Tag Archives: indigenous people

Medicinal Plants Used by Balti People in Pakistan’s Shigar Valley


Medicinal plants used by inhabitants of the Shigar Valley, Baltistan region of Karakorum range-Pakistan

Abbas Z, Khan SM, Alam J, Khan SW, Abbasi AM
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Sep 25;13(1):53
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5613401

Skardu, Shigar Valley, Pakistan
Skardu, Shigar Valley, Pakistan [Photo: Rizwan Saeed, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators at Hazara University, Quaid-i-Azam University, Karakoram International University, and COMSATS conducted an ethnobotanical study to document medicinal uses of plant species by the inhabitants of the Shigar Valley in the Karakorum Range of Northern Pakistan. This is the first such study in the region, which is home to ethnic Balti people of Tibetan descent:

“Baltistan is an archetypal mountainous region of the Northern Pakistan with average altitude of 3555 m above sea level. Historically, it has often been referred as “Western Tibet” or ‘Little Tibet’. The territories of the Baltistan region lie sparsely at acclivities and in deep mountains of Karakorum and Himalaya with unique landscape, climate, flora and fauna. However, remoteness, difficult access and inadequate funding may be the major handicaps to conduct field survey in these areas. Only few workers have conducted ethnobotanical survey in some parts of Northern Pakistan. Therefore, very limited ethno-botanical literature is available in the region. Shigar valley is located in the Karakorum Ranges, and is the home of various peaks (including K2), glaciers and hot springs, which have always been the most preferred tracking places for visitors across the country and abroad. Ethno-botany is a recently introduced and rapidly flourishing field in this region, and is gaining adequate attention by researchers. Although, various ethnobotanical surveys have be conducted in different parts of Pakistan. However, Northern parts of country are still poorly explored. Therefore, present survey aimed to provide the first inventory on ethno-pharmacological application of medicinal plant species used by the inhabitants of Balti community of Shigar valley, Karakorum Mountains-Pakistan.”

Allium carolinianum
Allium carolinianum [Photo: Sherpaworld, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with local respondents, the team identified 84 medicinal plant species used primarily to treat abdominal, respiratory, and skin ailments. Commonly used plants included Allium carolinianum, Hippophe rhamnoides, Tanacetum falconeri, and Thymus linearis. Roughly a quarter of the species were identified for medicinal uses for the first time and included Aconitum violoceum, Arnebia guttata, Biebersteinia odora, Clematis alpina, Corydalis adiantifolia, Hedysarum falconeri, and Saussurea simpsoniana.

The authors found the results to be significant for scientific purposes, as well as for conservation and cultural/economic development:

“Present study illustrated diverse medicinal flora in the territories of Gilgit-Baltistan mountains. The exclusive alliance of medicinal plants, mountain restricted distribution and high level disagreement in traditional uses corroborate the significance of this study. Being the first inventory on medicinal flora of Shigar valley, present study offers baseline data for researchers, particularly interested in high mountains phyto-diversity and related traditional knowledge. The sub-alpine species in environs are practicable for conservation and cultivation. The abundance of medicinal plant species in the study area could enhance the economic status of local communities by marketing and sustainable utilization. Local inhabitants can make their home gardens or micro park system of medicinally important species on their own land.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

Send email to avery@williamaveryhudson.com for information about submitting qualified published research for sponsored posts on this blog.

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 as Insect Repellents in Malaria-Endemic Localities of Cameroon


Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used as insects repellents in six malaria endemic localities of Cameroon

Youmsi RDF, Fokou PVT, Menkem EZ, Bakarnga-Via I, Keumoe R, Nana V, Boyom FF
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Jun 8;13(1):3
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5465592

Investigators from the University of Yaoundé, University of Adam Barka-Abeche, and National Herbarium of Cameroon conducted an ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used as insect repellents in six malaria-endemic localities of Cameroon: Lolodorf, Bipindi, Kribi-Londji, Dimako, Kon-Yambetta, and Mbouda (Babete). The inhabitants of these regions include Bagyeli, Bakola, and Baka pygmies, among others.

Citrus limon
Citrus limon [Photo: WAH]
Working with 182 local informants, the team identified 16 plant species commonly used as insect repellents, including Canarium schweinfurthii, Chromolaena odorata, Citrus limon, and Elaeis guineensis. Important modes of administration included plants burnt to produce smoke inside the house (50%), smashed for topical application (31%), and hung inside the house (19%).

