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Herbal and food folk medicines of the Russlanddeutschen living in Künzelsau/Taläcker, South-Western Germany

Pieroni, Andrea, Gray, Charlotte
Phytotherapy research 2008 v.22 no.7 pp. 889-901
ethnobotany, functional foods, health beliefs, herbal medicines, immigrants, interviews, medicinal plants, public health, public policy, traditional medicine, women, Central Asia, Germany, Russia
An urban ethnobotanical study was carried out among a community of Russlanddeutschen (Germans from Russia) who in recent years have moved from Russia and Central Asia to Künzelsau, a small town located in Württemberg, in South-Western Germany. Thirty-six in-depth interviews were conducted with the women in this community, and 62 homemade medicinal preparations derived from 46 botanical species were recorded. As well as common medicinal plant uses that are well known in modern evidence-based German and Western European phytotherapy, we were able to record traces of the community's Russian and Central Asian (Turkic) heritage through the very popular use of sorrel as a depurative or for preventing and treating colds and flu; the use of dill as a digestive; watermelon as a diuretic; birch to relieve rheumatism and arthritis; buckwheat as a tonic; rye-based fermented beverages as a stimulant and as a depurative, diverse berries to prevent colds and flu; coriander as a digestive, and other medicinal foods. Traces of archaic German preparations were also recorded, which were probably Swabian in origin. Nearly half of the overall quoted items represented folk functional foods. The researchers believe that the findings in this study could stimulate public health policies aimed at improving both the phyto-pharmacovigilance of lesser-known herbal drugs, and the health and well-being of migrants by promoting a better understanding of emic health beliefs and newcomers' healing strategies.