American Indian Botanicals for Women's Health: Ethnobotanical and Pharmacognostic Studies
Burton, Tristesse Catessa Jasmin
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The purpose of this dissertation research was to examine Illinois tallgrass prairie plants with traditional uses by American Indians for their potential in improving women’s health. Also, to perform a medical ethnobotany survey of urban American Indian women concerning their menopausal experiences and medicinal plant knowledge of some of the plants tested in this project. Pharmacognostic methods were used to identify traditionally used plants that can be used during menopause or that could exhibit (anti) estrogenic, chemopreventive or anti-inflammation properties. Fifteen plants were extracted and screened for the aforementioned activities. Amorpha canescens Pursh (Fabaceae) – leadplant, displayed the most activity and was further characterized to decipher its anti-estrogenic compounds. Xanthocerin A and a newly discovered derivative were isolated and categorized as possible anti-estrogenic compounds from leadplant. However, these two compounds did not display significant anti-estrogenic activity individually in a cell-based assay. Future work will identify the compounds responsible for the anti-estrogenic response from leadplant. Ethnobotanical methods examined how urban American Indian women from Chicago, Il and Green Bay, WI, perceived, experienced, and treated menopause and if they used any of the active plants from this study medicinally. Data were collected from three focus group discussions. Results showed that the participants perceive menopause as naturally occurring, with both positive and negative connotations. All the participants experienced at least one menopausal symptom in which hot flashes was the most common. Most women did not treat their symptoms; however, some did use medicinal plants such as red raspberry and black cohosh. None of the active plants from this study were used medicinally by members of the focus group. Participants mentioned action items to implement within the American Indian community about menopause and women’s health issues such as obtaining more support programs that were culturally designed. Some of these action items are currently being prepared for implementation. This research represents a starting point for examining native plants traditionally used by American Indians and performing more community based research with urban American Indians.