Pharmacy in the jungle study reveals indigenous people’s choice of medicinal plants

The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen, 20 percent of the world’s fresh water and is home to more than 150,000 species of plants rich in beneficial nutrients, phytochemicals and active elements. Many of these plants are the source of some the most widely used and lifesaving medicines, which have antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties used to treat type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, among others.

For centuries, indigenous people of the Rainforest have used many of these plants for medicinal purposes and their empirical plant knowledge is widely respected by the scientific community. Theory has it that how they select these medicinal plants is not random. The idea is that selection is influenced in part by the therapeutic efficacy of the plants and therefore certain groups of plants would be favored over others.

To put this non-random selection theory to test, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and collaborators worked with residents of the Kichwa community, the largest indigenous ethnic group in the Ecuadorian Amazon with a population of 60,000. This region stretches from Brazil through Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.

The study, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, is the first to analyze data collected at the village-level rather than the national level to guarantee that the estimates of medicinal plant families are consistent with the availability of these families locally. It also is one of the most diverse studies of the non-random medicinal plants selection because it includes analysis by gender, age and exposure to outside influences from working with ecotourism projects….

Better grab it while you can:

Daniela M. Robles Arias, Daniela Cevallos, Orou G. Gaoue, Maria G. Fadiman, Tobin Hindle. Non-random medicinal plants selection in the Kichwa community of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2020; 246: 112220 DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2019.112220

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