The Moche period (AC 100-800) Central Andean “Health Axis” was in Northern Peru from Ecuador to Bolivia. Half of the plants used in the Colonial period are no longer used, but, plant use is still common. Plant medicines have lower cost, seem to be more beneficial to patients and clinics and have fewer side effects.
The authors studied 500 plants, mostly from the Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae and Solanaceae Euphorbiaceae, Poaceae and Apiaceae families native to Peru’s rain forest. Most were fresh plants. The products were drunk or applied as a poultice. Some were extracted in alcohol. San Pedro cactus, tree datura, Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) and coca are extensively studied psychotrophics. Una de Gato has received recent attention.
Treatments were most often given in the homes of the healers (curanderos.) Alters with “power objects” were set up in the home, with Christian elements. Treatment includes purification with herbs (such as tobacco) sprayed on the patient to ward off evil spirits.
Increasing knowledge of medicines used by indigenous people causes debates about intellectual property. The authors used the “salvage ethnography” approach. By documenting the current use of plants in the public domain, evidence is recorded that any patent application of local knowledge is not “novel” and not patentable.
Plant material came from the field, markets and the homes of curanderos. The information was as complete as possible. Some plants were portrayed on Moche ceramics. Spanish and Quechua names are used. 510 plant species were named, with three species of algae and one of lichen. 87 plant species were “introduced,” mostly from Europe in colonial times.
Two hundred seventy-eight medical conditions were recorded. Most common use was for “magical/ritual problems” (caused by spirits,) followed by respiratory problems. Of the urinary remedies used to treat stones, Chanca Piedra or Stonebreaker (Phyllanthus spp.) is widely known. Crops such as quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa,) kichwa (Amaranthus caudatus,) tarhui (Lupinus mutabilis) and maca (Lepidium meyenii) are well known.
The biggest threat to plant medicine is the loss of plant habitat. The mountain forests are endangered because of climate change. The Andean ecosystems are threatened by mining.
CONCLUSION: Extensive documentation of northern Peruvian use of plants was done to prevent their being patentable in the future.