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Mao's heritage: medicinal plant knowledge among the Bai in Shaxi, China, at a crossroad between distinct local and common widespread practice


Weckerle, C S; Ineichen, R; Huber, F K; Yang, Y (2009). Mao's heritage: medicinal plant knowledge among the Bai in Shaxi, China, at a crossroad between distinct local and common widespread practice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 123(2):213-228.

Abstract

Ethnopharmacological relevance: The study focuses on medicinal plant knowledge among the Bai in the Shaxi Valley, Northwest Yunnan, where no ethnobotanical study has been conducted so far. In an area of high biodiversity, distinct medicinal plant knowledge is documented and the influence of herbals on local knowledge is revealed.

Aim of the study: To analyse current medicinal plant knowledge among the Bai in the context of the influence of the Han culture and mainstream Chinese herbal medicine.

Materials and methods: During fieldwork in summer 2005, semistructured interviews were conducted with 68 stakeholders, and voucher specimens of all plants mentioned were prepared.

Results: A total of 176 medicinal plant species were documented and 1133 use-reports have been collected. Overall, 91.5% of the documented plants are already established as known drugs, and are mentioned in books on medicinal plants in Yunnan and China. Furthermore, the way in which they are used largely coincides. Fourteen plant species represent novel recordings, 9 of which were independently mentioned by three or more informants.

Conclusions: The medicinal plant knowledge of the Bai is strongly influenced by mainstream Chinese herbal medicine and especially by medicinal plant books from the 1970s, which were distributed under Mao Zedong's directive to improve rural health care. We conclude that these herbals have exerted, and continue to exert, a strong influence on the standardisation of plant knowledge among rural populations in China. However, distinct local use of plants also exists, indicating that plant knowledge specific to the Bai people is alive and practiced.

Abstract

Ethnopharmacological relevance: The study focuses on medicinal plant knowledge among the Bai in the Shaxi Valley, Northwest Yunnan, where no ethnobotanical study has been conducted so far. In an area of high biodiversity, distinct medicinal plant knowledge is documented and the influence of herbals on local knowledge is revealed.

Aim of the study: To analyse current medicinal plant knowledge among the Bai in the context of the influence of the Han culture and mainstream Chinese herbal medicine.

Materials and methods: During fieldwork in summer 2005, semistructured interviews were conducted with 68 stakeholders, and voucher specimens of all plants mentioned were prepared.

Results: A total of 176 medicinal plant species were documented and 1133 use-reports have been collected. Overall, 91.5% of the documented plants are already established as known drugs, and are mentioned in books on medicinal plants in Yunnan and China. Furthermore, the way in which they are used largely coincides. Fourteen plant species represent novel recordings, 9 of which were independently mentioned by three or more informants.

Conclusions: The medicinal plant knowledge of the Bai is strongly influenced by mainstream Chinese herbal medicine and especially by medicinal plant books from the 1970s, which were distributed under Mao Zedong's directive to improve rural health care. We conclude that these herbals have exerted, and continue to exert, a strong influence on the standardisation of plant knowledge among rural populations in China. However, distinct local use of plants also exists, indicating that plant knowledge specific to the Bai people is alive and practiced.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Language:English
Date:22 June 2009
Deposited On:07 Apr 2009 19:08
Last Modified:06 Dec 2017 19:23
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0378-8741
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2009.03.014

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