Snakebite ethnopharmacopoeia of eastern Nicaragua

J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Jan 4;96(1-2):303-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2004.09.026.


Results of an ethnopharmacognostic study of snakebite treatments in eastern Nicaragua are presented. Data and specimens were collected during several years of field studies. Field work consisted of plant collecting trips and interviews of snakedoctors. The annual mortality from snakebites in eastern Nicaragua is about 25% and most bites are caused by the fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper). The vascular flora of the region is estimated at 2500 species of which 435 have medicinal application including 81 that are used in snakebite treatment. The majority of species used in snakebite cures are flowering plants, 76% dicots and 20% monocots, and 80% are obtained from the second-growth forest. About half the species are herbs. Leaves are the most frequently utilized plant part. Most herbal remedies are prepared as decoctions and are administered orally. Remedies are mostly prepared with native wild species, but some are introduced domesticates, derived from either the American or Old World Tropics. All the species used contain at least one bioactive compound, and most of these bioactives have been shown in other studies to have pharmacological effects. The use of species in snakebite treatments does not necessarily imply efficacy, but it does give a limited list of species that can be studied pharmacologically for possible bioactive effects. Studies like this one are also important because they document traditional practices and species utilized for the people of the region studied as well.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Nicaragua
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Snake Bites / drug therapy*
  • Snake Bites / mortality
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Plant Preparations