Cross-cultural comparison of three medicinal floras and implications for bioprospecting strategies
Saslis-Lagoudakis, C. H., Williamson, E. M., Savolainen, V. and Hawkins, J. (2011) Cross-cultural comparison of three medicinal floras and implications for bioprospecting strategies. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 135 (17). pp. 476-487. ISSN 0378-8741
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.03.044
Ethnopharmacological relevance One of the major drawbacks of using ethnomedicinal data to direct testing of plants which may find pharmaceutical use is that certain plants without bioactivity might be traditionally used. An accepted way of highlighting bioactive plants is to compare usage in different cultures. This approach infers that presumed independent discovery by different cultures provides evidence for bioactivity. Although several studies have made cross-cultural comparisons, they focussed on closely related cultures, where common patterns might be the result of common cultural traditions. The aim of this study was to compare three independent ethnomedicinal floras for which similarities can be more robustly interpreted as independent discoveries, and therefore likely to be indication for efficacy. Materials and methods Data from the literature were compiled about the ethnomedicinal floras for three groups of cultures (Nepal, New Zealand and the Cape of South Africa), selected to minimise historical cultural exchange. Ethnomedicinal applications were divided in 13 categories of use. Regression and binomial analyses were performed at the family level to highlight ethnomedicinal “hot” families. General and condition-specific analyses were carried out. Results from the three regions were compared. Results Several “hot” families (Anacardiaceae, Asteraceae, Convolvulaceae, Clusiaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Geraniaceae, Lamiaceae, Malvaceae, Rubiaceae, Sapindaceae, Sapotaceae and Solanaceae) were recovered in common in the general analyses. Several families were also found in common under different categories of use. Conclusions Although profound differences are found in the three ethnomedicinal floras, common patterns in ethnomedicinal usage are observed in widely disparate areas of the world with substantially different cultural traditions. As these similarities are likely to stem from independent discoveries, they strongly suggest that underlying bioactivity might be the reason for this convergent usage. The global distribution of prominent usage of families used in common obtained by this study and the wider literature is strong evidence that these families display exceptional potential for discovery of previously overlooked or new medicinal plants and should be placed in high priority in bioscreening studies and conservation schemes.