Tag Archives: ethnobotany

Medicinal Plants of the Russian Pharmacopoeia

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Medicinal plants of the Russian Pharmacopoeia; their history and applications

Shikov AN, Pozharitskaya ON, Makarov VG, et al
J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Jul 3;154(3):481-536
PubMed: 24742754

Investigators from the St. Petersburg Institute of Pharmacy, Ludwig Maximilian University, Leiden University, and UCL School of Pharmacy conducted a review to summarize and critically appraise data concerning plants used in Russian medicine that are not included in the European Pharmacopoeia.

Using the State Pharmacopoeia of the USSR (11th edition), the team selected 32 plant species that have not yet been adopted in Western and Central Europe and systematically searched the scientific literature for data regarding species, effectiveness, pharmacological effects, and safety.

Bidens tripartita
Bidens tripartita [Photo: Fornax, Wikimedia Commons]
Plants with reported pharmacologic uses included anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., Bidens tripartita); diaphoretic and anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., Viburnum opulus); hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, and choleretic agents (e.g., Gnaphalium uliginosum); bitterants (appetite stimulants) (e.g., Herba centaurii [Centaurium erythraea, C. minus, Erythraea centaurium, C. pulchellum]); astringents (e.g., Alnus incana, A. glutinosa); choleretic agents (e.g., Helichrysum arenarium); antihelmintic and choleretic agents (e.g., Tanacetum vulgare); expectorants (e.g., Ledum palustre); diuretic agents (e.g., Viburnum opulus); cardiotonic agents (e.g., Adonis vernalis); cardiovascular agents (e.g., Crataegus sanguinea); haemostatic agents (e.g., Persicaria hydropiper); spasmolytic agents (e.g., Anethum graveolens); sedatives (e.g., Herba Leonuri [Leonurus cardiaca, Leonurus quinquelobatus/Leonurus cardiaca]); polyvitamins (e.g., Sorbus aucuparia); regulation of metabolism and anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., Fungus betulinus/Inonotus obliquus); and tonics (e.g., Aralia elata).

The review includes a history of herbal medicine in Russia, including observations on the unique position of Russian phytotherapy between European and Asian traditional medicine:

“In the nineteenth century, European physicians had completely forgotten about the herbal traditions that had once predominated in their countries, whereas Chinese healers had almost no awareness of the medical developments in the West. Russian doctors were unique because they knew of both their own folk-herbal tradition and of modern Western medicine.”

Read the complete article at PubMed.

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.

Folk Knowledge of Wild Food Plants in Thakht-e-Sulaiman Hills, Pakistan

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Folk knowledge of wild food plants among the tribal communities of Thakht-e-Sulaiman Hills, North-West Pakistan

Ahmad K, Pieroni A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Apr 8;12:17
PubMed Central: PMC4826518

Investigators from COMSATS Institute of Information Technology and the University of Gastronomic Sciences conducted an ethnobotanical study to document traditional knowledge of wild food plants among indigenous communities of the Thakht-e-Sulaiman hills in the North-West tribal belt of Pakistan.

The authors note both the importance of traditional knowledge of wild food plants for people in the region and factors putting that knowledge in danger:

“In spite of their great importance, [wild food plants] are vanishing from traditional diets, which poses serious concerns due to their role and contribution in the cultural history of a region as well as their nutraceutical value. In the developing world these plants are regularly ignored in governmental policies, agricultural research and extension programs. Over the past decade, the majority of tribal communities on the north-western boarder of Pakistan have been affected by the ‘war on terror’, which has destabilized their traditional knowledge systems. The present research area is semi-arid and mountainous with deficient agricultural land. The people live in extreme poverty with widespread food insecurity. They are also not considered in government developmental policies.”

Amaranthus spinosus
Amaranthus spinosus [Photo: Forest & Kim Starr, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with 72 informants from 10 different villages, the team documented 51 species used as wild food plants, including fruits, vegetables, and teas. The most highly cited species were Olea ferruginia, Amaranthus spinosus, and Ficus palmata.

