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  • Open Access

Factors affecting the use of medicinal plants by migrants from rural areas of Brazilian Northeast after moving to a metropolitan region in Southeast of Brazil

Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine201814:72

https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-018-0270-3

  • Received: 25 March 2018
  • Accepted: 2 November 2018
  • Published:

Abstract

Background

Ethnopharmacological studies about migrants reveal a dynamic process of knowledge and use of medicinal plants. In this study, we sought to elucidate quantitative and qualitatively the main factors influencing the use of medicinal plants by migrants from rural areas to an urban region in Brazil with traces of remnant natural vegetation.

Methods

Seven Northeastern individuals who migrated to the Southeastern Region of Brazil (Bororé Peninsula, in the city of São Paulo) were selected to participate in semi-structured interviews regarding the use of medicinal plants throughout their lives, and indicated an inhabitant in their hometown that would be able to accompany the field collections in each area. Socioeconomic, educational, family structure, and use of Western medicine data were provided during interviews with the individuals from their hometowns. Plant samples cited by the interviewees were collected both at the current place of residence and in their hometowns.

Results

The participants cited 131 plants and 315 recipes, being the main indications related to the gastrointestinal system, respiratory problems, and pain and inflammatory processes. We observed that most plant uses were maintained after migration. Higher percentages of maintenances and incorporations in plant uses occurred to exotic species, while replacements happen mainly to native plants. The introduction of new species into the migrants’ therapeutics occurred mainly by observations of organoleptic similarities between the substituted plant and the incorporated species, conversations with neighbors, and contact with the television and print media. In addition, the public health system allowed the interviewees access to prophylactic drugs, leading to the discontinuation of certain recipes used in endemic diseases.

Conclusion

Migrants were exposed to information about new plants and their uses, new diseases, and socioeconomic and cultural differences that impacted their use of medicinal plants. Although migration to a more developed city facilitated access to public health and education, on the other hand, it made access to fresh medicinal plants difficult, causing some medicinal plants to be replaced or ceased to be used.

Keywords

  • Medicinal plants
  • Migration
  • Adaptation
  • Urban ethnomedicine
  • Bororé Peninsula
  • Cross-cultural adaptation

Background

Ethnopharmacological research regarding migrants reveals a dynamic process of knowledge and use of medicinal plants. Despite adapting or incorporating new treatments for their illnesses, migrant subjects also preserve part of their past culture. Some of the factors that can influence this process are the reason for migration, social status, education, personal habits, lifestyle, and differences in the degree of development between the regions of origin and destination [14].

Numerous studies have evaluated the impact of the cultural syncretism on the adaptation of different groups of migrants, for example, people that migrated from Albania or Senegal to Italy [5, 6], from Haiti, Europe, and Africa to Cuba [7, 8], from South Asian or South American countries to UK [3, 911], from Macedonia to Albania [12], from Poland to Argentina [13, 14], and from Austria to Australia, Brazil, or Peru [15]. This adaptation is also observed in studies with nomad people [16] and migrants from geographically and culturally distinct regions of the same country, such as Brazilian subjects who migrated from the Northeastern Region to the Amazon region of the Acre and Purus rivers [17] and from the northeastern to southeast metropolitan region of São Paulo [18]. The migrants usually cherish and uphold values and traditions of their hometowns, such as festive dates, cuisine, music, local dialects, and the medicinal plants they already knew. At their new destination, they are introduced to novel uses for these plants, in addition to introducing their knowledge to local therapeutics as well [1, 19]. Additionally, they are exposed to a new environment where the acquisition of new species and the abandonment of certain plants of their therapeutic resource take place [1, 2].

Migration from rural to urban areas in metropolitan centers [18] or immigration from developing countries to big cities in developed countries have been previously studied [3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 20]. When migrants move to regions that have preserved vegetation or remain in contact with people from their hometown, the likelihood of maintaining the use of medicinal plants is higher, despite cultural and climatic adaptations [1, 21].

In this study, we sought to investigate, using quantitative and qualitative data, how the migration from rural areas of the Brazilian Northeast to the Bororé Peninsula (a community belonging to São Paulo metropolitan region, but with remaining forest areas) influenced the dynamics of the use of medicinal plants among the migrant subjects. In order to better understand the rationale behind the decision of whether or not to use medicinal plants after migration, ethnopharmacological and ethnographic data were collected both at the São Paulo site and on informants’ cities of origin. Our hypothesis was that the migrants would maintain the use of the species that are also available in the host environment (new city) and discontinue the use or replace those not available in the metropolitan region.

Methods

Locations (study areas)

The Bororé Peninsula is located in the Billings Hydrographic Basin, which occupies a territory of 582.8 km2, located in the southeast portion of the metropolitan region of São Paulo, Southeast Brazil. Contrasting with the other regions of the city, it has low human occupation, with few buildings and access by ferry boat. It contains a large area of secondary Atlantic Forest in middle and advanced stages of regeneration [22].

During the survey period, the community of the Bororé Peninsula had approximately 2500 inhabitants (data obtained through the local Family Health Unit). Many inhabitants came from migratory flows in the 1960s and 1970s. There was one Basic Health Unit and one public school in the Bororé Peninsula, as well as electricity and telephone network, but there was no water supply, resulting in the need for residents to build artesian wells. Residents of the Bororé Peninsula could schedule weekly medical appointments at the Basic Health Unit, while elderly patients, pregnant women, and sick people with most serious health state received authorization to conduct tests and medications at home through government health employee.

The informants’ hometowns are located in Bahia and Piaui (Northeast states of Brazil). Esplanada, Jitaúna, and Itabuna (in the state of Bahia) present the Atlantic Forest as a natural biome, while Novo Horizonte (Bahia), Piripiri, and Pavussú (in the state of Piauí) are located in regions where the prevalent biome is the Caatinga (dryland) (Fig. 1). The Caatinga is represented by a rainfall regime that, in the regional culture, encompasses two distinct seasons: summer (dry season) and winter (rainy season) (Fig. 2).
Fig. 1
Fig. 1

Location of the cities of origin of the interviewees, indicating their distances to São Paulo city

Fig. 2
Fig. 2

Residence in a rural area of the city of Novo Horizonte, state of Bahia. a Summer equals dry season. b Winter equals rainy season

Basic sanitation, public health facilities, basic education (primary and secondary schools), public transport, and access to electricity in rural areas were precarious or absent in all visited cities. Although Itabuna city was an exception for most of the aforementioned issues, basic sanitation was absent in the visited rural area at the margin of the forest. Another concern was the presence of mining in new Horizonte, where miners could be seen working without any supervision or security. Extreme poverty was observed in some places, but according to the interviewees, it had been recently diminished as a consequence of the federal basic income transfer policy called “Bolsa Família” which pays a small salary for poor families.

Selection of participants, interviews, and sample collection

Approximately 300 houses were visited in the Bororé Peninsula between July 2005 and August 2006. During this time, we collected general information about the local community and set some key-informants (community leaders) to assist in selecting the study participants. For this study, we selected people who migrated from the Northeast Region of Brazil and met the following criteria: (a) were considered specialists in medicinal plants by their neighbors in the Bororé community; (b) used native plants regularly in their hometown; and (c) were able to indicate at least one close person (friend or relative) who could assist in ethnographic research and plant collection in their hometown. Seven people with these characteristics were selected (data summarized in Table 1).
Table 1

Personal data of the interviewees

Interviewee1

Age (year)

Gender

Origin

Hometown biome

Trigger for migration

Time after migration (years)

Scholar degree

Profession

Grows medicinal plants at the yard?

BA1

68

Male

Itabuna, BA

Atlantic Forest

Family

15

Informal literacy

Housekeeper

Yes

BA2

53

Female

Novo Horizonte, BA

Caatinga

Curiosity

15

Illiterate

Housewife

Yes

BA3

62

Male

Jitaúna, BA

Atlantic Forest

Financial improvement

20

Elementary school

Housekeeper

No

BA4

49

Female

Jitaúna, BA

Atlantic Forest

Financial improvement

20

Elementary school

Unemployed

No

BA5

55

Female

Esplanada, BA

Atlantic Forest

Curiosity

15

Elementary school

Housekeeper

Yes

PI1

48

Female

Piripiri, PI

Caatinga

Financial improvement

20

Elementary school

House maid

Yes

PI2

63

Male

Pavussu, PI

Caatinga

Financial improvement

20

Informal literacy

Gardener

Yes

1BA migrants from the state of Bahia, PI migrants from the state of Piauí

Survey methods were based on anthropological and botanical concepts [23] to obtain qualitative and quantitative data about the use of medicinal plants. Approximately 40 informal and semi-structured visits and interviews were carried out with the migrants (informants) to obtain their personal data such as age, marital status, main occupation, educational level, religion, family structure, city of birth, migratory journey, motive that led to migration, and housing time. Using field notebooks, guidebooks, and by participant observation method (direct observation) [23, 24], we also obtained data about usual diet, use of the conventional health system, and allopathic medicines, as well as detailed information on each medicinal plant known to the interviewee. We then collected the botanical material, whenever possible, and we registered the plant popular names, physical characteristics, indications (popular uses), used parts, methods of preparation, routes of administration, doses, frequency, contraindications, adverse effects, and any other relevant characteristics. Each indication (containing the part used and method of preparation) was considered one recipe. Some recipes contained two or more species (formulas). The same taxon and recipe would be cited by more than one informant. Plants cited by the informants, but not available in the Bororé Peninsula, were not collected in this phase of the study, but all relevant information was recorded to allow the subsequent localization of the species at the migrant’s cities of origin.

In the second phase of the study (between September and November 2006), the fieldwork was performed at the interviewees’ hometowns, where nine friends or relatives assisted as local guides for botanical collections. Local guides were informed of the popular name, medicinal use, and main morphological and organoleptic characteristics of the plants cited during the interviews in the peninsula of Bororé in order to increase the chances of finding the correct species. Books on Brazilian medicinal flora (see Additional file 1) were consulted in order to obtain data on their geographical distribution and their popular names to correlate with the names cited by the interviewees. This information was useful to facilitate finding the plants in the city of origin of each participant. The plants found and collected during the second phase of the study were subsequently showed to the migrants to confirm that they matched with the cited species.

