The Biology Of The Magic
The science already has an answer about why Piura Andes' medicinal plants heal.
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All photographs provided by Fidel Torres.
The chupicaure [pronounce "choopeekewreh"] is one of the most promising species that the research re-discovered.
Maybe the star of Piura Andes is the lanche, which fruit (on the photo) is tasty, aromatic and nutritive. This one comes from Totora Village, Pacaipampa District.
- The potential of medicinal plants in Peru is enormous in terms of
investigations are focused on their power for treatment or healing
diseases, but they are not enlarging their own perspective to other
activities requiring them too, as cosmetology or nutrition.
This narrow vision also limits the economic potential for the communities where these species grow.
In the other
side, many of these investigations only arrive to gather the knoledge
of the communities where that biodiversity is located, treating
them as a source but blocking them to participate into the scientific
process. Add to this the risk that biopiracy follows to
represent, that gets data and results but it does not patent them as
owned by this country but it compromises them as the property of
If this is not enough, many studies have been located at Peruvian Jungle but not the Andes, neither Piura's Andean Zone.
As FACTORTIERRA.NET previously reported,
it was announced in April 2016 an ethnical-botanical study that would
research what the potential of medicinal plants in Ayabaca and Huancabamba
highlands is, with the active participation of the communities.
Two years later, we already have some preliminary results, as the
The study was focused on the botanic species living at the nascents of Quiroz and Huancabamba Rivers, between Pacaipampa (Ayabaca) and El Carmen de la Frontera
(Huancabamba) Districts, in a altitude range from 2700 meters or 8860
feet to 3500 meters or 11480 feet. In other words, between cloud forest and jalca [pronounce "halka"] or Piura's moor (páramo) ecosystems.
The wonderful landscape where this investigation was made: the
cloud forest (above) and the páramos or moors (below) of Piura Andes.
The both pictures were taken in El Carmen de la Frontera District.
42,1% of researched species were herbs and 36,8% were trees.
Institute's Fidel Torres Guevara and National University of Trujillo's
Mayar Ganoza Yupanqui said on the Peruvian Journal of Integrative
Medicine that the purpose was "to have an ethnical-botanical
investigation with a participative perspective, for identifying
native species of páramos and cloud forests in north-Peruvian Andes,
promising from nutritional and therapeutic perspective, through
five systems of extraction those give precision to the
analysis of the presence of bioactive substances,
responsible for their properties."
The first they
got was the approval of the communities where the investigation was
made, through votation in locals' assembly. This is called social
the locals themselves turned into part of the research crew by sharing
their traditional knowledge, that next to the laboratory
analysis, open the field for futture pre-clinical works to go it
deeper. In that sense, 24 women and 56 men were identified
as experts in location and properties of medicinal plants.
ethnical-botanical study under the perspective of participative
investigation results a pertinent route of research
that involves to the owners of the traditional knowledge not like
informers, as happens frequently in this type of investigation,
but like co-authors and offerers of specialized knowledge, waht
can place their communities as initial links of the
bio-prospective research chain," Torres and Ganoza point out.
And this is the comparative advantage of the study: to validate scientifically the traditional knoledge of the people.
The project was
funded by the National Programme of Agrarian Innovation, The Mountain
Institute, and the organized communities in Pacaipampa and El
Carmen de la Frontera.
A payana plant in Garales Town, Pacaipampa District, just in the entrance of the páramos at 3000 meters or 9840 feet altitude.
The poleo del inca plant, somewhere Pacaipampa District's páramo.
Five Promising Species
From the whole
existent vegetal biodiversity, it ended to get focused in 19species
those were analized by using three ethanol-based hydroalcoholic
systems, another one by infusion, and the last one by decoction. It is
necessary to remember that the plants list to prospect was
proposed by the communities, what gives us an investigation by
convinience. The rest was going out to the field, to collect such
species, and running the laboratory tests.