The authors recommend a program of sustainable harvesting, domestication, and marketing to conserve both the wild food plants and local knowledge about their uses:

“In addition to food value, the supplementary qualities of [wild food plants] such as medicinal potential, cultural uses, marketing and storage make them more important in the local culture but also predispose them to extensive exploitation. There is a large potential for the harvesting, domestication and marketing of [wild food plants] in the area, and if done properly, they could be a source of cash income for locals. The wild relatives of the domesticated food species could help increase genetic diversity for crop improvement and yield, thus addressing the present demand of human food security. The ongoing process of domestication of wild species in the area is of the utmost importance not only for the interests of local communities but also for global food diversification.”

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.

Medicinal Dietary Plants Used by the Naxi People of Northwest Yunnan

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Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal dietary plants used by the Naxi People in Lijiang Area, Northwest Yunnan, China

Zhang L, Zhang Y, Pei S, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 May 12;11:40
PubMed Central: PMC4449607

Investigators from the Kunming Institute of Botany, South China Botanical Garden, and University of Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted the first ethnobotanical survey to document species used as medicinal dietary plants by the Naxi people in northwest Yunnan.

The Naxi are indigenous people of the Lijiang region who have a long-standing knowledge of diet therapy:

The Tea Horse Road
The Tea Horse Road [Map: Yerius J, Wikimedia Commons]
“The Naxi are a Burmo-Naxi-Lolo sociolinguistic sub-group of the Tibeto-Burman group within the Sino-Tibetan family. The Naxi population was formed during the southward migration of the ancient Qiang people during the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), who had originally inhabited the Hehuang area of Northwest China. The Naxi are indigenous residents of the Ancient Tea Horse Road, a trade link documented since the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) which lasted until the 1960s, and stretched across Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibetan provinces. The road promoted exchanges in culture, religion and ethnic migration, resembling the Silk Road. Given this history, the medicine of the Naxi integrates traditional Chinese, Tibetan, and Shamanic medicinal systems. Prior research indicates that the Naxi culture promotes diet therapy, and documentation of many of their traditional medicines and diet remedies exists through the world’s only remaining pictographic writing system. Despite the renewed interest in medicinal diets by scientists, consumers, and industry, not much is known about the medicinal dietary plants used by the Naxi, or their associated ethnobotanical knowledge.”

Pinus armandii with Deer and Red-Crested Crane
Pinus armandii with Deer and Red-Crested Crane [Photo: Philg88, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with 89 local participants from three Naxi villages, the team identified 55 botanical taxa (species, varieties, or subspecies) used as medicinal dietary plants to treat health conditions including fatigue; lung ailments; eye diseases; insomnia; cold; stomachache; abdominal pain; bruises; constipation; postpartum blood stasis; postpartum weakness; nervousness; and poor lactation. Aconitum stapfianum, several Cirsium species, Ligusticum chuanxiong, Pinus armandii, Polygonatum cirrhifolium, and Zanthoxylum bungeanum were among the plants most widely used for medicinal dietary purposes.

The authors recommend a rigorous scientific approach to any extrapolation of Naxi dietary plant therapy to broader populations:

“The medicinal dietary plants used by the Naxi people are diverse. The lives of the Naxi people are closely related with the use of medicinal dietary plants and their associated knowledge of these plants is extensive. These plants are easy to collect and prepare, and are widely used when needed by the Naxi people. The main theory behind the traditional medicinal diet of the Naxi people is to prevent disease by strengthening the body. A wide spectrum of disorders can be treated by medicinal diets. Most plants have a high fidelity level and are widely used. However, the safety of some medicinal dietary plants is not well understood, and the nutritional elements are unclear. Scientific evidence on the safety, detoxification, and nutrition of medicinal dietary plants of the Naxi people must be established before these medicinal dietary plants can be adopted by modern society to improve health and prevent diseases.”

