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Ethnobotanical survey of plants used in Afyonkarahisar-Turkey



The traditional knowledge about plants and their uses in Turkey is disappearing in recent years because the new generations of villagers migrate to big cities for a better life. Afyonkarahisar located at the intersection of roads and phytogeographical regions (Mediterranean, Iran-Turan, and Euro-Siberian) has more than 2500 plant species. This richness of plant diversity promotes the indigenous commuity for the traditional use of wild plants. The aim of the study is to show wild plants’ ethnobotanical usages associated with medicinal, food, fodder, and household goods in 31 settlements within the boundaries of Afyonkarahisar province.


The ethnobotanical data were collected from 46 informants by means of semi-structured interviews from 2012 to 2014. Ethnobotanical uses of plants of the study area were conducted in the vicinity of Afyonkarahisar (5 districts, 8 towns, 15 villages, and 3 neighborhood centers).


One hundred and thirty plant taxa belonging to 39 families were recorded and collected. Hundred and seventy-eight different uses of these plants were documented and used generally for medicinal (84), food (68), fodder (16), household goods (3), dyes (3), handicrafts (3) and religious (1).


This study provides interesting uses of plants in the local community of Afyonkarahisar and its surrounding area, in what purpose they make use of plants, how they make use of them and obtained results will contribute to economy of villagers. Since the local people, especially in villages, are poor and do not have health care, they use the plants to treat illnesses, food, fodder, household goods and other uses (evil eye). Also this study will light the way for posterity for next generations.


People have interacted with plants since ancient times. This interaction has contributed to flourishing of scientific fields such as ethnobotany and paleoethnobotany [1]. Ethnobotanical studies began in the early 1800s when John W. Harsberger, a famous botanist, proposed ethnobotanical study for the first time [2]. The scope of plant use has changed since the 1800s to this day. The frequency and purpose of use of plants by people vary in regard to social, cultural, and economic needs. Plants are used for purposes of food, medicine, fuel, industry, ornament, and effects. Purposes of use also vary in regard to people’s priority of needs [1, 39]. Turkey, with more than 11,000 taxa is a flora-rich country due to its climate and phytogeographical positions (Mediterranean, Iran-Turan, and Euro-Siberian) is a significant position as being a flora-rich country. The endemic plants in its flora occupy 1/3 of total taxa. Anatolian people have been using these plants as food and medicine since Paleolithic times [10, 11]. Approximately 1000 taxa are used for medicinal purposes and 350 plant species are used in internal and external trade [12]. Afyonkarahisar is located where the three regions intersect. This makes Afyonkarahisar a flora rich region, people use the plants arund their environment for different purposes.

Turkish people living in rural areas use especially wild plants. Generally, the usage of plants are for food and medical purposes. In recent years, traditional ethnobotanical knowledge and prevalence of medicinal plants have been investigated by researchers in different areas of Turkey [1341]. As a results of these studies a great increase on the level of traditional knowledge of plants occured. On the other hand, more detailed studies are needed to focus region by region. Therefore this study was carried out to extend Afyonkarahisar’s ethnobotanical knowledge due to a limited ethnobotanical studies [4246] conducted in the near region; living in suburbs and in villages; protecting and maintaining their traditional culture and customs and rich uses of plants by local people. The aims of this study were: (1) to determine the local and scientific names of the plants, (2) to document and analyse the traditional ethnobotanical knowledge herited by local people living in Afyonkarahisar and its surrounding area.