The material collected in Bororé Peninsula and in the informants’ hometown was identified at the Botany Institute of the State of São Paulo, and the vouchers specimens were deposited at the herbarium of the Federal University of ABC. The website “Flora do Brazil” [25] and several books were consulted to determine if the species were native, naturalized, or exotic (Additional file 1). Plants purchased in supermarkets by the participants were not identified by collection; instead, the botanical species or possible genus was suggested according to the organoleptic properties cited by the respondents, or by the information contained in their commercial packages (when available), as in the case of tea bags.

Considering the context of human migration, the adaptation in the use of medicinal plants was categorized as follows [18, 26]: (1) maintenance—when a plant known in the city of origin has its indication kept in the current location of residence; (2) replacement—there was an exchange of a medicinal plant used in the hometown for another species used for the same purpose; (3) incorporation—new indication for an already known plant or use of a new species for a specific purpose; (4) discontinuation—the species ceased to be used because the disease is uncommon in the current place of residence or the migrant preferred the use of allopathic medicine or an industrialized product in place of the plant.

Quantitative analysis

The data collected was entered in a worksheet containing the plant vernacular name, popular uses, parts employed, method of preparation, route of administration, and whether the plant use was maintained after migration, replaced, discontinued, or if a new plant or indication (recipe) was incorporated at the host place. Each recipe was included as a single line in the table; when two or more participants cited an identical recipe, it was grouped as a single entry, but the total number of citations was counted in the quantitative analysis. After botanical identification, the scientific name, family, and the origin of the species (native/naturalized or exotic) were included in the worksheet. We then classified the popular uses (complaints, ethnomedical indications, and other applications) cited by the informants into 15 categories (adapted from the International Classification of Diseases—ICD-11) [27]. The data generated was used to calculate the informant’s consensus factor (ICF) and index of relative importance (RI), as detailed below.

The level of homogeneity among information provided by the seven participants was calculated using the formula ICF = Nur − Nt/(Nur − 1), where Nur is the number of use reports from informants for a particular plant use category and Nt is the number of species that are used for that category for all participants [28, 29].

The RI of the main species cited by the informants was calculated by the formula RI = Ni/Nc where Ni is the number of informants that cited this species and Nc is the total number of citations of the species.

All taxa and recipes were used in the calculation of ICF and RI, independent of being maintained, replaced, incorporated, or discontinued.

Qualitative analysis

To better understand the main factors that contributed to the dynamics of medicinal plant use among the migrant participants of this study, the first author (Romanus, PC) recorded notes during the interviews in her field notebook and did general observations for further analysis. We subsequently used these notes to qualitatively discuss some strategies adopted by the seven interviewees concerning the use of medicinal plants after their migration. We sought to understand and discuss the most relevant aspects that influenced the dynamics of medicinal plant use, according to the participants’ reports and interviewer perception.

Results and discussion

Migrants selection

Only seven people that fulfilled the selection criteria consented to participate in the study, being 4 women and 3 men with average age of 56.9 years old (Table 1). These informants migrated from Bahia and Piauí states (Northeast of Brazil) around 15–20 years before the study, and the biome in their place of origin was Atlantic Forest (interviewees BA1, BA3, BA4, and BA5) and Caatinga (BA2, PI1, and PI2). All the informants stated that they used medicinal plants in their hometowns and still use in the host place, but two (BA3 and BA4) were not able to grow medicinal plants in their yards at the Bororé Peninsula. The informants had only informal literacy or elementary school and, at the time of the interviews, worked as a housekeeper, housemaid, or gardener in their neighborhood. They also informed the main reasons for migration: financial improvement (4 participants), “curiosity about the life in a big city” (2 participants), or to live close to the family (1 participant).

Similarly to what was reported by Garcia et al. [18], the migrants stated that they learned about medicinal plants with relatives in their hometown and acquired new knowledge from books, media, and neighbors after their migration.

Sample collection and data analysis

The 131 plants cited during the field work at Bororé Peninsula and in the cities of Bahia and Piauí states are shown in Tables 2, 3, 4, and 5. Most taxa were identified, belonging to 51 families, where the most common were Lamiaceae (14 species), Asteraceae and Fabaceae (13 species), and Euphorbiaceae (11 species). The informants cited 315 recipes as part of several indications (popular uses). The plant parts most employed in the recipes were leaves and aerial parts, followed by barks, branches, and seeds, while the most common methods of preparation were as infusion, syrup, maceration, and decoction, respectively. This data corroborates previous reports in the literature, with these botanical parts and methods of preparation being the most cited. According to Gazzaneo et al. [29], communities living near humid forests tend to use plant leaves, while barks and roots are preferred by people living in dry regions because most plants shed their leaves in dry season. In our study, we observed a substantial use of bark and root of Caatinga species.
Table 2

Recipes and medicinal plants which uses were maintained by the informants after their migration to Bororé Peninsula

Scientific name (family)/voucher

Popular names

Origin*

Popular use/[interviewee]

Plant part (preparation method)

Route

Aegiphila sp. (Verbenaceae) PCR 116

Fumo-brabo

UNK

Cough [BA1]

Aerial (syrup)

Oral

Ageratum conyzoides L. (Asteraceae) PCR 27, 179

Mentrasto, mentrasto-branco

N

Healing process [BA3, BA4]

Leaf (roast and grind)

Topic

Allium cf. sativum L. (Liliaceae) [not collected]

Alho (garlic)

E

Catarrh (yellow color) [BA1]

Bulb (grind)

Inhalation

 

Vermifuge [PI2]

Bulb (see recipe 1)

Oral

Aloysia gratissima (Gillies & Hook.) Tronc. (Verbenaceae) PCR 17

Alfazema, fazema

N

Body ache [BA2]

Branches (infusion)

Topic (bathing)

 

To vent the house (pleasant scent of lavender) [BA1]

Branches (infusion)

Topic (bathing)

 

To remove black magic [BA1]

Branches (infusion)

Topic (bathing)

 

To remove black magic [BA2]

Leaf (see recipe 2)

Inhalation

Aloysia triphylla Royle (Verbenaceae) PCR 40

Erva-cidreira, cidreira

E

Sedative, to sleep [BA5, PI2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Alpinia zerumbet (Pers.) B.L. Burtt & R.M. Sm. (Zingiberaceae) PCR 237

Leopoldina, água-de-colonha

E

To the heart [BA1]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Amburana cearensis (Allemão) A.C. Sm. (Fabaceae) PCR 136, 138

Emburana

N

Guts pain due to food [BA1]

Seed (see recipe 3)

Oral

Anadenanthera macrocarpa (Benth.) Brenan (Fabaceae) PCR 79, 189

Angico, pau-barbado

N

When you have a bad feeling [BA2]

Bark (bitter)

Oral

 

Wound [BA2]

Bark (decoction)

Topic

Ananas cf. comosus (L.) Merr. (Bromeliaceae) [not collected]

Abacaxi (pineapple)

N

Flu [BA1]

Fruit bark (see recipe 4)

Oral

Argemone mexicana L. (Papaveraceae) PCR 182, 254

Carro-santo

E

Inflammation with catarrh [BA4]

Seed (maceration)

Topic

 

Bronchitis [BA4]

Seed (maceration)

Topic

Asteraceae (undefined species) PCR 193

Losna

UNK

Abortive and post abortion care [BA2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Indigestion [BA5]

Aerial (maceration)

Oral

Bacharis trimera (Less.) DC. (Asteraceae) PCR 50, 181

Carqueja, carqueja-de-praia

N

Fever [BA1]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

For the whole gut [BA1]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Gut [BA3, BA4]

Leaf (bitter)

Oral

 

Liver [BA3, BA4]

Leaf (bitter)

Oral

 

Kidney [BA3, BA4]

Leaf (infusion or maceration)

Oral

Bidens pilosa L. (Asteraceae) PCR 2, 71, 153, 180

Picão

N

Against hepatitis [BA2]

Aerial (infusion)

Topic (bathing)

Caesalpinia pulcherrima (L.) Sw. (Fabaceae) PCR 26, 102

Maravilha

N

Eye pain [BA1]

Flower (maceration)

Topic

Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp. (Fabaceae) PCR 12, 22, 32, 103, 161, 162

Andú

E

Body ache [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Inflamed tooth, toothache [BA5]

Leaf (infusion)

Mouthwash

 

Inflammation from inside the body [BA1]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Fever [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Infection with vaginal discharge [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Topic

 

Cold [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

“Suvaqueira” (armpit odor) [PI2]

Leaf (maceration)

Topic

 

For the baby to be born faster at the time of childbirth [BA1]

Leaf (infusion)

Topic (bathing) and oral

Cedrela fissilis Vell. (Meliaceae) PCR 249

Cedro

N

Wound [BA1]

Bark (decoction)

Topic

 

Catarrh (yellow color) [BA1]

Bark (decoction)

Inhalation

 

Baby teeth popping [BA1]

Bark (decoction)

Mouthwash

Chenopodium ambrosioides L. (Chenopodiaceae) PCR 49, 61, 218, 253, 255, 328

Erva-de-santa-maria, mastruz, mentruz

N

“Sentindo por dentro” (feeling sick) [BA1]

Aerial (maceration and add to milk)

Oral

 

Worm [BA5]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Contusion [BA1]

Aerial (maceration)

Topic

 

Tendon inflammation [PI1]

Aerial (maceration)

Topic

 

Pneumonia [PI1]

Aerial (maceration)

Oral

Citrus sp. (Rutaceae) [not collected]

Laranja (orange)

E

Fever [PI1]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

“Bicheira” (pests, as tunga penetrans) [PI1]

Leaf (see recipe 5)