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.

Medicinal Plants Used by the Maonan People of Southwest China

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Ethnobotanical study on medicinal plants used by Maonan people in China

Hong L, Guo Z, Huang K, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Apr 30;11:32
PubMed Central: PMC4449599

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China [Map: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from Minzu University of China, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Kunming Institute of Botany conducted an ethnobotanical study of traditional medicinal plants and associated knowledge of the Maonan indigenous people living in Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southwest China.

The authors note both the richness and precariousness of Maonan ethnomedicinal knowledge:

“As one of the indigenous minorities, Maonan is mainly living in Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southwest China. The exceptional altitudinal range, topography and climatic variability in this region have fostered a center of plant species endemism. Here the majority of Maonan people rely on medicinal plants for self-medication. The Maonan medicine has made a great contribution to protect the health of local people. This is due to free access to medicinal herbs, cultural traditions and high cost of hospital treatments in the town nearby. Local people widely utilize endemic species, and they have developed their own traditional medicinal knowledge. Without writing language, Maonan people pass on their indigenous knowledge from generation to generation orally. Nowadays, the Maonan children spend most of their time in schools, where they are taught in Han language. This decreases their chances to learn about the uses of the medicinal plants from the old people. Therefore, important information about medicinal plants is easily lost in the transfer process of indigenous knowledge. With the impact of increasing modern health facilities and modern civilization in Maonan area, indigenous knowledge is depleting rapidly. Although a number of ethnobotanical documentations about several ethnic groups have been published during the past decades in China, few field ethnobotanical studies have been conducted in Maonan society. It is therefore necessary to carry out a survey to document the medicinal plants and associated indigenous knowledge in Maonan region.”

In this context, the team worked to document and analyze the knowledge and use of medicinal plants by Maonan people in support of further multidisciplinary research, future phytochemical and pharmacological discovery, and conservation of knowledge and biodiversity.

Houttuynia cordata
Houttuynia cordata [Photo: Bouba, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with more than a hundred participants in eighteen villages, the team documented 368 medicinal plant species used to treat 95 human diseases. The most frequently used medicinal plants were Acanthopanax trifoliatus, Buddleja officinalis, Houttuynia cordata, Litsea pungens, Murraya exotica, Nephrolepis cordifolia, Paederia scandens, Platycodon grandiflorus, Rauvolfia verticillata, Rubus parvifolius, Sargentodoxa cuneata, Talinum paniculatum, and Tetrapanax papyrifer.

In addition to their medicinal value, most of the medicinal plants were also valued for their economic, edible, and ornamental qualities. In particular, the Maonans prioritize disease prevention and emphasize the function of medicinal food in ordinary life, adding medicinal plants into food for the purposes of enhancing immunity and disease resistance.

The authors conclude with an urgent recommendation to government agencies to develop sustainable programs to conserve and transmit the Maonan’s traditional knowledge:

“The species diversity of medicinal plants used by the Maonans in the study area was very rich. Medicinal plants played a significant role in healing various human disorders in the Maonan communities. However, the conflicts between traditional inheriting system and recent socio-economic changes (and other factors) resulted in the reduction or loss of both medicinal plants and associated indigenous knowledge. Thus, conservation efforts and policies, and innovation of inheriting system are necessary for protecting the medicinal plants and associated indigenous knowledge. Awareness is also needed to be raised among local Maonans focusing on sustainable utilization and management of both medicinal plants and traditional knowledge.”

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.

A Comparative Ethnobotanical Study of the Cholistan Desert & Pothwar Plateau of Pakistan

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A comparative ethno-botanical study of Cholistan (an arid area) and Pothwar (a semi-arid area) of Pakistan for traditional medicines

Malik S, Ahmad S, Sadiq A, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Apr 30;11:31
PubMed Central: PMC4460735

Cholistan Desert & Indus River Basin
Cholistan Desert & Indus River Basin [Photo: NASA, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators at the National University of Sciences and Technology, University of Sargodha, Islamia University of Bahawalpur, and American University of Ras Al Khaimah conducted an ethnobotanical study to compare and document therapeutic flora, their use, and traditional knowledge of residents of the Cholistan Desert and Pothwar (Potohar) Plateau of  Pakistan.

