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Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal species used by traditional midwives of Cotacachi, Imbabura Province, NE Ecuador

Abstract

Susy Pinos Barreto and Rainer Schultze-Kraft

This study aimed at documenting the plant species – and their local classification – used by traditional Cotacachi midwives within the indigenous socio-cultural context, particularly the Andean cosmovision. Members of the midwife group “Jambi Mascaric” were interviewed in relation to the plants that they use. Based on those interviews, traditional healing practices during the pre-birth, labour and post-birth phases as well as a local plant classification system are identified and the influence of the Andean cosmovision upon them is discussed. Midwives of Cotacachi play a key role in the preservation of both local knowledge and biodiversity in the study region. Their role also contributes to achieving the goal of UNORCAC (acronym in Spanish for Union of Farmers’ and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations from Cotacachi), “development with identity”, by providing a culturally accepted health service to local women. Studies aiming at a regional conservation management of the medicinal species are suggested as are studies in other regions of the country to further assess the linkages between cultural and biological diversity.

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