Plant Diversity ›› 2020, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (06): 401-414.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2020.09.004

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Ethnobotany and diversity of medicinal plants used by the Buyi in eastern Yunnan, China

Yong Xionga,b, Xueyi Suic, Selena Ahmedd, Zhi Wange, Chunlin Longa,b   

  1. a College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Minzu University of China, Beijing, 100081, China;
    b Key Laboratory of Ethnomedicine (Minzu University of China), Ministry of Education, Beijing, 100081, China;
    c Tabaco Breeding and Biotechnology Center, Yunnan Academy of Tabaco Agricultural Sciences, Kunming, 650021, China;
    d Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems Program, Department of Health and Human Development, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, 59717, USA;
    e School of Pharmacy, Hunan University of Chinese Medicine, Changsha, 410208, China
  • Received:2020-04-16 Revised:2020-08-03 Online:2020-12-25 Published:2021-03-03
  • Contact: Chunlin Long
  • Supported by:
    We are very grateful to the local Buyi people in Lubuge Township, Luoping County, Yunnan Province who have provided valuable information about the medicinal plants. Ying Tan, Wen Guo,and Jifeng Luo participated in the field investigations and discussions, and provided some useful comments. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31870316, 31761143001), Key Laboratory of Ethnomedicine (Minzu University of China) of Ministry of Education of China (KLEMZZ201906, KLEM-ZZ201904), Jiansheng Fresh Herb Medicine R & D Foundation (JSYY-20190101-043), Biodiversity Survey and Assessment Project of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China (2019HJ2096001006), Minzu University of China (Collaborative Innovation Center for Ethnic Minority Development and YLDXXK201819), Ministry of Education of China and State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs of China (B08044).

Abstract: The Buyi are a socio-linguistic group in Yunnan Province of southwest China that have a long history of using medicinal plants as part of their indigenous medical system. Given the limited written documentation of the Buyi indigenous medical system, the objective of this paper is to document the medicinal plants of the Buyi and associated traditional knowledge and transmission. Field research was conducted in four villages in Lubuge Township of Luoping County in Yunnan Province using ethnobotanical methodologies including participatory observation, semi-structured interviews, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions to elicit information on medicinal plants. In total, 120 informants (including 15 key informants who are healers) were interviewed. This study found that a total of 121 medicinal plant species belonging to 64 families are used by the Buyi including by local healers to treat different diseases. Among the medicinal plants recorded in this study, 56 species (46%) have not previously been documented in the scientific literature as having medicinal value, highlighting the pressing need for ethnobotanical documentation in indigenous communities. The most frequently used medicinal part was the leaf (24.9% of documented plants), and the most common preparation method was decoction (62.8% of medicinal). Medicinal plants were mainly used to treat rheumatism (12.4% of plants), trauma and injuries (9.6%). The documented plants are also used for other non-medicinal purposes including food, fodder, fencing, and ornamental. In addition, 35 of the medicinal plants are considered poisonous and are used by local Buyi healers for medicine. The traditional Buyi beliefs and practices associated with the documented medicinal plants likely contributes to their conservation in the environments and around Buyi communities. This study further highlights that ethnomedicinal knowledge of the Buyi is at risk of disappearing due to increased introduction and use of modern medicine in Buyi communities, livelihood changes, rapid modernization, and urbanization. Research, policy, and community programs are urgently needed to conserve the biocultural diversity associated with the Buyi medical system including ethnobotanical knowledge towards supporting both environmental and human wellbeing.

Key words: Ethnobotany, Indigenous medical systems, Ethnobotanical knowledge, Buyi, Medicinal plants