Topic

Citrus sp. (Rutaceae) [not collected]

Limão (lime)

E

“Bicheira” (pests, as tunga penetrans) [PI1]

Leaf (see recipe 5)

Topic

Coffea arabica L. (Rubiaceae) PCR 110

Café

E

Gut motility [BA1]

Seed (see recipe 3)

Oral

Commiphora leptophloeos (Mart.) J.B. Gillett (Burseraceae) PCR 220

Emburana, emburana-de-cambão, emburana-macho

N

Gut motility [BA1]

Seed (infusion of toasted seed)

Oral

Costus spiralis (Jacq.) Roscoe (Zingiberaceae) PCR9, 53, 221

Cana-de-macaco

N

Difficulty urinating [BA1]

All parts (infusion)

Oral

Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf. (Poaceae) PCR 39, 226, 227, 228, 257

Capim-santo

E

Sedative, to calm down, to sleep [BA1, BA2, BA5, PI2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Sore throat [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Fever [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Flu [BA1]

Leaf (see recipe 4)

Oral

 

To remove black magic [BA2]

Leaf (incense)

Inhalation

Eucalyptus sp. (Myrtaceae) PCR 203

Eucalipto, eucalipto-verdadeiro

E

Domestic hygiene [PI2]

Leaf (incense)

Inhalation

 

Breast congestion [PI1]

Leaf (infusion)

Inhalation

Eugenia uniflora L. (Myrtaceae) PCR 15, 57

Pitanga

N

To children out of parental control [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Flu [BA1]

Leaf, fruit (see recipe 4)

Oral

Euphorbia prostrata Aiton (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 143

Sanguinho

N

Diarrhea [BA4]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Foeniculum vulgare Mill. (Apiaceae) PCR 14, 19, 35, 238, 239

Erva-doce

N

To calm down [BA2, PI2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Sore throat [BA2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Pain [BA3]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Stimulate appetite [BA2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Gut motility due to food [BA1]

Aerial (see recipe 6)

Oral

 

Liver [BA3]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Flu [BA3]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

“Ventosidade” (flatulence) [BA1]

Aerial (see recipe 6)

Oral

 

Cough [BA2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Gossypium hirsutum L. (Malvaceae) PCR 24, 60, 118, 177

Algodão

N

Pain [BA1]

Fruit, flower (decoction, roast)

Topic

 

Flu [BA1]

Leaf, fruit (see recipe 4)

Oral

 

Symptoms of pneumonia [BA1]

Latex (added to recipe 4)

Oral

Imperata brasiliensis Trin. (Poaceae) PCR 169,198

Sapé

N

Baby teeth popping [BA1]

Leaf, root (infusion)

Oral, topic (bathing or tie the plant sprout to the child’s neck)

Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam. (Convolvulaceae) PCR 243, 244

Batata-doce

E

Toothache [BA5]

Tuber (infusion)

Mouthwash

Iridaceae (undefined species) PCR 111

Cebola-branca

UNK

Labor (delivery of placenta) [BA1]

Tuber (see recipe 7)

Oral

Kalanchoe pinnata (Lam.) Pers. (Crassulaceae) PCR 222

Folha-da-costa, saião, folha-da-fortuna, among others

E

Flu [BA1]

Leaf (see recipe 8)

Oral

 

Bronchitis [BA1]

Leaf (see recipe 8)

Oral

Leonotis nepetifolia L. R. Br. (Lamiaceae) PCR 99

Cordão-de-são-francisco

N

Gut [BA1]

Leaf (maceration)

Oral

 

Fever [BA1]

Leaf (maceration)

Oral

 

To remove blackmagic [BA1]

Leaf (maceration)

Topic (bathing)

Lepidium bonariense L. (Brassicaceae) PCR 332

Mastruz-rasteiro

N

Abdominal pain [BA3]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Abdominal pain [BA1]

Aerial (maceration and add to milk)

Oral

Lippia alba (Mill.) N. E. Br (Verbenaceae) PCR 4, 13, 18, 33, 34, 62, 112, 195, 196, 325

Erva-cidreira, erva-cideira-roxa

N

To sleep [BA5]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Hangover [BA1]

Aerial (see recipe 9)

Oral

 

Hypertension [BA4]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Abdominal bloating [BA4]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Spiritual [BA2]

Aerial (see recipe 2)

Inhalation

Lippia sp. (Verbenaceae) PCR 167, 197

Erva-cidreira

UNK

Hypertension [BA4]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Abdominal bloating [BA4]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Sedative [BA2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Luffa cylindrica M. Roem (Cucurbitaceae) PCR 333

Buchinha-do-norte, bucha

N

Abortive [BA2]

Fruit, seed (infusion)

Oral

 

Sinusitis [PI2]

Fruit (infusion)

Inhalation

Melinis minutiflora P. Beauv. (Poaceae) PCR 225

Capim-gordura

N

Diabetes [BA5]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Menispermaceae (undefined species) PCR 178

Buticara, buti

UNK

Toothache [BA3, BA4]

Fruit (decoction)

Mouthwash

Mentha arvensis L. (Lamiaceae) PCR 20, 37, 183

Alevante, água-de-alevante, hortelã, hortelãzinho

E

Sedative [PI2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Measles [BA4]

Aerial (see recipe 10)

Oral

 

Sexual weakness [PI2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Flu [BA4]

Leaf (syrup)

Oral

 

Flu (fever, cough e body ache) [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Labor (delivery of placenta) [BA1]

Aerial (see recipe 7)

Oral

Mentha pulegium L. (Lamiaceae) PCR 184

Puejo, poejo

E

Flu (fever, cough e body ache) [ba2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Flu [PI1]

Aerial (see recipe 11)

Oral

 

Labor (delivery of placenta) [BA1]

Aerial (see recipe 7)

Oral

Momordica charantia L. (Cucurbitaceae) PCR 25, 97

Melão-de-são-caetano

E

Anemia [BA1]

Leaf (infusion or maceration)

Oral

 

Itching [BA1]

Leaf (infusion)

Topic (bathing)

Myracrodruon urundeuva Allemão (Anacardiaceae) PCR 140

Aroeira

N

To bless [BA1]

Branches (in natura)

Topic

Myristica fragans Houtt. (Myristicaceae) PCR 114

Noz-moscada

E

“Quando comeu e ofendeu o intestino” (guts pain due to food)

Seed (see recipes 3 and 6)

Oral

 

“Ventosidade” (flatulence) [BA1]

Seed (see recipe 6)

Oral

Ocimum americanum L. (Lamiaceae) PCR 229

Manjericão, alixir-paregórico

E

Flu [BA1]

Branches (see recipe 4)

Oral

Ocimum basilicum L. (Lamiaceae) PCR 21

Manjericão

E

Flu [BA1]

Branches (see recipe 4)

Oral

Ocimum campechianum Mill. (Lamiaceae) PCR 231, 232, 233

Alfavaca-fina, tiioiô, alfavaca

N

Flu (pediatric) [BA1]

Aerial (syrup)

Oral

 

Wound healing [BA1]

Leaf (maceration)

Topic

Ocimum gratissimum L. (Lamiaceae) PCR 23, 230

Manjericão, tiioiô

E

Sedative [PI2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Flu [BA1]

Aerial (see recipe 4)

Oral

Ocimum selloi Benth. (Lamiaceae) PCR 5

Alixir-paregórico, elixirs

N

General pain [BA1]

Branches (infusion)

Oral

 

Bowel pain [PI1]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Operculina macrocarpa (Linn) Urb. (Convolvulaceae) PCR 246

Batata-doce, batata-de-purga

N

Inflamed tooth, toothache [BA5]

Tuber (infusion)

Mouthwash

Passiflora edulis Sims. (Passifloraceae) PCR 38

Maracujá

N

Sedative [PI2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Persea americana Mill. (Lauraceae) PCR 16, 247, 248

Abacate, abacate-branco

E

Weight loss [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Leukemia [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Cholesterol [BA5]

Seed (decoction)

Oral

 

Liver [BA3]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Kidney [BA3]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Kidney stone [BA5]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Petiveria alliacea L. (Phytolaccaceae) PCR 117, 122, 256

Guiné

N

Pain due to dental caries (cavities) [BA1]

Root (thin pieces)

Topic

 

Kidney [BA4]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

To prevent black magic [BA3]

Aerial (maceration in alcoholic drink)

Oral

 

To prevent black magic [BA1]

Root (thin pieces)

Topic

Phyllanthus amarus Schumach. &Thonn. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 147

Quebra-pedra

N

Inflammation [BA5]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Kidney stone [BA3, BA4, BA5]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Phyllanthus niruri L. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 146

Quebra-pedra

N

Inflammation [BA5]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Kidney stone [BA3, BA4, BA5]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Phyllanthus stipulatus (Raf.) G. L. Webster (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 145

Quebra-pedra

N

Kidney stone [BA1]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Phyllanthus tenellus Roxb. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 6

Quebra-pedra

N

Kidney stone [BA3, BA4, BA5]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Inflammation [BA5]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng. (Lamiaceae) PCR 185, 323

Alfavaca-grossa, hortelã-grosso, hortelã-da-folha-grossa, hortelã-doce

E

Flu [BA1]

Leaf (see recipe 4)

Oral

 

Flu [BA4]

Aerial (syrup)

Oral

 

Expectorant [PI2]

Leaf (syrup)

Oral

 

Eye inflammation [PI2]

Leaf (juice released when pressed with a hot plate)

Topic

 

Gynecological infection [PI2]

Leaf (infusion)

Vulva and vagina bath using a bucket

Plectranthus barbatus Andrews (Lamiaceae) PCR 3, 29, 158

Boldo, boldo-grosso, folha-de-santa-bárbara

E

Indigestion [PI2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Stomach [BA1]

Leaf (infusion or maceration)

