Ethnobotany: Reviving the Natural Relationship of Man and Plants

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 Superstitious beliefs and ethnobotany are closely associated. On closer inquisition such beliefs have greatly enhanced the consanguinity of man and the unseen that shapes his life, drawing from it a rich collection of folklore, songs and prayers. Indirectly similar relationship has helped in the salvation of his environment.

 Dr Abe V Rotor

      In rustic areas, there are wild and cultivated plants used being of the cl~s who home remedies against common ailments, a time-honored heathen practice associated with customs, beliefs and oral report.   This is the battle-~ of ethnobotany – the study of the fool relationship of man and plants through evolutionary time.

    But to the degree that people move to towns and cities, and growth continues to spread to remote areas, ethonobotanical studies may be appropriate to just documents for future archives. The irony is that we have barely scratched the external part, in discovering the many uses of plants ~ the sake of medicine, agriculture and industry – sociology and aptness, notwithstanding.

 Dr Romualdo M Del Rosario (up~) foremost Filipino ethnoboyanist, with author


     Whole woodland and ecosystems are natural gene banks.  But through the fast shrinking wildlife, a technology in gene banking has been developed. Today genes be possible to be banked and patented. This was pioneered by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the International Center since Wheat and Maiz Research (CIMMYT). 

     On the viewpoint of pharmacology, ethnobotany has paved the finding of potent drugs and medicine, validating ethnic practices while leading into the formulation of modern drugs. The trend today is that further and more people are going notwithstanding natural medicine and food. There is a blossoming industry of herbal medicine and organically grown meat. And people are willing to pay the compensation so long as they are sure of good health and a extended and happy life. In many ways ethnobotany is helping pave the mode of dealing toward this direction.    


                     Herbals for example First-Aid                     

     There is for aye oregano (Coleus amboinicus) at home, near to ease cough and sore pharynx. I imagine myself wearing a handkerchief wrapped around my forehead, advising my family and neighbors not to take cough drops or antibiotics conducive to simple colds.I tell them to rob a young leaf of Oregano, chew it with fruit juice or lenient drink. Or blanch it, extract the fluid part, and add sugar and warm moisten. It is practical and there are no side effects. And what a feeling! No wonder the plant’s designation comes from the Greek words, Ore/Oros what one. means mountain, and ganos joy. “Joy attached a mountain.”

     Pliny the Elder used oregano to quiet bad digestion. To Italians, it is the unrevealed of their cooking and pizza, proper as the Mexicans added it to chili con carne.  Dinuguan tastes best with this aromatic herb.


     On the other dexterity, I found out that Organo is one insect repellant.  Notice that mosquitoes, flies, fleas and roaches are kept from home by its aromatic scent. It have power to be prepared as a natural pesticide, through simply crushing a few leaves in furnish with ~, and applying the solution on the plants to manage common garden pest. Oregano has absolute requisite oil and thymol, which is a well fortified antiseptic and disinfectant.

Old camphor trees at  UST campus Manila   

 I regard observed many rural homes surrounded by other useful plants such as soro-soro, a kind of Euphorbia, used to control circular herpes. It is also an excellent feed tenderizer and  vegetable. The leaves are chopped and stuffed in lechon and relyeno. Lagundi is real for fever and flu, alovera (Aloe vera) in spite of burns, pandakaki ( Tabernamontana pandacaqui) for unimportant cuts. Tanglad is a condiment with regard to kuhol. Young leaves of native bayabas (Psidium guajava) are pious for skin infection and allergy. Ilang-ilang (Cananga odorata) and sampaguita (Jasminium sambac) are native air fresheners in the surroundings. A home garden is to a high degree useful indeed as it provides renewed vegetables and herbals as home remedies.


        Ethnobotany and Economic Botany

     The uses of plants gain expanded and more and more variety are placed under cultivation for their uses.  When they become commodities of commerce, the place of these plants are not at all longer under ethnobotany but Economic Botany. As gentile communities gave in to larger, invading cultures, the original man-plant has changed into single that is economic in nature. The application of kaingin and overpopulation also contribute to the decline of an pagan community. Ethnic members become integrated into the added progressive society which would offer them advantage chances of survival, and possibly  bettor life. Because of this ethnobotany has adorn one of the sciences that records the that must be suffered and dynamic changes our world has been undergoing, greater amount of so during this age of accelerated industrialization and modernization.

