What is Ethnobotany


Plants have long been used in traditional medicine. They have been known as rich sources of modern medicines, drugs and drug products because they produce a host of bioactive molecules, which serve as chemical defenses against predation or infection. By the mid-1980s, most pharmaceutical manufacturers had abandoned exploring folk practices including plant derivatives in their search for new drugs because of the discovery of microorganisms and fungi including the advances of synthetic chemistry in the production of medicines and antibiotics.

However, to date, the pendulum is beginning to swing back towards the appreciation of plants used in traditional medicine that has potential novel therapeutic agents. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 65-80% of the world’s population mostly in developing countries; widely depend on plants for primary healthcare due to poverty and lack of access to modern medicine [1]. Several ethnobotany studies support this report. [2, 3, 4, 5].

Ethnobotany is the study of the interaction between plants and people in their local environment [5, 6] The ethnobotanical approach is actually one of the several methods in choosing plants for pharmacological studies. There are about less than 0.5% of the estimated 265,000 flowering species on earth which have been studied exhaustively for their chemical composition and medicinal value. Ethnobotany studies of medicinal plants have been used in various ways such as to test hypothesis of use and knowledge, describing the use of plants in a given community or listing plants for food, therapeutic and other ethnobotanical purposes[7].

Herbal medicines that have been based on traditional knowledge are estimated at about 60 billion US dollars in the world market today. Traditional medicine has always been recognized as an important tool for the development of novelties in drug discovery [8]. Traditional medicinal practices through indigenous knowledge are common among tribes and local folks as their primary health care system [9, 10, 11, and 12].

Hence, traditional knowledge of medicinal plants as known by indigenous healers and local folks are not only useful for conservation of cultural tradition and biodiversity but also for community health care and drug development. In this study, medicinal plants refer to traditional medicinal plants used to maintain health and treat illnesses, which are used for more than a generation by the informants or may have the knowledge passed to them through time by their ancestors.

There were initiatives to explore the biodiversity of Mt. Arayat. Bagunu et al. [13] documented in their unpublished terminal report 77 species of vascular plants in the northwestern slope of Mt. Arayat; 7 species of the Grass Family, 16 families of forest trees, 9 Orchid families, 18 fern species and 75 mushroom species. Follow up researches were undertaken for more detailed identification of plants available in Mt. Arayat covering important aspects of their potentials for health, medicines and food sources.

Abille [14] in her inventory of BS Biology researches of natural products-related from 2001 to 2015 found that phytochemical studies had the highest percentage, followed by antimicrobial (anti-bacterial and anti-fungi) studies and cytotoxicity studies the least. Anent to these studies are the revelations of folk healers that they use some of these plants for treating illnesses and diseases as mentioned in an unpublished report of Espiritu[15] where 55 medicinal plants were identified specifically of their medicinal contributions based on local names. However, the quantitative analysis of the data was a bit explored.

Ong and Kim[16] mentioned only one conducted quantitative ethnobotany study by Abe and Ohtani in 2012 in the Philippines in his review of related literature and none so far in Central Luzon. Hence, this study serves as springboard for the understanding of the relative cultural importance of these medicinal plant studied in Mt. Arayat, Pampanga, Philippines and thus support communities to manage their resources more effeftively or finding plants that maybe useful to the community for medical or other purposes.

Consistent with R ; D priorities of the agenda thrust of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for 2011-2016 to address the identified pressing health problems of the Filipino people by the Department of Health (DOH), the study is aligned with the National Unified Health Research Agenda (NUHRA) towards drug discovery from natural and indigenous sources through ethnobotany.

Thus, the documentation of the traditional uses of plants particularly for medicinal value is an urgent matter for preserving the knowledge and providing baseline data for future pharmacological and phytochemical studies and natural product development, which are valuable in healthcare.

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