Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 55, Issue 6, pp 911–924 | Cite as

Medical ethnobotany of the Tabarkins, a Northern Italian (Ligurian) minority in south-western Sardinia

  • Andrea Maxia
  • Maria Cristina Lancioni
  • Alessandra Nicoletta Balia
  • Raffaella Alborghetti
  • Andrea Pieroni
  • Maria Cecilia Loi
Research Article


A medico-ethnobotanical study was conducted among the Tabarkin communities living in Calasetta and Carloforte, in south-western Sardinia. These communities represent a Ligurian minority who have resided in Sardinia since their forebears migrated from Tabarka in Tunisia in the second half of the 18th Century, having previously migrated to Tabarka from Genoa in 1544. In this study, we conducted more than 200 interviews and recorded 53 botanical taxa and 72 folk pharmaceutical preparations, which represent the folk medicine of the Tabarkins. The folk phytotherapy of the Tabarkins living in Calasetta and Carloforte is quite restricted compared with other folk phytotherapy recorded in similar recent ethnobotanical studies conducted in Sardinia. This could indicate that there has been a remarkable erosion of Traditional Knowledge (TK) within these two communities. Of particular interest are a few local medical uses we recorded that have never or only very rarely been documented in Italy; namely the use of Dittrichia graveolens (L.) Greuter as an anti-haemorrhoidal, of Centaurea calcitrapa L. as a remedy for malaria, of Glycyrrhiza glabra L. in ophthalmic treatments, and of Urtica dioica L. as an antiviral in cases of German measles. Most of the botanical species quoted in this research are referred to in the two centres using a local Ligurian idiom. Most of the medico-botanical uses we recorded are very similar to those collected in other ethnobotanical surveys carried out in Liguria and south-western Sardinia. Because there was no evidence in this research of any substantial ethnobotanical traces related to the communities’ North-African experience, it would appear that the Tabarkins have readily adopted their host culture’s use of medicinal plants and have retained their own traditional cognitive concepts and knowledge of the natural plant world through the language only.


Ethnic minority groups Ethnobotany Ligurians Sardinia Tabarkins 



Special thanks are due to all the Tabarkins for their enthusiasm and for sharing their knowledge with the authors. The authors wish to thank Prof. Rachid Chemli of the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Monastir (Tunisia) for making available the Tunisian ethnobotanical data. We also thank Lindsay Lyons for editing this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Maxia
    • 1
  • Maria Cristina Lancioni
    • 1
  • Alessandra Nicoletta Balia
    • 1
  • Raffaella Alborghetti
    • 1
  • Andrea Pieroni
    • 2
  • Maria Cecilia Loi
    • 1
  1. 1.Co.S.Me.Se. (Consorzio Interuniversitario per lo Studio dei Metaboliti Secondari), Dipartimento di Scienze BotanicheUniversità degli Studi di CagliariCagliariItaly
  2. 2.Division of Pharmacy Practice, School of Life SciencesUniversity of BradfordBradfordUK

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