Tag Archives: ethnomedicine

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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

Wild Plant Species Used for Food in Regional Parks of Sicily


A survey of wild plant species for food use in Sicily (Italy) – results of a 3-year study in four Regional Parks

Licata M, Tuttolomondo T, Leto C, et al.
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Feb 9;12(1):12
PubMed PMID: 26860327
Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie
Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie (Source: Martin Teetz, Wikimedia Commons)

Investigators at Università degli Studi di Palermo conducted a study of traditional knowledge on food use of wild plant species in four regional parks of Sicily: Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie, Parco Naturale dei Nebrodi, Parco dell’Etna, and Parco dei monti Sicani.

Cichorium intybus
Cichorium intybus (Source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany, Wikimedia Commons)

The team conducted interviews with 802 people over the age of 60, who had spent their entire lives in the area and who were or had been traditional farmers. The study documented 119 wild plant species for food purposes, including Cichorium intybus, Foeniculum vulgare, Borago officinalis, and Asparagus acutifolius. Sixty-four of the species were indicated as also having medicinal properties.

The authors note an increasing importance of wild food plants as part of the Mediterranean diet:

“In an effort to highlight the importance of wild plant species in our diets, a number of studies have been carried out in recent years in the Mediterranean area documenting the nutritional and medicinal properties of these plants. Compared to cultivated a number of wild plant species have been reported to contain greater levels of fiber, to have far greater antioxidant and flavonoid levels and to contain a smaller amount of lipids. A number of studies maintain that the carbohydrate, fibre, polyphenol, protein, mineral, vitamin and ω-3 fatty acid content of various parts of the wild plants can have beneficial effects on human health. This reinforces the concept of food as medicinal, first expressed by [Hippocrates] in 400 BC. The well-documented health properties of wild food plants have also contributed to increasing their importance as a part of the Mediterranean diet.”

In their conclusion, the authors recommend further research, and urge protection of these native genetic resources and the culinary traditions linked to them:

“In terms of agriculture, it is important to highlight that given the fact that only very few of the wild plants mentioned can/could be cultivated in kitchen gardens and/or crop fields, further agronomic research on these few species is essential in order to improve knowledge on their main cultivation techniques. An important result of the research is the fact that most of the wild plants are perceived as highly useful for food/medicinal purposes and this is due to the health effects of the wild plants as reported by the informants. The protection of the native genetic resources and the culinary traditions linked to them is essential if we are to preserve the cultural heritage of the Sicilian Parks concerning the food use of wild plant species and in order to cultivate a number of species of agricultural interest. Our contribution should be not considered as exhaustive and future research is necessary in order to extend investigation to the younger generations and comment on the transmission of knowledge from the old to the new generation.”

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 Plant Knowledge of Herbalists in Sulaymaniyah Province, Kurdistan, Iraq


Ethnopharmacobotanical study on the medicinal plants used by herbalists in Sulaymaniyah Province, Kurdistan, Iraq

Ahmed HM
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Jan 28;12(1):8
PubMed PMID: 26821541
Sulaymaniyah Province in Iraqi Kurdistan
Sulaymaniyah Province in Iraqi Kurdistan (Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons)

Hiwa Achmed of Sulaimani Polytechnic University conducted an ethnobotanical survey to document traditional knowledge about uses of medicinal plants among traditional healers in the Province of Sulaymaniyah (Kurdistan, Iraq).

This is the first ethnobotanical study in Sulaymaniyah, reported to be “the most famous and important area of Kurdistan, and possibly even all of Iraq, with lofty mountains and scattered flora, many of which are still unexplored from taxonomic and medicinal points of view.” Several medicinal plant species and new properties of medicinal plant species were found that have not been reported before in Kurdistan.

Zingiber officinale
Zingiber officinale (Source: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, Wikimedia Commons)

The study documented 66 plant species used to treat respiratory issues, inflammations, and gynecological diseases, among other illnesses. Plants of particular medicinal importance included Zingiber officinale, Matricaria chamomilla, Adiantum capillus-veneris, Thymus vulgaris, and Pimpinella anisum.

From the conclusion:

“These findings suggest that medicinal plants and folk medicines used by healers in Southern Kurdistan may represent a starting point for further comparative cross-cultural ethnobiological research, which may contribute to increase the current knowledge of folk medicinal plants and could lead to the conservation strategies aimed at protecting possible rare plant species. The current research contributed to the existing ethnobotanical literature by identifying a number of new plant uses and their perceived health benefits to humans. Perhaps, more importantly, the results of this study could assist small-scale companies to utilize local plant resources for medicine, as natural products meet the demand of patients, who also in Kurdistan desire less pharmaceuticals; moreover, medicinal plants may provide economic benefits to local communities as well, in an area of the Middle East, which have gone through hard times in the last decades.”

