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# Traditional medicinal plant use in Northern Peru: tracking two thousand years of healing culture

, 1 , 2

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### Abstract

This paper examines the traditional use of medicinal plants in Northern Peru, with special focus on the Departments of Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad, Cajamarca, and San Martin.

Northern Peru represents the center of the old Central Andean "Health Axis," stretching from Ecuador to Bolivia. The roots of traditional healing practices in this region go at least as far back as the Moche period (AC 100–800).

Although about 50% of the plants in use reported in the colonial period have disappeared from the popular pharmacopoeia, the plant knowledge of the population is much more extensive than in other parts of the Andean region.

510 plant species used for medicinal purposes were collected, identified and their vernacular names, traditional uses and applications recorded. The families best represented were Asteraceae with 69 species, Fabaceae (35), Lamiaceae (25), and Solanaceae (21). Euphorbiaceae had twelve species, and Apiaceae and Poaceae 11 species.

The highest number of species was used for the treatment of "magical/ritual" ailments (207 species), followed by respiratory disorders (95), problems of the urinary tract (85), infections of female organs (66), liver ailments (61), inflammations (59), stomach problems (51) and rheumatism (45).

Most of the plants used (83%) were native to Peru. Fresh plants, often collected wild, were used in two thirds of all cases, and the most common applications included the ingestion of herb decoctions or the application of plant material as poultices.

### Most cited references121

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A prior national survey documented the high prevalence and costs of alternative medicine use in the United States in 1990. To document trends in alternative medicine use in the United States between 1990 and 1997. Nationally representative random household telephone surveys using comparable key questions were conducted in 1991 and 1997 measuring utilization in 1990 and 1997, respectively. A total of 1539 adults in 1991 and 2055 in 1997. Prevalence, estimated costs, and disclosure of alternative therapies to physicians. Use of at least 1 of 16 alternative therapies during the previous year increased from 33.8% in 1990 to 42.1% in 1997 (P < or = .001). The therapies increasing the most included herbal medicine, massage, megavitamins, self-help groups, folk remedies, energy healing, and homeopathy. The probability of users visiting an alternative medicine practitioner increased from 36.3% to 46.3% (P = .002). In both surveys alternative therapies were used most frequently for chronic conditions, including back problems, anxiety, depression, and headaches. There was no significant change in disclosure rates between the 2 survey years; 39.8% of alternative therapies were disclosed to physicians in 1990 vs 38.5% in 1997. The percentage of users paying entirely out-of-pocket for services provided by alternative medicine practitioners did not change significantly between 1990 (64.0%) and 1997 (58.3%) (P=.36). Extrapolations to the US population suggest a 47.3% increase in total visits to alternative medicine practitioners, from 427 million in 1990 to 629 million in 1997, thereby exceeding total visits to all US primary care physicians. An estimated 15 million adults in 1997 took prescription medications concurrently with herbal remedies and/or high-dose vitamins (18.4% of all prescription users). Estimated expenditures for alternative medicine professional services increased 45.2% between 1990 and 1997 and were conservatively estimated at $21.2 billion in 1997, with at least$12.2 billion paid out-of-pocket. This exceeds the 1997 out-of-pocket expenditures for all US hospitalizations. Total 1997 out-of-pocket expenditures relating to alternative therapies were conservatively estimated at \$27.0 billion, which is comparable with the projected 1997 out-of-pocket expenditures for all US physician services. Alternative medicine use and expenditures increased substantially between 1990 and 1997, attributable primarily to an increase in the proportion of the population seeking alternative therapies, rather than increased visits per patient.
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### Medicinal plants in therapy.

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One of the prerequisites for the success of primary health care is the availability and use of suitable drugs. Plants have always been a common source of medicaments, either in the form of traditional preparations or as pure active principles. It is thus reasonable for decision-makers to identify locally available plants or plant extracts that could usefully be added to the national list of drugs, or that could even replace some pharmaceutical preparations that need to be purchased and imported. This update article presents a list of plant-derived drugs, with the names of the plant sources, and their actions or uses in therapy.
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Complementary or unconventional treatments are used by many doctors and other therapists throughout Europe. The major forms are acupuncture, homoeopathy, manual therapy or manipulation, and phytotherapy or herbal medicine. The relative popularity of therapies differs between countries, but public demand is strong and growing. Regulation of practitioners varies widely: in most countries only registered health professionals may practice, but in the United Kingdom practice is virtually unregulated. Germany and some Scandinavian countries have intermediate systems. Legal reforms are in progress in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. European institutions are starting to influence the development of complementary medicine. Harmonisation of training and regulation of practitioners is the challenge for the future.
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### Author and article information

###### Affiliations
[1 ]University of Hawaii, Lyon Arboretum, 3860 Manoa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
[2 ]San Diego Museum of Man, 1350 El Prado, San Diego, CA 94804, USA
###### Journal
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
BioMed Central (London )
1746-4269
2006
7 November 2006
: 2
: 47
1637095
1746-4269-2-47
17090303
10.1186/1746-4269-2-47