Oral

Plectranthus neochilus Schltr. (Lamiaceae) PCR 159, 160

Boldo, boldo-miúdo, boldo-unha-de-gato

E

Hangover [BA1]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Gut [BA1]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Indigestion [BA1, BA5]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Pothomorphe umbellata (L.) Miq. (Piperaceae) PCR 252

Capeba

N

Burning sensation on liver and stomach [BA1]

Leaf (infusion or maceration)

Oral

Psidium cf. guajava L. (Myrtaceae) [not collected]

Goiaba (guava)

N

Diarrhea [PI2]

Terminal portion of the branches (infusion)

Oral

Punica granatum L. (Punicaceae) PCR 216

Romã

E

Sore throat [BA1]

Bark, fruit, leaf (infusion)

Mouthwash

 

Sore throat [PI1]

Bark, leaf (decoction)

Mouthwash

Ricinus communis L. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 144

Mamona

E

Measles [BA4]

Seed (see recipe 10)

Oral

Rosmarinus officinalis L. (Lamiaceae) PCR 36, 186, 322

Alecrim

E

Body ache [BA2]

Branches (infusion)

Oral

 

Flu [BA1]

Aerial (see recipe 4)

Oral

 

To prevent black magic [BA2]

Branches (to bless)

Topic

 

Whooping cough [BA2]

Branches (infusion)

Oral

Ruta chalepensis L. (Rutaceae) PCR 121, 148

Arruda-miúda

E

Otitis (pediatric) [BA1]

Aerial (maceration)

Topic

 

Eye injury (knock) [BA1]

Aerial (juice)

Topic

 

Flu [BA1]

Aerial (syrup)

Oral

 

Against evil eye [BA1]

Aerial (in natura)

Put in a vase inside home

 

Bronchitis [BA1]

Aerial (syrup)

Oral

Ruta graveolens L. (Rutaceae) PCR 123

Arruda

E

Baby belly button [BA2]

Aerial (oil extraction)

Topic

 

Eye injury (knock) [BA1]

Aerial (juice)

Topic

 

Otitis [BA1, BA2]

Aerial (maceration)

Topic

 

Flu [BA1]

Aerial (syrup)

Oral

 

To prevent black magic and envy [BA1]

Aerial (in natura)

Put in a vase inside home

 

To prevent black magic and envy [BA2]

Aerial (fresh plant)

Topic

 

Recovery and care after delivery [BA2]

Aerial (in natura)

Oral

 

Bronchitis [BA1]

Aerial (syrup)

Oral

Sambucus canadensis L. (Caprifoliaceae) PCR 211, 212

Sabugueiro

E

Measles, chickenpox, smallpox [BA1, BA2]

Flower (infusion)

Oral or topic (bathing)

 

Rheumatism [BA2]

Flower (maceration)

Topic

 

Flu [BA1]

Leaf (syrup)

Oral

 

Contusion [BA2]

Flower (maceration)

Topic

 

Bronchitis [BA1]

Leaf (syrup)

Oral

Sansevieria trifasciata Prain (Liliaceae) PCR 58, 258

Espada-de-ogum, são-jorge

E

To remove black magic [BA2]

Leaf (incense)

Inhalation

Schinus terebinthifolia Raddi (Anacardiaceae) PCR 175

Aroeira

N

To bless [BA1]

Branches (in natura)

Topic

Scleria distans Poir. (Cyperaceae) PCR 132

Junço, dandá

N

Pain [BA1]

All parts (infusion)

Topic (bathing)

Scoparia dulcis L. (Scrophulariaceae) PCR 171

Bassorinha

E

Itching (pediatric) [BA1]

Aerial (infusion)

Topic (bathing)

 

Bowel pain (pediatric) [BA1]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Senna sp. (Fabaceae) PCR 108

Copaíba

UNK

Hemorrhoid [BA1]

Stem (oil, resin extraction)

Topic

 

Indigestion [BA1]

Stem (oil, resin extraction)

Oral

 

Healing process [BA1]

Stem (oil, resin extraction)

Topic

Sicana paineira (Vell.) Naudin (Cucurbitaceae) PCR 334

Melão-coroá

E

Symptoms of heart attack [BA1]

Fruit (roast and grind)

Oral

Sphagnetico latrilobata (L.) Pruski (Asteraceae) PCR 156

Mal-me-quer

N

Menorrhagia (not related to pregnancy) [BA4]

Flower (infusion)

Oral

Struthanthus marginatus (Desr.) Blume (Loranthaceae) PCR 176

Erva-de-passarinho

N

Scabies (pediatric) [BA1]

Leaf (infusion)

Topic (bathing)

Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. & L.M. Perry (Myrtaceae) PCR 124

Cravo-da-índia

E

Flu [BA1]

Flower (see recipe 4)

Oral

Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.) A. Gray (Asteraceae) PCR 154

Chapéu-de-couro

N

Urethra and kidney problems [BA1]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Flu [BA1]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Vernonia condensata Baker (Asteraceae) PCR 157, 165

Boldo-do-chile, alumã

E

Hangover [BA1]

Leaf (see recipe 9)

Oral

 

Indigestion [BA1]

Leaf (see recipe 9)

Oral

 

Indigestion [BA4]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Liver [BA4]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Vernonia polyanthes Less. (Asteraceae) PCR 8

Assa-peixe

N

Flu [BA1]

Leaf (syrup)

Oral

 

For the lungs [BA1]

Leaf (maceration)

Oral

 

Healing process [BA1]

Leaf (maceration)

Topic

*Native or naturalized (N), Exotic (E), Unknown origin (UNK)

Table 3

Recipes and medicinal plants from the origin place which uses were replaced by the informants after their migration to Bororé Peninsula. The plants were replaced by other species already known and with similar uses (see Table 2—maintenance) or by new species (Table Table 5 - incorporation)

Scientific name (family)/voucher

Popular names

Origin*

Popular use/[interviewee]

Plant part (preparation method)

Route

Acacia adhaerens Benth. (Fabaceae) PCR 82

Unha-de-gato

N

To bless [BA2]

Branches (in natura)

Topic

Acosmium dasycarpum (Vogel) Yakovlev (Fabaceae) PCR 131

Raiz-d’anta

N

Stomachache [BA2]

Bark (decoction)

Oral

Ageratum conyzoides L. (Asteraceae) PCR 27, 179

Mentrasto, mentrasto-branco

N

Dungal infection [BA5]

Aerial (topic, bathing)

Topic (bathing)

Amburana cearensis (Allemão) A.C. Sm. (Fabaceae) PCR 136, 138

Emburana

N

Headache [BA2]

Seed (see recipe 3)

Oral

 

Indigestion [BA2]

Seed (toasting and brewing together with coffee)

Oral

Anacardium cf. occidentale L. (Anacardiaceae) [not collected]

Cajú (cashew)

N

Gut motility [BA2]

Fruit (in natura)

Oral

Anadenanthera macrocarpa (Benth.) Brenan (Fabaceae) PCR 79, 189

Angico, pau-barbado

N

Blood purifying [PI1, PI2]

Bark (decoction)

Oral

 

Flu [PI1]

Bark (see recipe 12)

Oral

 

Flu [PI2]

Bark (syrup)

Oral

Arecaceae (undefined species) PCR 193

Quitara

UNK

Flu [BA1]

Root (see recipe 8)

Oral

 

Bronchitis [BA1]

Root (see recipe 8)

Oral

Cestrum sp. (Solanaceae) PCR 107, 170

Cuarana

UNK

To remove black magic [BA1]

Tuber (incense)

Inhalation

Combretum sp. (Combretaceae) PCR 92

Mufumbá

UNK

Inflammation [PI2]

Bark (soak in water, powder)

Topic

 

Stop bleeding (injuries and scratches) [PI2]

Bark (soak in water, powder)

Topic

Commiphora leptophloeos (Mart.) J.B. Gillett (Burseraceae) PCR 220

Emburana, emburana-de-cambão, emburana-macho

N

Headache [BA2]

Seed (toast, grind and mix with oil)

Oral

 

Indigestion [BA2]

Seed (toast, soak in water)

Oral

Croton echioides Müll. Arg. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 268

Velame

N

Emetic [PI2]

Root (maceration, soak in water)

Oral

Croton betulaster Müll. Arg. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 267

Pimentinha

N

To calm children down [BA2]

Root (infusion)

Oral

Cymbopogon densiflorus (Steud.) Stapf. (Poaceae) PCR 115

Capim-de-aruanda

N

To remove black magic [BA1]

Aerial (incense)

Inhalation

Diptychandra aurantiaca Tul (Fabaceae) PCR 204

Birro-branco

N

Emetic [PI2]

Bark (decoction)

Oral

Fabaceae (undefined species) PCR 129

Birro-cangalheiro, birro-branco

UNK

Emetic [PI2]

Root (maceration)

Oral

Fevillea trilobata L. (Cucurbitaceae) PCR 151

Gendiroba

N

Gut motility [BA1]

Seed, except pericarp (toast and add to coffee)

Oral

Gallesia integrifolia (Spreng.) Harms (Phytolaccaceae) PCR 217

Pau-d’alho

N

Pain [BA1]

Stem (decoction)

Topic (bathing)

 

To remove black magic [BA1]

Stem (decoction)

Topic (bathing)

Hymenaea courbaril L. var. stilbocarpa (Hayne) Lee & Langenhein (Fabaceae) PCR 74, 130

Jatobá, jatobá-mirim

N

Flu [PI1]

Bark (see recipe 12)

Oral

Hymenaea stigonocarpa Mart. ex Hayne var. pubescens Benth. (Fabaceae) PCR 73, 78

Jatobá, jatobá-do-campo

N

Flu [PI1]

Bark (see recipe 12)

Oral

Jacaranda puberula Cham. (Bignoniaceae) PCR 67

Garobinha-do-mato, carobinha

N

Allergy [PI1]

Branches (infusion)

Topic (bathing)

Jacaranda sp. (Bignoniaceae) PCR 209, 210

Jacarandá

UNK

To bless [BA1]

Aerial (incense)