In their introduction, the authors note both the paucity of published ethnobotanical research and the risk of loss of indigenous knowledge from these regions:

“Data regarding ethnobotanical or ethnopharmacologically characteristics of the plants of Cholistan desert and Pothwar is almost non-existent except very few reports. The main objective of present study is to explore the relationship between local culture of folk people and plants in the pursuit of drug development and medical breakthroughs. The herbal treatments in respective regions are favored over the allopathic ones for their low cost and less side effects. The most important objective of this study is the preservation of local plant knowledge. Loss of the indigenous knowledge is a threat to the poor rural economies based on traditional livestock farming as that in the deserts like Cholistan or semi-arid area like Pothwar. It was, therefore, deemed imperative to document the ethnobotany knowledge possessed by the people of respective areas. In addition to this, present study will be a yardstick to probe standardization and systematic exploration of traditional herbs.”

Acacia nilotica
Acacia nilotica [Photo: J.M.Garg, Wikimedia Commons]
The team documented 67 plant species used in the traditional treatment of human diseases in the Cholistan Desert, and 86 species used in the treatment human diseases in the Pothwar Plateau. Medicinal plants used in both regions (10.5% of the total) included Acacia nilotica, Boerhavia procumbens, Calotropis procera, Citrullus colocynthis, Cyperus rotundus, Peganum harmala, Solanum surattense, Withania somnifera, and Ziziphus nummularia.

The findings from the Cholistan Desert are of particular interest (for example, roughly half of all plant species endemic to the region are used for medicinal purposes):

“Cholistan Desert is uniquely located in wild land with dearth of endemic flora counting only 128 species belonging to 32 families. During the present study people including local elders (Siana), herbal and homoeopathic practitioners and spiritual healers were interviewed. They play an imperative role in primary healthcare of the local inhabitants as the majority of their clients come from poor families who cannot meet the expense of the modern healthcare services. As said by traditional healers, the local people are still dependent on wild plants for prime healthcare owing to the widespread faith in its efficiency. According to the current survey, local people for curing various diseases, commonly use 67 plant species belonging to 29 families. The diseases cured vary from simple stomachache to more complicated such as male and female urino-genital disorders…. 14 plant species are being used for the treatment of gastrointestinal tract disorders. Moreover, it is observed that 16 plant species are consumed as antibacterial and cure for skin diseases. 10 of the plant species are particularly utilized for respiratory tract problems, whereas, for musculoskeletal and joint disorders 10 plant species are used. There are 5 species being consumed for the male sexual disorders, and 10 species for the female sexual disorders. For urinary tract infections 5 plant species have been exploited, and 10 plant species are being consumed as anti-diabetics. In addition to this, traditional healers are using 14 plant species to cure fever, 7 plant species to cure liver diseases, 9 plant species to treat jaundice and renal stones are being cured with 6 plant species. Five plants including Heliotropium strigosum, Withania somnifera, Mukia maderaspatana, Cymbopogon jwarancusa, and Peganum harmala are commonly used for the treatment of CNS disorders, like dementia.”

The authors recommend further documentation and preservation of this rich and unique traditional knowledge, which is in imminent danger of loss, as well as conservation of the medicinal plant species themselves and research on their pharmacological activity.

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.

Plants Used for Digestive System Disorders by the Karen of Thailand

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Ethnomedicinal plants used for digestive system disorders by the Karen of northern Thailand

Tangjitman K, Wongsawad C, Kamwong K, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Apr 9;11:27
PubMed Central: PMC4422539

Investigators at Chiang Mai University and Royal Park Rajapruek conducted an ethnobotanical study to document plants used by Karen people of Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand, to treat and prevent digestive system disorders.

