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Des sources du savoir aux médicaments du futur

 | 
Jacques Fleurentin
, 
Jean-Marie Pelt
, 
Guy Mazars

1. Origine des pharmacopées traditionnelles et élaboration des pharmacopées savantes

Animal remedies in the folk medical practices of the upper part of the Lucca and Pistoia Provinces, Central Italy

Andréa Pieroni, A Grazzini et M E Giusti

Texte intégral

  • 1 Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, The School of Pharmacy, University of London 29-39 Brun (...)

1Note portant sur l'auteur1

2Note portant sur l'auteur2

  • 3 Cattedra di Storia delle Tradizioni Popolari, Dipartimento di Italianistica, Università degli Stud (...)

3Note portant sur l'auteur3

Introduction

4Although today much is known about the chemistry and pharmacology of many traditional plant remedies, studies on drugs of animal origin are still rare in the scientific literature. Nevertheless, animal remedies had a central role in historical European pharmacopoieas until at least the Sixties (Schindler and Frank, 1961), and throughout the European classical historical medical treatises (for example in Dioscoride's Materia Medica, or in the later works of St. Hildegard, Mattioli, Tabernaemontanus, Lonicer).

5If we consider mammals for example, it is (it's doesn't look good in formal writing) clear that many species were commonly used in the past as food-medicines, while at present only a few mammalian ingredients still survive (and most of these) only for cosmetic purposes (as in the case of Castor canadensis and Moschus moschiferus secretes (Hansel et al., 1993).

6The use of insects and arthropods is even more common. They are still used today for food and medicinal aims in traditional societies in Central America (Ramos-Elorduy de Conconi and Moreno, 1988), Africa (van Huis, 1996; Herren et al., 2000) and Asia (Zimian et al., 1997; Pemberton, 1999), where they still play an important role for example in the Traditional Chinese Pharmacopoeia (Stoger, 1985). On the contrary, in Western countries, the use of Lytta vesicatoria, Kermes sp. pi., Dactylophius coccus, and Laccifer lacca secret is today considered archaic (Evans, 1996).

7Scientific investigations featuring newly isolated natural products from amphibians (Teuscher and Lindequist, 1994) and various marine organisms (Faulkner, 1996) are increasing in abundancy, but these seem to focus on Natural Product Chemistry rather than the science of Pharmacognosy.

8Field ethnomedical studies carried out in the last two decades around the world described more than 40 animal-derived food- medicines containing animal-derived ingredients (Pieroni and Grazzini, 1999), and in the Mediterranean area, quotations of still used animal drugs are restricted to a field work carried out on the popular pharmacopoeia in Morocco (Bellakhdar, 1997) and Sudan (El-Kamali, 2000) and to a few notes collected during ethnobotani- cal studies in Turkey (Tabata et al., 1994; Sezik et al., 1997; Yesilada et al., 1995 and 1999; Ertug, 1999).

9Bioscientific reviews of indigenous animal drugs were also rare during the last decades (But et al., 1990; But et al., 1991; Al-Harbi et al.., 1996).

10Therefore, ethnopharmacological studies focused on animal product-based remedies could be very important in order to clarify the eventual therapeutic usefulness of this class of biological remedies and this may open a new chapter in pharmacognosy.

11In order to record all the biological remedies still used in the Italian folk practices, a field ethno-pharmacognostic study was carried out in the upper part of the Lucca and Pistoia Provinces, north-western Tuscany, Central Italy. In these regions there are many rural areas, which remain quite isolated and where the elderly still retain much valuable knowledge of local folk medicine.

Methods

12Field research was conducted by collecting ethnomedical information during interviews with 29 knowledgeable persons living in villages of the mountainous (Appenninian) areas of the Lucca and Pistoia Provinces (north-western Tuscany, Central Italy, figure 1), and native to the territory. Characteristic of the villages are their small populations (50-500 inhabitants) and a continuing traditional way of life.