Topic

Jatropha curcas L. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 259

Pinhão-branco, pinhão-manso

N

Skin burn [BA2]

Latex (ointment)

Topic

Jatropha gossypiifolia L. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 261,262

Pinhão-roxo

E

Home protection [BA2]

Aerial (in natura)

Julocroton fuscescens (Spreng.) Baill. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 59

Velame

N

Emetic [PI2]

Root (maceration)

Oral

Lantana camara L. (Verbenaceae) PCR 168

Cãmará

N

Healing process [BA1]

Leaf (maceration)

Topic

Lecythis pisonis Cambess (Lecythidaceae) PCR 120

Coco-de-sapucaia

N

Flu [BA1]

Fruit (see recipe 8)

Oral

 

Bronchitis [BA1]

Fruit (see recipe 8)

Oral

Myracrodruon urundeuva Allemão (Anacardiaceae) PCR 140

Aroeira

N

Flu [PI1]

Bark (see recipe 12)

Oral

 

Wash aggravated eyes [BA2]

Branches (infusion)

Topic

Operculina macrocarpa (Linn) Urb. (Convolvulaceae) PCR 246

Batata-doce, batata-de-purga

N

Blood purifying [PI2]

Tuber (grid and soak in water)

Oral

Opuntia sp. (Cactaceae) [not collected]

Palma

UNK

Labor (delivery of placenta) [BA1]

Branches (see recipe 7)

Oral

Polygala sp. (Polygalaceae) PCR 104, 163, 164

Cainaninha, puaia-branca

UNK

Flu [BA1]

Aerial (see recipe 8)

Oral

 

Asthmatic bronchitis [BA1]

Aerial (see recipe 8)

Oral

Ricinus communis L. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 144

Mamona

E

Laxative [BA5]

Seed (oil extraction)

Oral

 

Wound [BA5]

Seed (oil extraction)

Oral

Ruellia bahiensis (Nees) Morong. (Acanthaceae) PCR 121, 141

Purga-do-campo

N

Fever [BA1]

All parts (infusion)

Oral

Sanseviera cylindrica Bojer (Liliaceae) PCR 242

Espada-de-ogum-fechada

E

To remove black magic [BA2]

Leaf (see recipe 2)

Inhalation

Sapotaceae (undefined species) PCR 109

Buranhê

UNK

Chronic wound [BA1]

Bark (decoction)

Topic

Schinopsis brasiliensis Engl. (Anacardiaceae) PCR 139

Braúna

N

Diarrhea [BA2]

Branches (infusion)

Oral

 

To bless [BA2]

Branches (in natura)

Topic

Senna spectabilis (DC.) H.S. Irwin &Barneby (Fabaceae) PCR 84

São-joão

N

To bless [BA2]

Branches (in natura)

Topic

Sida cordifolia L. (Malvaceae) PCR 202

Malva-do-campo, malva-branca

N

Healing process [BA5]

Leaf(roast and grind)

Topic

Sisyrinchium sp. (Iridaceae) PCR 134

Capim-lanceta

UNK

Fever [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Solanum americanum Mill. (Solanaceae) PCR 101, 199, 250

Erva-de-santa-maria

N

Pneumonia [PI1]

Aerial (maceration)

Oral

Ximenia americana L. (Olacaceae) PCr 137

Ameixa-braba

N

Healing process [PI2]

Bark (maceration)

Topic

*Native or naturalized (N), Exotic (E), Unknown origin (UNK)

Table 4

Recipes and medicinal plants from the origin place which were no longer used by the informants (discontinuation) after their migration to Bororé Peninsula

Scientific name (family)/voucher

Popular names

Origin*

Popular use/[interviewee]

Plant part (preparation method)

Route

Caesalpinia ferrea Mart. Ex Tul. var. parvifolia (Fabaceae) PCR 125

Pau-ferro

N

Homemade mercury for medical use [BA5]

Bark (decoction)

Topic

Chenopodium ambrosioides L. (Chenopodiaceae) PCR 49, 61, 218, 253, 255, 328

Erva-de-santa-maria, mastruz, mentruz

N

Worm, vermifuge [PI1]

Aerial (see recipe 13)

Oral

 

To wash an increased mosquito wound [PI1]

Aerial (maceration)

Topic

Citrus sp. (Rutaceae) [not collected]

Laranja (Orange)

E

“Sezão” (intermittent or cyclic fever, such as caused by malaria) [PI1]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Diptychandra aurantiaca Tul (Fabaceae) PCR 204

Birro-branco

N

Soap [PI2]

Bark (decoction)

Topic

Menispermaceae (undefined species) PCR 178

Buticara, buti

UNK

Paludism, typhoid fever [BA1]

Fruit (decoction)

Oral

Operculina macrocarpa (Linn) Urb. (Convolvulaceae) PCR 246

Batata-doce, batata-de-purga

N

Vermifuge [PI2]

Tuber (grid and soak in water)

Oral

Ricinus communis L. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 144

Mamona

E

Worm, vermifuge [PI1]

Seed (see recipe 13)

Oral

Ziziphus joazeiro Mart. (Rhamnaceae) PCR 88

Juá

N

Dentifrice [PI2]

Bark (maceration)

Topic

 

Dandruff shampoo [PI2]

Bark (decoction)

Topic

*Native or naturalized (N), Exotic (E), Unknown origin (UNK)

Table 5

Recipes and medicinal plants which uses were incorporated at the informants’ therapeutic after their migration to Bororé Peninsula

Scientific name (family)/voucher

Popular names

Origin*

Popular use/[interviewee]

Plant part (preparation method)

Route

Achillea millefolium L. (Asteraceae) PCR 10

Novalgina

E

Headache [PI1]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Aesculus hippocastanum L. (Hippocastanaceae)**

Castanha-da-índia

E

Varicose veins [BA5]

Seed (see recipe 14)

Oral

Aloysia gratissima (Gillies & Hook.) Tronc. (Verbenaceae) PCR 17

Alfazema, fazema

N

Stress [BA2]

Branches (in natura)

Throw over the head

Aloysia triphylla Royle (Verbenaceae) PCR 40

Erva-cidreira, cidreira

E

Sedative [PI1]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Bacharis trimera (Less.) DC. (Asteraceae) PCR 50, 181

Carqueja, carqueja-de-praia

N

Stomach [BA5]

Leaf (infusion or maceration)

Oral

Bidens pilosa L. (Asteraceae) PCR 2, 71, 153, 180

Picão

N

Hepatitis [BA4]

Aerial (see recipe 15)

Topic (bathing)

 

Fungal infection [BA5]

Aerial (topic, bathing)

Topic (bathing)

Brassica cf. oleraceae L. (Brassicaceae) [not collected]

Couve (cabbage)

E

Gastritis [PI1]

Leaf and stem (juice)

Oral

Calea pinnatifida (R. Br.) Less. (Asteraceae) PCR 47

Cipó-cruz

N

Pain [BA3]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Liver [BA3]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Stomach [BA5]

Aerial (maceration)

Oral

 

Kidney [BA3]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

to remove black magic [BA3]

Aerial (infusion)

Topic (bathing)

Cinnamomum sp. (Lauraceae) [not collected]

Canela (cinnamon)

E

Flu [BA4]

Bark (syrup)

Oral

Cissus verticilata (L.) Nicholson & CE Jarvis (Vitaceae) PCR 11, 45, 55

Insulina

N

Diabetes [BA1, BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Eucalyptus sp. (Myrtaceae) PCR 203

Eucalipto, eucalipto-verdadeiro

E

Inhaler [BA5]

Leaf (infusion)

Inhalation

Galium hypocarpium (L.) Endl. Ex. Griseb. (Rubiaceae) PCR 65

Erva-de-bicho

N

Hepatitis [BA4]

Aerial (see recipe 15)

Topic (bathing)

Ginkgo biloba L. (Ginkgoaceae)**

Ginkgo biloba

E

Varicose veins [BA5]

Leaf (see recipe 14)

Oral

Imperata brasiliensis Trin. (Poaceae) PCR 169,198

Sapé

N

Diabetes [BA5]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Lactuca cf. sativa L. (Asteraceae) [not collected]

Alface

E

Sedative, to sleep [PI1]

Stem (infusion)

Oral

Lippia alba (Mill.) N. E. Br (Verbenaceae) PCR 4, 13, 18, 33, 34, 62, 112, 195, 196, 325

Erva-cidreira, erva-cideira-roxa

N

Sedative [PI1, PI2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Matricaria cf. chamomilla L. (Asteraceae) [not collected]

Camomila (chamomile)

E

Sedative [PI1]

Flower, leaf (infusion)

Oral

Melissa officinalis L. (Lamiaceae) PCR 31

Erva-cidreira, melissa

E

Sedative [PI1, PI2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Mentha citrata Ehrn. (Lamiaceae) PCR 226

Hortelã

N

Vermifuge [PI2]

Leaf (see recipe 1)

Oral

Mentha pulegium L. (Lamiaceae) PCR 184

Puejo, poejo

E

Flu [BA4]

Aerial (infusion or syrup)

Oral

Mikania glomerata Spreng. (Asteraceae) PCR 52

Guaco

N

Flu [BA4]

Aerial (syrup)

Oral

 

Flu [PI1]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

 

Flu [BA1]

Aerial (see recipe 4)

Oral

 

Flu [PI1]

Aerial (see recipe 11)

Oral

Musa sp. (Musaceae) [not collected]

Banana

UNK

Headache [BA2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

 

Vitamin [BA2]

Fruit (in natura)

Oral

 

Bruised bone [BA2]

Leaf, latex (maceration)

Topic

Ocimum campechianum Mill. (Lamiaceae) PCR 231, 232, 233

Alfavaca-fina, tiioiô, alfavaca

N

Indigestion [PI1]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Opuntia sp. (Cactaceae) PCR 56

Palma-japonesa

UNK

Mental illness affecting humor [BA2]

Branches (infusion)

