Journal of Ethnopharmacology | VOL. 267

Geopolitics of bitterness: Deciphering the history and cultural biogeography of Quassia amara L.

Publication Date Mar 1, 2021


Abstract Ethnopharmacological relevance Quassia amara L. recently came into the spotlight in French Guiana, when it became the object of a biopiracy claim. Due to the numerous use records throughout the Guiana shield, at least since the 18th century, a thorough investigation of its origin seemed relevant and timely. In the light of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya protocol, questions about the origin of local knowledge are important to debate. Aim of the study: Defining cultural biogeography as the dynamics through space and time of biocultural complexes, we used this theoretical framework to shed light on the complex biogeographical and cultural history of Q. amara. We explored in particular the possible transfer of medicinal knowledge on an Old World species to a botanically related New World one by enslaved Africans in Suriname. Materials and methods Historical and contemporary literature research was performed by means of digitized manuscripts, archives and databases from the 17th to the 21st century. We retrieved data from digitized herbarium vouchers in herbaria of the Botanic Garden Meise (Belgium); Naturalis Biodiversity Center (the Netherlands); Missouri Botanical Garden, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum (USA); Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (UK); the IRD Herbarium, French Guiana and the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (France). Vernacular names were retrieved from literature and herbarium specimens and compared to verify the origin of Quassia amara and ...

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Quassia Amara
Convention On Biological Diversity
Cultural Biogeography
Missouri Botanical Garden
Local Knowledge
Nagoya Protocol

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