Tag Archives: ethnomedicine

Medicinal Plants Used Around Mabira Central Forest Reserve, Uganda

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Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plant species used by communities around Mabira Central Forest Reserve, Uganda

Tugume P, Kakudidi EK, Buyinza M, Namaalwa J, Kamatenesi M, Mucunguzi P, Kalema J.
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Jan 13;12:5
PubMed Central: PMC4712608

Investigators from Makerere University conducted an ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants in 14 villages adjacent to Mabira Central Forest Reserve in Central Uganda, an area about 20 km north of Lake Victoria shoreline immediately to the west of Victoria Nile.

More about the study area:

“The forest reserve occupies gently undulating landscape characterised by numerous flat-topped hills (relics of the ancient African peneplain), and wide shallow valleys…

“Commercial use of the forest began when some parts were harvested in the early 1900’s and until 1988, intensive coffee/banana agricultural encroachment badly damaged parts of the forest. About 21% and 26% of the reserve have been designated as strict nature reserve and buffer zone respectively and the forest in these areas is recovering following extensive plantings of native tree species.

“The human population living in the forest enclaves was approximately 825,000 with a density of 200–230 people per Km-2. The local people are mainly of the Bantu ethnic group of the following tribes; Baganda, Banyarwanda, Basoga, Bagisu, Bakiga, Banyankole, Bagwere and Batoro.

“The reserve has tea and sugarcane plantations around. Some local people reside in settlements for labourers on the tea and sugarcane estates. The extent of growing cash crops other than tea and sugar cane is limited by scarcity of land. However locals are engaged in cultivation of food crops mainly for subsistence consumption like maize, beans, bananas, ground nuts, sweet potatoes and vegetables. Livestock rearing is limited to a few households.”

The team documented 190 plant species used in the treatment of various health conditions. The ten most important medicinal plant species were Vernonia amygdalina, Mormodica feotida, Warbugia ugandensis, Prunus africana, Piptadeniastrum africana, Erythrina abyssinica, Albizia corriaria, Spathodea campanulata, Mondia whitei, and Alstonia boonei.

Vernonia amygdalina
Vernonia amygdalina [Photo: By Kwameghana (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]
Vernonia amygdalina was found to be an especially important species, with a fidelity level of 100% and ranking highest in the treatment of malaria:

“Its leaf extract has been confirmed for having good anti-malarial effects and through in vitro studies. Vernonia amygdalina contains steroid glycosides, sesquiterpene and lactones which are active against Plasmodium falciparum. This species has also been found to be clinically effective for the treatment of malaria patients. In human trials, extracts of Vernonia amygdalina reduced parastaemia by 32%. Although Vernonia amygdalina is effective for malaria treatment, it can induce labour in pregnant women thus causing miscarriages and therefore should be avoided by them. Species with high fidelity level such as Vernonia amygdalina for malaria and Erythrina abyssinica for vomiting indicates that these species two were considered of great cultural significance. Erythrina abyssinica too has a wide range of use varying from treatment of malaria, syphilis, tuberculosis to amoebiasis in Uganda. In Kenya E. abyssinica is used to treat mumps, respiratory tract infections in Mexico and febrile illness in Ethiopia. Its usage for different ailments is possibly due to a wide range of bioactive compounds.”

In their conclusion, the authors found that “the diversity of medicinal plant species used and the associated indigenous knowledge are of great value to the local community and their conservation and preservation is paramount.”

“The study shows that [Mabira Central Forest Reserve] habours a wide diversity of plant species used as remedies for several ailments. Such plants are very useful especially to people who cannot afford modern medical care and in cases where access to modern heath facilities is not easy. Knowledge and use of herbal medicine for treatment of various ailments among the local people is still part of their life and culture and this calls for preservation of the integrity of the forest and indigenous knowledge of herbal medicine use. The documented plants have potential of being used in drug development.”

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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Ethnobotanical Survey of Plants Used in Turkey’s Afyonkarahisar Province

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Ethnobotanical survey of plants used in Afyonkarahisar-Turkey

Arı S, Temel M, Kargıoğlu M, Konuk M
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Dec 23;11:84
PubMed Central: PMC4690277

Researchers from Afyon Kocatepe University and Üsküdar University conducted an ethnobotanical study to show uses of wild plants associated with medicinal, food, fodder, and household goods within the boundaries of Afyonkarahisar province in the Aegean region of Turkey:

“Afyonkarahisar located at the intersection of roads and phytogeographical regions (Mediterranean, Iran-Turan, and Euro-Siberian) has more than 2500 plant species.”