Oral

Phyllanthus niruri L. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 146

Quebra-pedra

N

Regulate urination [PI2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Phyllanthus tenellus Roxb. (Euphorbiaceae) PCR 6

Quebra-pedra

N

Regulate urination [PI2]

Aerial (infusion)

Oral

Plantago major L. (Plantaginaceae) PCR 201

Transagem

E

Uterus inflammation [BA5]

Leaf (infusion)

Vulva and vagina bath using a bucket

Plectranthus barbatus Andrews (Lamiaceae) PCR 3, 29, 158

Boldo, boldo-grosso, folha-de-santa-bárbara

E

Coffee addiction [PI2]

Leaf (infusion)

Oral

Rosmarinus officinalis L. (Lamiaceae) PCR 36, 186, 322

Alecrim

E

Enlarged heart (cardiomegaly) [PI2]

Branches (infusion)

Oral

Senna sp. (Fabaceae) PCR 108

Copaíba

UNK

Hemorrhoid [PI1]

Stem (oil, resin extraction)

Topic

Vernonia polyanthes Less. (Asteraceae) PCR 8

Assa-peixe

N

Dandruff and seborrhea [PI2]

Branches (infusion)

Topic

Zingiber cf. officinale Roscoe (Zingiberaceae) [not collected]

Gengibre (ginger)

E

Hoarseness [PI1]

Root (in natura, infusion)

Oral

 

Cough [PI1]

Root (in natura, infusion)

Oral

*Native or naturalized (N), Exotic (E), Unknown origin (UNK)

**herbal product purchased in the market

The informants also mentioned 15 recipes containing two or more plants and informed when these recipes were changed after migration (Table 6). These recipes were not unchangeable, since they stated that some plants could be included or replaced keeping the formula similarly effective.
Table 6

Recipes containing two or more species and their methods of preparation

Recipe number

Original recipe

Current recipe (after migration)

1

Infusion with garlic (Allium sativum)

Infusion of garlic bulb (A. sativum) and mint leaves (Mentha citrata)

2

Incense prepared with leaves of Sanseviera cylindrica, leaves of Aloysia gratíssima and Lippia alba

Sanseviera cylindrica replaced by species with similar use, when possible

3

Decoction of roasted seeds of Amburana cearenses and seeds of Myristica fragans together with coffee (Coffea arabica)

Recipe still used for gut pain, but the use of A. cearenses for headache was replaced

4

Syrup prepared with cambuci (not collected), barks of pineaple (Ananas comosus), leaves of Cymbopogon citratus, leaves or fruits of Gossypium hirsutum, leaves of Eugenia uniflora, aerial parts of Rosmarinus officinalis, branches of manjericão (Ocimum americanum or Ocimum basilicum), leaves of Plectranthus amboinicus, and flowers of Syzygium aromaticum

Same recipe, but aerial part of Mikania glomerata was incorporated

5

Leaves of lime and orange (Citrus sp.) macerated and mixed with creolin

The same

6

Decoction prepared with seeds of Myristica fragans and aerial parts of Foeniculum vulgare

The same

7

Infusion of aerial parts of Mentha arvensis, branches of Opuntia sp. (Cactaceae), aerial parts of Mentha pulegium, and tuber of cebola-branca (undefined species, Iridaceae)

Opuntia sp. is no longer used in the recipe

8

Syrup containing, fruits of Lecythis pisonis, aerial parts of Polygala sp. (Polygalaceae), roots of quitara (undefined species, Arecaceae), leaves of Kalanchoe pinnata and garapia (not collected)

Lecythis pisonis, Polygala sp. and quitara (Arecaceae) replaced by plants with similar uses, like garlic (Allium sativum)

9

Infusion of leaves of Vernonia condensata and aerial parts of Lippia alba

The same

10

Infusion of aerial parts of Mentha arvensis and seed oil of Ricinus communis

The same

11

Infusion of aerial parts of Mentha pulegium

Syrup prepared with aerial parts of Mentha pulegium and Mikania glomerata

12

Syrup prepared with barks of Anadenanthera macrocarpa, barks of Myracrodruon urundeuva and jatobá (Hymenaea courbaril or Hymenaea stigonocarpa)

Recipe replaced by the use of single species

13

Maceration prepared with saffron (not collected), aerial parts of Chenopodium ambrosioides and mamona oil (Ricinus communis)

Recipe discontinued

14

None

Herbal remedy containing seeds of Aesculus hippocastanum and leaves of Ginkgo biloba

15

None

Infusion of aerial parts of Bidens pilosa and aerial parts of Galium hypocarpium

Therapeutic categories and informant’s consensus factor

The popular uses cited by the participants were grouped in 15 therapeutic classes (Table 7). The most relevant categories of use in our sample were respiratory (62 citations), gastrointestinal (58 recipes) and inflammation, pain and fever (55 citations). A similar study with people who migrated from Northeastern Brazil to Diadema (also a metropolitan region of São Paulo) found the same categories as the most cited [18]. In fact, studies with urban population have shown that the use of medicinal plants is more common for treatment of “minor” problems, like gastritis, cough, and contusion, if compared to “serious” diseases like cancer, psychiatric disorders, and neurological conditions [3, 30, 31].
Table 7

Popular uses, number of species used (Nt), number of use citations (recipes) (Nur), and informant’s consensus factor (ICF) calculated for each therapeutic category

Therapeutic category

Popular uses

N t

N ur

ICF

Birth control, childbirth

Abortive and post-abortion care, labor (delivery of the placenta), childbirth, for the baby to be born faster, recovery, and care after delivery

8

9

0.13

Cardiovascular and hematological

To the heart, hypertension, symptoms of heart attack, enlarged heart (cardiomegaly), blood purifying, varicose veins, leukemia

10

11

0.10

Contagious and tropical diseases

Measles, chickenpox, smallpox, paludism, typhoid fever, “sezão” (intermittent or cyclic fever, such as caused by malaria)

5

6

0.20

Dermatological

Allergy, itching, scabies, fungal infection, healing process, skin burn, wound, chronic wound, to wash an increased mosquito wound, “bicheira” (pests, as Tunga penetrans), homemade mercury for medical use, stop external bleeding (injuries and scratches)

21

23

0.09

Endocrine and metabolism

Diabetes, cholesterol

4

5

0.25

Gastrointestinal

To the stomach, liver, gut, indigestion, hangover, burning sensation on liver and stomach, gastritis, hepatitis, emetic, gut motility, guts pain due to food, worm, vermifuge, hemorrhoid, laxative, diarrhea, “ventosidade” (flatulence)

34

58

0.42

Genitourinary

Kidney, kidney stone, urethra and kidney problems, infection with vaginal discharge, difficulty urinating, regulate urination, gynecological infection, uterus inflammation, menorrhagia

14

23

0.41

Hygiene

Domestic hygiene, to vent the house, soap, dentifrice, dandruff shampoo, armpit odor, seborrhea

6

7

0.17

Inflammation, pain and fever

Pain, fever, inflammation, body ache, headache, inflamed tooth, toothache, pain due to dental caries (cavities), sore throat, inflammation from inside the body, feeling sick, contusion, tendon inflammation, bruised bone, bowel pain, abdominal pain, abdominal bloating, eye pain, eye injury (knock), eye inflammation, wash aggravated eyes, sinusitis, otitis, rheumatism, hoarseness

40

55

0.20

Magical

Spiritual, to remove black magic, against evil eye, to bless, to prevent envy, home protection, against stress (external use)

21

26

0.20

Neonatal care

Baby belly button, baby teeth popping

3

3

0.00

Psychoanaleptic

Sedative, to sleep, to calm down, to children out of parental control, bad feeling, mental illness affecting humor

15

24

0.39

Respiratory problems

Flu, cold, cough, whooping cough, breast congestion, expectorant, inhaler, catarrh, bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis, pneumonia, for the lungs

38

62

0.39

Stimulant and fortifier

Anemia, stimulate appetite, vitamin, sexual weakness

4

5

0.25

Others

Coffee addiction, weight loss

2

2

0.00

The therapeutic categories with higher ICF were gastrointestinal (0.42), genitourinary (0.41), psychoanaleptic (0.39), and respiratory (0.39), while the other categories presented ICF lower than 0.25 (Table 7). Low ICF values indicate that plants are chosen randomly or the informants do not exchange information about their use [28, 29]. As we can see, there was a low consensus among the participants, which in many cases cited different plants and uses for similar ailments. The most accepted interpretation is that the migrants do not share information about the species and uses, possibly because in many cases, the access to medicinal plants is no longer the primary health care adopted. Another hypothesis is that the adaptation to a new environment, with access to different medicinal plants, resulted in a heterogeneous use among the migrants, which reflects the low ICF value found for most therapeutic categories. However, when we analyze the species and indication cited by migrants from the same state and biome, we can observe higher agreement of use (see Tables 2, 3, 4, and 5) suggesting that migrants that share a common background are more likely to exchange information. Low ICV values were also found in a previous study that evaluated the dynamics of use of medicinal plants among migrants living in Diadema [18].

