Economic Botany

, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 500–512 | Cite as

The diverse uses of fish-poison plants in Northwest Guyana

  • Tinde Van Andel
Article

Abstract

Although prohibited by law, fish poison plants are still widely used by indigenous tribes in Guyana. The latest ethnobotanical collections date from the first half of the 20th century and, from recent anthropological studies, it cannot be deduced whether the same species are still used today. The present study attempts to clarify the taxonomy and ethnobotany of the fish poisons, in particular those containing rotenone, currently used by Amerindians in northwest Guyana. Specimens were collected from 11 species known to be ichthyotoxic, both from wild and cultivated sources. It was found that fish poisons not only serve as a quick method of providing food in times of shortage, but also play an important role in magic rituals and traditional medicine. Particularly striking was the use of Lonchocarpus spp. and Tephrosia sinapou in the treatment of cancer and AIDS. Further ethnobotanical and pharmacological research should focus on the medicinal applications of rotenone-yielding plants.

Key Words

fish-poison plants Guyana indigenous peoples traditional medicine cancer AIDS Lonchocarpus Tephrosia ethnobotany 

Los diversos usos de los barbascos en el noroeste de Guyana

Resumen

Aunque prohibidos por la ley, los barbascos aún son usados ampliamente por las tribus indígenas de Guyana. En dicha región, las colectas etnobotánicas más recientes datan de la primera mitad del siglo XX y desafortunadamente los estudios antropológicos contemporáneos no señalan los nombres científicos de las especies utilizadas. Este artículo tiene por objetivo aclarar la taxonomía y etnobotánica de los barbascos empleados actualmente por los amerindios del Noroeste de Guyana. Se colectaron muestras de once especies, cultivadas y silvestres, reconocidas como ictiotóxicas. Se encontró que los barbascos no solo proporcionan un método rápido para obtener alimento en tiempos de escasez, también son ingredientes importantes en rituales mágicos y como plantas medicinales. En particular es sorprendente el uso de Lonchocarpus spp. y Tephrosia sinapou en el tratamiento del cancer y SIDA. Las investigaciones etnobotánicas y farmacológicas futuras deben enfocarse a las aplicaciones médicas de las plantas que contienen rotenoides.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. 1990. The occurrence of piscicides and stupefactants in the plant kingdom. Pages 1–23in G. T. Prance and M. J. Balick, eds., New directions in the study of plants and people. Advances in Economic Botany 8. New York Botanical Garden, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Archer, W. A.1934. Fish poison plants of British Guiana, a preliminary list. Agricultural Journal of British Guiana 5(3):204–206.Google Scholar
  3. Austin, D. F., and G. R. Bourne. 1992. Notes on Guyana’s medical ethnobotany. Economic Botany 46(3):293–298.Google Scholar
  4. Boggan, J., V. Funk, C. Kelloff, M. Hoff, G. Cremers, and C. Feuillet. 1997. Checklist of the plants of the Guianas (Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana), 2nd Edition. ORSTOM, Smithsonian Institution and Centre for the Study of Biological Diversity. University of Guyana, Georgetown.Google Scholar
  5. Carter, K. 1993. AIDS: dying to make a living. Guyana Review 7:21–25.Google Scholar
  6. Chevalier, A. 1925. Sur les Légumineuses de la Tribu des Téphrosiées cultivées dans les pays tropicaux pour capturer le poisson: leurs usages et leur distribution géographique. Comptes rendus de l’Academie desSciences CLXXX:1520–1523.Google Scholar
  7. Christenhusz, M. J. J. 1999. The generaEuphorbia, Pedilanthus andMacaranga in the Guianas. Internal report Herbarium Utrecht University, Utrecht.Google Scholar
  8. Clark, E. P. 1929. The occurrence of rotenone in the Peruvian fish poison ‘cube’. Science 70:478–479.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clement, C. R. 1999. 1492 and the Loss of Amazonian Crop Genetic Resources I. The relation between domestication and human population decline. Economic Botany 53(2): 188–202.Google Scholar
  10. Dance, C. H. 1881. Chapters from a Guianese logbook. Demerara.Google Scholar
  11. Fanshawe, D. B. 1948. Forest products of British Guiana, part II. Minor Forest Products. Forestry Bulletin No. 2. Forestry Department, Georgetown.Google Scholar
  12. —. 1953. Fish poisons of British Guiana. Kew Bulletin 2:239–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fang N., and J. E. Casida. 1998. Anticancer action of cube insecticide: correlation for rotenoid con stituents between inhibition of NADH: ubiquinone oxidoreductase and induced ornithine decarboxylase activities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 95(7):3380–3384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Farnsworth, N. R., A. S. Bingel, H. H. S. Fong, A. A. Saleh, G. M. Christenson, and S. M. Saufferer. 1976. Oncogenic and tumor-promoting spermatophytes and pteridophytes and their active principles. Cancer Treatment Reports 60:1171–1214.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Forte, J. 1996. Macushi lifestyle and biodiversity use. Iwokrama International Rainforest Programme and Amerindian Research Unit. University of Guyana, Georgetown.Google Scholar