Study Area

Afyonkarahisar is 1034 m above sea level. It is located 38° 45‘N latitude and 30° 32’ E longitude. The total area of Afyonkarahisar is 14,295 km2 and it occupies 1.8 % of Turkey’s land. In north of Eskişehir, northwest of Kütahya, east of Konya, south of Isparta, west of Uşak, southwest of Denizli and Burdur are located (Fig. 1) [46]. Despite the fact that Afyonkarahisar is located in the Aegean region, its climate is similar to that of the central Anatolia region. Winters are cold and tough with intense snow, summers are hot and dry, and spring and autumn months feature rain. Precipitation is raining in spring and autumn [47]. According to Erinç [48], the index value of Afyonkarahisar is 23.9 lm. In the vegetation of Afyonkarahisar, cedar and blackpine are found along with various species including relict ones. However, blackpine forests, the dominant factor of forest formation, have been significantly destroyed and oak groups have replaced them. The destruction is greater especially in fields around settlements, and these fields have turned into anthropogenic steppe [47]. The main livelihoods of the local community in the research area are tree felling, sheep and cattle husbandry, and agriculture. Animal husbandry consists of small numbers of cattle per household (average one), kept for meat and milk, with dairy products being sold in local bazaars. Since the area consists largely of forested hillsides, crop production is restricted to small fields, and annual incomes from agriculture are therefore relatively low. Monthly incomes are in the region of US $230–350 for workers and shepherds, and $350 for agricultural workers in those months that they work. On average, 50 % of the population is young (under 30 years), 30 % are middle-aged (30–50 years), and 20 % are old (50+ years). Although 80 % of the middle-aged and nearly 80 % of the older generation is not literate, almost all young people are literate.

Fig. 1

The study area and Afyonkarahisar’s location map

Data collection

Specimens were collected by the authors in Afyonkarahisar and its surrounding area in the years between 2012 and 2014. Thirty-one settlements were visited for field research. Two hundred people were contacted, and 46 of them accepted to become our informants who have ethnobotanical experience. Thirty-five of them were male and 11 of them were female. Data were collected from nine informants between the ages of 35 and 50, 17 informants between the ages of 50–65, and 20 informants over the age of 65. Interviews with the men were usually carried out in the teahouses where they come together, and with women in their homes, bazaars and gardens. A questionnaire was administered to the informants through face-to-face interviews. Information that had been carried to the region from the outside and that was not used or confirmed were not included and recorded. During the interviews, the below questions were asked to the participants.

  1. (1)

    Name and surname

  2. (2)

    Age and sex

  3. (3)

    Educational level

  4. (4)

    Are plants collected in your region?

  5. (5)

    Do you have any contact with plants?

  6. (6)

    Can you show the plants you use in your region?

  7. (7)

    Can you tell the local names of the plants you use in your region?

  8. (8)

    In which season do you collect the plants you use in your region?

  9. (9)

    When collecting plant, which parts of the plant do you collect and how do you collect them?

  10. (10)

    Which parts of the plants do you use? (Flower, fruit, leaves, root, tuber, young shoots, branch, galbula, cupula, stem, above ground parts etc.).

  11. (11)

    How do you prepare and administrate the plants’ parts?

Answers given above questions with doubt were not recorded. Specimens were collected and identified by the authors according to Davis [49] and the studies related to the flora Afyonkarahisar by Kargıoğlu et al. [44, 45]. Plants were photographed as well as being observed in the research field. Voucher specimens are saved in the Herbarium of Afyon Kocatepe University (AKUH). Herbarium numbers of the plant taxa were given in Table 1.

Table 1 List of plants used as foodstuff or medicinal purposes in Afyonkarahisar (Inner-West Anatolia)

Results and discussion

As seen in Table 1 and Fig. 2, the number of plant taxa used by the indeginous community of Afyonkarahisar and the surrounding area is 130 that belong to 93 genera and 39 families, and a total of 178 ethnobotanical uses (remedies) were recorded. Medicinal use occupies the first place with 84 types of use. The others are food with 68, fodder with 16, handicrafts, painting and effects with three types of use each, and other (evil eye) with one. According to results, the percentage of species in families are Asteraceae (14 %), Lamiaceae (10 %), Rosaceae (8 %), Caryophyllaceae (5 %), Chenopodiaceae (5 %), Polygonaceae (5 %), Boraginaceae (4 %), Brassicaceae (4 %), Fabaceae (4 %), and 41 % of them are composed of other subgroups. The richest subgroup rate in terms of frequency of ethnobotanical uses is 15 % Asteraceae, followed by 10 % Lamiaceae, 9 % Rosaceae, 4 % Brassicaceae, 4 % Caryophyllaceae, 4 % Chenopodiaceae, 4 % Fabaceae, 3 % Boraginaceae, and 42 % other subgroups. The richest genus in terms of ethnobotanically significant is Rumex L. with 5 taxa, followed by Quercus L. with 4 taxa. Seven other 7 genera share thirt place with three taxa each. When we compare the studies of other reseachers [5, 7, 30, 35, 38, 41], the families of Asteraceae, Lamiaceae, Rosaceae are the most common families. But in the study of Doğan [11] the usage order of the families was a bit different than our findings. He reported that the highest number of taxa is similarly Asteraceae, but others were as Boraginaceae, Apiaceae, Lamiaceae, Caryophyllaceae and Geraniaceae. Rumex and Erodium are the most represented genera.