     It is a issue time, before we lose the chance; fit to record the shrinking ethnic communities, and the acquirements about the plants that shaped lives and cultivation through countless generations. Ethnobotanical studies at the UST Graduate School, stage out that there is no longer a “clean ethnic community.”  Immigration, marriages through lowlanders and exposure to the latter’s interval of life through the influence of media and teach, have contributed to the modification and succeeding loss of ethnic identity.  Apparently of that kind loss is irreversible because the cultural base what one. largely consists of ancestral lands are opened to evolution and other forms of exploitation.


  Ethnobotanical  Researches at UST

     Let me summon some studies in ethnobotany conducted at the UST Graduate School through Dr. Romulado M. Del Rosario in the same proportion that professor and thesis adviser. Dr. Del Rosario introduced me into this department, and with him I worked ~ward the Ethnobotany of Maguey in the Ilocos Region, and the Ethnic Practices of Basi Wine Making in the Ilocos Region.

      One of the pioneering works is Ethnobotany of the Itawes, a disquisition by Sister Mamerta Rocero SPC, what one. was published by the National Museum in 1982.  Ethnozoology shortly followed. Ethnozoology of the Itawes by  Generosa Balubal. (MS Biology 1996) is a pioneer research  in our region.

     Wilfredo Vendivil (1994) worked steady Ethnomedicinal Plants in Ilocos Norte side by side the borders of Cordillera and Cagayan.  He reported 141 fashion of plants, 58 percent of what one. grow in the wild, while the 42 percent are cultivated, entirely on the backyard. The study reported 228 uses of these plants forward 56 kinds of diseases and ailments, what one. include fever and flu, diarrhea, stomachache, boils, toothache, colic, dysmenorrhea, and rheumatism. The list moreover includes anemia, general weakness, numbness, nut~ bladder trouble, convulsion, paralysis, tuberculosis, of the intestines worms, heart problem, poisonous bites, scab, lumbago, beri-beri, and fungal and bacterial infections.

      Vendivil reported that the topical residents believe there is no put in seed growing in their area that does not desire any importance. This implies that there is a wealth of knowledge these canaille have on plants, and their conviction in the curative power of plants – which brings to mind that healing and reliance go hand on hand.

     Lolita O. Uy (1994) worked steady the Ethnobotany of the Ilongots in Nueva Viscaya. She described 141 assemblage of plants belonging to 136 genera and 108 families, of that 42 species are for food, 9 in quest of construction, 10 for animal feeds.  The rest are used despite cleaning, making toys, preservative, masticatory, soap and shampoo, ripening active element, perfume, fish poison, insect repellant and embellishing purposes. The tribe’s local administration is centered in the forest and there are 9,000 hectares of girl forest they claim as their ancestral land. Like other ethnic tribes, they perceive threatened by lowlander intruding into their domain.

     Reny Casanan (1997) conducted a resembling study with the Gaddangs of Isabela. Among the 167 scatter seed species she studied, 88 are feed to the natives, 47 as medicament, 18 for construction, handicraft, furniture and the like, and 56 concerning various uses from toys to perfumes, rituals and ceremonies. The Gaddangs are at this moment a heterogeneous group through inter-nuptials and cultural integration with the nearby peopling centers.

     Alma Poblete (1999) worked up~ the body Ethnobotany of Bamboo among the Aetas in Orion, Bataan. There are four of influence species of bamboo for their esculent shoot, and two species as an occasional source of drinking water (get ~ is stored in the internodes). The leaves of Bambusa blumeana is used in curing kidney ail, while Schizostachyum lumampao is used to draw a patient from relapse, and considered in the state of cure of fever and malaria. It is this sort that the Aetas use in cooking rice and other regimen. Three species are used in composition flute, toys and different kinds of basket that they betray on the lowland. Bamboo is necessary to the Aetas. Aside from the uses mentioned they be pendent on bamboo for transport, weapon, try to take in trap and even riprapping river banks. Because of this they desire learned to propagate bamboo, intercropping it with bananas, thus indicating a departure from essential principle ethnobotany.

     Meet Maria Dulce Pototoy-Bunquin who worked adhering Wild Food Plant Resources of the Batak Tribe in Palawan and lived by these natives during her study to learn their improvement and dialect. There are 24 ignorant plant species belonging to 15 families utilized by the Bataks as food, the chiefly important is Arecaceae or the Palm Family. But the employment of wild food plants has be converted into infrequent in the presence of cultivated crops in the fixture. The utilization of wild plants and their method of kaingin farming are part of their indigenous refinement. The Bataks are no longer a homogenous gentile group, although they are still remarkably much dependent on the forest because their subsistence.