The authors concluded that the results have baseline potential for further scientific investigation of plant-based mosquito repellents, while urging caution regarding the use of one plant, Erythrophleum ivorense:

“[T]he insecticidal activity of the bark extract of Erythrophleum ivorense was previously reported in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Besides, Erythrophleum ivorense is resistant to fungi, dry wood borers and termites. This denotes repellency/insecticidal properties that might be explained by the presence of pharmacologically active alkaloids in the bark and seed such as cassaine, cassaidine and erythrophleguine. However, it should be noted that high doses of the bark extract are extremely strong, rapid-acting cardiac poison in warm-blooded animals causing shortness of breath, seizures and cardiac arrest in a few minutes. Furthermore, the seeds are reported to be more toxic due to a strong haemolytic saponin which acts synergistically with the alkaloids. Fresh bark of this plant was reported to be burnt by Mbamda (Bafia) people to repel in-house mosquitoes. Given the presence of toxic alkaloids in the bark, the resulting smokes are highly likely to be equally poisonous to insects and human, stressing the fact that it should be used with caution or simply discontinued.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

Send email to avery@williamaveryhudson.com for information about submitting qualified published research for sponsored posts on this blog.

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.

Ethnobotanical Use of Medicinal Plants in Sheikhupura District, Punjab, Pakistan


An ethnopharmacological evaluation of Navapind and Shahpur Virkanin district Sheikupura, Pakistan for their herbal medicines

Zahoor M, Yousaf Z, Aqsa T, Haroon M, Saleh N, Aftab A, Javed S, Qadeer M, Ramazan H
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 May 8;13(1):27
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5422909

Punjab Province, Pakistan
Punjab Province, Pakistan [Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from the Lahore College for Women University conducted an ethnopharmacological survey to document the medicinal uses of wild plants in the villages of Nava Pind and Shahpur Virkanin in the Sheikhupura district of Punjab province in eastern Pakistan. This is the first quantitative ethnobotanical documentation of medicinal plants to be undertaken in the region.

“The village[s] NavaPind and ShahpurVirkan [of the] district Sheikhupura are floristically quite rich tropical regions of Punjab. Ethnobotanical study of this area has never been conducted. The climate of the area is subjected to extreme variations. Wheat, Rice and Sugarcane are the main cash crops. Guavas, Strawberries and Citrus are grown at a larger scale in this district. Literacy rate of the villages is very low. Generally it is observed that most men in these areas are engaged in unskilled labor, while women are self-employed in petty trade of agriculture especially in the collection and trade of wild food and medicinal plants. Mostly plants are used for many purposes like food, shelter and therapeutic agents. However, lack of scientific knowledge about the useable parts, proper time of collection and wasteful methods of collection lead to mismanagement of these plants. So, the indigenous knowledge is going to be depleted. Hence ethnobotanical survey is planned for NavaPind and ShahpurVirkan district Sheikhupura, province Punjab to document the traditional uses of medicinal plants in the area before the information is lost.”

Ocimum sanctum
Ocimum sanctum [Photo: WAH]
Working with indigenous local informants, the team identified 96 plant species used for medicinal purposes, including 12 species that had not been previously reported for medicinal properties: Allium roylei, Asthenatherum forkalii, Carthamus tinctorius, Conyza erigeron, Digitaria ciliaris, Digitaria nodosa, Jasminum nudiflorum, Malva verticillata, Melilotus indica [Melilotus indicus], Ocimum sanctum, Schoenoplectus supinus, and Tetrapogon tenellus. Therapeutic applications included abdominal pain, respiratory disorder, cholera, and use as a skin tonic, among others.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

Send email to avery@williamaveryhudson.com for information about submitting qualified published research for sponsored posts on this blog.

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.

Review of Traditional Medicinal Plants Used to Treat Malaria in Ethiopia


Systematic review on traditional medicinal plants used for the treatment of malaria in Ethiopia: trends and perspectives

Alebie G, Urga B, Worku A
Malar J. 2017 Aug 1;16(1):307
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5540187

Investigators at Jigjiga University conducted a systematic web search analysis and review of research literature pertaining to medicinal plants used for traditional malaria treatment in Ethiopia.