Fig. 2

Used parts of the medicinal plants and their usage frequencies in the study area

When the 130 taxa’s usage types are analyzed, it can be seen that the most frequently used parts were leaves (68), flowering branches and flowers (44), fruits (22) and stem (18) (Fig. 2). The usage frequencies of plant parts are observed to be different from local to local [5, 7, 30, 35, 38, 41].

Medicinal use occupies the first place among 178 types of use with 84 remedies. The province of İzmir, Denizli, Ankara, Bilecik, Balıkesir, Muğla are close to our study area. The results of analysis showed that the percentage of the uses shows some similarities. The medicinal plants (47.2 %) are the most cited in Afyonkarahisar. This is almost in agreement with former studies by Ertuğ et al. [7] in Buldan (Denizli) with 42 %, Ertuğ [41] in Muğla with 43 %, Şimşek et al. [5] with 60 % in Ankara, Ugulu et al. [35] with 67 % in Izmir and Güler et al. [30] with 58 % in Bozüyük (Bilecik). These results revealed that local people prefer widely to use the plants for medicinal purposes. The reasons for using the plants widely could be economic, because reaching them easily in folk bazaars and actars with a small amount of money. On the other hand, cultural aspects also play an importan role to use the plants for medicinal purposes.

The rate of food, fodder, others (household goods, dyes, handicrafts and religious) are 38.2, 9 and 5.6 %, respectively. The rates are similar with the studies of Ertuğ [41] in Muğla (38, 15, 5 %) and Şimşek et al. [5] in Ankara (36 %, others (4 %)). According to the data obtained from field work field, plants used by people for infection (10 %), respiration (9 %), stomachache (8 %), skin diseases, wart, eczema (7 %), digestion (7 %), hemorrhoids (6 %), painkiller (5 %), body resistance (4 %), blood sugar regulator (3 %), and other diseases (41 %) (Fig. 3, Table 1). Polat & Satıl [38] reported that various diseases are gastro-intestinal disorders, respiratory and throat diseases, diabetes, kidney ailments, healing cut and wounds, hemorrhoids, anorexia and hypertension stabilizer in Edremit Gulf (Balıkesir). This shows us that the priority of people in using medicinal plants in different localities is different to treat ailments.

Fig. 3

The use aim and usage percentages of the plants in the study area

We have seen that the culture and ethnobotanical informations that people have gained with centuries of traditional methods are disappearing. Especially today, we can say that increasing of purchasing power and the wealth level has led to a decrease in the use of plants, with more people buying convenience foods, to use cultivated plants, and supplying their medication needs by buying pharmaceuticals from a pharmacy. We determined that in areas where purchasing power is low, people are more prone to ethnobotanical culture.

Particularly, the facts that there are no pharmacies in villages and towns, economic power is low, increased contact with plants, and success in solving some medicinal problems with culture they gained over generations promoting ethnobotanical culture. In comparison to some studies conducted in near areas (in Anatolia), there are some differences in local naming, purpose of use, and how to use plants.