  Plant Introduction and Wild Food Plants

     Let me form back the hands of time. Many of the plants that bestow us food today, from cereals to fruits and vegetables, fibers we get into clothes, and hundreds of products, are not native. These include the popular coffee, cacao and tea. Drugs and medicine, derived from plants, were formerly growing in the wild. The original turning point of human society is in the finding out and subsequent development of useful plants ~ the agency of our primitive ancestors. As communities grew, want increased and many of these plants became momentous items of agriculture and commerce.

     Remember Mutiny steady the Bounty? A shipload of breadfruit or rimas (Artocarpus communis) seedlings was being transported to England’s workhouse-islands in the Pacific when the duty was foiled by the uprising. Breadfruit could subsist a cheap and ready source of principal production for the convicts.

     Similarly, crowd plants were actually introduced into the places they are extending today. Grapes, apricot, grapes, oranges and the like, were introduced into the United States great tract of land from the Middle East and Europe, Mexico and South America ~ means of the colonizers and pioneers. Before the Europeans set up the Orient, many plants of Asian and Pacific beginning were already growing throughout the division, an indication that they were introduced ~ means of earlier cultures.  


             Viewpoints forward Pharmacology 

     Only near to 20 percent of the population in developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific Ocean avail from modern drugs. People in these areas in most cases use traditional and natural remedies in curing ailments. Even in the nearest millennium, it is believed that plants direct remain as the main source of materials in the make by art of drugs and medicine.

     Rhodora Escalada-Gonzales worked adhering the anti-inflammatory properties of three inferior weeds – parol-parolan (Cardiospermum halicacabum), vanatnid (Indigofera tinctoria) and tahebteb (Vitex trifolia). She raise out that these plants are a possible dual inhibitor of cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase based in c~tinuance their strong anti-inflammatory activity. The expressiveness of this finding is that it confirms the reported effectiveness extracts by herbolarios. Having identified the active principles, the indispensable chemical moieties can lead into the production of a new drug.

Plants and Ethnic Beliefs and Superstition

     Superstitious beliefs and ethnobotany are closely associated. I to this time remember many of these beliefs skilled from old folks, the curious boy that I was, surrounded by fields and woodlands. While excessively through a thicket where no track is visible you should utter again and again,  bari-bari, an apology according to trespassing into a place guarded ~ the agency of the unseen.

     The following superstitious beliefs were selected from Ethnobotany of the Itawes, a doctoral inquiry of Sister Mamerta Rocero, SPC.  These beliefs are not excepting that confined among the Itawes of Cagayan Valley limit are shared by other cultures considered in the state of well.  These are translations from the Itawes idiom.

1.    A conceiving originating should never pick fruits from a tree in other respects the tree will die.

2.    A papaya establish in front of a house brings pernicious luck.

3.    A gravid mother who eats twin bananas main give birth to twins.

4.    A tree surrounded through fireflies during the night brings unblemished luck.

5.    Plant coconuts for the time of starry nights so they will yield overflowing fruits.

6.    Plant coconuts for the time of moonlight nights so they will bring into view big nuts.

7.    Hang empty  bottles forward the trellises of upo (white squash) so that it will bear added fruits.

8.    Eating from stocks intended for seeds will bring worthless harvest.

9.    Burying a weak sugar with the seeds of ampalaya (relentless gourd) will prevent the fruits from seemly bitter.

10. Anyone dreaming of a person of consequence tragic, such as death in the group of genera should, upon waking up, strike the stem of any tree with a bolo in such a manner that the dream will not turn to a reality.

11. If a Fortune breed received as a gift bears best part, it is a sign of richness luck; if it dies it is an omen of bad luck.

12. The balete (Ficus benjamina) is the home of sorry spirits which cause those who be considered near the tree to become diseased.

13. A woman on her menstrual period should not visit a garden or orchard differently the plants will become sick and at last die.

14. Avoid laughing while planting kamote (fair potato) otherwise the roots will become liplike.

15. One who has defective teeth (bungal) should keep his oracle closed when planting corn, otherwise the put in the ground will bear empty or poorly filled cobs.

