The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method

By Lola Romanucci-Ross; Daniel E. Moerman et al. | Go to book overview

namic awaits further fieldwork, the dietary and medicinal pharmacologic model suggested by our earlier work continued to inform our investigations through the most recent field research and helps to shape future inquiry as well.


SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

For the present discussion, a model that integrates features of disease ecology and plant pharmacology was applied to investigate how certain foods and medicines might interact with malaria infection. Elsewhere, we used this framework to investigate how foods and medicines might influence gastrointestinal disorders ( Etkin and Ross 1982), as well as to expand the number of overlapping contexts beyond the two considered here (including also plants used as cosmetics and for personal hygiene) (Etkin 1994c). Collectively these studies illustrate how the pharmacologic potential of botanicals is extended through their use in various contexts. By focusing on these plants for investigations of biocultural adaptations to disease, we conceptualize them broadly as ingestible plants rather than exclusively as "medicines," "foods," or something else.

This chapter evaluates the continued utility of our model for dietary shifts as adaptations to both the fluctuating availability of plants and the seasonal occurrence of malaria infection. In sum, we note that a number of Hausa medicinal plants used to treat malaria infection are also important dietary constituents. Laboratory investigations of Hausa antimalarials suggest their efficacy. Moreover, the plasmodiostatic activity demonstrated for some of these plants might be amplified by a diminished consumption of grains. An examination of local diets during 1975 and 1976 revealed that both increased use of medicinal plants as food and diminished consumption of grains coincided with the period of greatest risk of malaria infection. From our more recent study, we document changes in the local diet -- most significant, a decrease in the quantities consumed of plants that provided the focus of our earlier investigations. These observations, cast in a broad ecological framework, provide a basis from which we can explore the potential implications of other dimensions of change.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

For both field studies and in our present work we are grateful for the contributions of Ibrahim Muazzamu. We acknowledge the collective wisdom and goodwill of the people of Hurumi Village, for their courtesy and cooperation during both field studies, and for their continued participation in our absence. This work was supported in part by grants awarded to Nina L. Etkin by the National Science Foundation (BNS-8703734), the Social Science Research Council, the Fulbright Senior Research Scholars Program, the Bush Foundation, the University of Minnesota, and the Social

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