Table 8 shows the 19 species cited at least five times by the interviewees. The species most cited were Foeniculum vulgare (10 recipes from 4 informants), Baccharis trimera (9 recipes from 3 informants), and Ruta graveolens (9 recipes from 2 informants)—see Tables 2, 3, 4, and 5. Table 8 also shows the index of relative importance of each plant, represented by the number of informants that cited the plant proportionally to the number of recipes. Lippia alba was the species used by the highest number of informants, with a relative importance of 0.86, although cited to five different indications. A high relative importance (0.80) was also observed to Phyllanthus niruri and Phyllanthus tenellus (used to treat kidney stones by three migrants). On the other hand, we observed that Ruta chalepensis and Ruta graveolens are used by few informants for many different purposes. This suggests that these species may have particular importance for these informants, but not for the other migrants. It is interesting to note that all species in this list had the use maintained after migration, except for Calea pinnatifida, which use was incorporated by two informants after their migration to the Bororé Peninsula.
Table 8

Index of relative importance and dynamic of use of the most cited species

Species

Number of citations

Number of informants

Dynamics*

Index**

Aloysia gratissima

5

2

M, I

0.40

Anadenanthera macrocarpa

6

3

M, R

0.50

Bacharis trimera

9

3

M, I

0.33

Cajanus cajan

8

4

M

0.50

Calea pinnatifida

5

2

I

0.40

Chenopodium ambrosioides

7

3

M, D

0.43

Cymbopogon citratus

8

4

M

0.50

Foeniculum vulgare

10

4

M

0.40

Lippia alba

7

6

M, I

0.86

Mentha arvensis

6

4

M

0.66

Mentha pulegium

6

4

M, I

0.66

Persea americana

6

3

M

0.50

Phyllanthus niruri

5

4

M, I

0.80

Phyllanthus tenellus

5

4

M, I

0.80

Plectranthus amboinicus

5

3

M

0.60

Rosmarinus officinalis

5

3

M, I

0.60

Ruta chalepensis

5

1

M

0.20

Ruta graveolens

9

2

M

0.22

Sambucus canadensis

6

2

M

0.33

*M = maintained; I = incorporated; D = discontinued

**Index of relative importance = number of informants/number of citations

Dynamics of use

The category where each species was classified (maintenance, replacement, discontinuation, and incorporation) was defined according to the dynamics of use described by the interviewee after his/her migration to the Bororé Peninsula. One species could be used for different purposes (more than one recipe) and the dynamics of use could be different for each recipe and informant.

Table 9 shows the number of recipes and percentage of maintenance, replacement, incorporation, and discontinuation for each recipe considering each informant and the total sample. We observed that, on average, most uses were maintained (65.4%) after the migration (206 recipes containing 80 species), 54 recipes (17.1%) containing 39 species were replaced by plants available in the Bororé Peninsula, 45 new recipes (14.3%) were incorporated, and only 3.2% fell into disuse after migration, but these percentages are very different if we analyze the dynamic of use for each informant. It is clear that the knowledge about medicinal plants is very different among the participants. BA1 and BA2 cited most plants and recipes while BA3 showed a limited use of medicinal plants. It was previously reported that a large part of the knowledge about medicinal plants is not shared among migrants, and in many cases, the same species are used differently or for different ailments [13].
Table 9

Number of species and recipes cited by the informants and their dynamic of use

Migrant

Number of species

Number of recipes

Recipes/species

Dynamic of use: number of recipes (percentage)

Maintained

Replaced

Discontinued

Incorporated

BA1*

70

110

1.57

91 (82.7)

16 (14.5)

1 (0.9)

2 (1.8)

BA2**

34

59

1.74

37 (62.7)

16 (27.1)

0 (0.0)

6 (10.2)

BA3*

11

19

1.72

15 (78.9)

0 (0.0)

0 (0.0)

4 (21.1)

BA4*

20

28

1.40

23 (82.1)

0 (0.0)

0 (0.0)

5 (17.9)

BA5*

26

27

1.04

14 (51.9)

5 (18.5)

1 (3.7)

7 (25.9)

PI1**

25

37

1.48

11 (29.7)

8 (21.6)

4 (10.8)

14 (37.8)

PI2**

29

35

1.21

15 (42.9)

9 (25.7)

4 (11.4)

7 (20.0)

Total

131

315

2.40

206 (65.4)

54 (17.1)

10 (3.2)

45 (14.3)

*migrants from Atlantic Forest biome

**migrants from Caatinga biome

In general, we could observe highest rates of maintenance with migrants from Atlantic Forest (especially BA1, BA3, and BA4), while migrants from Caatinga biome (BA2, PI1, and PI2) presented lower percentages of maintenance (compared with the average of the total sample) and showed higher rates of replacement, incorporation, and discontinuation (Table 9). This data suggest that native species from Caatinga biome were not available in the host place (Atlantic Forest biome) and could not be easily cultivated or acquired there. In fact, when we compared the species identified as native/naturalized or exotic, the percentage of maintained uses was found to be higher for exotic species, while the replacement and discontinuation was higher for native species (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3
Fig. 3

Percentage of species native/naturalized, exotic, or from unknown origin which were maintained, replaced, discontinued, or incorporated

These dynamics of use and importance of therapeutic categories were previously discussed by several authors. Medeiros et at [1, 19] reported that migrants can adopt two main strategies when arriving the new environment: adaptation of the ethnomedical system to the new flora of the new place and acquisition of the original plants from the original place. The authors did not focus on internal migrations within a country, but many variables discussed are similarly valid in our study. Among the possible adaptations discussed, they cite the incorporation of new plant species or new uses for known species in the migrant pharmacopeia and the replacement of plants from the original flora by species with phylogenetic proximity or that possess similar morphological, chemical, and sensory characteristics. Leonti [32] also discusses the displacement of people and cross-cultural knowledge exchange using different concepts. The author reports that cultural interaction may alter the diversity and the importance of medicinal plants, which is detectable as continuity and disjunction or discontinuity and synchronism [32, 33].

It is important to point out that the study with migrant people has some limitations. In our study, we intended to compare the current use of medicinal plants by migrants living in a metropolitan region and the therapeutic resource they had before migrating. However, we could not measure the “latent knowledge,” which means that some species that were used in their hometowns possibly were not remembered, because they were not found in the host place or their use (indication) was no longer necessary. In this case, the number of replaced and discontinued species and recipes found in our study is possibly underestimated. Other factors can affect the chance of plants being forgotten, such as changes in the importance of certain use categories and differences in the prevalence of diseases [32]. In our study, most of the abandonments occurred for species used as vermifuges and to treat contagious or tropical diseases; the informants related that these problems could be treated with cheap and effective allopathic medicines (vermifuges) or the diseases are uncommon in the new environment (tropical diseases). Some authors warn that it is difficult to estimate how much knowledge about medicinal plants has been lost by migrants in comparison with people from their place of origin because, in most cases, no baseline data exist [1]. We carried out a bibliographic search in scientific databases and no ethnobotanical studies were found for the six cities of origin of our participants.

Another point for consideration is the importance of certain therapeutic resources which uses are maintained by migrants, despite their displacement to regions with different biome and culture and with better access to healthcare facilities. It was not our objective to search in databases if the popular use reported by the participants was already proven by scientific studies. However, we can observe that several plants cited were evaluated in pre-clinical studies or recognized by its traditional use, but only a few species were licensed as an herbal drug in the Brazilian market. As an example, we can cite Aesculus hippocastanum (antivaricose), Ananas comosus, Eucalyptus sp. and Mikania glomerata (expectorant), and Matricaria chamomilla (anxiolytic) which popular use is related to the therapeutic category approved [34]. In other cases, the species is licensed as an herbal product in a therapeutic category, but different popular uses are cited by the informants: Alpinia zerumbet (cited for cardiovascular use and registered as antispasmodic), Caesalpinia ferrea (employed as homemade mercury and approved as expectorant), Ginkgo biloba (used for varicose vein and approved as antivertiginous, antiplatelet agent and vasodilator), Lantana camara (cited as healing and registered as expectorant agent), Persea americana (several popular uses, but different of the registered use—anti-inflammatory), Schinus terebinthifolius (magical use and registered as anti-infective and healing agent), Syzygium aromaticum (used to treat flu and licensed as anti-dyspeptic drug), and Zingiber officinale (used to treat cough and hoarseness, but registered as antiemetic and antinauseant).

Qualitative analysis—the dynamics of medicinal plants use

As previously discussed by other authors, many factors can affect the use of medicinal plants by migrants: differences in the flora of the new environment, the access to cultivated or fresh medicinal plants, the local culture and knowledge about medicinal plants, prevalence of diseases and access to health system, media influence, among others [1, 10, 13, 15, 18, 35]. The reasons that drive the dynamics of medicinal plant use by different migrants may also depend on personal choices. The qualitative analysis of the interviews allows understanding the individual reasons that justify the maintenance, replacement, abandonment, or incorporation of certain medicinal plant uses.

The migrants interviewed stated that upon their arrival in São Paulo, they looked for plants previously known in their hometowns. Most medicinal uses of species already known in their original regions were maintained at Bororé Peninsula, mainly for exotic plants or species with wide geographical distribution, as previously discussed. In many cases, native species from the Atlantic Forest (predominant biome of Esplanada, Jitaúna, and Itabuna) were also found at Bororé. On the other hand, the maintenance of species endemic to the Caatinga was difficult due to the considerable climatic difference, which made it challenging to find these species or to cultivate them in the new biome at São Paulo metropolitan region.

In some cases, we observed the cultivation of plants they considered of greater importance. For instance, BA1 received from his nephew (coming from Bahia) seeds and seedlings of Amburana cearensis and Commiphora leptophloeos, both species known as emburana and employed to alleviate the symptoms of indigestion. The migrants also used to find the same species of their original regions in local emporiums, herbal houses, or street fairs, as described by other authors [3638]. However, the interviewees prefer to avoid getting plants from these sources whenever possible, because the botanical material is generally kept in bad conditions and subjected to contamination and deterioration, as also described in other studies [39, 40].

When the migrants did not find the species from their original region, they tried to replace them with similar plants from the new region guided by different strategies: conversation with neighbors; information from popular books and local media; and observing the ingestion of plants by animals or looking for species with organoleptic characteristics similar to those of the original species, in order to reach similar effects, as also observed with other populations [18, 4143]. In some cases, several plants were mentioned as possible options (substitutes) for the replaced plants and recipes.