  16. —,L. Pierre, and D. Fox. 1992. The material culture of the Wapishana people of the South Rupununi savannahs in 1989. Amerindian Research Unit. University of Guyana, Georgetown.Google Scholar
  17. Gillin, J. 1936. The Barama River Caribs of British Guiana. Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology 14(2).Google Scholar
  18. Gozálvez, M., and J. Merchan. 1973. Induction of rat mammary adenomas with the respiratory inhibitor rotenone. Cancer Research 33:3047.Google Scholar
  19. Grenand, P., C. Moretti, and H. Jacquemin. 1987. Pharmacopées traditionelles en Guyane. Créoles, Palikur, Wayãpi. Collection Mémoires, No. 108. ORSTOM, Paris.Google Scholar
  20. Hamid, A. 1999.Derris Lour. Pages 234–242in L. S. de Padua, N. Bunyapraphatsara and R. H. M. J. Lemmens, eds., Plant Resources of South-East Asia 12(1): medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden.Google Scholar
  21. Hartwell, J. L. 1967–1971. Plants used against cancer. A survey. Lloydia 30:379–436, and ten additional installments ending with 34:386–437.Google Scholar
  22. —. 1976. Types of anticancer agents isolated from plants. Cancer Treatment Reports 60:1031–1067.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Howes, F. N. 1930. Fish poison plants. Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information Kew 4:129–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Iwokrama. 1998. Community-based wildlife management in the North Rupununi. Proceedings of a workshop 2-6 April 1998. North Rupununi District Development Board and Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development, Georgetown.Google Scholar
  25. Killip, E. P., andA. C. Smith. 1935. Some American plants used as fish poisons. U.S. Department of Agriculture, New York Botanical Garden, New York.Google Scholar
  26. Kosteletzky, B. F. 1831–1836. Allgemeine medizinisch-pharmazeutische Flora, Vol. 1-6. Borrosch and André, Prague.Google Scholar
  27. Krukoff, B. A., andA. C. Smith. 1937. Rotenone-yielding plants of South America. American Journal of Botany 24(9):573–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lachman-White, D. A., C. D. Adams, andU. O. Trotz. 1992. A guide to the medicinal plants of coastal Guyana. Commonwealth Science Council, Technical Publications Series 225, London.Google Scholar
  29. Leslie, A. R., ed. 1994. Handbook of integrated pest management. Lewis Publishers Inc., Washington D.C.Google Scholar
  30. Martyn, E. B., andR. R. Follett-Smith. 1936. The fish poison plants of British Guiana, with special reference to the generaTephrosia andLonchocarpus. Agricultural Journal of British Guiana 7(3): 154–159.Google Scholar
  31. Matsumura, F. 1985. Toxicity of insecticides. Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  32. Mendelsohn, R. 1997. Valuing undiscovered pharmaceuticals in tropical forests. Notes on Economic Plants. Economic Botany 51(3):328.Google Scholar
  33. Moretti, C., andP. Grenand. 1982. Les nivrées ou plantes ichthyotoxiques de la Guyane Française. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 6:139–160.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR). 1999. Tumorogenic potential of rotenone and its specificity for mammary tissue, experiment No. 216. Available on the world-wide web: http:// ntp-server.niehs.nih.gov/htdocs/LT-Studies/ TR320.html.Google Scholar
  35. Peckolt, T. 1868. Analyses de Materia Medica Brasileira. E. and J. Laemmert, Rio de Janeiro.Google Scholar
  36. Prance, G. T. 1972. Ethnobotanical notes from Amazonian Brazil. Economic Botany 26(3):221–237.Google Scholar
  37. Rehm, S., andG. Espig. 1991. The cultivated plants of the tropics and subtropics. Institute of Agronomy in the Tropics. Verlag Josef Margraf, Göttingen.Google Scholar
  38. Reinders, M. 1993. Medicinal plants and their uses and the ideas about illness and healing among the Warao of Guyana. MSc thesis, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Utrecht University, Utrecht.Google Scholar
  39. Riley, M. n.d. Traditional remedies, indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights: the current status and possible future of the ethno-medicine of the Makushi Amerindians. Paper presented at workshop Carib Studies in the Guianas: Ethnobotany, Language and Culture. 31 Aug.-l Sept. 1998. Amerindian Research Unit and Tropenbos-Guyana, Georgetown.Google Scholar
  40. Roth, W. E. 1924. An introductory study of the arts, crafts and customs of the Guiana Indians. 38th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  41. Spjut, R. W., andR. E. Perdue. 1976. Plant folklore: a tool for predicting sources of antitumor activity? Cancer Treatment Reports 60: 979–985.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Sullivan, C. 1997. Calculating the gross village product of an Amerindian village: the example of Assakata, N.W. Guyana, with particular reference to the contribution of GVP made by NTFP from the forest. Tropenbos Interim report 1997-4. Tropenbos Foundation, Wageningen.Google Scholar
  43. van Andel, T. R., Huyskens, P. E., andK. C. A. Bröker. 1998. Palm heart harvesting in Guyana’s North-West District: exploitation and regeneration ofEuterpe oleracea swamp forests. Tropenbos-Guyana Interim Report 98-1. Herbarium Utrecht University, Utrecht.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden Press 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tinde Van Andel
    • 1
  1. 1.National Herbarium of the NetherlandsUtrecht University branchTC UtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations