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Quantitative medicinal ethnobotany of Kannaland (western Little Karoo, South Africa): Non-homogeneity amongst villages

Hulley, I.M., Van Wyk, B.-E.
South African journal of botany 2019 v.122 pp. 225-265
common names, data collection, ethnobotany, health services, herbal medicines, indigenous knowledge, medicinal plants, traditions, villages, South Africa
A detailed quantitative ethnobotanical study of the western part of the Little Karoo of South Africa (known as Kannaland), revealed a wealth of traditional medicinal plants and their uses that have hitherto remained unrecorded. The Matrix Method was used as experimental approach and for quantification and analysis of the data. The results showed a total of 196 medicinal plant species, 5300 medicinal anecdotes and 664 vernacular names, of which 53 species, 3323 anecdotes and 136 vernacular names have been recorded for the first for the Little Karoo. A summary of 120 ailments, together with the most popular remedy (or remedies) for each, is provided. Comparisons of the four study sites (villages) namely Barrydale, Zoar, Calitzdorp and Vanwyksdorp, revealed noteworthy differences, especially in the vernacular names that are used and in the total number of species and medicinal anecdotes. Vanwyksdorp (the most isolated village, without easy access to formal health care) provided the richest data, with a total of 290 vernacular names (of which 48 were newly recorded) and 2105 anecdotes (of which 1328 were newly recorded). A new quantitative index, the Homogeneity Index (HI) is proposed in order to evaluate the uniformity of data collected in different villages of a study area (or to compare different study areas). The HI values for Kannaland (for shared species, shared vernacular names and shared uses) were consistently below 0.5, thus supporting the notion that indigenous knowledge is not uniformly distributed. The study provides quantitative medicinal ethnobotanical data of high quality that will not only preserve indigenous knowledge for future generations but that can also be used in future comparative studies. It provides new insights into Cape Herbal Medicine, a medicinal system that had its origins in the poorly recorded Khoi-San and Cape Dutch medicinal traditions.