describe Midyat’s role as a millennia-old meeting place of cultures:

“Midyat, formerly known as Matiat, was built in the ninth century BCE by Syriac settlers, and a record of it was found written on Assyrian tablets. The Silk Road is an historic route for overland travelers. The town of Mardin in south-eastern Turkey is an attraction of the Silk Road. The Silk Road is more than just a trade route linking Asia and Europe; it is a display of cultures, ethnicities and religions that have settled in the region, and presents 2000 years of historical and cultural wealth. From east to west, it was used in transporting silk, porcelain, paper, spices, and jewels for cultural exchange between continents.”

As far as the authors know, this is the first ethnobotanical study conducted in Midyat.

“Ethnobotanical studies have been on the increase in many regions of Turkey. In Midyat (Mardin Province, Turkey), people benefit from the diversity of flora by using plants as a rich source of medicine. Medicinal plants were used by Anatolian cultures, hence the accumulation of large amounts of remarkable medicinal folk knowledge in the region. Although there are some studies in eastern Anatolia, the southeast region of Anatolia is still a poor area in terms of ethnobotany studies. Midyat has a great diversity of plant species given its climatic variation and different ecological habitats. The different ways of life and rich culture in the districts of Midyat have created diverse ethnobotanical usages. One of the oldest traditional plant usages is medicinal, which depends on knowledge and practical experience of using these natural materials.”

Alcea setosa
Alcea setosa [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Ikram Zuhair]
Among the 92 taxa of traditional plants documented, 35% were used for medical purposes. These included Alcea setosa (cough and flu cure, wound healing, labor pain); Alcea striata (cough and flu cure, wound healing); Anthemis cotula (treatment for stomachaches and flu); Malva neglecta (stomachache cure, weight loss, labor pain, kidney diseases, diuretic); Matricaria aurea (cough and flu cure, stomachache cure, bronchial cure, cardialgia); Salvia multicaulis (wound healing, flu and cough cure, labor pain, anti-inflammatory, antidote); and Teucrium polium (stomachache cure).

In their conclusion, the authors note the importance of conservation, both of the plant species and of ethnobotanical knowledge in the region.

“Our study indicates the importance to document not only medicinal plants, but also edible plants or plants used for fodder, fuel, dyes, and other purposes…. The conservation of this extensive knowledge is crucial, particularly because knowledge is no longer being passed down from older to younger generations. The use of endemic plants is relatively rare, but Centaurea stapfiana, Thymbra sintenisii are used extensively, and their conservation status is compromised by their use as food and fodder plants. Additionally, our findings suggested that Midyat and its vicinity might represent a beginning point for further comparative cross-cultural ethnobotany that can contribute to enhancing the current knowledge of folk medicinal plants and lead to conservation plans for protecting rare plant species.”

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.

Uses, Knowledge & Conservation Status of Plants in Two Quilombolas Communities in the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil

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Local ecological knowledge and its relationship with biodiversity conservation among two Quilombola groups living in the Atlantic Rainforest, Brazil

Conde BE, Ticktin T, Fonseca AS, Macedo AL, Orsi TO, Chedier LM, Rodrigues E, Pimenta DS1
PLoS One. 2017 Nov 28;12(11):e0187599
PubMed Central: PMC5705149

Minas Gerais in Brazil
The state of Minas Gerais in Brazil [Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Centro de Ensino Superior de Juiz de Fora, Universidade Federal Fluminense, and Universidade Federal de São Paulo conducted an ethnobotanical and ecological survey to evaluate the uses, knowledge, and conservation status of plants in two Quilombolas (descendants of slaves of African origin) communities in the Atlantic rainforest of Brazil: São Sebastião da Boa Vista and São Bento Abade in the state of Minas Gerais.

Writing in PLoS One, the team describes Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest as one of the world’s most biodiverse and most threatened biomes:

“Brazil is one of the world’s megadiverse countries, and the Atlantic rainforest, which stretches from the northeastern to the southern regions of the country, is the most biodiverse biome of Brazil, with up to 476 plant species found in one hectare. Unfortunately, the Atlantic rainforest is also one of the most threatened forest types in the world, with nearly 90% of its original area devastated. As is the case with the majority of Brazilian protected areas, the Atlantic Rainforest is also home to many traditional communities–those that have lived in one location for a long period of time, such as the Quilombolas. According to the Living Report of World Wide Fund for Nature, 90% of tropical forests worldwide are not under formal protection and millions of people living both inside and outside of reserves rely on their resources.”

Through interviews with local Quilombolas experts, the team documented 212 ethnobotanically significant species in São Sebastião da Boa Vista (including 105 native species) and 221 in São Bento Abade (96 native species).

Medicinal and technological uses were the most important uses in both communities. Some of the most culturally important medicinal species were also among the most vulnerable, among them Dalbergia hortensis and Sparattosperma leucanthum.

