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Economic Botany

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 218–230 | Cite as

Medicinal Flora of the Popoluca, Mexico: A botanical systematical perspective

  • Marco Leonti
  • Ramirez R. Fernando
  • Otto Sticher
  • Michael HeinrichEmail author

Abstract

We studied the medicinal plants used by the Popoluca of the Sierra de Santa Marta (eastern Mexico). Using Moerman’s method of regression analysis we determined which ethnomedically used taxa are over-represented in the Popolucan pharmacopoeia (e.g., Asteraceae) and which are underrepresented (e.g., Orchidaceae). Moerman et al. (1999) found high correlation between the holarctic pharmacopoeias and assumed that apart from the relatedness of the northern floras a “global pattern of human knowledge“ may account for this finding. Although the Popoluca dwell in a habitat dominated by a neotropical flora but intermixed with important holarctic elements, they include considerably fewer neotropical taxa in their pharmacopoeia as one would expect if the historical transmitted knowledge were influencing their selection. This finding confirms the theory stated by Moerman et al. However, the Popoluca include some neotropical taxa in their pharmacopoeia and thus a moderate correlation exists between the Popolucan pharmacopoeia and the neotropical pharmacopoeia analysed by Moerman et al. We therefore conclude that apart from historically transmitted knowledge about specific taxa the “global pattern of human knowledge” addressed by Moerman et al. is largely based on “common selection criteria.”

Key Words

traditional medicine ethnobotany ethnopharmacy Isthmus of Tehuantepec Macro-Mayan medicinal plant selection Mexico Popoluca regression analysis 

Resumen

Aplicando el método de análisis de regresión de Moerman, determinamos cuales taxa utilizados etnomédicamente están sobre-representados (p. ej. Asteraceae) y cuáles taxa están sub-representados (p. ej. Orchidaceae) en la farmacopea Popoluca. Moerman y colaboradores encontraron una alta correlatión entre diversas farmacopeas holárticas y suponen que este hecho se debe a la semejanza de las floras boreales y a la existencia de un “cuadro común de sabiduría humana.” Los Popolucas, quienes viven en un medio ambiente dominado por la flora neotropical mezclada con elementos boreales, incluyen menos taxa neotropicales en su farmacopea de lo que se hubiera esperado. Este resultado apoya la teoría expresado por Moerman et al. sobre la influencia de un conocimiento de la etnofarmacopea holártica que ha sido transmitido desde tiempos prehistóricos. Sin embargo comprobamos que existe una clara influencia neotropical en la farmacopea Popoluca por lo cual concluimos que además de los conocimientos sobre taxa específicos transmitidos históricamente, el hipotético “patrón común de sabiduría humana” citado por Moerman et al. se refiere también a “criterios comunes de selectión.”

Während einer ethnobotanischen Feldstudie untersuchten wir die Medizinalpflanzen der Popoluca in der Sierra de Santa Marta (östliches Mexiko). Wir wandten Moermans Methode der Regressionsanalyse an, um die ethnomedizinisch überrepräsentierten (z. B. Asteraceae) und unterrepräsentierten Taxa (z. B. Orchidaceae) dieser Ethnopharmakopöe zu bestimmen. Moerman et al., welche eine hohe Korrelation zwischen holarktischen Pharmakopöen fanden, vermuten, dass neben der Verwandschaft der nördlichen Flora ein “globales Muster menschlichen Wissens” für dieses Ergebnis verantwortlich ist. Die Popoluca, welche in einem Habitat siedeln. in dem die neotropische Flora dominiert, aber klare holarktische Einflüsse aufweist, schliessen bedeutend weniger neotropische Elemente in ihre Pharmakopöe mit ein, als man erwarten würde, wenn nicht historisch tradiertes Wissen ihre Selektion beeinflussen würde. Dieses Ergebnis bestätigt die Theorie von Moerman et al. Da jedoch in der Pharmakopöe der Popoluca ein bestimmter Teil der neotropischen Flora vertreten ist, besteht eine moderate Korrelation zu der von Moerman et al. analysierten neotropischen Pharmakopöe. Daher schlussfolgern wir, dass das von Moerman et al. vermutete “globule Muster menschlichen Wissens” nebst historisch tradiertem phytomedizinischem Wissen über spezifische Taxa vor allem auch auf “gemeinsamen Selektionskriterien” beruht.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden Press 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Leonti
    • 1
  • Ramirez R. Fernando
    • 2
  • Otto Sticher
    • 3
  • Michael Heinrich
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Applied BioSciences, Institute of Pharmaceutical SciencesSwiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) ZurichWinterthurerstr 190Switzerland
  2. 2.Centro HistóricoProyecto Sierra de Santa MariaVeracruzMéxico
  3. 3.Department of Applied BioSciencesInstitute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)ZürichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, The School of PharmacyUniversity of LondonBrunswick SqLondon, WC1N 1AX, UK

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