While Agrostemma githago “Sakızlık otu” is used in medicinal purposes especially in digestive and alvine conditions in the study region. It is used as ornament along with medicinal purposes [23]. We saw that the plant Amaranthus retroflexus was used both as food and for medicinal purposes, especially to treat conditions such as influenza or cold [23]. It was also observed that the plant is called different names such as “Paşa pancarı” and “Kızılbacak” in different localities. Bellis perennis, which is called as “Çayır papatyası”, is used for medicinal purposes to treat respiratory diseases. It is also used for cold and flu, stomach-ache, strengthen hair [19]. It is noted that Capsella bursa-pastoris “Çoban çantası” is consumed as food by informants, it is also used as food and fodder [1], as food, medicine, fodder and other [23] and as food and medicine [50]. People eat it in meal, roast, soup, or salads [11], cooked as meal with rice and eaten with garlic-yogurt [22]. We note that the purpose of use as food is common in the compared studies.

Cerinthe minor subsp. auriculata is given to the animals as fodder; people are also reported to use it as food in times of famine [1]. Chelidonium majus, called “Kırlangıç otu”, is used especially as food and medicine by locals, and it is reported that it benefits conditions related to liver and hemorrhoids. Previous study showed that Chelidonium majus is used to treat wart [23]. In some regions, its medicinal uses and purposes differ.

It was reported that Dianthus zonatus was used to treat wart by the studies [1, 23, 50] as we found the same purpose. On the other hand, Ficus carica L. is used to treat wart in Bozüyük (Bilecik–Turkey) [30]. Dracunculus vulgaris is called “Deli otu and is used for infections, and the same aim was reported in the previous studies [1, 23, 50]. It is called as “Yılan bırcağı, köpeksiyen” in Edremit (Balıkesir-Turkey) and used for hemorrhoids, carminative (for animal) [38]. Hypericum perforatum shows the same usage as painkiller in the study region and this was repoted in the previous studies [1, 23, 50]. It is also used for stomachache by the report of Güler et al. [30]. While Portulaca oleracea, “temizlik otu”, is greatly consumed as food in Afyonkarahisar, it is used as salad, pickle and jam in Mersin and Adana provinces (Turkey) [18]. Urtica dioica, called “Isırgan”, is used to treat cancer and leukemia by informants. In the other studies, it is used for medicinal purposes [1, 23, 50] and for dye [20, 27]. The plant Vaccaria pyramidata var. grandiflora is used as fodder in the study region.

Sample survey of some plants is conducted according to compared data. We can come to the conclusion that both local names and uasege purposes of the plants are either the same or vary sometimes. People’s frequency of contact with plants, relation status, passing the plant to next generation, means, and environmental conditions may cause this variety. When we compared some of the plants with some studies in Turkey and in the other countries, we found some differences. While Anchusa azurea var. azurea is used to treat stomachache, vulnerary, and female sterility as reported in other region [51, 52], we found that it is used as food in the study region. Capsella bursa-pastoris is used as an astringent; in burn wound care, for constipation and intestinal spasm, as a diuretic, a hemostatic, and for intestines, kidney swelling, rheumatism, and urinary disorders [23, 5355], we report that it is used as food. Peganum harmala is used for the eliminating the evil eye in our study and used as an analgesic, to treat epilepsy and headache [56], rheumatic pain [44]. Papaver dubium is used to treat cold [57], while it is used as food and sedative in our study. Mentha longifolia is used to treat halitosis, constipation, common cold, fever, and general weakness and is antispasmodic [58, 59], while it is used to treat Vitamin C deficiency in this study. Morus alba is used to treat cancer in our study, while it is used to treat anemia, blood forming, dizziness, hepatitis, incontinence, insomnia, and palpitations in other locals [40, 60]. Plantago major is reported to be used by wrapping its leaf around wounded area causing suppuration to flow out. In other studies, it is used to treat, cicatrizer, constipation, hemorrhoids, and wounds [58, 61]. While Tribulus terrestris is used to treat athlete’s foot, eczema, kidney and gallstones, hemorrhoids, and warts [38, 62], our study showed that its leaves are consumed by forming wraps. Local people also drink its oil, and it is reported to benefit kidney gravel. The oil of the plant is applied to area affected by hemorrhoids.