Writing in Malaria Journal, the authors note that antimalarial ethnomedicinal research in Ethiopia remains limited:

“Despite the remarkable historic success of traditional medicinal practices and abundance of indigenous medicinal plant resources, anti-malarial ethno-pharmacological research in Ethiopia remains at primitive stage, with scope limited to evaluating crude extracts from various anti-malarial plants against Plasmodium berghei. A prominent gap is evident with regard to research geared towards identifying plant bioactive entities, and establishing the efficacy and safety of medical plants through in vitro assays using human Plasmodium parasites, in vivo assay involving higher animal models and randomized clinical trials. Absence of favourable medicinal plant research and development impedes optimum exploitation of potential economic benefits. Thus, despite holding one of the richest (diversity and quantity) resources in the continent, large-scale production and export of medicinal plants has remained limited in Ethiopia. Prevailing scenarios underscore a pressing need for enhancing pre-clinical and clinical research aimed at developing safe, effective and affordable alternative anti-malarial agents from indigenous plant resources. This requires collaborative engagement involving government bodies, researchers, traditional healers, and prospective business investors.”

Tamarindus indica
Tamarindus indica [Photo: WAH]
Collecting data from 82 studies identifying a total 200 different plant species used in traditional malaria treatments throughout Ethiopia, the team highlighted a rich diversity of indigenous medicinal plants commonly used for traditional treatment of malaria in Ethiopia. The most frequently cited species included Allium sativum, Carica papaya, Vernonia amygdalina, Croton macrostachyus, Lepidium sativum, Justicia schimperiana, Phytolacca dodecandra, Dodonaea angustifolia, Melia azedarach, Clerodendrum myricoides, Aloe sp., Azadirachta indica, Brucea antidysenteric, Calpurnia aurea, Eucalyptus globulus, Ajuga integrifolia, Carissa spinarum, Artemisia afra, Moringa stenopetala, Ruta chalepensis, Salvadora persica, and Tamarindus indica.

Decoction, concoction, eating/chewing, infusion, and pounding represented the most common methods of preparation. Some of the medicinal products were prepared from mixtures of two or more different plant species and various other additives were also used in some of the treatments:

“Additives were mostly used to moderate the power and/or improve the taste and enhance the efficacy and healing conditions of the remedy. This could possibly be attributed to synergistic effects of the mixtures that might contain a range of pharmacologically active compounds potentially augmenting the chance of the drug interacting with numerous, varied biological targets. Their interaction might influence selectivity, availability, absorption and displacement (distribution) of the remedy, and bioactivity, including enzyme activities. Thus, such traditional practices could provide the opportunity to understand drug interaction and mechanisms of actions, and pave the way to discovering lead structures for the development of novel anti-malarial drugs.”

Many of the species identified in the study have previously demonstrated promising antimalarial potential in preclinical and clinical investigations, among them Artemisia annua, Ajuga remota, Azadirachta indica, Argemone mexicana, Vernonia amygdalina, Asparagus africanus, Uvaria leptocladon, and Gossypium spp. In addition, promising candidate antimalarial compounds have been identified from some of the plants.

In their conclusion, the authors recommend coordinated multidisciplinary research to further develop the therapeutic potential of anti-malarial compounds from plant species used for the treatment of malaria in Ethiopia:

“Ethno-medicinal research on distribution and usage pattern of anti-malarial plants shows substantial variability across a spectrum of geographic and social strata in the country. Baseline information gaps are evident in key geographic settings, such as the Beshangul Gumuz and Gambella regions. Divergent preparation and use patterns of anti-malarial herbal remedies, as well as associated toxicity risks and countermeasures, generally demand deeper, exhaustive investigations. Experimental research and advanced chemical analysis are required to identify and validate the therapeutic potential of anti-malarial chemical compounds from promising plant species, with due consideration to efficacy and safety issues. Sustainable development and exploitation of indigenous medicinal plant resources entails coordinated multidisciplinary research programmes that give due credit to traditional practitioners and engage with commercial investors.”

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.