The authors open the paper with an introduction of the Karen:

“The Karen originated in Tibet and had migrated to other parts of Southeast Asia, particularly Myanmar. From the 18th century onwards they began to cross the Salween River and moved into Thailand, where they settled in the high mountains of Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Lamphun provinces, as well as other areas. In 2003, the Karen people constituted 48% of the total hill tribe population in the region with a population more than 430,000 Karens in Thailand. As they typically reside in the mountain areas, the Karen people have limited access to public healthcare systems. They have therefore accumulated a rich experience related to preventing and treating diseases with herbal remedies, and they have developed a distinctive knowledge of traditional medicine. This traditional knowledge has been handed down from one generation to the next by spoken word and through lifestyle. Most Karen villagers still maintain traditional knowledge of medicinal plants that are used for first aid remedies and to treat simple ailments.”

The team documented 36 plant species used by the Karen to treat digestive system disorders including diarrhea, flatulence, constipation, gastric ulcer, and jaundice.

Curcuma longa
Curcuma longa [Photo: J.M.Garg, Wikimedia Commons]
The medicinal plant species identified included Curcuma longa, Dendrocalamus strictus, Dillenia pentagyna, Engelhardtia spicata, Euphorbia heterophylla, Gymnopetalum integrifolium, Melastoma malabathricum, Musa sapientum, Psidium guajava, Punica granatum, Senna alata, Senna occidentalis, Zingiber montanum, and Zingiber ottensii.

In their conclusion, the authors recommend further research to determine the biological activities of medicinal plants:

“Digestive system disorders have a high prevalence in terms of the morbidity rate among Thai people. This is also considered to be true worldwide, particularly among ethnic people who likely have inadequate access to hygienic levels of sanitation, which may increase the transmission of digestive diseases. The study of medicinal plants among the Karen people of northern Thailand has reported that 36 species were commonly used against digestive system disorders. A literature investigation found that several surveyed plants had similar usage with other ethnic groups in different areas throughout the world. Moreover, the pharmacological studies of some of the medicinal plants could confirm that these plants are considered effective in treating digestive diseases. However, some medicinal plants, which were reported to have high UV and FL values, still require further pharmacological research for the discovery of new compounds and biological activities of these potential medicinal plants. There were certain toxic effects that were found to have been associated with some of these plants. Therefore, herbal remedies should be taken carefully in order to avoid any potential side effects that may occur through utilizing these 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.

Wild Plants Used by Lhoba People in Tibet

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Ethnobotanical study on wild plants used by Lhoba people in Milin County, Tibet

Li F, Zhuo J, Liu B, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Mar 24;11:23
PubMed Central: PMC4374410

Mainling (Milin) County, Tibet
Mainling (Milin) County, Tibet [Map: Croquant, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from Minzu University of China, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Bioversity International conducted an ethnobotanical study to document wild plant species used by Lhoba peoples living in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.

The authors begin by presenting some richly complex ethnogeographical context for their study:

“The southeast area of Tibet is one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world. The area is rich in biological resources due to its subtropical humid and semi-humid climate, which extend over extreme elevational differences. Rich medicinal plant resources are distributed in different geographical areas of the region. The region that Nanyi Village is located in has been regarded as a sacred site, and called “Medicinal Lord’s Valley” by healers. The people living in Milin consist primarily of three ethnic groups: the Tibetan, the Monpa (or Moinba or Menba), and the Lhoba (or Luoba). The Lhoba are distributed in three counties of the Nyingchi (Linzhi) Prefecture: Milin, Medog, and Zayü, and in Lhünzê County of the Shannan Prefecture. Researchers have speculated that the Lhoba might be from the integration of several ancient tribes of the southeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Before the Chinese government recognized and decided on “Lhoba” as their unified name in 1965, each tribe had an independent name and a different dialect, “Bo’gaer”, “Bengni”, and “Miguba”. “Lhoba” is derived from pronunciation of which means “southerner” in the Tibetan language”, and has been used to refer to the people living in Lhoyü, Tibet. According to the 2010 census, there are only 3,682 Lhoba in the modern-day Tibet Autonomous Region in China, and Milin County contains the largest population of Lhoba (Bo’gaer tribal group) that lacks a mixed inhabitation with other ethnic groups. Before the 1960s, the Lhoba mainly lived on the abundant plant resources in the Tibetan mountain valleys. They practiced swidden agriculture, in addition to hunting and gathering activities. For centuries, these plant resources have provided the Lhoba’s most important source for medicine and food supplements. The Lhoba have a rich information base of ethnobotanical knowledge for describing and using these species.”

