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The study aimed to explore whether taste retains an importance in determining …


Biology Articles » Ethnobiology » Does the taste matter? Taste and medicinal perceptions associated with five selected herbal drugs among three ethnic groups in West Yorkshire, Northern England

Abstract
- Does the taste matter? Taste and medicinal perceptions associated with five selected herbal drugs among three ethnic groups in West Yorkshire, Northern England

Does the taste matter? Taste and medicinal perceptions associated with five selected herbal drugs among three ethnic groups in West Yorkshire, Northern England

Andrea Pieroni1,2 and Bren Torry2 

1SCH Group, Department of Social Sciences, Wageningen University, Postbus 8060, NL-6700 DA Wageningen, The Netherlands

2Division of Pharmacy Practice, School of Life Science, University of Bradford, Richmond Bd., Richmond Rd., Bradford, BD7 1DP, West Yorkshire, UK

Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2007, 3:21doi:10.1186/1746-4269-3-21. [OA]


Abstract

In recent years, diverse scholars have addressed the issue of the chemosensory perceptions associated with traditional medicines, nevertheless there is still a distinct lack of studies grounded in the social sciences and conducted from a cross-cultural, comparative perspective. In this urban ethnobotanical field study, 254 informants belonging to the Gujarati, Kashmiri and English ethnic groups and living in Western Yorkshire in Northern England were interviewed about the relationship between taste and medicinal perceptions of five herbal drugs, which were selected during a preliminary study. The herbal drugs included cinnamon (the dried bark of Cinnamomum verum, Lauraceae), mint (the leaves of Mentha spp., Lamiaceae), garlic (the bulbs of Allium sativum, Alliaceae), ginger (the rhizome of Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae), and cloves (the dried flower buds of Syzygium aromaticum, Myrtaceae).

The main cross-cultural differences in taste perceptions regarded the perception the perception of the spicy taste of ginger, garlic, and cinnamon, of the bitter taste of ginger, the sweet taste of mint, and of the sour taste of garlic.

The part of the study of how the five selected herbal drugs are perceived medicinally showed that TK (Traditional Knowledge) is widespread among Kashmiris, but not so prevalent among the Gujarati and especially the English samples. Among Kashmiris, ginger was frequently considered to be helpful for healing infections and muscular-skeletal and digestive disorders, mint was chosen for healing digestive and respiratory troubles, garlic for blood system disorders, and cinnamon was perceived to be efficacious for infectious diseases.

Among the Gujarati and Kashmiri groups there was evidence of a strong link between the bitter and spicy tastes of ginger, garlic, cloves, and cinnamon and their perceived medicinal properties, whereas there was a far less obvious link between the sweet taste of mint and cinnamon and their perceived medicinal properties, although the link did exist among some members of the Gujarati group.

Data presented in this study show how that links between taste perceptions and medicinal uses of herbal drugs may be understood as bio-cultural phenomena rooted in human physiology, but also constructed through individual experiences and culture, and that these links can therefore be quite different across diverse cultures.


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