The Glocal Nature of Waldensian Ethnobotany


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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