In addition to documenting the traditional ethnobotanical knowledge of the Lhoba, delineating the relationships between the Lhoba and their living environment, and reviewing the impact of Tibetan culture on this knowledge, the team also examined whether the ethnobotanical knowledge of the Lhoba was similar to published information on the Lhoba tribes in neighboring India.

Working with 23 local respondents with ages ranging from 20 to 65 years, the team collected ethnobotanical information for 59 species including medicinal plants, edible plants, and plants used for other aspects of daily life (e.g., fuelwood, dye, religious purposes, timber, tobacco substitutes, fodder).

Berberis pruinosa
Berberis pruinosa [Photo: Daderot, Wikimedia Commons]
Plants used for medicine, food, or both included Angelica apaensis, Berberis pruinosa, Cirsium eriophoroides, Coptis teeta, Dysosma tsayuensis, Erigeron breviscapus, Fargesia macclureana, Litsea cubeba, Litsea pungens, Polygonum tortuosum, Potentilla anserina, Quercus aquifolioides, Ribes himalense, Rosa omeiensis, Rubus biflorus, Sambucus adnata, Sinopodophyllum hexandrum, Sorbus thibetica, Usnea spp, Veronica anagallis-aquatica, and Zanthoxylum bungeanum.

In their conclusion, the authors note some ambivalent effects of integration and recommend investment in the conservation of Lhoba peoples’ traditional plant-derived culture:

“This study documented traditional ethnobotanical knowledge of the Lhoba in Nanyi Township, Milin County, Tibet. Fifty-nine wild plant species were found to be used in traditional medicines, food, dyeing technologies, and religion. These species mainly came from the surrounding areas. Some of these materials are important trade items in local Tibetan and Lhoba markets. The Lhoba in Nanyi use the same plant species for dyes and had similar bamboo weaving handcraft as tribes in adjacent areas in India. In contrast the Lhoba’s use of ethnomedicinal species has been deeply influenced by traditional Tibetan medicine and Chinese medicine. This study reported less plant species compared to other ethnic communities in Tibet. This may be due to the small size of the Lhoba population. The improved access to imported goods from outside their community and the development of tourism has changed the Lhoba lifestyle and production structure. These events signal the need to invest in mechanisms that can enable the Lhoba to benefit from the use of their traditional plant-derived culture and therefore support the continued conservation and use of these important plant resources.”

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.

Medicinal Plant Knowledge in the Caribbean Basin

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Medicinal plant knowledge in Caribbean Basin: a comparative study of Afrocaribbean, Amerindian and Mestizo communities

Torres-Avilez W, Méndez-González M, Durán-García R, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Feb 25;11:18
PubMed Central: PMC4347915

Caribbean Basin
Caribbean Basin [Map: US Congressional Research Service]
Working with data collected under the TRAMIL Program of Applied Research to Popular Medicine in the Caribbean, investigators from the Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán, and Université des Antilles et de la Guyane conducted a comparative study of medicinal plant repertoires used by Afrocaribbean, Amerindian, and Mestizo communities living in the Caribbean Basin, a region comprising portions of North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean islands.

