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Transformation of traditional knowledge of medicinal plants: the case of Tyroleans (Austria) who migrated to Australia, Brazil and Peru.

Pirker H, Haselmair R, Kuhn E, Schunko C, Vogl CR - J Ethnobiol Ethnomed (2012)

Bottom Line: Use values are significantly different between Tyrol and Australia (p < 0.001) but not between Tyrol and Brazil (p = 0.127) and Tyrol and Peru (p = 0.853).The average informant agreement ratio (IAR) in Tyrol is significantly higher than in Australia (p = 0.089) and Brazil (p = 0.238), but not Peru (p = 0.019).Traditional knowledge of medicinal plants acquired in the home country is continuously diminishing, with its composition influenced by urbanisation and ongoing globalisation processes and challenged by shifts from traditional healing practices to modern healthcare facilities.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Working Group: Knowledge Systems and Innovations, Division of Organic Farming, Department for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria. heidemarie.pirker@boku.ac.at

ABSTRACT

Background: In ethnobotanical research, the investigation into traditional knowledge of medicinal plants in the context of migration has been of increasing interest in recent decades since it is influenced and changed by new environmental and social conditions. It most likely undergoes transformation processes to match the different living circumstances in the new location. This study compares the traditional knowledge of medicinal plants held by Tyroleans - and their descendants - who emigrated to Australia, Brazil and Peru at different time scales. The study's findings allow a discussion of the complexities and dynamics that influence this knowledge within the context of long-distance migration.

Methods: Information was obtained from 65 informants by free-listing, semi-structured interviews and non-participatory observation in Tyrol (Austria) and the migrants' countries: Australia, Brazil and Peru. The collected data was analysed using different quantitative approaches, including statistical tests, and compared between the countries of investigation.

Results: All respondents in all four investigation areas claimed that they had knowledge and made use of medicinal plants to treat basic ailments in their day-to-day lives. Informants made 1,139 citations of medicinal plants in total in free lists, which correspond to 164 botanical taxa (genus or species level) in Tyrol, 87 in Australia, 84 in Brazil and 134 in Peru. Of all the botanical taxa listed, only five (1.1%) were listed in all four countries under investigation. Agreement among informants within free lists was highest in Tyrol (17%), followed by Peru (12.2%), Australia (11.9%) and Brazil (11.2%). The proportion of agreement differs significantly between informants in Australia and Tyrol (p = 0.001), Brazil and Tyrol (p = 0.001) and Peru and Tyrol (p = 0.001) and is similar between informants in the migrant countries, as indicated by statistical tests. We recorded 1,286 use citations according to 744 different uses (Tyrol: 552, Australia: 200, Brazil: 180, Peru: 357) belonging to 22 different categories of use. Use values are significantly different between Tyrol and Australia (p < 0.001) but not between Tyrol and Brazil (p = 0.127) and Tyrol and Peru (p = 0.853). The average informant agreement ratio (IAR) in Tyrol is significantly higher than in Australia (p = 0.089) and Brazil (p = 0.238), but not Peru (p = 0.019).

Conclusions: Changing ecological and social conditions have transformed and shaped traditional knowledge of medicinal plants through adaptation processes to match the new circumstances in the country of arrival. Continuation, substitution and replacement are strategies that have taken place at different rates depending on local circumstances in the research areas. Traditional knowledge of medicinal plants acquired in the home country is continuously diminishing, with its composition influenced by urbanisation and ongoing globalisation processes and challenged by shifts from traditional healing practices to modern healthcare facilities.

