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Maya Phytomedicine in Guatemala - Can Cooperative Research Change Ethnopharmacological Paradigms?

Hitziger, M; Heinrich, M; Edwards, P; Pöll, E; Lopez, M; Krütli, P; (2016) Maya Phytomedicine in Guatemala - Can Cooperative Research Change Ethnopharmacological Paradigms? Journal of Ethnopharmacology , 186 pp. 61-72. 10.1016/j.jep.2016.03.040. Green open access

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Abstract

ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: This paper presents one of the first large-scale collaborative research projects in ethnopharmacology, to bring together indigenous stakeholders and scientists both in project design and execution. This approach has often been recommended but rarely put into practice. The study was carried out in two key indigenous areas of Guatemala, for which very little ethnopharmacological fieldwork has been published. AIM OF THE STUDY: To document and characterize the ethno-pharmacopoeias of the Kaqchikel (highlands) and Q'eqchi' (lowlands) Maya in a transdisciplinary collaboration with the two groups Councils of Elders. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The project is embedded in a larger collaboration with five Councils of Elders representing important indigenous groups in Guatemala, two of which participated in this study. These suggested healing experts reputed for their phytotherapeutic knowledge and skills. Ethnobotanical fieldwork was carried out over 20 months, accompanied by a joint steering process and validation workshops. The field data were complemented by literature research and were aggregated using a modified version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) and Trotter & Logan's consensus index. RESULTS: Similar numbers of species were collected in the two areas, with a combined total of 530 species. This total does not represent all of the species used for medicinal purposes. Remedies for the digestive system, the central nervous system & behavioral syndromes, and general tissue problems & infections were most frequent in both areas. Furthermore, remedies for the blood, immune & endocrine system are frequent in the Kaqchikel area, and remedies for the reproductive system are frequent in the Q'eqchi' area. Consensus factors are however low. The Kaqchikel, in contrast to the Q'eqchi', report more remedies for non-communicable illnesses. They also rely heavily on introduced species. DISCUSSION & CONCLUSIONS: The transdisciplinary research design facilitated scientifically rigorous and societally relevant large-scale fieldwork, which is clearly beneficial to indigenous collaborators. It provided access and built trust as prerequisites for assembling the largest comparative ethnopharmacological collection, vastly extending knowledge on Maya phytotherapy. The collection represents knowledge of the two groups' most reputed herbalists and is a representative selection of the Guatemalan medicinal flora. ICD-10 proved useful for making broad comparisons between the groups, but more refined approaches would be necessary for other research objectives. Knowledge in the two areas is highly diverse and seems fragmented. New approaches are required to assess how coherent Maya phytotherapy is. The documented'traditional' ethno-pharmacopoeias demonstrate dynamic change and acculturation, reflecting the two linguistic groups' sociocultural history and context. This highlights the adaptive potential of phyto-therapeutic knowledge and calls the equation of local indigenous pharmacopoeias with'traditional' medicine into question. We suggest using the term'local' pharmacopoeias, and reserving the term'traditional' for the study of indigenous pharmacopoeias with a clear delineation of ancient knowledge.

Type: Article
Title: Maya Phytomedicine in Guatemala - Can Cooperative Research Change Ethnopharmacological Paradigms?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2016.03.040
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2016.03.040
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. This manuscript is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). This license allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work for personal and non-commercial use providing author and publisher attribution is clearly stated. Further details about CC BY licenses are available at http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0. Access may be initially restricted by the publisher.
Keywords: Comparative Research, Culture Change, Guatemala, Participative Research, Traditional Medicine, Transdisciplinary Research
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > UCL School of Pharmacy
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > UCL School of Pharmacy > SoP Pharmaceutical and Bio Chemistry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1481731
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