Tag Archives: ethnopharmacology

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.


In Kenya, Two More Plant Species Reported As Potential Antimalarials


Medicinal plants used for management of malaria among the Luhya community of Kakamega East sub-County, Kenya

Mukungu N, Abuga K, Okalebo F, Ingwela R, Mwangi J
J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Dec 24;194:98-107
PubMed Central: PMC5176009

Kakamega County in Kenya
Kakamega County in Kenya [Source: NordNordWest, Wikimedia Commons]
Researchers from the University of Nairobi conducted an ethnobotanical survey to document plants used in the management of malaria among Luhya people living in Kakamega County, Kenya. Two of the species, Rumex steudelii and Phyllanthus sepialis, have not previously been reported as malaria remedies.

In a paper published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the authors describe the need for investigation of antimalarial botanical medicines used by the people of this region:

“In Kenya, 80% of the population is at risk of contracting [malaria]. Pregnant mothers and children under five years are the most affected by this disease. Antimalarial drug resistance poses a major threat in the fight against malaria necessitating continuous search for new antimalarial drugs. Due to inadequate and inaccessible health facilities, majority of people living in rural communities heavily depend on traditional medicine which involves the use of medicinal plants for the management of malaria. Most of these indigenous knowledge is undocumented and risks being lost yet such information could be useful in the search of new antimalarial agents.”

Rotheca myricoides
Rotheca myricoides [Photo: Kurt Stüber, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with traditional medicine practitioners and other caregivers, the team documented 42 plant species used in the management of malaria, including Melia azedarach, Aloe spp, Ajuga integrifolia, Vernonia amygdalina, Rotheca myricoides, Fuerstia africana, Zanthoxylum gilletii, Leucas calostachys, Clerodendrum johnstonii, and Physalis peruviana.

Two of the species identified by the team have not previously been reported as treatments for malaria: Rumex steudelii and Phyllanthus sepialis. With two exceptions (Clerodendrum johnstonii and Physalis peruviana), the rest have been tested in the laboratory for antiplasmodial activities. Antiplasmodial compounds have been isolated from fewer than half of the plants so far.

The authors conclude with a call for conservation, both of traditional ethnomedicinal knowledge and of the medicinal plants themselves. They note that botanical medicines used for malaria are mainly obtained from the wild and that those which are cultivated are done so because they are not easily available in the wild (e.g., introduced plants) or face extinction (e.g., Ajuga integrifolia).

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.




Ethnopharmacological Preparations of Monpa People in Arunachal Pradesh


First Report on the Ethnopharmacological Uses of Medicinal Plants by Monpa Tribe from the Zemithang Region of Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalayas, India

Chakraborty T, Saha S, Bisht NS
Plants (Basel). 2017 Mar 2;6(1)
PubMed Central: PMC5371772

Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalayas, India
Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalayas, India [Source: Filpro, Wikimedia Commons]
Researchers at Jiwaji University, University of Freiburg, Forest Research Institute, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education conducted a study to document, for the first time, ethnopharmacological preparations of ethnomedicines among the Monpa people in the Zemithang region of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Their study is published in the open-access journal Plants.

From the introduction:

“Before coming to our research objectives, we would like to briefly mention the state of the art of ethnopharmacological research in the Himalayas. There are plenty of research works on the listing of the traditional uses of medicinal plants from the Himalayas. A search with the terms “medicinal plants * Himalayas” yielded 163 peer-reviewed articles listed in ISI Web of Knowledge on 20 February 2017. However, out of those 163 articles, 19 articles were found from the Eastern Himalayas and only two were on the Monpa tribe…. Haridasan et al., in the seminal works produced in 1998 and 1990, comprehensively listed medicinal and edible plants of the Monpa tribe and other tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Recently, Namsa et al. (2011) listed 50 plant species and recorded their ethnobotanical uses among people of the Monpa tribe at the southern range of their habitation (i.e., Kalaktang circle of West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh). These two publications provided general descriptions of the plants, traditional uses of the plants to cure certain diseases, and traditional ways of consumption of these plants or plant parts (e.g., pills, syrups, decoctions, etc.). Nevertheless, no ethnopharmacological studies have yet reported how, and in what proportion, multiple plant parts from different species can be used to prepare specific ethnomedicines for healing of diseases among the Monpa tribes or any other tribes of the Eastern Himalayas as per our literature research as of 20 February 2017. In addition, the traditional knowledges of the people of the Monpa tribe residing at their northern habitation range (i.e., Zemithang circle of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh) are still not adequately documented due to the remoteness of the location.”

