The study documents current medicinal plant knowledge and use in two Andean communities and depicts the dynamic nature of ethnobotanical relationships by illustrating cultural integration of biomedicine and local plant medicine into a complementary system.
Aim of the study
In order to elucidate the importance of medicinal plants, the following research questions were addressed: Which position do medicinal plants have in the local health care system? Which plants are used medicinally, and do they differ between the communities? Is their use supported pharmacologically?
Materials and methods
Fieldwork was done for seven months in 2010. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 120 informants in Uchumarca and Pusac/San Vicente de Paúl, and the medicinal plant species mentioned by the informants were vouchered.
In total, 2776 plant remedy use reports were recorded. Most people in both communities know at least some medicinal plants, usually from their parents, grandparents, sometimes from books. There are different types of local plant specialists, who are consulted above all for the treatment of diseases thought to have a magical origin or for recommendations of plants to treat minor diseases. Overall, 140 medicinal plants were documented, with a conformity of over 90% between the communities. The effective use of the most frequently cited medicinal plants is supported by scientific literature. Most uses were reported for the treatment of gastrointestinal (17%), nervous (14%), respiratory (14%), urological (13%) and dermatological diseases (8%); nervous diseases were more prevalent in the mountain community, while dermatological and urological diseases were more common in the valley.
People combine medicinal plant use and biomedicine depending on the kind of disease, their beliefs, and their economic situation. The local use of different available medical resources is reflected by the combination of related epistemologies to explain disease causes. Medicinal plant use and biomedicine complement each other to form the local health care system.