Integration of Traditional Herbal Medicines among the Indigenous Communities in Thiruvarur District of Tamil Nadu


Integration of traditional herbal medicines among the indigenous communities in Thiruvarur District of Tamil Nadu, India

Krupa J, Sureshkumar J, Silambarasan R, Priyadarshini K, Ayyanar M
J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2018 Aug 14
PubMed: 30120054

Thiruvarur District, Tamil Nadu, India
Thiruvarur District, Tamil Nadu, India [Source: BishkekRocks, WikiMedia Commons]
Investigators at AVVM Sri Pushpam College (Autonomous) explored and documented folk medicinal plant knowledge among the local people in Puliyankudi village of Thiruvarur District, Tamil Nadu, India.

The team recorded 116 plant species used in the Siddha medicinal system, one of the traditional medical systems practiced by Tamil people. Information was collected from traditional healers, traders, local vendors, and other local people with knowledge of medicinal plants.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) [Photo: WAH]
Limonia acidissima was reported by all the interviewed informants, followed by Achyranthes aspera, Celosia argentea, Aristolochia bracteolata, Ocimum basilicum, Mangifera indica, Lantana camara, and Physalis minima. Reported medicinal uses included kidney problems, dental care, and respiratory problems, among others.

From the conclusion:

“The study exemplifies the vast diversity of medicinal plants which are used for primary health care system and this is the first report from ethnobotanical point of view. Local people (informants) in the study area utilizing a number of plants for preparation of folk medicines with proper training acquired from their forefathers and also from some ancient text book resources. However, some of the plant species such as Acalypha indica, Annona squamosa, Aponogeton natans, Azima tetracantha, Basella rubra, Cardiospermum halicacabum, Coccinia grandis, Digera muricata, Ipomoea aquatica, Phyllanthus emblica are used along with their food in day-to-day life. The plants with highest use values in this study indicates possible occurrence of valuable metabolites. There is an urgent need for exploiting frequently used ethnomedicinal plants for the development of potential new drugs to treat various ailments.”

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.

The Medicinal Plants of Bhutan’s Lower Kheng Region


Pharmacological, ethnopharmacological, and botanical evaluation of subtropical medicinal plants of Lower Kheng region in Bhutan

Wangchuk P, Yeshi K, Jamphel K
Integr Med Res. 2017 Dec; 6(4): 372–387
PubMed Central: PMC5741394
Zhemgang Dzongkhag (District), Bhutan
Zhemgang District, Bhutan

Investigators at James Cook University, Wangbama Central School, and the Bhutan Ministry of Health conducted an ethnobotanical study to identify subtropical medicinal plants from the Lower Kheng region in the Zhemgang District of Bhutan, where Bhutanese Sowa Rigpa medicine has been practiced for centuries:

“In Bhutan, while some traditional physicians argue that Sowa Rigpa originated in the 8th century CE with the advent of Mahayana Buddhism, many scholars believe that it was only in 1616 that Lama Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal laid written foundation to this medical system. The Bhutanese Sowa Rigpa medicine (BSM) belong to the larger corpus of the Tibetan scholarly medical (TSM) system, which was derived from Chinese Traditional Medicine, Indian Ayurvedic Medicine, Greco-Roman medicine, and the Persian medicine (Galenos). However, the country’s culture, tradition, local medical practices, geography, and vegetation influenced the way BSM evolved independently over many centuries, making it specific to Bhutan.”

The authors note that theirs is the first ethnobotanical study to be conducted in the Lower Kheng region:

“The criteria and reasons for choosing these areas as our ethnobotanical study areas were: (1) there was unsubstantiated/anecdotal claim about the lush growth of LAMP in the region; (2) no ethnobotanical study has been conducted in this region to date; and (3) Lower Kheng people are poor and their engagement in the medicinal plants collection, cultivation, and marketing programs could help them generate cash income.”

Aquilaria malaccensis
Aquilaria malaccensis [Source: W. Saunders – Illustrations of the botany and other branches of the natural history of the Himalayan Mountains. Volume 2 (Public Domain)]
The research team identified 61 medicinal plants, 30 of which were found in abundance, including Terminalia chebula, Terminalia bellirica, and Phyllanthus emblica, together known as “King of Medicine” (Mengi-Pawo) or “Three Powerful Medicines.” Another species, Aquilaria malaccensis, which is considered rare in other parts of the world, was found to be abundantly cultivated in household and community gardens throughout the region. More than 20 species were found in all the villages surveyed. These included Bombax ceiba, Canarium strictum, Cassia tora, Cautleya spicata, Choerospondias axillaris, Cinnamomum impressinervium, Erythrina arborescens, Justicia adhatoda, Knema tenuinervia, Mucuna imbricata, Otochilus lancilabius, Phlogacanthus thyrsiformis, Piper mullesua, Rhus chinensis, Stephania glabra, Symplocos sumuntia, and Tinospora cordifolia.

