Tag Archives: indigenous people

Wild Leafy Vegetables Used by Meitei, Naga, Kuki, and Pangal People of Manipur, Northeast India

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Assessment of wild leafy vegetables traditionally consumed by the ethnic communities of Manipur, northeast India

Konsam S, Thongam B, Handique AK
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Jan 29;12:9
PubMed Central: PMC4731935

Investigators from the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development and Gauhati University conducted surveys at markets throughout the state of Manipur in northeastern India to document wild edible vegetables being used by indigenous communities for nutritive and therapeutic purposes.

About the study area:

Manipur in Northeastern India
Manipur in Northeastern India [Map: By Filpro (File:India grey.svg) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

“…Manipur, one of the seven states of Northeast India that forms an integral part of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot… is rich in both cultural and biological diversity, having populated by diverse ethnic, linguistic and religious groups including many indigenous tribes. Racially, Manipuri people are unique and have features similar to Southeast Asian. The state has four major ethnic communities – Meitei (Hindu), Naga and Kuki (Tribal communities) and Pangal (Muslim). The Meiteis are the dominant non-tribal community constituting 92% of the valley area along with the Pangal (minority group), and the five hill districts are inhabited by about 34 ethnic tribes representing 30% of the state population. They practice distinct culture and tradition and have different socio-economic features. Agriculture is the single largest occupation in Manipur and the mainstay of the state’s economy. The trade of wild vegetables provides an alternative source of income and is mainly done by women. Forests account for 67% of the total land area of this state. The tribal communities collect a large variety of edible and other useful plants from the forest and surrounding wasteland. They also sell a large variety of such plants in the local market.

Ima Keithel
Ima Keithel [Photo: By PP Yoonus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]
The famous “Ima Keithel” (meaning “Mother’s market”) of Manipur which sells vegetables and other household items are exclusively run and controlled by women signifying their role in the society both socio-cultural and economically.”

Through interviews with indigenous plant collectors and sellers, the team documented 68 wild edible vegetables used for nutritive and therapeutic purposes, which they then assessed regarding proper exploitation, conservation, and sustainable management.

Zanthoxylum budrunga
Zanthoxylum budrunga [Photo: By Basu, Baman Das; Kirtikar, Kanhoba Ranchoddas [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
Among the most widely used species were Euryale ferox, Chimonobambusa callosa, Ipomoea aquatica, Oenanthe javanica, Alocasia cucullata, Neptunia oleracea, Houttuynia cordata, Hedychium coronarium, Alpinia nigra, Amomum aromaticum, Eryngium foetidum, Passiflora edulis, Ficus benghalensis, and Zanthoxylum budrunga. Several species were found to be consumed mainly by the tribal communities and rarely known to other communities. These included Z. budrunga, P. edulis, Clerodendrum colebrookianum, Spilanthes paniculata, Cissus javanica, Elatostema lineolatum, Plantago erosa, Litsea cubeba, Zehneria scabra, Cyclanthera pedata, Piper pedicellatum, Solanum nigrum, Eurya acuminate, Solanum betaceum, Allium chinense, Heteropanax sp., Dysoxylum gobara, Diplanzium esculantum, Etlingera linguiformis, Derris wallichii, and Phrynium placentarium.

The authors note:

“Many more such unexplored leafy vegetables are believed to exist. There is a need for exploitation of such unexplored resources given the storehouse of traditional knowledge the tribal possessed. It will provide a way for screening newer and alternative source of nutrition.

“The present finding will be useful in the evaluation of nutritional components of high priority species for their integration into the agricultural system based on nutritive values. Further, assessing their cultivable potential and working towards developing agro-techniques can bring more potential species under domestication for conservation through sustainable use. Moreover, it will also help to understand their role in future food and nutritional security of the state. Therefore, documentation and prioritization would ensure that the highest priority species is preserved for use in crop improvement programs and contribute towards achieving the goal of food and nutritional security.”

This study – the first integrated assessment of wild leafy vegetables to be done in the region – provides a methodology to help select and preserve high-priority species for new alternative sources of nutrition.

“According to the integrated assessment, 57 out of 68 (84%) species have good to high value. These high scoring species exhibit the traits of high-quality vegetables, such as taste, appropriate edible parts, multiple edible parts, availability, abundance, easily cultivable, simple to collect and process, and so on. To increase dietary diversity and livelihood sustenance of local people, complimentary studies and further ethnobotanical studies will be conducted. The traditional knowledge and understanding of wild food plants may serve as baseline data for future research and development activities and further biotechnological intervention. A detailed evaluation of nutritional components of the potential species should be conducted for integration into the agricultural system based on their nutritive values and for the conservation of elite germplasm. Further studies should also be done to assess their cultivable potential and work towards developing propagation and agro-techniques to bring more potential wild species under domestication for sustainable utilization of natural resources. Furthermore, proper value chain development for marketing and value-addition of selected species can facilitate enough income to native communities. Documentation and conservation of highest priority species would ensure they are available for use in genetic improvements of crop species as a contribution towards food and nutritional security. Therefore, communities should engage in sustainable management and preservation of traditional knowledge of these multi-valued resources for the well-being local communities.”

