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Des sources du savoir aux médicaments du futur

Jacques Fleurentin
Jean-Marie Pelt
Guy Mazars


Jacques Fleurentin, Guy Mazars et Jean-Marie Pelt

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1We are very pleased to present the proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Ethnopharmacology, which took place at the International Congress Centre in Metz (France), from May 11 to 13, 2000, under the high patronage of UNESCO and under the auspices of the European Society of Ethnopharmacology (SEE).

2This International Congress on the theme “From the Sources of Knowledge to the Medicines of the Future” was organized jointly by the French Society of Ethnopharmacology (SFE) and the European Institute of Ecology (IEE), and it was attended by 250 participants from 41 countries.

  • 1 Ethnopharmacology is the scientific interdisciplinary investigation of the full set of matters of (...)

3The First European Conference on Pharmacology was held ten years ago in Metz, France from 22 to 24 March 1990. This Meeting was an opportunity to supply some tentative answers to the following questions: what are the perspectives in Europe and how is education in ethnopharmacology provided? what are the perspectives in Europe for a development of medicines based on traditional knowledge? what should the position of traditional medicines be in developing countries? which methods should we apply to make a survey of on field therapeutic indications and which procedures should be applied to evaluate the pharmacological activity of traditional drugs? We also submitted at the time a definition of ethnopharmacology.1

4The European Society of Ethnopharmacology was also created on the occasion of this first Conference. Its main objective is to promote European co-operation in the filed of ethnopharmacology, in particular by organising or contributing to the organisation of international scientific meetings.

5The Second European Conference was organised jointly by the European Society of Ethnopharmacology and Arbeitsgemeinschaft Ethnomedizin, with the assistance of several national and international organisations and was held in Heidelberg, Germany from 24 to 27 March 1993. It was devoted to an ethnopharmacological approach of medicine and food products.

6The Third European Conference took place in Genua, Italy from 29 May to 02 June 1996; it was organised in co-operation with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Genua and was an opportunity to strengthen the ties between the networks for medical anthropology and ethnopharmacology, and to address the question of the methods applied in ethnopharmacology, i.e. the projects for a development of the utilisation of natural resources for the preparation of phytomedicines. A clear message evolved out of this conference: health care systems have to be revised thoroughly with a view to safeguarding human health and safeguarding nature.

7On the occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the European Society of Ethnopharmacology, the Fourth European Conference opens up new avenues and explores new walks for research focussing on a common theme: From the Sources of Knowledge to the Medicines of the Future. We trust that the investigation of the procedures for the acquisition and transmission of knowledge, in the case of human beings and animals, and the quest for the sources of knowledge by means of various disciplines, are likely to induce very fruitful forms of co-operation.

8The issue at the core of discussions during the Conference will therefore be therapeutic practice. Pre-historians are aware that the origin of cultural practice in historical perspective should be sought in the pre-history of mankind. Modern archaeology, whose methods have achieved a high degree of sophistication, is now well-equipped to represent the behavioural habits and forms of everyday life of our ancestors. And it appears with increasing evidence that they had a very accurate knowledge of their environment.

9The contributions to this International Conference will focus on the pre-history of medicine, through various approaches (archaeology, palaeopathology, coprology, palynology...), self-medication and the resistance of animals to diseases, and on the most ancient pharmacopoeias in the world. Several forums will be devoted to the development of scholarly pharmacopoeias and to the foundations of such knowledge, the transmission of knowledge in societies based on an oral tradition, an exploration of the universe of shamans, healers, traditional practitioners and other types of “doctors”. The agenda also offers contributions about the relationships between traditional and scholarly knowledge, traditional veterinary science, etc. We will also broach the subject of perspectives for 21 st century medicines and the future of traditional medical practice.

10It can be observed that Traditional Chinese Medicine is part of the syllabus in universities; it is used in specialised hospitals after developing over a period of more than 2,000 years, along with modern Western medicine. The participation of Chinese officials will definitely strengthen the ties we already have with this famous form of traditional medicine.

11How should we reconcile ecological and economical constraints when trying to trace up some of the molecules hidden in the great diversity of vegetable metabolism? Isn’t the sum total of the scientific information collected about medicinal plants likely to facilitate the integration of the traditional forms of medical treatment into the public health care system? isn’t phytomedicine a core ingredient of sustainable development? Traditional medicines, as a link between innovation and tradition, can be efficient in two ways: from the cultural and the biological viewpoint.

Notes de fin

1 Ethnopharmacology is the scientific interdisciplinary investigation of the full set of matters of vegetable, animal or mineral origin and the relevant knowledge and practice such as they are implemented by vernacular cultures to modify the condition of living organisms for therapeutical, curative, preventive and diagnostic purposes (Dos Santos J. et Fleurentin J., in Fleurentin J. et coll., Ethnopharmacologie. Sources, méthodes, résulats, Paris-Metz, Orstom Eds - SFE, 1991, 26-39)

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