The Amazon rainforest produces more than 20 percent of the world's oxygen, 20 percent of freshwater, and hosts more than 150,000 plant species rich in beneficial nutrients, phytochemicals, and active elements. Many of these plants are the source of some of the most commonly used life-saving medicines and have antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are used, among other things, to treat Type II diabetes, Alzheimer's disease.
For centuries The indigenous peoples of the rainforest have used many of these plants for medicinal purposes, and their empirical knowledge of plants is widely respected by the scientific community. The theory is that the selection of these medicinal plants is not accidental. The idea is that selection depends in part on the therapeutic efficacy of the plants and therefore certain plant groups are preferred over others.
To test this theory of non-random selection, researchers at Florida Atlantic University's Charles E. Schmidt College of Science collaborated with residents of the Kichwa community, the largest indigenous ethnic group in the Ecuadorian Amazon with 60,000 inhabitants. This region stretches from Brazil via Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.
The study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology is the first to analyze data at the village level, rather than nationally, to ensure that the estimates of the medicinal plant families are consistent with the local availability of these families. It is also one of the most diverse studies on the selection of non-accidental medicinal plants, as it includes the analysis of gender, age, and external influence when working with ecotourism projects.
For the study, the researchers worked with people from the Kichwa communities of Chichico Rumi and Kamak Maki. They discovered a novel way to discover the intracultural heterogeneity of traditional knowledge by testing a non-random selection of medicinal plants and examining the excessive use and underutilization of families of medicinal plants in these communities.
study yielded interesting results. The researchers identified 1
"The study of the gender dimension in our study found some very good results. Interestingly, as men know more about plants than women, "explains Daniela M. Robles Arias, lead author and doctoral student at FAU. It is said that women have more knowledge about medicinal plants because they look after the boys and work more in the chakras or fields. In our study, we observe a different trend. Men mentioned slightly more types of medicinal plants than women, and the two genera abuse different families. These results could indicate that both sexes have the same knowledge, albeit in different areas. "
In the Chichico Rumi community, researchers found that different families of overused and underutilized medicinal plants were identified as a function of the number of disease-related years. Ecotourism, gender, and age all support the intracultural variation of traditional knowledge.
"People who work for Kamak Maki have long been exposed to foreign cultures and markets and are more likely to have some of them replacing their traditional remedies for more modern ones," said Maria Fadiman, co-author of the PhD. and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Geosciences of the FAU. "In addition, ecotourism is a for-profit enterprise, and there is a reverse link between increased wealth and ethnobotanical knowledge."
This study reports for the first time that Urticaceae and Solanaceae are used excessively for medicine in the holotropic kingdom. Urticaceae contains anti-inflammatory polyphenols and oxygenated fatty acids known to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Similarly, the phytochemistry of Solanaceae is promising because its species biosynthesize a variety of secondary metabolites. Another drug that was used in excess in this study was Asteraceae: Members of this family make many biological compounds that have therapeutic benefits. The least used family of medicinal plants were Orchidaceae.
This study proves that the predictions of the theory of non-random selection of medicinal plants for small studies are valid as a single indigenous community. Most of the families identified by the researchers with over-utilized and under-utilized medicinal plants are in agreement with the results of other studies, confirming the theory of non-randomized drug selection. This study shows that it is promising to investigate further factors in the evaluation of phylogenetic distortions in traditional pharmacopoeias.