Ethnobotany and Plants Used Against Cardiovascular Diseases in the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands
Pp. 1-75 (75)
Airy Gras, Montse Parada, Teresa Garnatje and Joan Vallès
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) represent one of the most important causes
of death all over the world. Consequently, many efforts are invested in their treatment
and in the development of drugs that can be useful against these ailments. Plants and
plant-derived drugs and functional foods are very important in this respect. On the one
hand, molecules obtained from different species of the genus Digitalis (particularly D.
lanata and D. purpurea), such as digitalin, digoxin and digoxigenin, are among the
most relevant cardiotonic drugs and still come from their natural sources, since their
synthesis would be complicated and expensive. On the other hand, many plants are
used to cure, palliate or prevent heart, blood vessel and related illnesses at a popular
level. As in many other fields of health, folk knowledge has led to both drug
development in pharmaceutical industry and herbalist preparation production.
Additionally, the direct plant management and use continues to be active at the popular
level for this as well as for many other wellness-related purposes. Ethnobotanical
research, which inventories the folk plant use in all domains, has been important since
old times and has increased its focus on industrialised areas in the recent decades,
where it continues to be practised currently. In this chapter we review the state-of-art of
herbal medicines that are claimed to be useful for CVD in the Iberian Peninsula and the
Balearic Islands. This territory (comprising three states, Andorra, Portugal and Spain,
and a small area belonging to the United Kingdom) comprises one of the areas of
highest plant biodiversity in Europe and an important linguistic and cultural diversity
(Basque, Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, Spanish, and English in Gibraltar), this
pointing to a very rich ethnobotanical knowledge. These territories being located in an
industrial and economically developed area, certain ailments such as hypertension and
hypercholesterolemia are frequent. In addition, functional foods play an important role
in the Mediterranean diet, the one typical of the area, and, consequently, in the primary
prevention of CVD. We record a total amount of 5,249 use reports of 784 taxa used against CVD. We analyse the existing ethnobotanical data linked to the cardiovascular
system in the area considered, from our own results and from other relevant and
representative sources. This review depicts a panorama of the folk use of herbal
products to address the quoted ailments, and provides a basis for further
(phytochemical, pharmacological and other) research, which could help in the
development of medicinal products.
Balearic Islands, Cardiovascular System, Ethnobotany,
Ethnopharmacology, Folk Plant Uses, Iberian Peninsula.
Laboratori de Botànica (UB), Unitat associada al CSIC, Facultat de Farmàcia i Ciències de l’Alimentació, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Joan XXIII 27-31, 08028 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.