Knowledge for Development

Herbs and medicinal plants

Can ACP smallholders reap the fruit and share in rewards through enhanced horticultural productivity? Will increased investments in horticultural research and development contribute to poverty alleviation? What is the role for advanced technologies? These and other questions are explored in this folder on herbs and medicinal plants horticulture for food and health.

Ethnobotany and the Future of R&D on Indigenous Plant Resources

by Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Centre de Phytothérapie et de Recherche (CEPHYR), Ebene, Mauritius
The term ‘Ethnobotany’, used by Harshberger in 1896, was defined as the study of “plants used by primitive and aboriginal people”. Years later, Jones (1941) advanced a more concise definition: ‘‘The study of the interrelationships of primitive men and plants.” Schultes (1967) expanded this to include “the relationships between man and his ambient vegetation”. Ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology are interdisciplinary fields of research that look specifically at the empirical knowledge of indigenous peoples concerning medicinal substances, their potential health benefits and the health risks associated with such remedies (Schultes and Von Reis, 1995). 28/09/2011
V. H. Heywood; Centre for Plant Diversity & Systematics, School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, UK; 2011This paper aims to provide a perspective of ethnopharmacology that explicitly extends the range of disciplines it covers so as to embrace food and nutrition and biodiversity, both wild and domesticated, and places it in the context of the dramatic changes to our planet during a period of rapid global change and the impacts that these changes are having on human health and nutrition and on its resource base.Ethnopharmacology, biodiversity, agriculture, food and nutrition are inextricably linked but suffer from compartmentalization and a lack of communication which have to be overcome if progress is to be made. Fortunately, a convergence of interest between the agricultural biodiversity and the biodiversity conservation sectors has emerged in recent years and there is an increased appreciation of the need to adopt a wider approach to human nutrition than the conventional agricultural model allows; there is also a greater awareness of the important role played by diversity of crops, especially local species, and consumption of wild species in achieving balanced nutrition. Ethnopharmacologists need to take much more cognizance of the fate of the resource base – the plants, animals and microorganisms – and of the actions being undertaken under the auspices of treaties, such as the Conservation on Biological Diversity and its Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, to counter its degradation and loss.Although it has been suggested that the 'golden days' of ethnopharmacology may be over, it is proposed that by embracing the challenges of broadening the remit so as to include the health aspects of wild biodiversity employed in nutrition, a new 'golden age' beckons. The paper concludes with some suggestions for action. 28/09/2011
The book Women’s Knowledge: Traditional Medicine and Nature was launched at the International Workshop on Bioprocessing, Policy and Practice: Conservation and use of Medicinal plants of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Indian Ocean and Madagascar (20-22 April, 2011 - Ebène, Mauritius).The Islands of Reunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues (Indian Ocean) have their own unique medical traditions. These medical traditions have emerged from multiple origins through a process of creolisation, but they are also closely tied to the natural world in which they have adapted and evolved. They thus provide a key to understanding the wider societies, which are engaged in a constant dialectic between tradition and modernity. Beginning at the end of the Seventeenth Century, these islands were gradually populated by populations originating from Europe, Madagascar, Africa, India, China, even Polynesia and Australia. The interchange between the medical traditions originating from each of these places has given rise to a common knowledge, transmitted largely by women.This book brings to our attention the knowledge of medicinal plants and medical practices of these women, with special focus on childbirth. It also considers the place of medicinal knowledge within these evolving societies who are actively confronting the threats and opportunities that globalization poses to local identities. 03/05/2011