Is there a biological basis in the selection of medicinal plants in the human species? An initial approach based on chemosensory perception of taste
Keywords:Evolutionary Ethnobiology, Ethnobotany, Taste threshold, Taste perception, Organoleptic property, Local medical systems
The ability to identify tastes associated with plant chemicals may have favored humans in identifying plant chemists with pharmacological activity throughout human evolutionary history. The genetic basis of taste perception influences people's varying sensitivity to perceive chemical stimuli of taste. This biological basis can play an important role in plant selection to compose local medical systems, given the argument in the ethnobiological literature that plant taste can influence their selection as a medicinal resource. Thus, we sought to investigate whether there is a biological basis in the selection of these resources. Our investigation was made through the survey of ethnobiological data on the knowledge of medicinal plants and sensitivity data on the perception of bitter taste in two local communities. We tested whether local experts and active tasters of medicinal plants are more sensitive to the perception of bitter taste than the rest of the population. Additionally, we evaluated whether people who are more sensitive to bitter taste cite more plants with taste and assign more therapeutic targets to them. We did not corroborate any of our assumptions. It is likely that the bitter taste threshold is not as relevant in the selection of medicinal plants as the processes of cultural transmission.
Ankli, A., Stich, O., Heinrich, M., 1999. Yucatec Maya Medicinal Plants Versus Non m edicin al Plants : Indige nous Ch aracterizatio n and Selection. Hum Ecol 27.
Bartoshuk, L.M., Rifkin, B., Marks, L.E., Hooper, J.E., 1988. Bitterness of KCl and benzoate: related to genetic status for sensitivity to PTC/PROP. Chem Senses 13, 517–528. https://doi.org/10.1093/chemse/13.4.517
Behrens, M., Brockhoff, A., Batram, C., Kuhn, C., Appendino, G., Meyerhof, W., 2009. The human bitter taste receptor hTAS2R50 is activated by the two natural bitter terpenoids andrographolide and amarogentin. J Agric Food Chem 57, 9860–9866. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf9014334
Behrens, M., Gu, M., Fan, S., Huang, C., Meyerhof, W., 2018. Bitter substances from plants used in traditional Chinese medicine exert biased activation of human bitter taste receptors. Chem Biol Drug Des 91, 422–433. https://doi.org/10.1111/cbdd.13089
Behrens, M., Meyerhof, W., 2006. Bitter taste receptors and human bitter taste perception, in: Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. pp. 1501–1509. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00018-006-6113-8
Boyd, R., Richerson, P.J., 2005. The origins, evolution of human culture. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Brett, J.A., Heinrich, M., 1998a. Culture, Perception and the Environment The role of chemosensory perception. Angew Bot 72, 67–69.
Brett, J.A., Heinrich, M., 1998b. Culture, Perception and the Environment The role of chemosensory perception. Angew Bot 72, 67–69.
Casagrande DG, 2002. Human taste and cognition in Tzeltal Maya medicinal plants use. J Ecol Anthr 4, 57–69.
Casagrande DG, 2000. Human taste and cognition in Tzeltal Maya medicinal plants use. J Ecol Anthropol 4, 57–68.
