Ethnomedicinal Scientific Research

Brief Description of our Ethnomedicinal Research

Introduction & Theoretical Framework:
Ethnomedicine is the study of how people conceptualize disease and healing within the context of their culture (Fabfrega 2004). Surfing Medicine International will support ethnomedical systems in coastal communities by assisting with the gathering of empirical data that may serve to bridge knowledge gaps in the practice of prescribing plant-based therapies for human disease. All research will be collaborative and designed to protect the intellectual property rights of the participating communities. By providing opportunity for traditional healers to gather clinical data on their remedies, quality control measures such as efficacy, dosing, and contraindications may be established. Formulations, recipes and/or other information deemed proprietary by the participants may be kept confidential. The purpose is to increase cross-cultural understandings of botanical remedy bioactivity, and support development of guidelines for local health care providers.

Integrative methods outlined by Berlin and Berlin (2005), Etkin, Ross, and Muazzamu (1999), and Etkin (1996) will be used to explore the physiologic potential of plants within various cultural contexts. Informed consent (Edwards, Lilford, Thornton, and Hewison 1998) documentation will be acquired from each participating community and/or individual prior to research commencement. Key collaborators (Marshall 1996) will be asked to identify healers (medicinal plant experts) in each community. Working under the direction of local participants, samples of botanical remedies for cancer and HIV-AIDS will be prepared using traditional methods. The samples will be analyzed using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) for identification of compounds which will then be examined in phytochemistry literature (e.g., NAPRALERT, Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Database). Video documentation (Ghirardini et al. 2007) and participatory research (Njoroge & Bussmann 2006) will be used as a vehicle for curricula delivery and community reciprocity.

Laboratory component of Research:
The basic equipment required for analysis of plant material includes High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), pipettes, balances, beakers, and hot plates for extraction, quantification, and transfer of samples. Equipment will be assembled in a certified laboratory. Long-term goals include a research vessel to reach various locations during disaster to promote sustainable medicinal plant based restoration projects to avoid major landslides and erosion without compromising the core goal of Surfing Medicine International to conduct primary research and restoration activities at the same time within, and under the direction of, participating communities.

Although phytochemical analysis based on ethnomedicinal information is not new, the approach that Surfing Medicine International takes is innovative because the research will be performed within the participating communities and led by the traditional healers themselves. Rather than extracting information and plant samples (a situation that cultivates mistrust between scientist and herbal practitioner), research will be performed within, and directed by, each community. The research results will be considered proprietary knowledge of the participating community and/or individual. When appropriate, legal protection may be afforded to participants through assistance from intellectual property attorneys.
The emphasis on collaborative and participatory methods lends a post-positive approach to this research (Cotton 1996). Students, teachers, and other members of the participating communities will have an opportunity to gain skills in various academic areas such as scientific research methods, botany, videography, and education through direct involvement in sampling, laboratory testing, video documentation, and curriculum development.
Results from the study will be compiled and returned to each community in a manner that will best support ongoing traditional medical practices and educational programs. For example, efficacy data, recommended dosage, and indications for botanical therapies will be given to medical service providers in order to improve safety and value of treatment for HIV-AIDS and cancer patients.

Berlin, E.A. and B. Berlin. 2005 Some Field Methods in Medical Ethnobiology. Field Methods 17(3): 235-268.

Cotton, C.M. 1996. Ethnobotany. John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY.

Edwards, S.J.L., R.J. Lilford, J. Thornton, and J. Hewison. 1998. Informed Consent for Clinical Trials: In Search of the “Best” Method. Social Science Medicine 47(11): 1825-1840.

Etkin, N. L. 1996. Ethnopharmacology: The Conjunction of Medical Ethnography and the Biology of Therapeutic Action. Pages 151-164 in Sargent, C. F. and T. M. Johnson (eds.). Handbook of Medical Anthropology, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.

Etkin, N. L., P. J. Ross, and I. Muazzamu. 1999. The Rational Basis of “Irrational” Drug Use: Pharmaceuticals in the Context of Development. Pages 165-181 in Hahn, R.A. (ed.). Anthropology in Public Health, Bridging Differences in Culture and Society, Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Fabrega, H. 2004. The Scope of Ethnomedicinal Science. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry Vol. 1(2): 201-228.

Ghirardini, M.P., M. Carli, N. Del Vecchio, A. Rovati, O. Cova, F. Valigi, G. Agnetti, M. Macconi, D. Adamo, M.Traina, F. Laudini, I. Marcheselli, N. Caruso, T. Gedda, F. Donati, A. Marzadro, P. Russi, C. Spaggiari, M. Bianco, R.Binda, E. Barattieri, A. Tognacci, M. Girardo, L. Vaschetti, P. Caprino, E. Sesti, G. Andreozzi, E. Coletto, G. Belzer, A. Pieroni. 2007. The importance of taste. A comparative study on wild food plant consumption in twenty-one local communities in Italy. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 3: 22.

Marshall, M.N. 1996. The Key Informant Technique. Family Practice 13(1): 92-97.

Njoroge, G.N. and R.W. Bussmann. 2006. Traditional management of ear, nose and Throat (ENT) diseases in Central Kenya. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2: 54.

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