© 2016 Irina Vasiljevna ILJINA
2016 – №2 (12)
Keywords: folk medicine, phytotherapy, pharmacopoeia, Nenets, Komi, Russians, medicines, plants, myological views, health improvement, biotechnologists, folk traditions
Abstract: This article presents data on natural products used by the indigenous and old-timer population of the European North-East for the prevention and treatment of emerging physical and mental health disorders. It also examines the first results of the study of these medicines by biotechnologists engaged in the development of adaptogenic medicinal products.
The territory of the European Northeast refers to the temperate continental and subarctic climatic zones and is characterized by comparatively extreme natural conditions. The culture of the peoples living here – the Komi, the northern Russians and the Nenets – is an example of successful adaptation to unfavorable factors of life, whose influence on health and life expectancy has been adjusted by means of traditional medicine. The empirically developed system of prevention and treatment of diseases included ideas about a healthy lifestyle, rational nutrition, the norms of public and personal hygiene, the rules for mother and health, as well as information about medicines and methods of diagnosis and treatment of diseases. This cultural experience is extremely interesting not only from the ethnographic point of view, but also in terms of its use in solving modern problems of human health under conditions of the North.
Analysis of the assortment of traditional medicinal products shows that the most rich and diverse set of medicines is used to treat colds, traumatic, gastrointestinal and skin diseases. The natural and climatic conditions of the North, fishing and agricultural activities, peculiarities of daily lifestyle created a predisposition of the local population to these diseases, and at the same time stimulated the search for appropriate means and methods of treatment. Undoubtedly, the strong side of the national medical practice is that many traditional means have been directed at the general strengthening of the organism and the prevention of diseases. Characteristic of the traditional medicine of peoples of European North-East is the clear prevalence of medicines made from wild plants and hunting products.
It was these characteristics that caught the attention of researchers specialized in medicine and biology who deal with problems of improving the quality of life of people of the North. Noting that the population living in the North is burdened by a number of ecologically unfavorable factors and stressful influences of the present time, the staff of the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Plant Biotechnology of the Institute of Biology of the Komi Scientific Center of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, headed by Dr.Sc. V.V. Volodin, considers the development and introduction of new therapeutic and prophylactic drugs from local plant raw materials as an important research area (Volodin et al. 2007).
Based on the analysis of systematized data on the use of plants in folk medical practice, biotechnologists have identified the most promising species for the isolation of ecdysteroids – a class of natural compounds that increase work capacity and endurance, which have a beneficial effect on the nervous system, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Among them are different types of tarings (genus Silene); Pulmonaria obscura; Ajuga reptans; decoctions used internally for peptic ulcer and colds, and externally for purulent wounds, to strengthen and grow hair; Paris quadrifolia, whose fresh berries are eaten without ripping off for boils and furuncles; Chenopodium album and pondas (genus Potamogeton) used in traditional farming for fattening animals and in the past (during the famine) for cooking flour. As a result of biochemical screening, they found a relatively high content of ecdysteroids which adaptogenic effect probably determines the useful properties of these herbs. Aconite and Cortusa matthioli have been identified as promising species for research, since information about their folk use allows one to consider the first as a possible producer of alkaloids and the second as a producer of steroidal glycosides. Biotechnologists give an ecology-cenotic characterization of these plant species, and find out bushes suitable for harvesting to produce adaptogenic drugs (Volodin et al. 2008: 8-14).
Other drugs are also prepared from saw-wort widely used in folk medicine as a restorative, hemostatic and wound-healing remedy. The substance “Serpisten” received in the laboratory and patented improves coronary blood flow in conditions of experimental dyslipoproteinemia, reliably reduces the incidence of myocardial infarction. Experimental results indicate the presence of an anti-ischemic effect in the substance and an increase in myocardial resistance to hypoxia. The observed effects are more pronounced in comparison with the action of the known anti-ischemic drug “Atorvastatin”. The substance also has anti-diabetic activity, reduces the level of hyperglycemia and the concentration of glycosylated hemoglobin in the blood of experimental animals. A positive effect of the drug on certain parameters of the body’s antioxidant system was revealed (Volodin et al. 2007). Currently, Serpisten is recommended for use in geriatrics as a restorative, anti-ischemic, hypoglycemic, and adaptogenic agent for people who live in conditions of the North for a long time or who work under unfavorable working conditions.
Thus, a combination of biochemical screening, ethnobotanical studies and the experience of traditional medicine makes it possible to purposefully identify species of plants with a pronounced adaptogenic effect in the European Northeast and to develop new promising drugs in geriatrics and other fields of medicine.
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