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      Ethno-diversity within current ethno-pharmacology as part of Israeli traditional medicine – A review

      , 1

      Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine

      BioMed Central

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          The Holy Land has absorbed millions of immigrants in recent centuries: Jews from East and West, Druze, Circassians, Muslim and Christian Arabs. The land is unique and diverse in geographical location and ethnic groups, and also in its cultural characteristics, including traditional medicine and use of materia medica. However, these traditions have waned over the years. The young state of Israel adopted a "melting pot" approach to fashion Jews from all over the world into Israelis.

          The traditional medicine and materia medica of different ethnic groups (Yemenite, Iranian, and Iraqi Jews) are reviewed in this paper, as well as the ethno-botanical survey (first conducted in the 1980s, covering Bedouins, Druze, Circassians, and Muslim and Christian Arabs), and the matching ethno-pharmacological survey (conducted in the late 1990s) covering the medicines sold in stores.

          Present-day healers are usually not young and are believed to be the end of the chain of traditional medical knowledge. The ethno-diversity of Israel is becoming blurred; modernity prevails, and ethnic characteristics are fading. The characteristic lines of traditional medicine and materia medica have hardly lasted three generations.

          A salient former dividing line between ethnic groups, namely their use of different medicinal substances, paradoxically becomes a bridge for conservative users of all groups and religions. Shops selling these substances have become centers for "nostalgia" and preserving the oriental heritage, traditional medicine, and medicinal substances!

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          Most cited references 71

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          Ethnopharmacological survey of medicinal herbs in Israel, the Golan Heights and the West Bank region.

           O. Said,  K. Khalil,  S Fulder (2002)
          An extensive ethnopharmacological survey was conducted among the most well known Arabic indigenous herbal practitioners in Israel, the Golan Heights and the West Bank in order to evaluate the potential of local plants used in treating different diseases and illnesses. Thirty-one indigenous practitioners' of Arabic traditional medicine ranging in age from 40 to 116 years, were interviewed using a previously prepared questionnaire. The current survey revealed that 129 plant species are still in use in Arabic traditional medicine for the treatments of various diseases. Among these plants, there are 40 species used for treating skin diseases, 27 species for treating kidney and urinary system, 26 species for treating diabetes, 23 species for treating digestive system including stomach and intestinal pain and inflammation, 22 species for treating liver diseases, 16 species for treating respiratory system and coughing, 13 species for treating forms of cancer and nine species for treating weight loss and cholesterol reduction. Additional findings and implications of this current survey including preparation methods and route of use are discussed in this report.
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            Ethnobotanical survey in the Palestinian area: a classification of the healing potential of medicinal plants.

            An ethnobotanical survey was carried out in the West Bank to evaluate the relative efficacy of the plants used to treat skin diseases and prostate cancer. A total number of 102 informants, 30 years and older and either native born or had been living in the West Bank for more than 30 years, were interviewed using a previously prepared questionnaire. Of about 165 plant species mentioned by the informants, 63 (38.1%) were mentioned by three or more informants. On the basis of their primary uses, 21 of these plants were reported to relieve skin disorders, 17 for urinary system disorders, 16 for gastric disorders, nine for cancer and prostate disorders, eight for arthritis, five for respiratory problems, and five for other ailments. Indices on fidelity levels (FLs), relative popularity level (RPL), and rank-order priority (ROP) were calculated. Plants were classified in two groups: 'popular' (RPL=1) or 'unpopular' (RPL<1). The following plant species were classified as popular in this study: Teucrium polium, Matricaria aurea, Urtica pilulifera, Paronychia argentea, Petroselinum sativum, and Salvia fruticosa. The remaining 57 species were classified as 'unpopular'. Fifty-nine plants were claimed to be effective against cancer and prostate disorders, which include Arum dioscorides, U. pilulifera, Allium sativum, Viscum cruciatum, and Allium cepa.
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              Traditional healing with animals (zootherapy): medieval to present-day Levantine practice.

               Efraim Lev (2003)
              Animals and products derived from different organs of their bodies have constituted part of the inventory of medicinal substances used in various cultures since ancient times. This article reviews the history of healing with animals in the Levant (the Land of Israel and parts of present-day Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, defined by the Muslims in the Middle Ages as Bilad al-Sham) throughout history. Intensive research into the phenomenon of zootherapy in the Levant from early medieval to present-day traditional medicine yielded 99 substances of animal origin which were used medicinally during that long period. Fifty-two animal extracts and products were documented as being used from the early Muslim period (10th century) to the late Ottoman period (19th century). Seventy-seven were recorded as being used in the 20th century. Seven main animal sources have been exploited for medical uses throughout history: honey, wax, adder, beaver testicles, musk oil, coral, and ambergris. The first three are local and relatively easy to obtain; the last four are exotic, therefore, rare and expensive. The use of other materials of animal origin came to an end in the course of history because of change in the moral outlook of modern societies. Among the latter we note mummy, silkworm, stinkbug, scarabees, snail, scorpion, and triton.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]Dep. of Eretz Israel Studies and School of Public Health, University of Haifa, Har Carmel, Haifa, 31905, Israel
                J Ethnobiol Ethnomed
                Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
                BioMed Central (London )
                9 January 2006
                : 2
                : 4
                Copyright © 2006 Lev; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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