In their conclusion, the authors recommend further work toward sustainable development and commercialization of the region’s medicinal plants:

“Many plant species have commercial and economic values. While MSP is currently viewed as the sole domestic market for these medicinal plants, many species have international significance (especially applicable to countries that practice Tibetan Sowa Rigpa medicine and Indian Ayurvedic medicine including India, Nepal, Mongolia, Tibet, Europe, and Northern America). The communities would largely benefit by domesticating or cultivating them in the household gardens or as cash crops in their family orchards. This medicinal plants program has the potential to alleviate poverty in these three Gewog communities and could enhance the happiness, wellbeing and development in Bhutan. Since the communities consume 28 medicinal plants as food grains, spices, herbs, and fruits, it can be assumed that the local people are also deriving health benefits.”

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.

Ethnobotany of the Nakuan People: Past & Present Medicinal Uses of Plants


Naukan ethnobotany in post-Soviet times: lost edibles and new medicinals

Jernigan KA, Belichenko OS, Kolosova VB, Orr DJ
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Nov 17;13(1):61
PubMed Central: PMC5693499

Investigators at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, European University at St. Petersburg, and Institute for Linguistic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences conducted an ethnobotanical study of health-related plant use among speakers of the critically endangered Naukan language in the Russian Far East, as part of a larger project to document and compare edible, medicinal, and spiritual plant use among the Naukan and Chukchi peoples of Chukotka, Russia, and the Central Alaskan Yup’ik.

Cape Dezhnev
Detail of a USCGS chart from 1937 showing Cape Dezhnev (East Cape) and the historical villages Tunkan, Uelen (Ugelen), Naukan (Nuokan), Enmitahin, and Dezhnevo (Port Dezhnev). [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, the authors begin by describing the history of the Naukan people, which is marked by forced relocation under the Soviet regime:

“The village of Naukan (originally called Nevuqaq) was built on Cape Dezhnev, at the extreme eastern end of Eurasia. Subsistence practices focused on hunting sea mammals including the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), spotted seal (Phoca largha), and bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus). This was supplemented by hunting of land mammals and gathering of plants and smaller marine organisms. During the Russian Imperial and early Soviet period, the site served as an important center for commercial and cultural exchange between the Chukchi on the Russian side and the Iñupiat on the Alaskan side of the Bering Strait. Intermarriages were common between the people of Naukan and the islands of Big and Little Diomede, in the Russian and US territories, respectively.

In 1958, the Soviet government closed Naukan as part of a larger program of consolidation of local population centers, and residents were forced to move to the neighboring Chukchi villages of Nunyamo and Uelen. Nunyamo, in turn, was closed in 1977, and local people moved from there to the villages of Lavrentiya and Lorino, where most reside today.

Following relocation, the Naukan people and their culture experienced significant changes in spiritual worldview, subsistence practices, social structure, and language proficiency. Waves of military and civilian migrants from other parts of the Soviet Union also contributed to these broad changes through direct personal interaction, including intermarriages. Although Naukan people did not experience the acculturative influences of missionary activity that were widespread on the Alaskan side of the Bering Strait, shamans were persecuted and the accompanying spiritual practices were greatly challenged by the dominance of materialism under Soviet rule.”

Artemisia tilesii
Artemisia tilesii, Denali National Park and Preserve [Source: Wikimedia Commons, NPS / Jacob W. Frank, Public Domain]
Working with Naukan speakers in Russia and Alaska, the team documented 42 ethnobotanically useful species with Naukan names. While participants reported a decrease in the number of edible species harvested from what they recall from their youth, the number of species considered to be medicinal increased significantly. These medicinal plant species included Alaria marginata, Angelica gmelinii, Artemisia tilesii, Empetrum nigrum, Epilobium latifolium, Laminaria saccharina, Petasites frigidus, Polygonum tripterocarpum, Rhodiola integrifolia, Rhododendron tomentosum, Rubus chamaemorus, Salix pulchra, and Vaccinium vitis-idaea.

