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. 2013 Jan 9;145(1):67-76.
doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.09.053. Epub 2012 Oct 30.

Plants as Medicinal Stressors, the Case of Depurative Practices in Chazuta Valley (Peruvian Amazonia)


Plants as Medicinal Stressors, the Case of Depurative Practices in Chazuta Valley (Peruvian Amazonia)

Jaume Sanz-Biset et al. J Ethnopharmacol. .


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Depurative practices, based on taking emetic plants and the restriction of food intake, are very much used in the traditional medicine of Chazuta (Peruvian Amazon) not only to restore health but also to maintain it.

Aim of the study: To describe Chazuta's depurative practices, within a theoretical framework that involves the stress system and which defines the role played by the medicinal plants used as medicinal stressors. This biomedical model is more inclusive in relation to the variety of medicinal uses found for these practices.

Material and methods: The information was obtained in the valley of Chazuta from October 2004 to August 2005 through semi-structured interviews to the 6.3% of its rural adult population (i.e., 140 individuals, 75% belonging to the San Martin Quechua's ethnic group). Thereafter, results were analysed and confronted to the existing literature.

Results: Overall, 191 depurative practices were reported in Chazuta where 114 different plant species were recorded and identified. Depending on their level of severity and duration, depurative practices can be classified as mild or strict. The wide range of medicinal uses reported supports both the involvement of adaptive stress responses in depurative practices and the consideration of the plants employed in this practices as medicinal stressors.

Conclusions: By inducing moderate stress within safe levels, depurative practices in Chazuta could produce adaptive responses that would protect against the detrimental consequences of chronic stress and stress-related diseases. This hypothesis could help to understand the diversity of the medicinal uses recorded in the field. Thus, plant remedies used in these practices in Chazuta could be considered as "medicinal stressors" as through vomiting the necessary neuroendocrine stress activation would be produced. In addition, other bioactivities that plants may harbour could converge with the whole stress reactivity process.

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