Salix alba is reported to be used to treat athlete’s foot and vaginal itching [23], we found that it is used to treat pain, stomachache, and respiratory conditions in this study. Urtica dioica is used to treat asthma, blood sugar, and intestinal pains, and is used as a diuretic, galactagogue, and post-partum depurative [63, 64] while it is used to treat cancer and leukemia in our study. Crataegus monogyna is used to treat respiratory conditions and cold while it is also used to treat arythmia, cardiotonic, diabetes, and is a vasodilator [23].

The majority of the Origanum vulgare, Thymus spp., Hypericum perforatum, Achillea millefolium, Rosa canina, Melissa officinalis, Mentha longifolia etc. species are well known in European folk medicine for their digestive properties, which is also one of the reasons cited for the selection of plants for teas to accompany meals [65, 66]. In the Russian study area, the most used medicinal herbs are Hypericum perforatum and Plantago major. The Russian respondents considered it important to use medicinal herbs during winter times to prevent flu and common colds [67]. Amaranthus spp. [68, 69], Arum elongatum and Lactuca spp. [70], Atriplex sp. [71, 72], Malva neglecta [73], Malva sylvestris [70, 74], Morus nigra, Onopordum anatolicum [70, 75], Plantago major [76], Rumex patientia, Sinapis arvensis [1, 11, 7080], Salvia spp., Beta trigyna [81, 82], Urtica dioica [83], the leaves of taxa are used for preparing food (sarma = stuffed food etc.) in the folk cuisines of Turkey and the Balkans. In our study we observed that Peganum harmala’ burn incense is believed in to bring about good deed. In the wedding day, the bride and groom are being incensed to get rid off the evil’s harm. It is used in Pakistan for emotional disturbances, painful menstruation, seizures, insanity and itchy skin. Abdominal pain and smoke has insecticidal properties [84].

Pinus nigra in Anatolia (spoon making, animal fodder, wetland making), Cedrus libani (bowl and spoon making), Salix alba (basket weaving), Juglans regia (dyes), Quercus infectoria (dyes) are used for different purposes [85].

The local names and common families and some species were shared in Anatolia and central Asia (Uzbekistan) [18, 86, 87]. For example, yarpuz/nane for Mentha sp., Qoratut/dut for Morus sp., itburnu/kuş burnu for Rosa sp. (Tablo 1) [87]. In this case, it is a sign that the culture of Anatolia common with central Asia as coming the roots from there.


This study documented and analyzed traditional ethnobotanical knowledge and 178 different remedies of 130 taxa belonging to 39 families. The results of this study indicated that the local community of the study area used the plants as medicinal (84) and food (68) fodder (16), household goods (3), dyes (3), handicrafts (3) and religious (1). The most common cited usages of plants are still folk medicine and food. Because villagers are generally migrating to big cities and benefiting from the facilities of modern medicine, the heritage of traditional ethnobotanical knowledges is decreasing dramatically. Although this relieve some of the pressures on some plant species, documenting and analizing the indigenous wild plants’ ethnobotanical usages through ethnobotanical studies is still important for the conservation of traditional ethnobotanical knowledge.


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We express our thanks to The Coordination Unit of Scientific Research Projects at Afyonkarahisar Kocatepe University for financial support. We would like to thank local communities for sharing their knowledge and experiences. Our special thanks also to Dr H Shazly (Swansea-UK) due to checking its English.

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Correspondence to Muhsin Konuk.

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

SA, main author, involved in the study design, conducting of interview, field work, literature Review and general data collection and systematization. MT wrote the first draft, and MK2 wrote ms, designed figures, references and participated in fieldwork. MK1 diagnosed the plants, and participated in fieldwork. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Arı, S., Temel, M., Kargıoğlu, M. et al. Ethnobotanical survey of plants used in Afyonkarahisar-Turkey. J Ethnobiology Ethnomedicine 11, 84 (2015).

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  • Afyonkarahisar
  • Ethnobotany
  • Food plants
  • Medicinal plants