Plants (Basel, Switzerland) | VOL. 11

Diverse in Local, Overlapping in Official Medical Botany: Critical Analysis of Medicinal Plant Records from the Historic Regions of Livonia and Courland in Northeast Europe, 1829-1895.

Publication Date Apr 13, 2022


Works on historical ethnobotany can help shed light on past plant uses and humankind's relationships with the environment. We analyzed medicinal plant uses from the historical regions of Livonia and Courland in Northeast Europe based on three studies published within the 19th century by medical doctors researching local ethnomedicine. The sources were manually searched, and information extracted and entered into a database. In total, there were 603 detailed reports of medicinal plant use, which refer to 219 taxa belonging to 69 families and one unidentified local taxon. Dominant families were Asteraceae (14%), Solanaceae (7%), Rosaceae (6%), and Apiaceae (5%). The majority of use reports were attributed to the treatment of four disease categories: digestive (24%), skin (22%), respiratory (11%), and general (11%). The small overlapping portion (14 taxa mentioned by all three authors and another 27 taxa named by two authors) contained a high proportion of taxa (46%) mentioned in Dioscorides, which were widespread during that period in scholarly practice. Despite the shared flora, geographical vicinity, and culturally similar backgrounds, the medicinal use of plants in historical Courland and Livonia showed high biocultural diversity and reliance on wild taxa. We encourage researchers to study and re-evaluate the historical ethnobotanical literature and provide some suggestions on how to do this effectively.


Medicinal Use Medicinal Plant Use Historical Ethnobotany Northeast Europe Wild Taxa Scholarly Practice Dominant Families Disease Categories Medicinal Plant Unidentified Taxon

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