The authors open with the biogeographical and cultural histories shaping the region’s landscapes , botanical:

“Floral diversity is distinctive in the Caribbean Basin…. Regional geological and biogeographic events, in association with its geographical complexity, have promoted diversity on many fronts. In tandem with the Basin’s social history during the last five hundred years, these biogeographic events have contributed to shaping its biological diversity, with a unique mix of native and exotic species….”

“Floral diversity is extremely high, with high rates of endemism. Hotspots with particularly high rates of endemic species include the islands of Cuba (53%) and Hispaniola (30%). Myers and his collaborators estimate floral species richness in South Florida and the Caribbean islands to be 12,000 species, including endemic species representing 2.3% of all vascular plants on the planet.”

And cultural:

“When European contact began in the Basin in the late 15th Century, a process was begun of severe transformations in ecosystems, natural resources, human groups and cultural components. Significant changes in biodiversity were initiated; for example, deforestation to make way for crops such as sugar cane, banana, tobacco and coffee, active exploitation of native plants and animals and introduction of many exotic species.

“The indigenous peoples of the Caribbean islands were almost totally decimated and replaced by slaves, largely from Africa and Asia, who were used as labor in the developing cultivation and extraction systems. In the islands, slaves mainly mixed with Europeans, but along the Basin’s continental margins both slaves and Europeans mixed with surviving indigenous populations. As a result, the current ethnic composition of the Basin is a heterogeneous mixture including Amerindian, Afrocaribbean and a wide range of Mestizo populations.”

The team selected nine communities – three Amerindian, three Afrocaribbean, and three Mestizo – from the total sample of communities surveyed by TRAMIL. Finding that “native plant species represented a large portion of the medicinal plants used in the Amerindian (81%) and Afrocaribbean (67%) communities, and somewhat less in the Mestizo communities (59%),” they reasoned that “the high proportion of natives used by the Amerindians is both a result of millennia of cultural development in the region and a partial reflection of their preservation of indigenous knowledge in the face of historical events, i.e. a kind of cultural resistance.”

Chief uses of medicinal plant species were for infectious and parasite diseases; symptoms and signs (e.g., headache, fever, itching); digestive system diseases; and respiratory system diseases.

Aloe vera
Aloe vera [Photo: William Avery Hudson, Flickr]
Species used frequently by all three groups included Aloe vera, Citrus aurantiifolia, Citrus aurantium, Chenopodium ambrosioides, and Psidium guajava. Plants used frequently by Afrocaribbean communities included Gossypium barbadense, Saccharum officinarum, Haematoxylum campechianum, Ocimum gratissimum, and Spondias mombin; by Amerindian communities, Lippia graveolens, Ruta chalepensis, Punica granatum, Byrsonima crassifolia, and Struthanthus orbicularis; by Mestizo communities, Mentha nemorosa, Origanum majorana, Ruta graveolens, Justicia pectoralis, and Bidens pilosa.

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.

Traditional Plant Use in Burkina Faso, with a Focus on Traditional Medicine

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Traditional plant use in Burkina Faso (West Africa): a national-scale analysis with focus on traditional medicine

Zizka A, Thiombiano A, Dressler S, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Feb 19;11:9
PubMed Central: PMC4429461

Investigators from the University of Gothenburg, Senckenberg Research Institute, Université de Ouagadougou, Goethe University Frankfurt, and Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre conducted a comprehensive, national-scale analysis of traditional plant use in Burkina Faso.

The authors note that while Burkina Faso has a rich heritage in traditional plant knowledge, this legacy is endangered on multiple fronts, particularly climate change:

“Large parts of the population of [Burkina Faso] live in rural communities and strongly depend on traditional plant products for their daily life. Some of the plant species traditionally used in [Burkina Faso] are of regional and global economic importance (e.g. Adansonia digitata, Parkia biglobosa, Sclerocarya birrea, Tamarindus indica, Vitellaria paradoxa)….

