«Indigenous knowledge in agriculture with particular reference to medicinal crop production in Khorasan, Iran P. Rezvani Moghaddam* Ferdowsi ...»
Barberry is one of the best remedies for correcting liver function and promoting the flow of bile (Shamsa et al., 1999). It is indicated when there is an inflammation of the gall-bladder or in the presence of gallstones, as a bitter tonic with mild laxative effects, it is used with weak or debilitated people to strengthen and cleanse the system.
An interesting action is its ability to reduce an enlarged spleen. It acts against malaria and is also effective in the treatment of protozoal infection due to Leishmania spp. The berries contain citric and malic acids, and possess astringent and antiscorbutic properties.
They are useful in inflammatory fevers, especially typhus, also in bilious disorders and scurvy, and in the form of a jelly are very refreshing in irritable sore throat, for which also syrup of barberries made with water, proves an excellent astringent gargle. It is also used in all cases of jaundice, general debility and biliousness and for diarrhoea.
The stem- and root-bark are used as medicinal components too. The chief constituent of barberry bark is berberine, a yellow crystalline, bitter alkaloid, one of the few that occurs in plants belonging to several different natural orders (Zargari, 1990). Other constituents are oxyacanthine, berberine, other alkaloidal matter, a little tannin, also wax, resin, fat, albumin, gum and starch. It is used in the form of a liquid extract, given as decoction, infusion or tincture, but generally a salt of the alkaloid berberine is preferred.
As a bitter stoma-chic tonic, it proves an excellent remedy for dyspepsia and functional derangement of the liver, regulating the digestive powers, and if given in larger doses, acting as a mild purgative and removing constipation (Zargari, 1990).
Since 200 years ago, barberry, where domesticated, there have been no changes in barberry production technologies. The same as saffron, which all that has been practiced is based almost completely on indigenous knowledge. There is no registered cultivar in barberry.
2.4 Exudates production Khorasan province is one of the main producers of gum Tragacanth (Astragalus gummiferus) within Iran (Iqbal, 1995). Small quantities are also produced in Afghanistan, but about 70% of export supply originates from Iran. According to agricultural products statistics, total annual average production has been estimated around 1400 t (Iqbal, 1995; Nadjafi and Koocheki, 2002). Gums of other plants such as, Pistacia terebinthus, Ferula gumosa, Dorema ammoniacum and Ferula assa-foetide which grow naturally in Khorsan province are also exported in large quantities to other countries, especially Germany and France (Table 3). The quantities and values of these gums which are exported are 4255 t with a value of US$201.5 million (Table 4).
Indigenous knowledge in agriculture 113 Table 3 Iran’s export in tonnes of tragacanth during 1987–1990
Due to over utilisation of these plants in natural environments, collection from these habitats is no longer sustainable. Therefore proper plans for bringing these plants and cultivating them are required.
3 Scientific support There is a potential to increase current benefits of different medicinal plants to producers and collectors. It requires a linkage between scientific research and traditional knowledge. For supporting the spice producing communities and also producing the linkage between science and traditional knowledge, Centre of Excellence on special crops was founded in 2001 based on its mandate to conduct research on special local crops such as saffron, cumin, barberry and other medicinal plants on the basis of low input sustainable practices and organic production technologies. Halophyte cash cropping and underutilised crops such as sesame, caster bean, etc. are also parts of activities of the centre. There have been different activities related to the medicinal and underutilised crops at this centre. More than 16 research projects were in progress at the Centre of Excellence on special crops. Studies of the agronomical, ecological, physiological and economical aspects of saffron and cumin are the main research projects in progress. Based on the goal of the centre, more than 15 postgraduate dissertations have been conducted on medicinal plants. Growth evaluation of cumin under climatic conditions of Mashhad, ecological zoning of saffron in Khorasan, physiological and ecological aspects of different medicinal plants with special references to second metabolic components are examples of ongoing researches. For building capacity and transfer of knowledge, several workshops were conducted at the Centre of Excellence on special crops including the Second International Symposium on Saffron in 2006 (http://saffron-ir.um.ac.ir/).
The importance of herbs, spice and medicinal plants has been increasing continuously for the past 100 years. Although, for thousands of years, these plants have contributed to the quality of human life, further utilisation of these plants for various human requirements requires more exploration on the techniques and methods for more efficient production together with high quality plant materials in sufficient quantities.
There is a huge increasing demand on a worldwide scale for utilisation of herbs, spice and medicinal plants, therefore, new biological, agronomical and economical development, and cooperative programmes on technological and medicinal studies are urgently required, which would result in not only higher financial income for stakeholders but more sustainable farming systems.
To meet these requirements, however, the production systems (such as harvesting and post-harvesting methods with special references to saffron) are needed to modernise current practices. Supplementing indigenous knowledge with new scientific researches findings, would benefit both the farmers and the environment. In addition, new methods of domestication and protection are required for natural products such as gum plants.
There is also a requirement for improving the technology related to post-harvest processing, quality control and product development of all such crops considering the historically available indigenous knowledge.
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