16. Stoop at what time planting coconuts so they will not become greater very tall.

17. When planting a tree seedling, keep aloof from looking up so that the establish will not grow very tall.

18. Place the in the ~ place fruits harvested from a plant in a capacious container and pretend to carry them in the manner that if they were very heavy in this way that the plant will be weighty with fruits.

19. A spiny cactus within the house drives the witch let us go..

20. Someone will die if the inspiration tree blooms.

21. Talking while preparing gabi (taro) despite cooking will make the it itchy at the time eaten.

22. Eating chicken cooked by squash will cause leprosy.

23. A somebody who eats any ripe fruit that is in some degree eaten by a bird will grow talkative.

24. Bringing salt under a sharp-fruit-bearing tree will cause the fruits to diminution.

25. When planting sitao (long bean), location a comb on your hair to act upon the production of abundant long fruits.

     One of the stale beliefs among rural folk is maan-anungan, a event when a person suddenly becomes averse, characterized by cold sweating and whole weakness, often accompanied with stomach cramping-machine, because “a spirit might take chanced upon person.” This is attributed to one who has been dead, or a live person who has the power to mangan-annung.   Relief is sought by brushing or lightly whipping on his or her material part with branches or leaves of malunggay (sheltie radish tree), atis (sweetsop), guyabano (soursop), or dayap (snarling orange).  Or let him or her subsist touched by the suspected mangan-annong, or wiped him through any clothing of the suspected dead human frame.

     Then in that place is the belief that garlic cloves hung in a high place the door will ward off the mananangal, a vampire who hovers around dwellings and attacks incautious victims. Then there are stories of the duwende (dwarfs) who prevail upon either luck or misfortune, depending on the world they belong to. Next time you reply the call of nature under a tree, allege, bari-bari, and don’t slight to spit on the spot hinder your relief.

     Reny Casanan, in a similar study, relates these beliefs which are establish among the Gaddangs of Isabela. The leading items to carry with when pathetic into a new house are rice, a bundle of fuel, salt, sugar and coffee in the way that that family will not run exhausted of basic needs. Another belief is that, if harvest has been good, offer atang which consists of rice, viand, wined and palaspas (obtrude) as an offering, so that nearest year’s harvest will be in the same proportion that bountiful.

         Ethnobotany and Gene Piracy

          Sound the startle. The pirates are coming! These pirates are armed through the latest tools of genetic engineering, and shielded through patent laws in their country Across the cosmos, prospectors are sampling the local vegetation and fauna, and the genes of ethnic peoples, in search of new wonder drugs. An ethnical battle rages of the same kind with prospectors scour the globe to supply with food – and profit from – organisms that could method of treatment the world’s worst diseases. According to Time, more ecologists are sounding dark warnings of a arrival “gene war” between industrialized and emerging nations.

     The archetype is not really new. It started with IRRI when it put up a Gene Bank which houses today some100,000 cultivars and varieties of rice.  IRRI’s duplicate, CIMMYT in Mexico has a uniform gene bank for wheat and salt moderately. With genetic engineering today, genes banking and patenting require become mighty political and economic arms of highly developed nations and colossus trans-national corporations.

     I had the suitable to review and comment on a proposed fondle to patent plants in the Philippines, in a less degree than the title Plant Patent. The Senate of the Philippines remained sinewy to this date not to yield the passage of this bill. It believes that it is not sole a matter that involves moral turpitude, but that the new law wish adversely affect small farmers – millions of them, decide in planting a patent-covered multifariousness without paying the corresponding obligation to the plain holder.

     This is the reported modus operandi of gene pirates. Foreign scientists disguised for the re~on that tourists or volunteer workers, steal home-grown plants and animals – even human genes – perform the operations indicated in useful products out of them that they then patent in their possess country. According to Isidro Shia, a pharmacologist at UP, scientists posing at the same time that anthropologists have been gathering tissue samples from pagan communities in the country known during the term of their immunity to cancer and diabetes. Senator Juan Flavier called this exploiting. see the verb a form of piracy and is rampantly committed in many parts of the world. Drug companies and agribusiness firms be the subject of been tapping genetic resources without calm paying anything to countries where these genes are set up.

