Ourou Gaoue, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, coauthored a paper titled “Non-random medicinal plants selection in the Kichwa community of the Ecuadorian Amazon,” published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
Researchers analyzed data collected on indigenous people’s uses of non-random medicinal jungle plants at the local level, rather than at the national level. This is the first time a village-level study has taken place, better ensuring the consistency of plant availability in certain areas.
“When people are doing this study, they are usually doing it at the national scale,” Gaoue said. “If you’re doing the analysis at the national level, you are overestimating the number of plants from which the indigenous people actually find that have medicine.”
The study is also one of the most diverse in research of non-random medicinal plant selection, analyzing gender, age, and exposure to outside influences, such as ecotourism projects, to determine overuse and underuse of medicinal plants in jungle communities.
“Village level analysis provides a different result than at the national level,” Gaoue said. “A plant is not medicine for everyone. Men and women know different kinds of plants. An older person will see a plant with medicine in it that a younger person will not see. People who are educated would not see medicine in a plant that someone in a rural area would be able to see.”
Other authors on the paper include Daniela Robles Arias of Florida Atlantic University, Daniela Cevallos of Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Maria Fadiman of the University of Parakou, and Tobin Hindle of the University of Johanesburg.
-By Kelly Alley