In their conclusion, the authors strongly recommend “development of a sustainable management plan that considers local knowledge about management and use of plants”:

“These data illustrate the rich ethnobotanical knowledge and heritage of the communities. However, our results also suggest that more than 50% of local useful species in both communities (those ranked in Category 1 for conservation priority) may be at risk if there are no plans for the management and replanting of them. Of these plants, Dalbergia hortensis is a special conservation priority because of its great cultural significance. Other species such Sparattosperma leucanthum, Lygodium volubile in SSBV, Cecropia glaziovii in SB, and Croton urucurana in both communities rank high for cultural significance and conservation priority. Based on our results, the development of a sustainable management plan that considers local knowledge about management and use of plants is essential. Developing programs to increase populations of those species at risk, including agroforestry programs can help meet the needs of producing culturally important species and of biological conservation. It is urgent that the government demarcate Quilombolas land for cultural maintenance, quality of life and preservation of nature.”

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

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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.




Recognizing & Recovering Traditional Knowledge of Saraguro Healers in Southern Ecuador

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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.




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Bhutan Finds Alternative Source of Medicinal Plants to Ease Pressure from Commercial Harvesting

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Medicinal plants of Dagala region in Bhutan: their diversity, distribution, uses and economic potential

Wangchuk P, Namgay K, Gayleg K, Dorji Y
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Jun 24;12(1):28
PubMed Central: PMC4921017

Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and Ministry of Health conducted an ethnobotanical survey to determine if the Dagala village block (gewog) might serve as an alternative collection site for the state-run Menjong Sorig Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures plant-based medicines for traditional g.so-ba-rig-pa hospitals in Bhutan.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Phurpa Wangchuk of James Cook University and co-authors note that the ecological pressure on medicinal plants in Bhutan has increased significantly over recent years, particularly in Lingzhi Gewog, the primary source of plants and other raw materials for medical formulations manufactured for the country’s network of traditional medicine providers:

“[Menjong Sorig Pharmaceuticals (MSP)] manufactures more than 100 different polyingredient medicinal formulations and supplies them to the traditional medicine hospitals and units across the country. The polyingredient medicinal formulations are prepared into different dosage forms as powder, capsules, pills, tablets, ointments and decoctions. The raw materials (mostly medicinal plants) for preparing these formulations are either collected within Bhutan (mostly from Lingzhi region) or imported from India. The medicinal plants, which grow in the higher elevation of alpine mountains (>2000 meters above sea level) including that from Lingzhi region, are known as the High Altitude Medicinal Plants (HAMP) and the others that grow in the temperate and tropical environment are called the Low Altitude Medicinal Plants (LAMP). Due to persistent collections of HAMP from Lingzhi region for more than 48 years, the pressure on medicinal plants has increased significantly over the recent years. Therefore, identifying an alternative medicinal plants collection site for HAMP have been one of the MSP’s top priority.”

Bhutanese g.so-ba-rig-pa medicine is with traditional Tibetan medicine one of the oldest surviving medical traditions and is in wide practice across the world, so this case study is potentially of significance not only for Bhutan but also for the other countries that use these medicinal plants.

The team chose Dagala Gewog to study because it shares several agro-climatic features with Lingzhi Gewog and has never had an ethnobotanical survey (though there were abundant anecdotal claims about medicinal lush plant growth in the region), and because the local people could potentially benefit from a sustainable collection program.

Berberis aristata
Berberis aristata [Photo: Buddhika.jm, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with a local Byjop guide, the team identified 100 medicinal plant species from Dagala Gewog, 16 of which were abundant in the region and in current use by MSP: Aconitum laciniatum, Berberis aristata, Bistorta macrophylla, Euphorbia wallichii, Gentiana algida, Geranium refractum, Juniperus pseudosabina, Juniperus squamata, Neopicrorhiza scrophulariiflora, Plantago depressa, Potentilla arbuscula, Rheum australe, Rhododendron anthopogon, Rhododendron glaucophyllum, Rhododendron setosum, and Taraxacum officinale.

“These 16 species that are found in abundance have the economic potential since MSP require them in bulk quantities to prepare g.so-ba-rig-pa medicines. Since g.so-ba-rig-pa is also practiced across the globe, these medicinal plants could be in demand by other countries including India, Nepal, Mongolia, Tibet and Switzerland (PADMA company based on Tibetan medicine). However, the first priority would be to focus on meeting the domestic demand of MSP for these medicinal plants. MSP currently engage yak herders for collecting medicinal plants from Lingzhi. As a result of medicinal plants collection program, the Lingzhip (local inhabitants of Lingzhi region) have improved their socio-economic status and contributed significantly to the realization of country’s ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) indices including preservation of traditional medical knowledge, conservation of environment and socio-economic prosperity.”

The team concluded that it was feasible to establish an alternative medicinal-plant collection center in Dagala Gewog:

“Establishing an alternative HAMP collection centre in Dagala Gewog has multi-pronged benefits. The tangible and immediate benefits would include: a) Dagala communities could generate decent income through medicinal plants collection program and elevate their socio-economic status, b) MSP could obtain sustainable supply of HAMP to meet the demand of g.so-ba-rig-pa medicine production, c) training on sustainable collection of HAMP (always provided by MSP as a package of collection program) would educate Dagala Jops on the values, protection and preservation of plants, d) establishing this alternative collection center would ease the pressure on Lingzhi HAMP and could enable MSP to collect the plants on a rotational basis, and e) since Dagala region is known for eco-tourism, having the medicinal plants collection centre and the herb garden would enhance the in-flow of eco-tourists especially the botanists and the herbalists.”

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.




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