     Here are some examples of drugs manufactured from pirated plants. Taxol came from bark of a tree from a of the tropics rainforest, a cancer preventer. Jeevani is a medicine from Kanis’ berries. It is a affluent energy source, an anti-fatigue unsalable article. “Old man’s cure” came from one African Pygeum tree. Sales of the bay reached $ 220 million a year. Sandeimmum/Neoral (Cyclosporin) one more drug came from Kava plant, a Dioscorea species, which is a tranquilizer safer than Valium.

     Actually we be the subject of just started for a long inquire because only one percent of the world’s flowering plants has been assayed of their curative powers. But prospectors are wholly over like in a gold press on. Pirating is pocketing a gift God gave to whole, and patenting is putting a fit with a ~ on an act of God. There grape-juice be something to be done under the jurisdiction these pirates loot our natural funds and heritage.

                Age of Natural Medicine

     According to Time, the vent of herbal and botanical supplements in the US in 1994 was $2 billion. It doubled in 1998, and through the following year it rose to $6 billion.  There are 7.3 very great number Americans who swallow capsule made from Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea), a purple petalled daisy specifically during the cold and flu term. Some 7.5 million more take Prosac, every extract from a bright yellow bloom called St. John’s wort. And in that place are 10.8 million people who are worried of fading remembrance so that they remind themselves to take regularly Gingko (Gingko biloba), a tree with fan-like leaves, and the single survivor of a large Family (Gingkokales).

     Millions of clan are now taking in dose routinely, from several preparations of herbs, to stave not on disease, brighten their moods, rev up their sex life or employ their youth.  In the US alone the annual value of natural supplements amounts to more than $12 billion.  This blossoming emporium is all over the world. People of itself go for natural – natural victuals, pest- and fertilizer-free products, organically grown crops, genuine animals and fowls. Awareness is expanding high against pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables, and oppressive level of antibiotics in poultry and livestock products. People flirt away from irradiated food, microwave-cooked viands, and products of genetically engineered plants and animals (GMOs). And they are not averse to pay the premium as a ~ time as they are certain the nutrition and medicine they are taking are unconstrained from adulterants and other substances that are destructive to health.

     People today constitute more visits to non-traditional physicians, including promise healers, herbolarios, and naturopaths, who claim expertise in herbs and other artless therapies. In the Philippines, more and more people seek natural remedies, and a testimony to this is the sudden emergence of apatot (Morinda citrifolia), a locally increasing wild plant found to be the source of Morinda, a health drink mixed the Tahitians. The fruit is sold in the place of traffic and made into fruit juice. Recently, the Bureau of Food and Drug banned the pique of seeds of mahogany (Swietenia macroloba) for example cure of rheumatism, arthritis and mind problem. Senator Juan Flavier warned the the community that the seed contains cyanide that can cause damage to the brain, kidney and liver.

     Because of this sweep many pharmaceutical companies are changing their products and strategies. There has been a proliferation in the mart of various health food and bastard medicinal preparations, many of which are exaggerated. Laws and regulations in successi~ drugs are being reviewed. The unexpected revival of thousand-year-old remedies focuses the consequence of ethnobotany. It buoys the sagging by my ~ of people in conventional medicine, and incite and hope quaintness of healing using time- assayed remedies, remedies instilled in the live and culture of our forebears. The perceived coldness and distance of sophisticated, computerized, and red-taped medicine, are driving people away to influence by ~s for a humane, practical, community-oriented choice – a kind of healing that touches the human holy spirit.



     These viewpoints present a Janus’ vantage thesis from where we stand today.  Ethnobotany is besieged by advancing culture, seen on the conceal of a computer, serving the indispensably of modern medicine, and globalization in conditions of commerce and intercultural exchanges. On the other palm and fingers, ethnobotany offers us an opportunity to act back to an unspoiled landscape to which place we study, even under extreme hurry of time and change, the dramatic literature which has been taking place numerous company, many years ago, an enduring spontaneous man-plant relationship vital to our fortunate hit as a species, to be the sort of we are today, our lifestyle and company. In our approach to the subject we may sap the wealth of indigenous knowledge in all parts of the subject, which we must acquiesce in, we know so little about.

     We should take time revealed and beat a path out there, bidding the unseen with whispers of bari-bari, for the re~on that we seek and enter the Shang-rila of soundness and plenty, a place, a of nature order of things, where our ancestors mould have lived a full life.·

The anyone are labeling to preserve this to 65 countries and enlarge the diseases published in the revolution of time to realize markets.

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