“Burkina Faso is located in a region especially susceptible to climate change and is likely to face severe environmental and socio-economic changes in the 21st century. Expected population growth together with the influence of climate change on flora and vegetation creates a challenging situation for environmental conservation. The combination of environmental change and increasing exploitation pressure is especially critical for the conservation of useful plants. Detailed knowledge of use patterns, actual usefulness and especially pharmacological effectiveness are the base for effective conservation. Furthermore, the presence of useful plants can be an important argument to local communities for conservation areas. The inclusion of local communities into the conservation efforts has been shown to be crucial for sustainable conservation.”

Combining information from a recently published national plant checklist with information from ethnobotanical literature, the team documented 1,033 plants with a traditional out of a total of 2,067 known plant species. The chief use was traditional medicine, followed by human nutrition and animal fodder.

Tamarindus indica
Tamarindus indica (Photo: B. navez, Wikimedia Commons)

Khaya senegalensis, A. digitata, and Diospyros mespiliformis were ranked the top useful plants, and T. indica, V. paradoxa and A. digitata the most important medicinal plants. Infections/infestations, digestive system disorders, and genitourinary disorders were the health problems most commonly addressed with medicinal plants.

In their conclusion, the authors note potential applicability of the research to conservation and drug development:

“The evaluation of usefulness of each plant species using the relative importance index has provided a robust hit list of the “top useful” species in the country and will be an important tool in focussing future conservation effort and possibly pharmacological screening. Our results are of interest for applied research, as a detailed knowledge of traditional plant use can a) help to communicate conservation needs and b) facilitate future research on drug screening.”

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.

Antimicrobial Activity of Medicinal Plants Used by the Yaegl Aboriginal Community

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Antimicrobial activity of customary medicinal plants of the Yaegl Aboriginal community of northern New South Wales, Australia: a preliminary study

Packer J, Naz T, Yaegl Community Elders, et al
BMC Res Notes. 2015 Jun 30;8:276
PubMed Central: PMC4485878

Investigators from Macquarie University, in collaboration with the Yaegl Aboriginal Community of New South Wales, studied the antimicrobial potential of plants used in the topical treatment of wounds, sores, and skin infections.

From the paper’s Background section:

“Australian Aboriginal people have over 40,000 years of knowledge of flora and fauna as sources of food, healing agents and other resources. Studies of customary (traditional and contemporary) medicinal plant preparations, especially in recent years, have revealed interesting medicinal properties and valuable biologically active compounds. Australian Aboriginal medicinal flora have had limited biological screening studies aligned with their medicinal uses. Furthermore, the knowledge of their medicinal uses is quickly disappearing, particularly in some regions of the country, such as the southern states of Australia. Assessment of the bioactive potential of these plants with long historical use may support their wider application and also provide a source for safe, accessible alternative medicines and leads for the discovery of new drug-like molecules.

“The ongoing crisis of antimicrobial resistance calls for the investigation of novel sources of antimicrobials. Working with Indigenous communities who have been using natural remedies over the centuries can provide novel sources of antimicrobial therapies and/or lead compounds for the development of new medicines.”

Corymbia intermedia
Corymbia intermedia (Photo: Mark Marathon, Wikimedia Commons)

In discussions with elders of the community, the team selected nine plants for analysis: Alocasia brisbanensis (used for burns and boils, cuts, sores and open wounds); Lophostemon suaveolens, Smilax australis, Smilax glyciphylla, and Syncarpia glomulifera (used for antiseptic purposes); Canavalia rosea (used for boils and sores); Corymbia intermedia (used for the treatment of wounds); Hibbertia scandens (used for sores and rashes); and Ipomoea brasiliensis (used as a poultice for boils).

The team found extracts of L. suaveolens and S. glomulifera active against the fungus Candida albicans and the Gram positive bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, and extracts of C. intermedia active against a range of microorganisms. The study is the first report of antimicrobial activities for C. intermedia and L. suaveolens and the leaves of S. glomulifera.

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.