In our study, we observed that many species of the same genus, although recognized as different plants by the participants, were employed for the same indications: Ocimum americanum, O. basiicum, O. campechianum, and O. gratissimum (employed to treat flu) or Phyllanthus amarus, P. niruri, and P. tenellus (used as anti-inflammatory and against kidney stone). We also observed that even species from different genus and family, but sharing similar morphology or characteristics like odor and taste, are used for similar purposes, as is the case of Aloysia triphylla and Lippia alba (Verbenaceae) both known as erva-cidreira and used as a sedative/to sleep or Plectranthus barbatus (Lamiaceae) and Vernonia condensata (Asteraceae) known as boldo/boldo-do-chile and employed for hangover and indigestion. This makes sense considering that plants with close organoleptic properties have higher chance to have similar chemical constitution and that morphological and organoleptic properties are the basis for the doctrine of signature [32, 41, 44].

As previously mentioned, many species not found were from Caatinga biome and were replaced by local ones. Examples of species replaced are pimentinha (Croton betulaster), employed as anxiolytic/sedative in Novo Horizonte and replaced by pitanga (Eugenia uniflora) or são-joão (Senna spectabilis) and braúna (Schinopsis brasiliensis), employed as magical (to bless) by relatives of BA2 and replaced by alfazema (Aloysia gratissima). At the same time that some native species were replaced, in particular those endemic, other naturalized or exotic plants were incorporated. This fact can be explained by the increasing cultivation and adaptation of several exotic medicinal plants in different geographic regions, as observed to sálvia (Salvia officinalis) and camomila (Matricaria chamomilla) and by the use of teas and sachets infusions from Asian and European species, which are easily found in supermarkets, as reported by other studies carried out in different Brazilian regions [4547].

In addition, our study suggests that the introduction of species from Bororé’s Atlantic Forest on the migrants’ therapeutic resources is slower than the introduction of exotic species often cultivated in the city of São Paulo. Moreover, some species that are currently found in the entire country were incorporated into the interviewees’ therapeutic practice only after they moved to Bororé Peninsula, as is the case of guaco (Mikania glomerata).

Occasionally, the migrants’ therapeutics would include different species for the same purpose and they could maintain the use when one or more species were found in Bororé. Interviewee BA1 used both the capim-de-aruanda (Cymbopogon densiflorus) and guiné (Petiveria alliacea) to prevent black magic, but since he could not find the first species in Bororé Peninsula, he limited himself to the second one. On the other hand, we observed that the knowledge about the occurrence and medicinal properties of some plants from Bororé was not always shared among the residents. Interviewees BA3 and BA4 alleged to maintain the use of buticara (Menispermaceae—undetermined species) for toothache, collecting the plant on Bororé’s Forest, while BA1 did not find this species. Similarly, interviewee BA2 maintained the use of angico (Anadenanthera macrocarpa) as anxiolytic (“when you have a bad feeling”) and for wound treatment, while PI1 and PI2 did not find the species and discontinued its use against flu, cold, and for cardiovascular problems (blood purifying). BA1 reported to find aroeira (Myracrodruon urundeuva) at Bororé’s Forest and maintained its use to bless (magical), while PI1 did not find the species on the local Forest and changed the recipe (formula) used to prepare an expectorant syrup to treat flu and cold. The same strategies of replacement and incorporation were cited by Garcia et al. [18] for a similar group of migrants.

Vegetables and fruits often found in the migrants’ diet with attributed medicinal properties were also named. Some vegetables were already used in their hometown in either or both contexts (as food and medicine), such as lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and pomegranate (Punica granatum), employed by PI1 as a sedative and to treat sore throat, respectively. Other examples are pineapple (Ananas comosus), pitanga (Eugenia uniflora), and basil (Ocimum basilicum), employed against flu by BA1. The diet of the interviewees was altered in order to consume more vegetables classified as prophylactic or useful for the treatment of diseases acquired or detected in the new environment, as also reported in other studies [4, 5, 14, 48, 49]. An increase in knowledge about food medicines was also observed in migrants from the Dominican Republic living in New York [20], in agreement with our data pointing that the acquisition of vegetables (including medicinal food) in big cities may be facilitated.

When we consider the category of use, we observe that several incorporations are related to pathologies that the informants claimed do not exist or be very uncommon in their hometowns. Plants reported to act as sedatives such as chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and erva-cidreira (Aloysia triphylla and Lippia alba) began to be used against stress because the city life imposes a greater risk to mental health, according to interviewees. However, it is likely that some diseases could not be diagnosed in their hometowns, because some diagnostics would require sophisticated laboratory tests and, at the time they moved, their hometowns did not have an adequate public health system. As an example, we can cite the cardiac hypertrophy detected in PI2 by clinical exams performed after relocation to a metropolitan area and treated with rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).

Several discontinuations occurred due to the availability of alternative therapies or allopathic medicines with low cost, as the use of mentruz (Chenopodium ambrosioides), castor oil extracted from castor beans (Ricinus communis), and batata-de-purga (Operculina macrocarpa) against worms, which were less palatable than allopathic medicines according to the interviewees, and because these medications are sold over the counter. In addition, access to basic sanitation also contributed to the decreased incidence of infectious diseases.

Other plants were no longer used for some purposes (discontinuation/abandonment), and industrialized products were used in their place. As an example, we can cite pau-ferro (Caesalpinia ferrea), used by BA5 on the preparation of home mercury, or plants used to make products of personal hygiene, as juá (Ziziphus joazeiro), which bark was used by PI1 to get a dentifrice and an anti-dandruff shampoo, or birro-branco (Diptychandra aurantiaca), used by PI2 to prepare home soap in his hometown. The use of industrialized products instead of natural products may be explained possibly because the access to drugstores and industrialized products is easier in the urban metropolis, and also, due to the best economic situation and purchasing power of the migrants in relation to the time when they lived in their hometowns. According to Haselmair et al. [50], the continuation of the traditional medicinal health practices is challenged by increasing industrialization and globalization where the use of medicinal plants is starting to play a secondary role.

Even though the interviewees had better access to drugstores, they kept the use of several medicinal plants and named some species with brand names of allopathic drugs, which suggests that the use of medicinal plants by the informants is not falling away, but being constantly modified. We can cite as an example the Novalgina (Achillea millefolium), employed as analgesic by PI1, and the insulin (Cissus verticillata) used by BA1 and BA2 to reduce the hyperglycemia. In fact, the use of active principles or brand name of drugs to name medicinal plants was previously related in other studies [18, 51].

Taken together, these reports are in agreement with previous literature showing that the use of medicinal plants in an urban context is not static and is constantly changing and adapting to the current life conditions [1, 2, 19, 32]. It is important to highlight that the seven informants, despite characterized as experts and users of medicinal plants, began to use the public health service system, since they considered the official therapeutics an additional treatment option. Access to the public system also influenced the discontinuation of plants to treat some infectious diseases, since they had access to vaccination programs. However, the interviewees declared that they kept the use of medicinal plants whenever their experiences indicated that it would be more efficacious than pharmaceutical drugs. Other studies [10, 36, 52, 53] also observed the simultaneous use of traditional and official therapeutic as a consequence of living in an urban region with easy access to drugstores and public health. In a study with Asian migrants living in the UK, up to 82% of participants who took prescription medicines did not tell their healthcare professionals about any herbal medicine they consumed [9]. Health professionals should be aware of this concomitant treatment option, since it can alter the efficacy and safety of many drugs [38, 54, 55].

Conclusion

We observed cross-cultural adaptations on the migrants’ ethnomedicine after migration to a metropolitan region. Factors like the biome and occurrence of the species, prevalence of some diseases, and the local knowledge were listed as reasons to change the use of medicinal plants. The migration extended their knowledge regarding the diversity of therapies available in a big metropolis. Despite recognizing the benefits of the conventional health care, the interviewees opted for maintaining the use of certain medicinal plants, in addition to the replacement and incorporation of novel species, with slower incorporation of species from the native local forest. On the other hand, the maintenance of traditional uses by the population over time demonstrates the high cultural value of the ethnomedical application of these species, suggesting that their potential as pharmacological agents should be evaluated.

Abbreviations

BA: 

Migrants from the state of Bahia

ICF: 

Informant’s Consensus Factor

PI: 

Migrants from the state of Piauí

RI: 

Index of relative importance

Declarations

Acknowledgments

We are grateful for the valuable contribution to this study provided by the guides and interviewees and to Dr. Milene Lara Brownlow for reviewing the translation to English. We thank Dr. Eliana Rodrigues for her contribution on the study design, José Carlos Galduróz, MD, for helping on the therapeutic classification of uses/diseases, Dr. Lucia Rossi for botanical identification and Drs Andréa Onofre de Araújo and Ana Paula Moraes for accepting the voucher specimens on the UFABC herbarium.

Funding

The authors thank Associação Fundo de Incentivo à Psicofarmacologia (AFIP) and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) for the main author’s graduate fellowship and to Centro Brasileiro de Informações sobre Drogas Psicotrópicas (CEBRID) for the financial support for the field work. There was no funding body associated with the writing of the manuscript or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Availability of data and materials

The voucher specimens were deposited in UFABC Herbarium, under the collection numbers from 1 to 334 (PCR—Romanus, PC). Data generated during this study are included in this published article and additional information may be provided on reasonable request.

Authors’ contributions

PCR collected and analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript. FRM and EAC critically reviewed the data and contributed to the manuscript. All authors have seen and approved the submitted final manuscript.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

The project was approved by the ethics committee of UNIFESP (Protocol #0268/05), followed the recommendations for fieldwork and participation in the survey was voluntary, not obligatory. Participants were informed about the study objectives and consent was obtained prior to this study being carried out.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Psychobiology, UNIFESP, Rua Botucatu, 862, 1° andar, prédio Ciências Biomédicas, Vila Clementino, São Paulo, SP, 04023-062, Brazil
(2)
Center for Natural and Human Sciences, UFABC, Rua Arcturus, 03, Sala 236, Bloco Delta. Bairro Jardim Antares, São Bernardo do Campo, SP, 09606-070, Brazil
(3)
Department of Preventive Medicine, UNIFESP, Rua Botucatu, 740, 4° andar. Bairro Vila Clementino, São Paulo, SP, 04023-900, Brazil

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Copyright

© The Author(s). 2018

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