The team recorded and collected 130 plant taxa used for medicinal, food, fodder, household goods, dyes, handicrafts, and religious purposes.

Urtica dioica
Urtica dioica (Photo: WAH)

Species used for medicinal purposes included Achillea millefolium, Agrostemma githago, Amaranthus retroflexus, Anchusa azurea, Bellis perennis, Capsella bursa-pastoris, Chelidonium majus, Crataegus monogyna, Dianthus zonatus, Ficus carica, Dracunculus vulgaris, Hypericum perforatum, Melissa officinalis, Mentha longifolia, Morus alba, Origanum vulgare, Papaver dubium, Peganum harmala, Plantago major, Rosa canina, Salix alba, Thymus spp., Tribulus terrestris, and Urtica dioica.

The authors note that the rich traditional ethnobotanical knowledge of the region is in decline:

“Because villagers are generally migrating to big cities and benefiting from the facilities of modern medicine, the heritage of traditional ethnobotanical knowledges is decreasing dramatically. Although this relieve[s] some of the pressures on some plant species, documenting and [analyzing] the indigenous wild plants’ ethnobotanical usages through ethnobotanical studies is still important for the conservation of traditional ethnobotanical 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.




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Knowledge of Medicinal Plants in Pre-WWII Ukraine & Poland Documented by Historical Study

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Fischer’s Lexicon of Slavic beliefs and customs: a previously unknown contribution to the ethnobotany of Ukraine and Poland

Kujawska M, Łuczaj Ł, Typek J
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Dec 24;11:85
PubMed Central: PMC4690239

Researchers from the University of Łódź and University of Rzeszów documented traditional uses of plants in western Ukraine in the 1930s, based on the work of the Polish ethnographer Adam Robert Fischer (1889-1943).

The authors note that the country has changed significantly since World War II:

“After World War II, due to the shift of borders in Poland imposed by Stalin and accepted by the Treaty of Jalta (1945), around two million Poles were re-settled from the eastern part of the country, mainly to western and northern Poland, to the areas taken by Poland from Germany. Additionally, a few hundred thousand Poles were murdered during ethnic cleansings performed by Ukrainians, particularly in the Volhynia area. This made western Ukraine an ethnically Ukrainian region. Later, however, during the Soviet times, many Russians or Russian-speaking Ukrainians settled in western Ukraine as well. Thus the ethnobotany we are dealing with in this article concerned a country which was very different ethnically (mixed Ukrainian and Polish, with Jewish admixtures), than the present day western Ukraine (Ukrainian with Russian admixtures).”

Achillea millefolium
Achillea millefolium (Photo: Petar Milošević, Wikimedia Commons)

The team documented 179 taxa of plants used or remembered by peasants in the region in the 1930s, including yarrow (Achillea millefolium), garlic (Allium sativum), lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor), St. John’s wort (Hypericum sp.), and juniper (Juniperus communis).

Medicinal plants represented the largest category of uses, with 87 taxa used for a wide range of ailments, including coughs, zawianie, wounds, stomachache, headache, and gynecological problems. Important medicinal plants included A. millefolium, A. sativum, Hypericum sp., J. communis, Tussilago farfara, Veratrum album, Artemisia absinthium, Viola tricolor, Arnica montana, and Matricaria chamomilla.

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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Ethnobotany of the Balti Community, Pakistan

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Ethnobotany of the Balti community, Tormik valley, Karakorum range, Baltistan, Pakistan

Abbas Z, Khan SM, Abbasi AM, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Sep 9;12(1):38
PubMed Central: PMC5018187

Investigators at Hazara University, Quaid-i-Azam University, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, South China University of Technology, University of Gastronomic Sciences, and University of Swat conducted a study “to document the ethnobotanical knowledge of the local peoples in the Tormik Valley, especially in the medical and food domains.”

The Tormik Valley is home to the Balti ethnic group:

“Overall in the Baltistan region (province), Mongol, Mon, Hor, Brokpa and Kashmiris are the prominent ethnic groups with the local languages being Balti and Shina (Broq-skat); however, the studied valley hosts a single ethnic group: the Balti. This ethnic group is comprised of thirty-one lineage groups known as qoum and speaks Balti as their local language. The population of the valley is approximately 5,000 inhabitants comprising 706 households. The people of this region migrated to the study area from other parts of Baltistan, as well as other regions, before the birth of the founder of Buddhism, Guatama Budha (563 BC).”

The team gathered ethnobotanical data using semi-structured interviews and group conversation with 69 participants during field trips in 14 different villages, and documented 63 plant species with detailed folk uses, including 43% used to treat various diseases, 21% consumed as wild fruits and vegetables, and 53% with multipurpose applications.

