Saturday, 26 November 2016

Ethnopharmacological information from the botanical correspondence of Berthold Seemann (1825 - 1871)--a pilot study.

2015 Sep;70(9):616-26.


Historical research may be able to contribute to the exploration of traditional knowledge about medicinal plants and promising attempts have been made investigating Byzantine texts, Early Modern herbals, and writings of Christian missionaries. In this pilot study it should be explored if publications, travel reports, diaries or correspondence of the botanical explorers of the 19th and early 20th centuries may serve a source of ethnopharmacological information as well and may be able to guide modern phytopharmacological research. Writings of Berthold Seemann (1825-1871), a German investigator exploring the botany of Middle America, the Fiji islands and other regions, are investigated as a first example. It could be shown that Seemann's heritage mainly kept at Kew Garden Archives, does contain ethnopharmacological information which in part has already been confirmed by recent study results indicating some reliability of his observations. However, there are also reports about traditional medicinal plants scarcely investigated so far, including Schultesia stenophylla Mart. (syn. S. guainensis (Aubl.) Malme), Trixis inula Crantz, Waltheria glomerata Presl., Gonophlebium attenuatum (Humb. & Bonpl. Es Wil\d) C. Presl., or Pseudoelephantopus spicatus (Juss ex Aubl.) C.F. Baker. It is suggested to further explore their potential as medicinal plants. In general, as Seemann's example has shown, publications and correspondence of botanical explorers of the past seem to be a valuable and hitherto almost neglected source of information to be considered in further historical and ethnopharmacological research.