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Abstract

Ethnoknowledge of medicinal and mystical plants used by healers in Juazeiro do Norte, Ceará, Northeast Brazil.

Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the use of medicinal plants by healers in Juazeiro do Norte, Northeast Brazil, as well as to understand their role in prayer/healing practices. 30 residents from 20 neighborhoods, 18 urban neighborhoods and 2 randomly selected rural locations, were interviewed using a sample method known as "snowball", with two pilot interviews being initially conducted, where for greater method reliability and for the analysis of the importance attributed to the plants by the respondents, a calculation to determine their Relative Importance (RI) index was used. The results indicate the use of 60 species distributed across 34 families. The most representative families were: Fabaceae (7), Lamiaceae (6) and Asteraceae (5), where 10 species (eight exotic and two native) obtained a Relative Importance (RI>1): Ruta graveolens L. (1.47), Vernonia condensata Baker (1.47), Piper aduncun L. (1.44), Mentha spicata L. (1.33), Myracrodruon urundeuva Allemão (1.3), Psidium guajava L. (1.19), Hymenaea stignocarpa Mart. ex. Hayne (1.15), Lippia alba (Mil.) (1.11), Leonotis nepetaefolia (L.) R. Br. (1.08) and Cymbopogon citratus (D.C.) Stapf (1.01). The aforementioned species are acquired from backyards (50%), open markets (33.3%) or from surrounding scrubs (16.6%). Indications included usage for 11 body systems, with 36 species (60%) being indicated for the treatment of the digestive system and 15 (25%) for the treatment of diseases of the female reproductive system. Nine species (15%) were indicated for ritualistic purposes (prayer/healing). With this, the importance of the Healer figure in several municipal districts was observed, a tradition that remains alive, despite the need for greater transmission and assimilation to upcoming generations.