This is the first in-depth ethnomedicinal survey of the Tormik valley:

“In mountainous ecosystems such as the Karakorum range, often inadequate nutrition remains a major problem resulting in various diseases. The local inhabitants in these areas have developed traditional methods of curing such common health problems, which in turn can provide important data for devising public health policies. The Karakorum mountain range, situated at the junction of western and central Asiatic regions of Tethyan flora, is one of the most diverse habitats in the world. The Baltistan province of Pakistan is home to more than a dozen geographically isolated and botanically unexplored valleys in the Karakorum Range. Although a number of previous ethnobotanical investigations have been conducted in surrounding areas, many of these studies did not use quantitative methods. Moreover, Tormik Valley repeatedly went unnoticed, perhaps due to its high altitude, harsh and hostile climate, inaccessibility and prevailing poverty. A large proportion of its inhabitants depend on herbal remedies. They are known as the trustees of cultural knowledge whether related to plants, animals, fungi, lichens, or stones.”

Hippophae rhamnoides
Hippophae rhamnoides [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Carl Axel Magnus Lindman, «Bilder ur Nordens Flora» Stockholm]
Twenty-six medicinal plant species were used to treat human ailments, including gastrointestinal diseases, dermatitis, jaundice, hepatitis, cancer, pneumonia, tonic, asthma, urinary disorders, joint pain, and eye pain. Thymus linearis, Hippophae rhamnoides, and Convolvulus arvensis were the most used medicinal plant species.

The authors note several implications for public health and environmental policies:

“…[I]t is clear that stomach related health problems (ulcers, constipation, GIT infections, jaundice), and skin diseases (dermatitis) are the most prevalent health problems in the area. Stomach disorders are likely due to malnutrition and unhygienic food utilization. Skin problems can be attributed to the high altitude of the study area, where radiation from the sun tends to be more intense and potentially mutagenic. People traditionally treat such diseases with food-medicines, which in many cases are quite effective. Hence, the present findings provide very important insights for public-health officials, to formulate health policies taking into account the common health issues and Traditional Medicine practiced by the local people as part of their primary healthcare.
“…The present study revealed that the valleys in the Karakorum Mountains in Northern Pakistan support a notable Traditional Knowledge on the local plants. Wild food plants have represented the milestone of the traditional food systems and could still represent a pillar of the local food sovereignty, while medicinal plants play a vital role, which need to be reconsidered and carefully re-evaluated by ethnopharmacologists and public health actors. The collected data may be also of interest to initiatives aimed at fostering sustainable rural development in an area that faces serious economic problems, widespread illiteracy, and isolation. The findings of this paper advocate the need for comprehensive trans-disciplinary researches aimed to ensure the dynamic conservation of invaluable local knowledge systems, as well as plant diversity in Pakistani mountain regions.”

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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The Glocal Nature of Waldensian Ethnobotany

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Isolated, but transnational: the glocal nature of Waldensian ethnobotany, Western Alps, NW Italy

Bellia G, Pieroni A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 May 7;11:37
PubMed Central: PMC4495842

A Waldensian Mountain Cottage
A Waldensian Mountain Cottage (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Keystone View Company Studios, 1881 [Public Domain])
Investigators at the University of Gastronomic Sciences conducted an ethnobotanical field study of traditional uses of wild plants for food and medicinal/veterinary purposes among Waldensian communities in the Western Alps of Italy.

Working with forty-seven elderly informants (typically small-scale farmers and shepherds), the team documented the uses of 85 wild and semi-domesticated food folk taxa, 96 medicinal folk taxa, and 45 veterinary folk taxa. Commonly used medicinal plants included Arnica montana, Artemisia absinthium, Abies alba, and Chelidonium majus.

Arnica montana
Arnica montana (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1896 [Public Domain])
The authors conclude that local plants play an important role in food security and the management of human and animal health in these communities, and may constitute a key resource for sustainable development in the area:

“A marked persistence of local knowledge regarding these plants among Waldensians confirms the importance of studying enclaves as well as cultural and linguistic “isles” in ethnobotany, which may represent both crucial reservoirs of folk knowledge and bio-cultural refugia.

On the other hand, the findings of this study indicate that a proper conservation of the bio-cultural heritage, such as the ethnobotanical one, requires strategies, which carefully consider natural landscapes and resources as well as cultural and religious customs, since plant folk knowledge systems are the result of a continuous interplay between these two domains over centuries.

Finally, these neglected local plant resources may represent a key issue for fostering a sustainable development in an area of the Alps, which has been largely untouched by mass tourism and is looking with particular interest at eco-touristic trajectories.”