In their conclusion, the authors note a broadening in focus from the specifically therapeutic to include more preventative applications of medicinal plants by the Naukan-speaking people who have survived into the modern era:

“The most surprising result of this research is the direction of change in medicinal plant use. The Naukan present an interesting case where acculturative forces appear to have significantly expanded the botanical pharmacopeia through the borrowing of ethnic Russian traditions. Older Naukan participants often said that their original concept of medicine emphasized prevention. For example, the leaves of willows (Salix pulchra Cham.) and willow herb (Epilobium latifolium L.) aid the digestive system and help prevent stomach upset when they are eaten as part of a meal. This traditional emphasis on staying healthy reflects findings by researchers working in some other parts of the arctic as well.”

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.

The Interplay of Language & Knowledge: Plant Species Used by the Chácobo


Traditional knowledge hiding in plain sight – twenty-first century ethnobotany of the Chácobo in Beni, Bolivia

Paniagua Zambrana NY, Bussmann RW, Hart RE, Moya Huanca AL, Ortiz Soria G, Ortiz Vaca M, Ortiz Álvarez D, Soria Morán J, Soria Morán M, Chávez S, Chávez Moreno B, Chávez Moreno G, Roca O, Siripi E
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Oct 10;13(1):57
PubMed Central: PMC5634836

Beni Department of Bolivia
Beni Department of Northeastern Bolivia [Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Missouri Botanical Garden and Instituto Linguistico Chácobo conducted an ethnobotanical inventory of the indigenous Chácobo population, with interviews and plant collection conducted directly by Chácobo counterparts in the Beni department of northeastern Bolivia.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, the team describes the Chácobo Ethnobotany Project, in which they trained 10 indigenous Chácobo participants in ethnobotanical interview and plant-collection techniques. In turn, the interviewers collected ethnobotanical information from 301 Chácobo participants, representing almost the entire adult Chácobo population.

About the Chácobo people (from the paper’s Methods section):

“The Chácobo belong to the Panoan linguistic group, which includes about twelve tribes (Chácobo, Pacahuara, Matis, Matses, Yaminahua, Ese Eja and others). At the end of the 1890s, the Chácobo lived as semi–nomadic hunters and cassava and maize cultivators, probably in two groups, one with six families and one with four, in north Bolivia, between Lake Roguagnado and the river Mamore, south of their current territory. During the rubber boom in the early 1900s, they were forced by more aggressive tribes to move north, where rubber tappers, who also brought disease and epidemics to the tribe, threatened them. While other tribes were enslaved to work in rubber stations, the Chácobo managed to avoid most of the outside influences. Their first permanent contact with the outside world occurred only in 1953 with members of the the Tribes Missions, and in 1954 the Bolivian government established an agency about 15 km from the current location of Puerto Limones. The missionary linguist Gilbert Prost arrived in 1955 under the auspices of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL)…. In 1964, Prost managed to buy a territory in the north of the Chácobo’s ancestral lands, forming the community of Alto Ivón, and most of the remaining population moved there. In 1965, the Bolivian government finally assigned 43,000 ha of land to the Chácobo, although this area was less than 10% of their original territory. The influence of the SIL caused profound cultural change among the Chácobo, including the reported abandonment of traditional costume and dances in 1969. The official indigenous organization of the Chácobo (Central Indígena de la Región Amazónica de Bolivia (CIRABO) estimates a current population of the Chácobo community of about 1000 people…. The current territory of the tribe according to CIRABO encompasses 450,000 ha, and is roughly equivalent to the original extent of the tribe’s ancestral lands.”

Dysphania ambrosioides, formerly Chenopodium ambrosioides
Dysphania ambrosioides (Chenopodium ambrosioides) [Source: USDA, Wikimedia Commons]
The project documented 331 plant species used by the Chácobo people, including a large number of plants with specifically medicinal uses. Medicinal plants included Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Anacardium occidentale, Chenopodium ambrosioides [Dysphania ambrosioides], Cymbopetalum brasiliense, Mangifera indica, and Tapirira guianensis, among others.

