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The Biology Of The Magic
The science already has an answer about why Piura Andes' medicinal plants heal.

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By FACTORTIERRA.NET
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.

PIURA, Peru - The potential of medicinal plants in Peru is enormous in terms of biodiversity, but restricted in terms of usefulness. The  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 other nations.

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 promoters promised.

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.

Mountain 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 license.

Additionally, 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.

"The 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.

Preliminarily, 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
"An important 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.

Here is 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 Estela Cañizan.

The preliminary 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 potential.

"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, digestive types."

"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 affirm.

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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