Alpine ethnobotanical knowledge in Sondalo (SO, Lombardy, Italy)
Background: Whereas Alpine populations have been geographically isolated from major cities since ancient times, they have long learned to make use of the features of their own territory and its resources, especially autochthonous spontaneous plants. In such areas there is still a wide traditional use of plant species; this heritage, however, risks becoming extinct. Our work gathered and processed information on the plants used for medicinal, veterinary, cosmetic, domestic, ritual, and religious purposes by the inhabitants of Sondalo (Valtellina, SO, Lombardy, Italy).
Methods: The survey was conducted through semi-structured interviews. All data was entered within a database. Extensive bibliographic research was performed in scientific literature on the biological activity of the species used for human medicinal purposes.
Results: We interviewed 101 people aged 25-98. 112 plants were mentioned, belonging to 52 families. 87 species were spontaneous, 25 cultivated. The most cited species were Taraxacum officinale F.H. Wigg., Sambucus nigra L., and Achillea erba-rotta subsp. moschata (Wulfen) I. Richardson. The most frequently used parts were flowers/inflorescences, leaves, and fruits. The most common preparation forms were infusion, decoction, and syrup. The traditional uses covered different aspects of the daily life: 73 species were used for cooking, 62 for medicinal purposes, 27 in the domestic field, 17 for agropastoral activities, 13 for animal healthcare. The evaluation of scientific literature allowed us to find information on the biological activity of 36 plants, linked to the traditional uses of the territory.
Conclusions: This work enhances the mosaic of ethnobotanical studies carried out in the Alpine region and highlights the importance of this kind of surveys in the search for new natural potentially active compounds.
Keywords: Ethnobotany, Northern Italy, Alps, Medicinal plants, Biocultural heritage.
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