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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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“Santa Maria” (Piper spp.) in the garden of a Tyrolean descendant in Pozuzo (Photo: Ruth Haselmair).
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Figure 7: “Santa Maria” (Piper spp.) in the garden of a Tyrolean descendant in Pozuzo (Photo: Ruth Haselmair).

Mentions: In Peru and Tyrol no plant taxon listed in both countries was mentioned by more than a third of respondents. Therefore it can be assumed that Tyrolean migrants in Peru substituted and replaced most of the traditional medical plants from Tyrol. When Tyrolean migrants finally arrived in the remote area of Pozuzo in Peru, they faced a situation in which they had to build a completely new settlement. Therefore people had to rely on the knowledge of indigenous groups on how to use plants from the rich local flora of the tropical rainforest as they were also confronted by completely different illnesses (e.g. malaria, typhus and yellow fever) than those found in their home country. This explains the fact that the percentage of plants only named in Peru was highest and that consensus on medicinal plants with informants in Tyrol was lowest. Out of the ten most salient plants listed by informants in Pozuzo, only Plantago spp. is also found among the most salient plants in Tyrol. After three generations the medicinal knowledge of traditional Tyrolean plants has been exchanged almost completely. Many plants from Tyrol have been forgotten over the years as they do not grow in tropical conditions and they were substituted by other plants. New plants for medicating diseases which were unknown until then also became incorporated. Therefore, the circumstances of long-lasting isolation led to the adaptation strategy in Peru. Medical healthcare facilities have now improved and are geared towards conventional medicine, while the use of medicinal plants is starting to play a secondary role as globalisation, increasing industrialisation and the accelerating destruction of botanically rich native ecosystems are challenging the continuation of traditional medicinal health practices. Nevertheless there are still Pozuzian people who collect medicinal plants or cultivate them in their gardens (Figure 7). Use values (p = 0.853) come close to Tyrolean informants, which indicates that there is a strong tradition still alive around the use of medicinal plants. Since people in Pozuzo have begun to recognise the value of the tropical rainforest, with Peru’s flora providing one of the world’s richest sources for plant-based medicines[65,105] and they are very important commercially, there is now increasing interest in specific medicinal plants. One example that has come to light in recent years is “Uña de gato” (Uncaria guianensis) which is a powerful medicinal plant thought to provide relief for inflammation and rheumatic diseases[65]. The woody vine that takes its name from the hook-like thorns that grow along it resembling a cat’s claw has a long history of use among the indigenous people of the Amazonian Rainforest[106]. Since “Uña de gato” seems to have positive effects in the curing of cancer, the plant is “booming” on the international pharmaceutical trade market ever since, resulting in it being well known in Pozuzo.


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)

“Santa Maria” (Piper spp.) in the garden of a Tyrolean descendant in Pozuzo (Photo: Ruth Haselmair).
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

Figure 7: “Santa Maria” (Piper spp.) in the garden of a Tyrolean descendant in Pozuzo (Photo: Ruth Haselmair).
Mentions: In Peru and Tyrol no plant taxon listed in both countries was mentioned by more than a third of respondents. Therefore it can be assumed that Tyrolean migrants in Peru substituted and replaced most of the traditional medical plants from Tyrol. When Tyrolean migrants finally arrived in the remote area of Pozuzo in Peru, they faced a situation in which they had to build a completely new settlement. Therefore people had to rely on the knowledge of indigenous groups on how to use plants from the rich local flora of the tropical rainforest as they were also confronted by completely different illnesses (e.g. malaria, typhus and yellow fever) than those found in their home country. This explains the fact that the percentage of plants only named in Peru was highest and that consensus on medicinal plants with informants in Tyrol was lowest. Out of the ten most salient plants listed by informants in Pozuzo, only Plantago spp. is also found among the most salient plants in Tyrol. After three generations the medicinal knowledge of traditional Tyrolean plants has been exchanged almost completely. Many plants from Tyrol have been forgotten over the years as they do not grow in tropical conditions and they were substituted by other plants. New plants for medicating diseases which were unknown until then also became incorporated. Therefore, the circumstances of long-lasting isolation led to the adaptation strategy in Peru. Medical healthcare facilities have now improved and are geared towards conventional medicine, while the use of medicinal plants is starting to play a secondary role as globalisation, increasing industrialisation and the accelerating destruction of botanically rich native ecosystems are challenging the continuation of traditional medicinal health practices. Nevertheless there are still Pozuzian people who collect medicinal plants or cultivate them in their gardens (Figure 7). Use values (p = 0.853) come close to Tyrolean informants, which indicates that there is a strong tradition still alive around the use of medicinal plants. Since people in Pozuzo have begun to recognise the value of the tropical rainforest, with Peru’s flora providing one of the world’s richest sources for plant-based medicines[65,105] and they are very important commercially, there is now increasing interest in specific medicinal plants. One example that has come to light in recent years is “Uña de gato” (Uncaria guianensis) which is a powerful medicinal plant thought to provide relief for inflammation and rheumatic diseases[65]. The woody vine that takes its name from the hook-like thorns that grow along it resembling a cat’s claw has a long history of use among the indigenous people of the Amazonian Rainforest[106]. Since “Uña de gato” seems to have positive effects in the curing of cancer, the plant is “booming” on the international pharmaceutical trade market ever since, resulting in it being well known in Pozuzo.

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