Aconitum ferox
Aconitum ferox [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen]
The team describe 24 ethnomedicines prepared by traditional healers based on 53 plant species, including Aconitum ferox, Bergenia stracheyi, Campanula latifolia, Fragaria nubicola, Gentiana depressa, Hedychium spicatum, Iris clarkei, Leontopodium himalayanam, Meconopsis grandis, Onopordum acanthium, Panax pseudoginseng, Rheum australe, Swertia chirayita, Tanacetum gracile, and Vaccinium nummularia.

In their conclusions, the authors urge further scientific work based on the know-how of Monpa healers, with an eye toward conservation of their traditional ethnopharmacological knowledge:

“We have documented for the first time the vernacular names combined with ethnopharmacological preparations of ethnomedicines among Monpa tribes from the Zemithang region of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Past studies on ethnobotany in the Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalayas, had listed uses of medicinal plants, however, we found that traditional healers use diverse species and plant parts in specific proportions for drug preparations. Our study illustrates the diversity of medicinal drug preparations and traditional knowledge that has passed through generation after generation of Monpa people. The ethnopharmacological documentation presented in this study should motivate researchers to carry out further scientific work on pharmacology, bioprospecting, and the cultivation of medicinal plants for the socioeconomic development in the region. Under ongoing warming of the Himalayas and mass migration of people from the mountain areas to cities, our study also highlights the need to document the traditional knowledge regarding the use of local flora and to develop strategies to conserve them before the traditional knowledges are lost or forgotten.”

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.


Antimalarial Plants of Eastern Uttar Pradesh


Ethnobotanical perspective of antimalarial plants: traditional knowledge based study

Qayum A, Arya R, Lynn AM
BMC Res Notes. 2016 Feb 4;9:67
PubMed Central: PMC4743172

Uttar Pradesh in India
Uttar Pradesh in India [Source: Wikimedia Commons, By Filpro]
Investigators from Jawaharlal Nehru University and Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy conducted an ethnobotanical study to find plants with antimalarial activities used by local people in the Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, and Maharajganj districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

The team documented 51 plants used for the treatment of malaria, including Adhatoda vasica, Cassia fistula, and Swertia chirata.

Justicia adhatoda (Adhatoda vasica)
Justicia adhatoda (Adhatoda vasica) [Photo: Wikimedia Commons, By ShineB]
The authors note that many important medicinal plants in the area are becoming rare and some of them are critically endangered because of overexploitation, loss of water reservoirs, and changes in land use.

From the conclusion:

“The work carried out revealed the plants recorded are highly valuable for antimalarial application and in future, bio-prospecting projects can be further initiated for sustainable harvesting towards developing antimalarial drug for curing malaria at large. It would help researchers to find out suitable lead molecules with antimalarial activity towards drug discovery. The study provides ample ground to believe that the traditional medicinal system practice using native medicinal plants is alive and well functioning in the selected area. Many communities use antimalarial plant parts and whole plant for their primary healthcare. It is primarily due to lack of modern medicines, medications, self-reliance on herbs, poor economic condition and more importantly faiths in TK System. The treatment of malaria with plants and plant parts causes little or no side effects and also it is very cheap and affordable. Some plants are nearly extinct in the region, the reason being change in land use pattern and shrinking of water bodies along with over harvesting of herbs. The bio-depletion of these antimalarial plants is due to the burgeoning population and unscientific management of the natural 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 Plants of the Russian Pharmacopoeia


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 Plants Used by the Maonan People of Southwest China


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


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.

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.

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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