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Mentions: Tyrol is the third largest federal state in Austria covering an area of 12,640 km2 and a population of 704,472[36] (Figure 1). It is situated in the Alps (465 m to 3,798 m above sea level) and is characterised by a temperate inner alpine climate with subcontinental influences. Valleys with narrow and remote side valleys shaped by high mountain ranges form its landscape. The main structure of settlement consists of villages, a few small cities (up to 20,000 inhabitants) and the region’s capital, Innsbruck, which has a population of 118,035[36]. Besides small and medium-sized industries (textiles, glass, metal processing and food production), tourism provides the main source of income. The alpine landscape is predominantly characterised by spruce forests and alpine pastures. Farmers’ gardens in mountainous alpine areas are a typical element of land use within the mosaic of agroecosystems managed by farmers[37]. Since farming systems have undergone a process of change over the last few decades they are now seen as economically less important, but still play a major role in Tyrolean’s view of themselves and the maintenance of the countryside. Until the 1950s, the predominantly peasant community had to rely on medicinal plants as they lived in remote areas where there was a lack of medical care. Owing to limited means and poor transportation, doctors were only called out in serious cases and therefore people had to rely on their own or local experts’ knowledge of medicinal plants growing in their surroundings[33]. This knowledge has changed significantly due to changes in people’s socioeconomic situations and improvements in national healthcare facilities due to ongoing industrialisation and globalisation[35]. Austria has a compulsory state-funded healthcare system along with the option of private healthcare which provides a large, high-quality network of doctors and hospitals all over the country. Overall health in Austria is among the best in developed countries. Life expectancy at birth is 78 for men and 83 for women. The major causes of mortality are diseases of the circulatory system (50%) and neoplasms (23%) which are patterns of disease similar to those in other developed countries[38]. Medicinal plants for self-medication are now no longer essential, but offer people a popular alternative to conventional health practices such as the use of pharmaceuticals, healthcare professionals and medical facilities. Medicinal plants in Europe, their extracts, active components and finished products have been described in many national pharmacopoeias that have ultimately led to a unified European Pharmacopoeia (EP), setting the standards in Europe for the use of these products as drugs. The study sites in Tyrol were chosen to represent the areas from where most of the migrants who moved to Australia, Brazil and Peru came. Most of the migrants living in Treze Tílias today came from Wildschönau (47 27′0″N, 12°3′0″O), which is in the Upper Inn Valley area.[38]. Many of those living in Pozuzo today came from Silz (47°16′0″N, 10°55′60″E) in the Lower Inn Valley. Both sites are in Western Tyrol. We also carried out field research in Eastern Tyrol/Lienz (46 49′47″N, 12°46′11″E) from where some of the migrants to Australia came.


Transformation of traditional knowledge of medicinal plants: the case of Tyroleans (Austria) who migrated to Australia, Brazil and Peru.

Pirker H, Haselmair R, Kuhn E, Schunko C, Vogl CR - J Ethnobiol Ethnomed (2012)

Research sites.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3539874&req=5

Figure 1: Research sites.
Mentions: Tyrol is the third largest federal state in Austria covering an area of 12,640 km2 and a population of 704,472[36] (Figure 1). It is situated in the Alps (465 m to 3,798 m above sea level) and is characterised by a temperate inner alpine climate with subcontinental influences. Valleys with narrow and remote side valleys shaped by high mountain ranges form its landscape. The main structure of settlement consists of villages, a few small cities (up to 20,000 inhabitants) and the region’s capital, Innsbruck, which has a population of 118,035[36]. Besides small and medium-sized industries (textiles, glass, metal processing and food production), tourism provides the main source of income. The alpine landscape is predominantly characterised by spruce forests and alpine pastures. Farmers’ gardens in mountainous alpine areas are a typical element of land use within the mosaic of agroecosystems managed by farmers[37]. Since farming systems have undergone a process of change over the last few decades they are now seen as economically less important, but still play a major role in Tyrolean’s view of themselves and the maintenance of the countryside. Until the 1950s, the predominantly peasant community had to rely on medicinal plants as they lived in remote areas where there was a lack of medical care. Owing to limited means and poor transportation, doctors were only called out in serious cases and therefore people had to rely on their own or local experts’ knowledge of medicinal plants growing in their surroundings[33]. This knowledge has changed significantly due to changes in people’s socioeconomic situations and improvements in national healthcare facilities due to ongoing industrialisation and globalisation[35]. Austria has a compulsory state-funded healthcare system along with the option of private healthcare which provides a large, high-quality network of doctors and hospitals all over the country. Overall health in Austria is among the best in developed countries. Life expectancy at birth is 78 for men and 83 for women. The major causes of mortality are diseases of the circulatory system (50%) and neoplasms (23%) which are patterns of disease similar to those in other developed countries[38]. Medicinal plants for self-medication are now no longer essential, but offer people a popular alternative to conventional health practices such as the use of pharmaceuticals, healthcare professionals and medical facilities. Medicinal plants in Europe, their extracts, active components and finished products have been described in many national pharmacopoeias that have ultimately led to a unified European Pharmacopoeia (EP), setting the standards in Europe for the use of these products as drugs. The study sites in Tyrol were chosen to represent the areas from where most of the migrants who moved to Australia, Brazil and Peru came. Most of the migrants living in Treze Tílias today came from Wildschönau (47 27′0″N, 12°3′0″O), which is in the Upper Inn Valley area.[38]. Many of those living in Pozuzo today came from Silz (47°16′0″N, 10°55′60″E) in the Lower Inn Valley. Both sites are in Western Tyrol. We also carried out field research in Eastern Tyrol/Lienz (46 49′47″N, 12°46′11″E) from where some of the migrants to Australia came.