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 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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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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Wild Edible Plants of Burji District, Ethiopia

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Ethnobotanical study of wild edible plants in Burji District, Segan Area Zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), Ethiopia

Ashagre M, Asfaw Z, Kelbessa E
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Aug 2;12(1):32
PubMed Central: PMC4971624

Investigators at Bule Hora University and Addis Ababa University conducted an ethnobotanical study of wild edible plants in the Burji woreda of southeastern Ethiopia.

Ficus sur
Ficus sur (Photo: JMK, Wikimedia Commons)

Using guided field walks, semi-structured interviews, and direct field observations, the team documented 46 wild plant species used as food. Two species (Arisaema schimperianum and Amorphophallus gomboczianus) were used to supplement the regular food supply and the remainder were used during food shortages, including seven species consumed during famine (Dovyalis abyssinica, Ehretia cymosa, Euclea divinorum, Ficus sur, Lannea schimperi, Olea europaea, and Rumex abyssinicus).

Noting that wild edible plants are under threat in the district due to anthropogenic pressures and disturbed climatic conditions, the authors make a number of recommendations for collaborative action:

“Ethnobotanical studies are important to promote the conservation and management of the vegetation of a certain area. The loss of indigenous knowledge on wild edible plants may occur if the resources disappear from the landscape. Being a basic source of information about the types of wild edible plants found in the study area and their use, this study would help in maintaining the ecological balance of the area and serve as a wakeup call for other researchers, including ethnobotanists and ecologists, to proceed to more of such studies. It enriches the herbarium and serves as permanent herbarium records and specimens for determination and quick botanical reference in future. In addition to these:

  • Some plants, for example, Ariseama schimperianum could be a very good food source at any time; hence should be given due attention either in maintaining it or improving it through domestication for more intensive usage.
  • Proper consideration should be given in the conservation and keeping of both wild edible plants and associated indigenous knowledge.
  • Expansion of farm lands through clearing forests and woodlands should be stopped by inducing intensive agricultural activities than extensive one through fulfilling different inputs.
  • The local people need awareness raising interventions about the sustainable use of 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.




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Wild Food Plants and Fungi Used in the Tibetan community of Zhagana

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Wild food plants and fungi used in the mycophilous Tibetan community of Zhagana (Tewo County, Gansu, China)

Kang J, Kang Y, Ji X, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Jun 1;12(1):21
PubMed Central: PMC4890536

Investigators from Northwest A&F University, Yangling Vocational & Technical College, Bailongjiang Forestry Administration Bureau, University of Gdansk, Polish Academy of Sciences, Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l’Asie orientale, University of Glasgow, and University of Rzeszów conducted field research to investigate knowledge and use of wild food plants and fungi in a highland valley in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Region on the north-eastern edges of the Tibetan Plateau.

Pteridium aquilinum
Pteridium aquilinum (Photo: Rasbak, Wikimedia Commons)

The team conducted field research in four neighboring villages in a mountain valley of Diebu (Tewo) county, interviewing villagers singly and in groups (altogether 63 informants) and collecting voucher specimens. DNA barcoding was used to identify fungi. They recorded the use of 54 species of vascular plants and 22 mushroom taxa. The most frequently mentioned wild foods included wild vegetables (Pteridium aquilinum, Notopterygium incisum, Allium chrysanthum, Allium cyaneum, Chenopodium album); fungi (Lactarius deliciosus, Ramaria spp.); fleshy fruits (Fragaria orientalis, Ribes alpestre); and two species used as staple foods (Persicaria vivipara and Potentilla anserina).

The authors note impacts of modernity and tourism in their discussion of the traditional uses of the plants:

“Most wild vegetables and mushrooms are usually boiled, sprinkled with hot oil and served as side-dishes. Wild fleshy fruits are collected mainly by children and eaten raw. Some green parts of plants are eaten as raw snacks: plants with a sour taste (Rumex leaves, Rheum peeled stalks), solidified spruce sap and nectar sucked out of flowers.

