Thursday, 19 February 2015

Cross-Cultural Ethnobotany of the Sharr Mountains (Northwestern Macedonia)


The cross-cultural comparison of local botanical knowledge in the Balkans can help us to understand cultural transmission among diverse ethnic and/or religious groups and also foster community-based, sustainable strategies of management of natural resources and culturally appropriate frameworks for the revitalization of local biocultural heritage. Results from a medico-ethnobotanical field study conducted among Albanians, Macedonians, and Gorani in 41 villages located in the Sharr Mountains in western Macedonia demonstrate a rich folk plant-based pharmacopoeia, especially in the domain of herbal teas used mainly for minor dysfunctions of the respiratory system. Most of the uses recorded among Macedonians and Gorani were also recorded among Albanians, while a significant portion of plants quoted by Orthodox Macedonians diverged. The fact that the Gorani lived very close to the Albanian communities over the last century, with marriages between the two communities being commonplace and facilitated by their shared (Muslim) faith, may explain this phenomenon, considering that herbal knowledge is generally transmitted by women within the family. A significant portion of study participants raised concerns regarding the possibility of overexploitation of a few species due to collecting practices serving both local and outside (pharmaceutical) markets, while the plant knowledge of the younger generations seems to be more limite