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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Medicinal Plants of Eastern Madagascar

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Medicinal plants used to treat the most frequent diseases encountered in Ambalabe rural community, Eastern Madagascar

Rakotoarivelo NH, Rakotoarivony F, Ramarosandratana AV et al.
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Sep 15;11:68
PubMed Central: PMC4570514

Investigators from the Missouri Botanical Garden, University of Antananarivo, and Washington University in St. Louis inventoried medicinal plants used to treat diseases frequently occurring among residents of Ambalabe in eastern Madagascar.

Working with residents of Vatomandry District (which includes the rural community of Ambalabe and Vohibe Forest [a protected area established in 2008]), the team identified diarrhea, malaria, stomach-ache, cough, bilharzia (schistosomiasis), and dysentery as the most frequently occurring diseases and 83 medicinal plant species used to treat those diseases.

Litchi chinensis
Litchi chinensis [Photo: B.navez, WikiMedia Commons]
Plant species commonly used to treat the diseases included Mollugo nudicaulis, Litchi chinensis, Kalanchoe prolifera, and Paederia thouarsiana. Less than half of the medicinal plants were collected in Vohibe Forest, the rest were cultivated or collected around the villages, in house yards, and in crop fields.

In their conclusion, the authors note that while the local population retains important knowledge about medicinal plants, many of those species might be threatened:

“[T]his paper provides new information on medicinal plants used by the local population in Ambalabe community to fight against frequent diseases. Some species seemed new to sciences or sometimes have new uses never recorded. Further pharmacological studies will be needed to better understand the importance of traditional medicine. Besides, because 83 species were used to treat six most frequent diseases, their conservation should be considered as important to ensure sustainable future use, especially due to the fact that most of them were collected in the surroundings of the villages and in non-protected areas. Sustainable management techniques should be considered, especially for Malagasy endangered 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.




Medicinal Plants of Trinidad

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An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants in Trinidad

Clement YN, Baksh-Comeau YS, Seaforth CE
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Sep 15;11:67
PubMed Central: PMC4570261

Location of Trinidad and Tobago
Location of Trinidad and Tobago [Map: Vardian, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from The University of the West Indies and The University of Trinidad and Tobago conducted the first systematic ethnobotanical survey to identify medicinal plants commonly used in traditional medicine across the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

The authors describe Trinidad’s unique geology, flora and fauna, and human characteristics:

“The island of Trinidad which lies approximately 13 km off the coast of the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela is the larger of the twin-island state of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The island has a population of approximately 1.3 million people with about 77% being either of African or Asian Indian ancestry or an admixture of these major ethnic groups. Unlike other Caribbean islands, Trinidad is a continental island sharing its geology, flora and fauna, with South America having recently separated from the mainland ca. 10,000 years ago. This gives Trinidad a unique mix of Antillean and South American elements in its flora and fauna. However, the natural vegetation has been significantly transformed in the post-Columbian era with the arrival of the Europeans, West Africans and the East Indians.”

23220590015_1a198798e3_m
Cymbopogon citratus [Photo: WAH, Flickr]
Based on interviews in 50 rural communities, the team identified 917 plant remedies from 96 species including Leonotis nepetifolia, Neurolaena lobata, Cymbopogon citratus, Momordica charantia, and Stachytarpheta jamaicensis. The authors detail uses for ailments affecting the upper respiratory tract and the genitourinary tract, chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes mellitus, hypertension), and for “cooling-cleansing” and treatment of fever.

While noting evidence of antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and related pharmacological activities of some of the plants in laboratory studies, the authors advise caution in interpretation pending clinical studies:

“Although the literature shows limited pre-clinical evidence to demonstrate pharmacological activities for some of the plants cited in our survey, this must be taken cautiously, as this level of evidence does not represent the reality in the traditional use setting. Firstly, the pre-clinical evidence comes from studies utilizing solvent extracts, fractions, or isolated compounds which are not the modality traditionally used. Secondly, the concentrations of putative components in these solvent extracts, fractions or isolated compounds used in pre-clinical experiments may be significantly higher than that which could be attained following oral administration, thus making the extrapolations to the clinical setting unjustified. However, there are a few promising examples, such as Senna (an FDA-approved non-prescription laxative) which has been clinically proven to be efficacious. A similar approach is needed to determine the clinical efficacy of other herbal remedies.

“However, the identification of these medicinal plants provides a platform from which further pre-clinical and clinical studies could be formulated to determine the efficacy and safety of herbal preparations. These research efforts may provide alternative and/or complementary approaches for healthcare provision in the Caribbean and beyond.”

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 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.

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.