Bottom Line: Use values are significantly different between Tyrol and Australia (p < 0.001) but not between Tyrol and Brazil (p = 0.127) and Tyrol and Peru (p = 0.853).The average informant agreement ratio (IAR) in Tyrol is significantly higher than in Australia (p = 0.089) and Brazil (p = 0.238), but not Peru (p = 0.019).Traditional knowledge of medicinal plants acquired in the home country is continuously diminishing, with its composition influenced by urbanisation and ongoing globalisation processes and challenged by shifts from traditional healing practices to modern healthcare facilities.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Working Group: Knowledge Systems and Innovations, Division of Organic Farming, Department for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria. heidemarie.pirker@boku.ac.at

ABSTRACT

Background: In ethnobotanical research, the investigation into traditional knowledge of medicinal plants in the context of migration has been of increasing interest in recent decades since it is influenced and changed by new environmental and social conditions. It most likely undergoes transformation processes to match the different living circumstances in the new location. This study compares the traditional knowledge of medicinal plants held by Tyroleans - and their descendants - who emigrated to Australia, Brazil and Peru at different time scales. The study's findings allow a discussion of the complexities and dynamics that influence this knowledge within the context of long-distance migration.

Methods: Information was obtained from 65 informants by free-listing, semi-structured interviews and non-participatory observation in Tyrol (Austria) and the migrants' countries: Australia, Brazil and Peru. The collected data was analysed using different quantitative approaches, including statistical tests, and compared between the countries of investigation.

Results: All respondents in all four investigation areas claimed that they had knowledge and made use of medicinal plants to treat basic ailments in their day-to-day lives. Informants made 1,139 citations of medicinal plants in total in free lists, which correspond to 164 botanical taxa (genus or species level) in Tyrol, 87 in Australia, 84 in Brazil and 134 in Peru. Of all the botanical taxa listed, only five (1.1%) were listed in all four countries under investigation. Agreement among informants within free lists was highest in Tyrol (17%), followed by Peru (12.2%), Australia (11.9%) and Brazil (11.2%). The proportion of agreement differs significantly between informants in Australia and Tyrol (p = 0.001), Brazil and Tyrol (p = 0.001) and Peru and Tyrol (p = 0.001) and is similar between informants in the migrant countries, as indicated by statistical tests. We recorded 1,286 use citations according to 744 different uses (Tyrol: 552, Australia: 200, Brazil: 180, Peru: 357) belonging to 22 different categories of use. Use values are significantly different between Tyrol and Australia (p < 0.001) but not between Tyrol and Brazil (p = 0.127) and Tyrol and Peru (p = 0.853). The average informant agreement ratio (IAR) in Tyrol is significantly higher than in Australia (p = 0.089) and Brazil (p = 0.238), but not Peru (p = 0.019).

Conclusions: Changing ecological and social conditions have transformed and shaped traditional knowledge of medicinal plants through adaptation processes to match the new circumstances in the country of arrival. Continuation, substitution and replacement are strategies that have taken place at different rates depending on local circumstances in the research areas. Traditional knowledge of medicinal plants acquired in the home country is continuously diminishing, with its composition influenced by urbanisation and ongoing globalisation processes and challenged by shifts from traditional healing practices to modern healthcare facilities.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus