Investigating the Use and Identity of Traditional Herbal Remedies Amongst South Asian Communities Using Surveys and Bimolecular Techniques.
Herbal medicines (HMs) have been used to supplement, maintain, and treat health conditions, and have inspired the development of many Western pharmaceuticals. Migrant South Asian (SA) communities in the UK have brought with them their own traditional forms of medicine, yet little is known about their current use of HMs in the UK. Consuming HMs alongside conventional Western medicines could affect pharmacological treatment and lead to herb-drug interactions; hence, healthcare professionals (HCPs) should be aware of their patients’ use of HMs. The import of HMs to the UK raises concerns over the quality, safety and regulation of HMs. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) barcoding can be used to discriminate between different species, and identify contaminants and adulterants, thus can be used for the authentication of HMs. The South Asian Traditional Medicines (SATMED) questionnaire explored the knowledge and use of HMs by diasporic SA communities in the UK. It uncovered a vast range of HMs which were used by participants, where ingredients were sourced from, the concurrent use of herbal and Western medicines, and how minor ailments were treated. An online survey designed to investigate UK based practitioners’ views of HMs revealed that HCPs claimed to lack sufficient knowledge of HMs. HCPs said they needed more training on HMs to help them make better informed decisions. Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum L.) was identified as a culturally and commercially valuable plant, which was used for molecular analysis. A variety of tulsi samples were collected for authentication: community samples from SA families in the UK, commercial samples, and referenced specimens. Both ITS and trnH-psbA regions were successfully used to distinguish between several Ocimum species, and identify a potential species substitution. This research represents the first time that DNA based methods have been used to authenticate medicinal plants species used by migrant SA communities living in the UK. The results of this multi-disciplinary study provide a unique contribution to the evolving discipline of ethnopharmacology.
- PhD