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Observations on the therapeutic practices of riverine communities of the Unini River, AM, Brazil

Santos, Juliana de Faria Lima, Pagani, Eduardo, Ramos, José, Rodrigues, Eliana
Journal of ethnopharmacology 2012 v.142 no.2 pp. 503-515
Arecaceae, Burseraceae, Characidae, Cichlidae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae, Zingiberaceae, animals, childbirth, drugs, experts, massage, midwives, muscles, physicians, plant exudates, plant products, pregnancy, rivers, surveys, traditional medicine, Amazonia, Brazil
ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Parts and products of animals and plants, like exudates, have been used for medicinal and/or toxic purposes by various human groups throughout history. However, few ethnopharmacological studies have engaged their rescue. AIM OF THE STUDY: To perform a broad ethnopharmacological survey of the local medicine practiced by traditional healing experts living in relative isolation at seven communities within the Amazon rainforest, in order to provide the basis for further pharmacological studies of the most promising findings. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The field work was conducted using an ethnographic approach with the assistance of a doctor. Plants and animals, as well as their products and derivatives, reported by the practitioners as being involved in healing practices were collected, identified and deposited in scientific collections. RESULTS: A total of 33 traditional healing experts were selected and interviewed; they described themselves as: healer, midwife, knowledgeable of natural drugs or ‘desmintidor’ (an expert in massage techniques for the treatment of muscle contractures and joint sprains). In this therapeutic practice, 122 plant species, belonging to 60 botanical families, were indicated and collected; the most frequently mentioned families were: Fabaceae s.l. (10%), Arecaceae (6%), Zingiberaceae (5%) and Lamiaceae (5%). Plant exudates from 14 of those plant species were also indicated and collected, with those from the Burseraceae family being the most common. Furthermore, 57 animals belonging to 35 taxonomic families were indicated. They most frequently belonged to 2 families of bony fishes: Cichlidae (14%) and Characidae (9%). Plants and animals were indicated for 67 therapeutic uses and grouped into 21 usage categories; the psychoactive category was associated with the greatest number of used resources (17%), followed by the cultural syndromes category (16.7%). CONCLUSIONS: The geographic isolation and limited access to medical care in these communities resulted in unique, rich and consistent therapeutic system. There was a high degree of agreement among interviewees regarding the use of the same resources especially in the categories: psychoactive, cultural syndromes, pregnancy and childbirth, and inflammatory processes, suggesting a high degree of repetition and intercommunication. Further pharmacological and phytochemical investigations may search for new bioactive compounds among the described resources.