Two decades of ethnobotanical research in Southern Ecuador and Northern Peru

Rainer W. Bussmann, Sharon Douglas


This paper is the compiltion of a talk given during the “Advanced Topics in Ethnobiology 2013” workshop in Recife, Brazil, under the title “A decade of ethnobotany in Northern Peru - healers and markets, bioassays, paleobotany and considerations of the Nagoya Protocol” Northern Peru represents the “Health Hub” of the Central Andes, with roots going back to traditional practices Cupisnique culture (1000 BC). During almost two decades of research semi-structured interviews with healers, collectors and sellers of medicinal plants, and bioassays to evaluate the effective and plant toxicity were carried out. Most (83%) of the 510 species used were native to Peru. 50% of the plants used in colonial times disappeared from the pharmacopoeia. Common and exotic plants were mostly used for common ailments, while plants with magical purposes were only employed by specialist healers. About 974 preparations with up to 29 ingredients treated 164 conditions. Almost 65% of the medicinal plants were applied in mixtures. Antibacterial activity was confirmed in most plants used for infections. The aqueous extract 24% and 76% ethanolic extracts showed toxicity. Traditional preparation methods take this into account when choosing the appropriate solvent for the preparation of a remedy. The increasing demand did not increase the significant cultivation of medicinal plants. Most plants are wild-collected, causing doubts about the sustainability of trade. Dedicated programs aim to establish in-situ collections of important species, as well as to repatriate traditional knowledge in local language, under the guidelines of the Nagoya Protocol.


William L. Brown Center; Traditional Knowledge; Ethnobotany; Ethnopharmacology; Nagoya Protocol; Repatriation of Knowledge

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