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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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Aloe spp. in the garden of a Tyrolean informant in Treze Tílias (Photo: Elisabeth Kuhn).
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Figure 6: Aloe spp. in the garden of a Tyrolean informant in Treze Tílias (Photo: Elisabeth Kuhn).

Mentions: In Brazil the respondents (n = 15) listed 157 items altogether and these items correspond to 84 different botanical taxa (Table 2), of which 70 were identified to species level and 14 to genus level, belonging to 57 different families. The shortest free list was completed with four items, while the longest list had 20 items listed (Table 2). On average, ten items were listed per interview (Table 2). The most salient plant taxa mentioned by over half the respondents are listed in Table 3. These taxa also had the highest use values (UV) (Table 5). UV ranged from 0.07 to 0.4 (mean = 0.969, stdev = 0.0623, 95% C 0.0837 – 0.1102). Aloe spp. is widely distributed in this area and grows in almost every garden. It is seen as a “universal remedy” among informants. The plant is claimed to cure injuries, burns, wounds, stomach ulcers and digestive problems, as well as prevent cancer. There are many different recipes for its preparation: pulp from the inner leaves is eaten fresh or frozen, and mixed with honey by some informants. Matricaria chamomilla grows in almost every garden and is hardly ever bought in a shop. Achyrocline satureioides (Figure 4) uses are similar to the uses of M. chamomilla (Table 3) although A. satureioides is cited more often in use as a bath additive and for the preparation of tea for young children (Figure 4). While M. chamomilla can be seen as a ”universal plant”, the distribution of A. satureioides is more likely to be limited to South America and has substituted some of the uses attributed to M. chamomilla in Tyrol. In Brazil 180 use reports for 18 categories were recorded (Table 5). The gastrointestinal disorders category was the most prevalent in Treze Tílias (35%), with stomach disorders the most frequently mentioned ailments. Some of the plants cited and used by Tyrolean migrants and their descendents help support digestion after a “heavy meal”, which is quite common in Treze Tílias. After the indulgence of “savoury roast pork”, “goulash” or the beloved “churrasco”, a tea made from the leaves of Pneumus boldus, Cynara cardunculus or Mentha spp. is an essential conclusion to the meal. Serious trouble with digestion might even require tea from Artemisia absinthium and the fresh pulp of Aloe spp. (Figure 6) helps overcome digestive discomforts.


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)

Aloe spp. in the garden of a Tyrolean informant in Treze Tílias (Photo: Elisabeth Kuhn).
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

Figure 6: Aloe spp. in the garden of a Tyrolean informant in Treze Tílias (Photo: Elisabeth Kuhn).
Mentions: In Brazil the respondents (n = 15) listed 157 items altogether and these items correspond to 84 different botanical taxa (Table 2), of which 70 were identified to species level and 14 to genus level, belonging to 57 different families. The shortest free list was completed with four items, while the longest list had 20 items listed (Table 2). On average, ten items were listed per interview (Table 2). The most salient plant taxa mentioned by over half the respondents are listed in Table 3. These taxa also had the highest use values (UV) (Table 5). UV ranged from 0.07 to 0.4 (mean = 0.969, stdev = 0.0623, 95% C 0.0837 – 0.1102). Aloe spp. is widely distributed in this area and grows in almost every garden. It is seen as a “universal remedy” among informants. The plant is claimed to cure injuries, burns, wounds, stomach ulcers and digestive problems, as well as prevent cancer. There are many different recipes for its preparation: pulp from the inner leaves is eaten fresh or frozen, and mixed with honey by some informants. Matricaria chamomilla grows in almost every garden and is hardly ever bought in a shop. Achyrocline satureioides (Figure 4) uses are similar to the uses of M. chamomilla (Table 3) although A. satureioides is cited more often in use as a bath additive and for the preparation of tea for young children (Figure 4). While M. chamomilla can be seen as a ”universal plant”, the distribution of A. satureioides is more likely to be limited to South America and has substituted some of the uses attributed to M. chamomilla in Tyrol. In Brazil 180 use reports for 18 categories were recorded (Table 5). The gastrointestinal disorders category was the most prevalent in Treze Tílias (35%), with stomach disorders the most frequently mentioned ailments. Some of the plants cited and used by Tyrolean migrants and their descendents help support digestion after a “heavy meal”, which is quite common in Treze Tílias. After the indulgence of “savoury roast pork”, “goulash” or the beloved “churrasco”, a tea made from the leaves of Pneumus boldus, Cynara cardunculus or Mentha spp. is an essential conclusion to the meal. Serious trouble with digestion might even require tea from Artemisia absinthium and the fresh pulp of Aloe spp. (Figure 6) helps overcome digestive discomforts.

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