Chang, WI., Chung, J.-W., Kim, Y.-K., Chung, S.-C., Kho, H.-S., 2006. The relationship between phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) and 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) taster status and taste thresholds for sucrose and quinine. Arch Oral Biol 51, 427–432. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.ARCHORALBIO.2005.10.002
Dragos, D., Gilca, M., 2018. Taste of phytocompounds: A better predictor for ethnopharmacological activities of medicinal plants than the phytochemical class? J Ethnopharmacol 220, 129–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2018.03.034
Drewnowski, A., 2009. The Science and Complexity of Bitter Taste. Nutr Rev 59, 163–169. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2001.tb07007.x
Ferreira Júnior, W.S., Albuquerque, U.P., 2018. A theoretical review on the origin of medicinal practices in humans: echoes from evolution. Ethnobiol Conserv 7, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.15451/ec2018-02-7.03-1-7
Ferreira Júnior, W.S., Campos, L.Z. de O., Pieroni, A., Albuquerque, Ulysses P., 2015. Biological and Cultural Bases of the Use of Medicinal and Food Plants, in: Albuquerque, Ulysses Paulino, Medeiros, P.M. de, Casas, A. (Eds.), Evolutionary Ethnobiology. pp. 175–184. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02904-7
Geck, M.S., Cabras, S., Casu, L., Reyes García, A.J., Leonti, M., 2017. The taste of heat: How humoral qualities act as a cultural filter for chemosensory properties guiding herbal medicine. J Ethnopharmacol 198, 499–515. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2017.01.027
Glendinning, J.I., 1994. Is the bitter rejection response always adaptive? Physiol Behav 56, 1217–1227. https://doi.org/10.1016/0031-9384(94)90369-7
Harris, H., Kalmius, H., 1949. The measurement of taste sensitivity to phenylthiourea (P.T.C.). Ann Eugen 15, 24–31. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-1809.1949.tb02419.x
Hayes, J.E., Johnson, S.L., 2017. Sensory aspects of bitter and sweet tastes during early childhood. https://doi.org/10.1097/NT.0000000000000201
Heinrich, M., 1994. Herbal and Symbolic Medicines of the Lowland Mixe (Oaxaca, Mexico). Disease Concepts, Healer’s Roles, and Plant Use. Anthropos. https://doi.org/10.2307/40463843
Heinrich, M., Rimpler, H., Barrera, N.A., 1992a. Indigenous phytotherapy of gastrointestinal disorders in a lowland Mixe community (Oaxaca, Mexico): Ethnopharmacologic evaluation. J Ethnopharmacol 36, 63–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-8741(92)90062-V
Hladik, C.M., Pasquet, P., Simmen, B., 2002. New perspectives on taste and primate evolution: The dichotomy in gustatory coding for perception of beneficent versus noxious substances as supported by correlations among human thresholds. Am J Phys Anthropol 117, 342–348. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.10046
Hong, J.H., Chung, J.W., Kim, Y.K., Chung, S.C., Lee, S.W., Kho, H.S., 2005. The relationship between PTC taster status and taste thresholds in young adults. Oral Surgery, Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endodontology 99, 711–715. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tripleo.2004.08.004
Johns, T., 1996. The Origins of human Diet & Medicine. The University of Arizona Press.
Medeiros, P.M., Santos Pinto, B.L., Do Nascimento, V.T., 2015. Can organoleptic properties explain the differential use of medicinal plants? Evidence from Northeastern Brazil. J Ethnopharmacol 159, 43–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2014.11.001
Mennella, J.A., Pepino, Y., Reed, D.R., 2005. Genetic and Environmental Determinants of Bitter Perception and Sweet Preferences$$nGenetic and Environmental Determinants of Bitter Perception and Sweet Preferences. Pediatrics 115, e216. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2004-1582
Mennella, J.A., Spector, A.C., Reed, D.R., Coldwell, S.E., 2013. The bad taste of medicines: Overview of basic research on bitter taste. Clin Ther 35, 1225–1246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinthera.2013.06.007
Molares, S., Ladio, A., 2009. Chemosensory perception and medicinal plants for digestive ailments in a Mapuche community in NW Patagonia, Argentina. J Ethnopharmacol 123, 397–406. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2009.03.033
Pasquet, P., Oberti, B., El Ati, J., Hladik, C.M., 2002. Relationships between threshold-based PROP sensitivity and food preferences of Tunisians. https://doi.org/10.1006/appe.2002.0503
Shepard Jr., G.H., 2004. A Sensory Ecology of Medicinal Plant Therapy in Two Amazonian Societies. Am Anthropol 106, 252–266. https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.2004.106.2.252
Soranzo, N., Bufe, B., Sabeti, P.C., Wilson, J.F., Weale, M.E., Marguerie, R.; Meyerhof, W., Goldstein, D.B. 2005. Positive selection on a high-sensitivity allele of the human bitter-taste receptor TAS2R16. Current Biology 15, 1257-1265.
Tepper, B.J., 1999. Does Genetic Taste Sensitivity to PROP Influence Food Preferences and Body Weight? Appetite 32, 422. https://doi.org/10.1006/appe.1999.0240
Wiley, A.S., Allen, J.S., 2009. Medical anthropology: a biocultural approach. Med Anthropol a biocultural approach.
Wooding, S., Kim, U., Bamshad, M.J., Larsen, J., Jorde, L.B., Drayna, D., 2004. Natural Selection and Molecular Evolution in PTC, a Bitter-Taste Receptor Gene. Am J Hum Genet 74, 637–646. https://doi.org/10.1086/383092