From the 19
ones, three from the páramos and two from cloud forests resulted showing
significant values of phenolic compounds, anti-oxidant activity,
and they are not toxic: Myrcianthes myrsinoides (lanche), Bejaria
resinosa (payana), Acaena ovalifolia (pega-pega), Cuphea ciliata
(bull-herb) and Muehlenbeckia hastulata (chupicaure).
To reach this
most specific list, 4-5 samples were taken -flowers inclusive- from the
19 initially proposed species, those pressed and dried were sent
to National University of Cajamarca's Isidoro Sánchez Herbarium
(Cajamarca), specialized in páramos' vegetation, and National
University of Trujillo's Herbarium Truxillense (La Libertad). In those
two places its taxonomy was verified, then the laboratory tests
were run with ethanol-based compounds in different concentrations,
were prepared as infusion, and were decocted. Finally, they
had a spectrophotometric analysis by redux method.
the leaves resulted being the most used part of the plants in 47,3%.
Also, the lanche, the payana, and the pega-pega resulted being
214-821 miligrams of total phenolic compounds per gram of species. Only
in lanche's case, that could explain its efficiency for healing
cold, indigestion and being part of the Andean rural people's diet.
The lanche grows up at Ayabaca and Huancabamba páramos, and uses to be consumed as infusion or macerated.
If we put
together this aspect to its anti-oxidant activity and its low toxicity,
it means we have promising species those can be consumed by the
general public without significant risk. The current study suggests it
is antimicrobian, oxitocin, and analgesic properties, so they can
be used as the starting point "to begin a pre-clinical analysis of the
effect of these plants into specific pathologies or conditions."
As a scientific
anecdote, the alcohol used during the tests is the same that the
people of Ayabaca and Huancabamba extract from sugarcane.
Above: The sagapa plant.
Below: The singor plant.
The Science Behind The Tradition
contribution of the shared traditional knoledge to this study is the
pointing not only of the therapeutic or nutritional
function of the plant, but also the used structure, preparation
forms, used quantitty, and administration form, what
allowed to orientate the chemical analysis to make, and their
processing probabilities," Torres and Ganoza affirm.
necessary to name the women and the men with Asociación de
Productores Conservadores de los Páramos y Bosques de Neblina de
Pacaipampa (ACOBOSPA) and Asociación de Mujeres Protectoras de los
Páramos de Huancabamba (AMUPPA) , who were participants of the
research's ethnical-botanical component: Pedro Ruiz, Flavio Ruiz,
Serafín Neyra, Juan Neyra, Berardo Neyra, Edwin Neira, Neptalí
Cruz, Sebastián Quinde, Duberli Neyra, Elías Huamán, Efraín Guerrero,
Fortunato Jaramillo, Francisco Neyra, Orlando Melendres, Noemí
Neyra, Maximina Alberca, Josefa García, Gloria Neira, Esterli Huamán,
Cleofé Neyra, Rosa Murillo, Santos Ibáñez, Témpora Cruz and
conclusions were also presented at 5th Latin-American Congress of
Medicinal Plants, held in La Paz, Bolivia, August 16th to 18th,
2017, and they basically validated scientifically the complete
traditional knoledge of the communities at the cloud
forests and páramos of Piura, remaining to determine the economic
"It was obtained
a 154 plant ecotypes list, which 81% are medicinal use," Torres and
Ganoza sustain. ""The main medicinal uses are antibiotic,
depurative, desinflamante, antiflu, analgesic, hepatoprotective,
"In 22 analyzed
species are identified as more frequent bioactive compounds: tanins
(14%), phenolic compounds (13%), reducer sugar (12%),
coumarins (12%), saponins (11%), flavonoids (11%), steroids and
anthraquinones (9 %)."
An this is the
scientific basis of the traditional knowledge, in essence, because the
combination of these compounds provides the therapeutic
properties consistent to the assigned ones by the farmers.
And there is
still another added value: the endemic ecosystem where the plants grow.
"The low temperature and high altitude of the páramo influence on
the predominance of tanins and phenolic compounds," the researchers
But as they
warn, it is necessary to go still deeper, and how Fidel Torres trusted
us at least, the scenario is most fascinant than we think.
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