Medicinal plants of Papua New Guinea's Miu speaking population and a focus on their use of plant-slaked lime mixtures.

Here we present the results of an ethnobotanical survey of the medicinal plants used by the Miu, a virtually unresearched ethnolinguistic group who live in the mountainous interior of Papua New Guinea's West New Britain Province. We compare the findings for those previously reported for the neighbouring inland Kaulong speaking population. Three species, Trema orientalis, Spondias dulcis and Ficus botryocarpa are used in combination with locally prepared slaked lime to produce intensely coloured mixtures which are applied to dermatological infections. Their effects on dermal fibroblast viability with and without slaked lime are examined. The sap of F. botryocarpa which is used to treat tropical ulcers was examined further with assays relevant to wound healing.
Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were used to acquire information on the uses of plants, vouchers of which were collected and identified by comparison with authentic herbarium specimens. LC-MS and NMR were used to identify chemical components. Cell viability assays were used to examine the effects of added slaked lime on dermal fibroblasts. For the sap of F. botryocarpa, fibroblast stimulation assays and antibacterial growth inhibition with Bacillus subtilis were carried out.
The survey identified 33 plants and one fungal species, and clear differences with the inland Kaulong group despite their close proximity. Added slaked lime does not greatly increase the cytotoxicity of plant material towards dermal fibroblasts. The sap of F. botryocarpa contains the alkaloid ficuseptine as a single major component and displays antibacterial activity.
The results demonstrate the potential for variation in medicinal plant use amongst Papua New Guinea's numerous language groups. The addition of slaked lime to plant material does not appear to present a concern for wound healing in the amounts used. The sap of F. botryocarpa displays antibacterial activity at concentrations that would occur at the wound surface and could be used as a highly accessible alternative to conventional antiseptics for remote communities in Papua New Guinea.
AuthorsThomas A K Prescott, Marie Briggs, Robert Kiapranis, Monique S J Simmonds
JournalJournal of ethnopharmacology (J Ethnopharmacol) Vol. 174 Pg. 217-23 (Nov 4 2015) ISSN: 1872-7573 [Electronic] Ireland
PMID26297846 (Publication Type: Journal Article)
CopyrightCopyright © 2015 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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