Eugenia Suárez, a professor at Exactas UBA and a CONICET researcher at the Institute of Mycology and Botany, gave details of her work that has been going on for more than a decade. It focuses on the "ethnobiology" of this community.
A large part of the medicines we use today were developed from substances that plants make naturally. In many cases, the discovery that these natural drugs can be useful to treat a health problem started from the observation of their use in ancestral communities.
Suárez in his work addresses the knowledge of 115 plants that in the Wichí culture have 408 medicinal uses, and that allow them to treat 68 different symptoms or diseases. It shows a sort of ranking of the most versatile medicinal plants (with multiple uses) and the most used in this culture.
"There are about 15 species that function as an emergency kit," he said. “The Chañiar, which is used a lot for the female cycle, as regulating menstruation. And in turn its bark is used for respiratory problems. Tusca is also used for skin problems or as infusions for the health of the little ones ", exemplified.
“The study was carried out in populations of the Salta Chaco, but if one extended to the entire population, it would be many more plants. This is incredible and to raise awareness in the midst of the devastation and clearing ", he highlighted.
“The detailed knowledge of the plants around is impressive. These are very important knowledge for the Wichí community but for the whole of society in general ", he assured.
He regretted that among the young people of the studied communities there is less knowledge about the environment. And he also highlighted that"Women know more because they are the collectors and those in charge of taking care of the family."
“There are many plants that are used medicinally and much of this knowledge is relatively new. This has to do with a peculiarity of many of the cultures of the Chaco (region), where to cure serious diseases, specialists are needed more than plants. The shamans treated them and continue to treat her and the plants are for minor ailments ”, explained.
"Serious diseases correspond to the soul leaving the body, so I need a spiritual guide to give me back my soul. In modern times there are fewer shamans and other factors, which causes more and more people to seek help from plants. The knowledge and uses of these medicinal plants are growing ”, he claimed.
Concerned about the effects of the growing clearing that the region is suffering, Suárez believes: “They are destroying the resources of the area and that directly affects those who live there, who have fewer and fewer chances of survival. Although this study is basic research, the knowledge obtained could be used for the development of local projects for the sustainable management of forest products, in this case, medicinal plants, which benefit local communities.”.
He explained that the effectiveness of plants is not studied, but rather it is about understanding what roles these plants have within a cultural context, such as a "worldview" and yes the effectiveness from that place.
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