The team worked exclusively with Chácobo interviewers in an effort to avoid the limiting influence of foreign interviewers. In their Discussion, the authors note a possible link between traditional knowledge and traditional language, with indigenous language proficiency correlating with ethnobotanical knowledge:

“The observation that local and indigenous languages often package rich traditional ecological knowledge has led to the question in many studies of whether indigenous language abilities influence plant knowledge, i.e. if native language speakers have a higher knowledge than participants only speaking a mainstream language. In our study, the link between language proficiency and other metrics of traditional knowledge (plants and uses reported) does support at least the correlation of these variables, and suggest the possibility of simultaneous language and knowledge retention (or erosion).”

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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Conservation in Conflict with Ethnobotanical Culture in Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley


Traditional knowledge on wild and cultivated plants in the Kilombero Valley (Morogoro Region, Tanzania)

Salinitro M, Vicentini R, Bonomi C, Tassoni A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2017 Mar 9;13(1):17 PubMed Central: PMC5345176

The Kilombero River floodplain of Tanzania, from Udzungwa Mountains National Park
The Kilombero River floodplain of Tanzania, from Udzungwa Mountains National Park [photo: Jens Klinzing, Wikimedia Commons]
Researchers from the University of Bologna and MUSE (Museo delle Scienze) investigated and recorded traditional knowledge about the use of wild and cultivated plants in villages adjacent to Udzungwa Mountains National Park in Tanzania’s Kilombero River floodplain.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, the team reports findings from interviews with ten traditional local healers selected with the collaboration of Associazione Mazingira, a group affiliated with MUSE that runs environmental education projects in the area and maintains close contact with the local people.

Cajanus cajan
Cajanus cajan [Art: Francisco Manuel Blanco, Wikimedia Commons]
The traditional healers described 196 plant species used for ethnomedicinal and other everyday purposes like food, fibers, and timber, 118 of which the team could classify botanically. Species highly cited for medicinal purposes included Cajanus cajan (teeth and gums, otitis); Hibiscus surattensis (eye diseases, gastrointestinal diseases); Kigelia africana (pain and inflammation, gastrointestinal diseases); and Vitex doniana (weakness and fainting).

The authors note that forests in Tanzania are under severe threat, with deforestation in the Kilombero Valley in particular caused by competition for land by agriculture, teak and eucalyptus plantations, and charcoal production. In contrast to the lowlands, forests in the neighboring Udzungwa Mountains are protected along the entire range, increasingly restricting the access of local people to harvesting areas, to the detriment of ethnobotanical knowledge in the region:

“For years, local healers could bypass the restrictions for access to National Parks, but given the increasingly strict rules, they have lately been forced to change their places of collection with a serious impact on everyday life. In fact, the knowledge and experience of each traditional healer are deeply linked to the place where he/she learned and practiced plant collection over the years. There are now few forest areas in Kilombero Valley that can provide therapeutic plants. These are located far from the villages, and some of the collection methods, such as decortication [removal of a plant’s outer layer], could be extremely impactful when carried out in small areas, making the plants unusable after a few years….

“Since the founding of Udzungwa Mountains National Park, more than 24 years ago, there has been a depletion of the traditional medical culture, due to the forced abbandonement of familiar areas of collection, as well as the progressively more difficult transmission of knowledge to and training of young healers. Finally, the cost of traditional medicine is now starting to grow, causing a significant problem for people who have always relied on this method for their healthcare.”

The creation and subsequent management of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park has had the unintended consequence of reducing collection areas for plant species essential to the lives of people living in the Kilombero Valley, intensifying the harvesting pressure on the few remaining areas of unprotected forest and endangering ethnobotanical culture and knowledge developed over many generations:

“Harvesting practices like root excavation and stem decortication are causing a progressive depletion of many medicinal plant species. In addition, deforestation makes medicinal species harvesting areas increasingly scarce, forcing many local healers to abandon the practice. In the light of these facts, it is essential, in the immediate future, to educate traditional healers as well as common people to the sustainable use of the surrounding natural heritage. It seems also necessary to provide the populations with additional means to increase the forested areas, such as the distribution of seedlings for biomass production. Although some efforts have already been made in the studied territory, and in spite of a firm tradition in Tanzania of community-based forest conservation, the situation remains critical and the state of unprotected forests near these villages is deteriorating year after year. This situation, if not quickly reversed, may lead to an unprecedented environmental crisis and to the loss of much of the traditional ethnobotanical culture. In this context, the present study wishes to contribute, at least to some ex[t]ent, to preserving the knowledge present in the investigated populations, still deeply connected to nature, and to passing down this unevaluable tradition to future generations.”

