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Ethnobiological study on traditional medicinal plants and fungi recorded in the Naxi Dongba sutras

  • Li, Haitao1, 2
  • Li, Zhiyong3, 4
  • Zhang, Xiaobo5
  • Yang, Shaohua6
  • Chen, Cui6
  • Yang, Qingning7
  • He, Chengfeng7
  • Liu, Jianqin7
  • Song, Jingyuan1
  • 1 Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, 100193, People’s Republic of China , Beijing (China)
  • 2 Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, Jinghong, 666100, People’s Republic of China , Jinghong (China)
  • 3 Minzu University of China, Beijing, 100081, People’s Republic of China , Beijing (China)
  • 4 Yunnan Province Resources of Development and Collaborative Innovation Center for New Traditional Chinese Medicine, Kunming, 650051, People’s Republic of China , Kunming (China)
  • 5 China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing, 100700, People’s Republic of China , Beijing (China)
  • 6 Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Lijiang, 674100, People’s Republic of China , Lijiang (China)
  • 7 Lijiang Medical Association of Minorities, Lijiang, 674100, People’s Republic of China , Lijiang (China)
Published Article
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Apr 29, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s13002-021-00459-8
Springer Nature


BackgroundThe Naxi people, living in Southwest China, have a long history and rich characteristic culture. Their ancestors recorded their life practices by ancient hieroglyphs and gradually formed the Dongba Sutras, which, among other knowledge, included the traditional knowledge of Naxi medicine. In the past, most studies on the Dongba Sutras focused on the humanistic culture of Naxi people, whereas studies have rarely focused on Naxi herbal medicinal plants and fungi described in the Dongba Sutras. Studying this aspect is helpful for exploring the traditional culture of Naxi people from the perspective of traditional medicine.MethodsFrom February to September 2019, we screened the medicinal plants and fungi from the Dongba Sutras with the help of Dongba. Then, we carried out field investigations and collected voucher specimens of traditional medicinal plants and fungi with the help of 104 Naxi folk healers. The specimens were identified and stored in the Herbarium of Yunnan Branch, Institute of Medicinal Plants, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (IMDY). Through semi-structured interviews, we obtained ethnobotanical information of medicinal plants and fungi. The obtained quantitative data were analyzed using the informant consensus factor (ICF) method and the number of citations.ResultsA total of 85 species of medicinal plants and fungi belonging to 51 families and 71 genera were recorded in the Dongba Sutras. Among them, 25 species were endemic to China, and eight species were only distributed in Naxi distribution areas. These medicinal plants and fungi were mainly obtained from the wild, and 22 species could be used as food. The most frequent method of taking medicinal materials was oral-taking after decoction, followed by topical and sometimes buccal. The methods of processing these medicinal materials included water decoction, warm water flushing, and drinking after soaking. The medicinal plants and fungi in the Dongba Sutras are used to treat 96 conditions classified into 13 disease groups according to the International Classification of Primary Care second edition. Further analysis indicated that most of these species were utilized for treating diseases from the digestive (D) group, followed by those from the respiratory (R) group, musculoskeletal (L) group, general, and unspecified (A) group. Moreover, the Naxi people have a high consensus on the treatments of diseases from these four pathological groups.ConclusionsThe Naxi traditional medicine is characterized by simple materials, easy operation, and distinctive national characteristics. The ancient Naxi people recorded their highly developed medical culture in the Dongba Sutras. Natural plant resources found around them were their primary choices for both medicine and diet therapy. The ecological ethics of Naxi people have positive significance for the conservation of wild resources in their area.

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