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 Plant Knowledge of the Magar & Majhi People of Western Nepal


An ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants used by ethnic people in Parbat district of western Nepal

Malla B, Gauchan DP, Chhetri RB
J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 May 13;165:103-17
PubMed PMID: 25571849

Parbat District, Nepal
Parbat District, Nepal [Source: Hégésippe Cormier, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from Kathmandu University conducted an ethnobotanical study to investigate and document traditional knowledge of medicinal plants and their uses by the Magar and Majhi indigenous peoples of Parbat district in Western Nepal.

Paris polyphylla
Paris polyphylla (Source: Alnus, Wikimedia Commons)

Using questionnaire, field observation, personal interviews and group discussion with more than 300 local people, including 15 local healers, the team documented 132 ethnomedicinal plant species used to treat various diseases and disorders including gastrointestinal, parasitic and hepatobiliary disorders; and blood and lymphatic system disorders, among others. Two species, Paris polyphylla and Bergenia ciliata, were confirmed as the best plants with medicinal properties. The authors also consulted with the National Herbarium and Plant Laboratories (KATH) to identify the medicinal plant species.

In their conclusion, the authors note that the Magar and Majhi people are rich in ethnomedicinal knowledge, with current use and knowledge are still strong, and urge preservation of both knowledge and habitat:

“The present study showed that the two ethnic communities depend on a variety of plants to meet their requirements and to cure various diseases. Different plant parts are used for medicinal preparation, mode of administration, medicinal doses and other human consumption. However, their understanding and use of the medicinal plants grounds on traditional beliefs. So, the plant with medicinal properties must be chemically investigated for correct identification of bioactive compounds which can be further used for designing drugs. This will be a great contribution for pharmaceutical and herbal industries in Nepal. Our findings revealed that human encroachment such as unplanned development works, [habitat] loss, over exploitation of medicinal plants are the root causes of diminution of highly potent medicinal plants. An appropriate conservation planning is most essential to preserve the medicinal biodiversity in Parbat district. To preserve the plants in natural habitat, it is essential to establish medicinal gardens for ex-situ conservation by mobilizing the local ethnic people. In-situ conservation will help highly usable and depleting species by propagating, reintroducing, regularly monitoring and evaluating processes. Reported medicinal plants need to be systematically screened through phytochemical and pharmacological for potential bioactive compounds. Experimental validation of these remedies may help in developing new drugs which can be used to cure inevitable disease such as cancer, Alzheimer, Parkinson’s and HIV.”

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.

Plants Used as Medicine & Food in the Basque Country


Medicinal and local food plants in the south of Alava (Basque Country, Spain)

Alarcόn R, Pardo-de-Santayana M, Priestley C, Morales R, Heinrich M
J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Oct 16
PubMed PMID: 26481607

Researchers at the University of London School of Pharmacy, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, and Real Jardín Botánico conducted an ethnobotanical study of local and traditional plant usage in the Alava region of the Basque Country, to evaluate their uses as food and medicine.

Province of Álava, Spain
Province of Álava, Spain [Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
The region has large areas of forest and undisturbed regions with high levels of biodiversity, including two nature reserves, Valderejo Natural Park and Izki Natural Park.

Based on interviews and field walking and collection of samples as directed by the local participants, the team identified 184 species used as medicines, food, and health food. Of these, 36 species were used exclusively for medicinal purposes, reflecting an important overlap between food and medicines:

“This calls into question an important paradigm in ethnopharmacology, and we need to consider ways to present medicinal and food properties in an integrated way. Our informants generally do not draw a very strict line between food and medicinal plants, highlighting the ambivalent nature of these two categories. The majority of the informants recognise that food plants can prevent or heal disease or “cleanse” the body.”

Jasonia glutinosa
Jasonia glutinosa [Source: Juan José Girón Ruiz, Wikimedia Commons]
Among the plants that illustrate this overlap between food and medicines are three species that are commonly used as important social beverages: Jasonia glutinosa, Chamaemelum nobile, and Prunus spinosa.

From the conclusion:

“There is no sharp line dividing local food and medicine. This is a culturally constructed division and also influenced by environmental conditions, cultural background, traditional knowledge of the natural resources (useful plants in this case), education, economy, political movements, etc. From the analysis it also becomes apparent that these categories are dynamic. The preparations are characterized by having multiple methods of preparations and flexibility to use under subcategories of food and medicinal properties.”

Read the complete article at PubMed.

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