In passing, the authors state that “no actions have been taken to solve problems related to plant gathering practices.” Might this area of neglect motivate some new initiatives to solve a perennial problem, how best to balance the aims of forest conservation with the rights and needs of indigenous people?

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.

Recognizing & Recovering Traditional Knowledge of Saraguro Healers in Southern Ecuador


Ethnobotany of Indigenous Saraguros: Medicinal Plants Used by Community Healers “Hampiyachakkuna” in the San Lucas Parish, Southern Ecuador

Andrade JM, Lucero Mosquera H, Armijos C
Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:9343724
PubMed Central: PMC5514338

Loja Province, Ecuador
Loja Province, Ecuador [Source: TUBS, WikimediaCommons]
Investigators at Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja conducted an ethnobotanical survey in the Loja Province of southern Ecuador to learn about the use of medicinal plants by Hampiyachakkuna community healers treating the indigenous Saraguro population in San Lucas Parish.

Writing in the journal BioMed Research International, authors José M. Andrade, Hernán Lucero Mosquera, and Chabaco Armijos note that only a few ethnobotanical studies have reported on the use of plants in the Saraguro region and that a thorough documentation of medicinal plants used by Saraguro healers has not been done prior to this investigation. They describe an urgent need to document and preserve this cultural knowledge:

“The Saraguros are one of the best-organized ethnical groups in Ecuador and have conserved many aspects of their ancient culture and traditions for centuries. They demonstrate the latter by preserving their typical dressing, language, religion, gastronomy, architecture, social habits, and medical practices. Among their medical practice traditions, this ethnic group is known for the use of medicinal plants in their own health care system. In fact, the use of these plants as therapeutic agents is an important feature of traditional indigenous medicine and is still practiced within the Saraguro community. In particular, the Saraguros are highly recognized for the development of optimization techniques that help them select natural/plant resources to be used in their health care practices.”

The team carried out their research on several field visits, during which they interviewed four healers from the Saraguro community (a Wachakhampiyachak [midwife], a Yurakhampiyachak [herbalist], a Kakuyhampiyachak [bone-healer], and a Rikuyhampiyachak [visionary]) regarding the medicinal plants they used in their practices. Notably, while the healers are highly trusted and recognized as effective by the community, they are also well integrated into the region’s allopathic health care system and readily transfer a patient to a health center or hospital when they detect serious conditions.

Working with the healers, the investigators documented the existence of 183 medicinal plant species used in 75 different curative therapies, including nervous system treatments, cold treatments, infection treatments, general malaise treatments, inflammatory treatments of the liver and kidneys, and “mythological” treatments (for diseases determined to be of a supernatural nature).

Salvia leucocephala
Salvia leucocephala [Photo: Dick Culbert, Wikimedia Commons]
The team documented thirteen medicinal plants endemic to the region: Achyrocline hallii (sacha algodón); Ageratina dendroides (pegac chilca); Bejaria subsessilis (pena de cerro); Brachyotum scandens (sarcillo sacha); Dendrophthora fastigiata (suelda pequeña); Diplostephium juniperinum (monte de baño); Diplostephium oblanceolatum (chuquir agua); Fuchsia hypoleuca (sacha pena); Huperzia austroecuadorica (wuaminga verde pequeño); Lepechinia paniculata (shallshón); Phoradendron parietarioides (suelda grande); Salvia leucocephala (sp flor morado); Siphocampylus scandens (pena rojo de monte). Most of these plants are either vulnerable or endangered, due primarily to habitat loss.

In their conclusion, the authors stress the importance of preservation:

“This research conducted in collaboration with the members of the native Saraguro community constitutes a baseline study to help promote the preservation of this ancient medicinal knowledge by a thorough documentation of the natural resources and processing methods used. Moreover, we hope the results of this study motivate young generations to envision the potential of the use and application of traditional knowledge in medicinal practices. Finally, this scientific research and the results here reported aim at preserving and enhancing, as much as possible, a culture of the practice of natural ancient medicinal science, while preserving the environment, nature, life, culture, and sovereignty of the Saraguro people.”

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.