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Ethnophytotherapeutical research in the high Molise region (Central-Southern Italy)

Paolo Maria Guarrera1, Fernando Lucchese2* and Simone Medori2

Author Affiliations

1 Museo Nazionale Arti e Tradizioni Popolari, Piazza Marconi 8-10, 00144 Rome, Italy

2 Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Roma Tre, Viale Marconi 446, 00146 Rome, Italy

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Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2008, 4:7  doi:10.1186/1746-4269-4-7

Published: 11 March 2008



In the years 2003–2005 research was carried out concerning ethno-medicine in the high Molise (central- southern Italy), a region that has been the object of very little investigation from the ethnobotanical point of view. Upper Molise is a continuation of the mountain profiles of the Abruzzi Appenines: a series of hills, steep slopes and deep fluvial valleys making communications difficult. Primordial traditions (e.g. harvest feasts) are typical of the region.


Field data were collected through open interviews in the field. These were conducted on both an individual and group level, fresh plants gathered from surrounding areas being displayed. In other cases, individual interviews were conducted by accompanying the person involved to the places where they perform their activities (for example, in the woods with woodcutters, kitchen gardens and fields with housewives, pastures with shepherds, etc.). In total 54 individuals were interviewed.


Data of 70 taxa belonging to 39 families were gathered. Among the species, 64 are used in human therapy, 5 as insect repellents, 11 in veterinary medicine, 1 to keep eggs and cheeses and 4 for magic purposes. The most important findings in ethno-medicine relate to the lichen Lobaria pulmonaria (L.) Hoffm. (wounds) and to some vascular plant species: Asplenium trichomanes L. and Ceterach officinarum Willd. (to regularize menstruation), Cyclamen hederifolium (chilblains), Centaurium erythraea Rafn. and Pulmonaria apennina Cristof. & Puppi (bruises), while in the ethno-veterinary field, we have Valeriana officinalis L. (wounds sustained by mules). Also worthy of note, given the isolation of the area, is the number of plants used to protect foodstuffs from parasites, among which Allium sativum L. and Capsicum frutescens L.


The research revealed a deep-rooted and widespread habit of husbanding the family's resources. Whilst isolation and snowfalls contributed to the widespread knowledge of means of conserving foodstuffs, they also led to the use of products easily available within each home. The values of E.I. (ethnobotanicity index) for the upper Molise region are considered amongst the highest in Italian areas. Nevertheless, like the values for other areas of Italy, they are lower than those of many Spanish areas, perhaps (and not only) because of the more rapid cultural erosion experienced in Italy.