13People were asked to quote traditionally used animal remedies and an attempt was made in order to quantify the perceptions of various animal food as food medicine. A questionnaire was filled in for each quoted remedy. Audio mini-disk records were also obtained.

Discussion

14The geographical isolation of the studied area has allowed the maintenance of a rich local knowledge and also the survival of old folk medical practices up to the present day. Animal drugs used in the folk medical practices in the studied area are reported in Table 1.

15In particular the use of fresh cobwebs, human urine and living slugs or snails as hamostatic, vulnerary and anti-ulcer respectively, demonstrate the archaic persistence of old folk medical practices, which were already described by diverse historical medical texts of the Mediterranean areas as the treatises of Dioscoride and Mattioli.

16More uncommon is the tradition of preparing an expectorant poultice by crushed freshwater crabs (Potamon fluviatile, figure 2), the gathering of which was - especially in the past - reserved to special knowledgeable persons. Moreover, the use of fresh menstrual flow in external application against warts and the ingestion of cooked mouse meat or its external use as anti-enuresis mean (especially for children), as well as the external use of the leg of a hare as antimastitis mean and of a black hen against typhus are characterised by remarkable symbolisms.

17Another important aspect of the data collected on animal-based remedies is represented by food-medicines. In particular, some meat preparations, whose consumption was very rare in the past, were considered to have a special use for mild diseases: so the consumption of a raw egg as reconstituent for persons affected by psychic disorders and of frog legs as intestinal refreshing remedy.

Acknowledgements

18Special thanks are due to all interviewees of the villages, who volunteered to share their precious experiences about traditional remedies: Francesca Baisi (75 y.o.), Rosita Bertagni (75 y.o.), Angela Bertolami (67 y.o.), Iride Bertei (70 y.o.), Maria Giuseppina Bertei (64 y.o.), Doriana Bertolini (65 y.o.), Elena Bertolini (81 y.o.), Giulio Bonini (98 y.o.), Antonietta Bosi (67 y.o.), Elio Brega (75 y.o.), Marianna (Ottavia) Fontanini (83 y.o.), Silvia Guerrini (70 y.o.), Graziana Guidi (62 y.o.), Niccoletta Guidi (56 y.o.), Corinno Magistrelli (77 y.o.), Paolino Panini (62 y.o.), Isolina Pieroni (69 y.o.), Rita Rossi (80 y.o.), Marisa Talani (66 y.o.), Liliana Vannozzi (77 y.o.), Andreina Venchi (83 y.o.).

Figure 1. Geographical location of the studied area

Figure 2. The freshwater crab (Potamon fluvatile, Potamidae) used traditionally in the studied area externally as expectorant

Table I. Animal remedies used in the folk medical practices in the studied area

Table I. Animal remedies used in the folk medical practices in the studied area
  • 4 I: internal use ; E: external use

Note *4

Bibliographie

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Notes de fin

1 Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, The School of Pharmacy, University of London 29-39 Brunswick Square London WC1N 1AX (United Kingdom) Email: mailto:andrea.pieroni@cua.ulsop.ac.uk

2 Cattedra di Zoologia, Università degli Studi di Pisa (Italy) Email: mailto:famgraz@tin.it

3 Cattedra di Storia delle Tradizioni Popolari, Dipartimento di Italianistica, Università degli Studi di Firenze Piazza Savonarola, 1 50132 Firenze (Italy) Email: mailto:elenagiusti@tin.it

4 I: internal use ; E: external use

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1. Geographical location of the studied area
URL http://books.openedition.org/irdeditions/docannexe/image/7259/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 145k
Légende Figure 2. The freshwater crab (Potamon fluvatile, Potamidae) used traditionally in the studied area externally as expectorant
URL http://books.openedition.org/irdeditions/docannexe/image/7259/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 365k
Titre Table I. Animal remedies used in the folk medical practices in the studied area
URL http://books.openedition.org/irdeditions/docannexe/image/7259/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 987k
Légende Note *4
URL http://books.openedition.org/irdeditions/docannexe/image/7259/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 967k

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