Medical ethnobotany of the Chayahuita of the Paranapura basin (Peruvian Amazon)

Guillaume Odonne, Céline Valadeau, Joaquina Alban-Castillo, Didier Stien, Michel Sauvain, Geneviève Bourdy

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Ethnopharmacological relevance: Up until now, the plant pharmacopoeia of the Chayahuita, an ethnic group from the Peruvian Amazon, has been poorly defined. This paper details the uses of medicinal plants within this community, as recorded in two villages of the Paranapura basin, Soledad and Atahualpa de Conchiyacu. This study aimed to describe the basis of the Chayahuita traditional medical system, to document part of the medicinal plant corpus, and to compare it with data from other Amazonian ethnic groups. Material and methods: Methodology was based (i) on field prospection with 26 informants (ethnobotanical walks methodology), (ii) semi-structured interviews including 93 people (49 men and 44 women) focused on the most recent health problem experienced and on the therapeutic options chosen, (iii) individual or group thematic discussions relating to disease and treatments, (iv) 6-months of participants' observations between May 2007 and May 2008. At the end of the project in May 2008 a workshop was organized to cross-check the data with the help of 12 of the most interested informants. Results: Six hundred and seventeen voucher specimens were collected, corresponding to 303 different species, from which 274 (belonging to 83 families) are documented here. Altogether 492 recipes were recorded, corresponding to a global figure of 541 therapeutic uses and a total of 664 use reports. The main therapeutic uses are related to dermatological problems (103 uses; 19%), gastro-intestinal complaints (69 uses; 13%) and malaria/fevers (52 uses; 10%). Diseases are analysed according to Chayahuita concepts, and for each disease the species having a high frequency of citation are listed, and the most frequently used remedies are described. Whenever possible, comparisons with other Amazonian groups have been drawn. Conclusion: Chayahuita nosology and medical ethnobotany appear to draw their inspiration from a common panamazonian root. Despite the fact that a certain number of medicinal plants are shared with other nearby groups, there seem to be specific uses for some species, thus highlighting the originality of the Chayahuita pharmacopoeia. Presently there is a certain disinterest in the most traditional area of the Chayahuita medical ways, and the role of the penutu (shaman) seems to be less highly-valued than in the past. Nonetheless, the use of medicinal plants in phytotherapeutic treatment is very much a living, shared knowledge.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)127-153
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 7 Mar 2013


  • Amazon
  • Chayahuita
  • Medicinal plant
  • Peru
  • Pharmacopeia
  • Traditional medicine


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