3 years ago

Rare tradition of the folk medicinal use of Aconitum spp. is kept alive in Solčavsko, Slovenia

Marija Povšnar, Gordana Koželj, Samo Kreft, Mateja Lumpert

Abstract

Background

Aconitum species are poisonous plants that have been used in Western medicine for centuries. In the nineteenth century, these plants were part of official and folk medicine in the Slovenian territory. According to current ethnobotanical studies, folk use of Aconitum species is rarely reported in Europe. The purpose of this study was to research the folk medicinal use of Aconitum species in Solčavsko, Slovenia; to collect recipes for the preparation of Aconitum spp., indications for use, and dosing; and to investigate whether the folk use of aconite was connected to poisoning incidents.

Methods

In Solčavsko, a remote alpine area in northern Slovenia, we performed semi-structured interviews with 19 informants in Solčavsko, 3 informants in Luče, and two retired physicians who worked in that area. Three samples of homemade ethanolic extracts were obtained from informants, and the concentration of aconitine was measured. In addition, four extracts were prepared according to reported recipes.

Results

All 22 informants knew of Aconitum spp. and their therapeutic use, and 5 of them provided a detailed description of the preparation and use of “voukuc”, an ethanolic extract made from aconite roots. Seven informants were unable to describe the preparation in detail, since they knew of the extract only from the narration of others or they remembered it from childhood. Most likely, the roots of Aconitum tauricum and Aconitum napellus were used for the preparation of the extract, and the solvent was homemade spirits. Four informants kept the extract at home; two extracts were prepared recently (1998 and 2015). Three extracts were analyzed, and 2 contained aconitine. Informants reported many indications for the use of the extract; it was used internally and, in some cases, externally as well. The extract was also used in animals. The extract was measured in drops, but the number of drops differed among the informants. The informants reported nine poisonings with Aconitum spp., but none of them occurred as a result of medicinal use of the extract.

Conclusions

In this study, we determined that folk knowledge of the medicinal use of Aconitum spp. is still present in Solčavsko, but Aconitum preparations are used only infrequently.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s13002-017-0171-x

DOI: 10.1186/s13002-017-0171-x

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