“In times of famine or grain scarcity Persicaria vivipara fruits were mixed with barley and used to make flour. This was practiced even up until the 1980s. Other wild staples are the small tubers of Potentilla anserina. They are still gathered now, but are treated only as ceremonial foods, being served during New Year celebrations, funerals and other ceremonial occasions. Their rarer use stems from a very tedious gathering procedure. The tubers are dug out by women in late autumn or early spring. One woman can gather 0.5–1 kg of tubers per day. In the past they also constituted emergency food. Several informants observed changes in the frequency with which wild foods are collected: adults collect and eat less wild vegetables and children snack less on wild fruits. Most people usually use only a few wild vegetables, such as Allium spp., Pteridium and Notopterygium. Some people have stopped eating Chenopodium and Urtica. Due to the increasing involvement of tourism in the valley in the last 5 years, people do not have time to gather fungi in summer, at the peak of the tourist season.

“Practically all families dry wild vegetables for later use, however they do not lacto-ferment them. People usually dry bracken (Pteridium) fronds, Nothopterigium leaves and wild garlic (Allium) flower heads. They also dry a few species of mushrooms, mainly morels (Morchella conica) and milk velvet caps (Lactarius deliciosus var. deterrimus). Morels are an important article of commerce, as is the medicinal Cordyceps sinensis mushroom, which was regarded by our informants as medicinal and not an edible mushroom. Some of our informants stored a few large sacks of morels for sale.”

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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When Two Worlds Collide: The Battle of Bagua

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When Two Worlds Collide
Directed By Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel
2016, Peru
Spanish with English subtitles
Human Rights Watch Film Festival
Walter Reade Theatre, NYC, 16 June 2016
[Film Website]

In December 2007, President Alan Garcia of Peru signed a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. The following June, Garcia’s administration pushed a number of legislative decrees through the Peruvian Congress, including a new Forest and Wildlife Law (DL 1090) and another law, DL 1064, which made it possible to convert state forest lands into private agricultural lands through administrative re-classification. These laws essentially opened Peru’s Amazonian rainforests for the wholesale extraction of natural resources (oil, gas, lumber, etc.) by foreign (primarily U.S.) corporations. The government, however, did not consult with the indigenous people who lived on the 45 million hectares affected by the legislation, in violation of the Peruvian constitution and Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), to which Peru was a signatory.

Indigenous organizations led by La Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (AIDESEP) responded with a series of strikes, protests, and road blockades through June 2009, when Garcia’s administration ordered the national police to forcibly remove protesters in the Amazonas province of Bagua. A small, heavily armed troop of officers fired on nearly 5,000 protesters and the ensuing battle left 33 dead (10 protesters and 23 policemen, with another officer missing and presumed dead).

The government revoked DL 1090 and 1064, AIDESEP lifted the strike, and Peru’s first prior consultation process began, which the government and some NGOs declared a success while AIDESEP and others maintained was plagued by “irregularities, lies, manipulation attempts, and a lack of a consensus in the end.” More than 100 protesters were charged with crimes including murder and sedition, notably among them Alberto Pizango, then chairman of AIDESEP. [1]

Filmmakers Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel open When Two Worlds Collide following Pizango as he hunts and fishes on his ancestral lands, awaiting the outcome of his trial. They expand to document firsthand accounts of indigenous people throughout Amazonas, who reveal how their water, land, and wildlife have been contaminated by extractive industries and how they hope to conserve what remains in a country where they are vastly outnumbered and a world where international investment and trade laws overwhelmingly support corporate rights over all others (environmental, indigenous, human). Contemporary news footage shows President Garcia and his cabinet as they propagandize for extraction and belittle the indigenous protest movement as jungle savagery run amok. Raw video captured by handheld cameras on the scene by local journalists, protesters, and police show the escalation from confrontation to lethal violence, and resulting corpses and funerals.

When Two Worlds Collide effectively integrates storytelling, investigation, and advocacy in a remarkably measured and balanced approach to a potentially explosive subject. While focusing on Pizango and the protesters, the filmmakers open the narrative to include the father of the policeman whose body was never found, who seeks news of his son in Amazonas, and the family of Captain Miguel Montenegro, killed during the conflict after attempting to keep the confrontation peaceful.

When Two Worlds Collide won a World Cinema Documentary special jury prize for Best Debut Feature at Sundance, and will open in NYC at Film Forum on August 17, 2016. The film is scheduled for release in Peru in August-September.

1. Historical summary based on “Box II: Peru’s New Forestry and Wildlife Law” (Environmental Investigation Agency, 2016).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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

Medicinal Dietary Plants Used by the Naxi People of Northwest Yunnan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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

Medicinal Plants Used by the Maonan People of Southwest China

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Ethnobotanical study on medicinal plants used by Maonan people in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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