Patterns in medicinal plant knowledge and use in a Maroon village in Suriname

Charlotte van 't Klooster, Tinde van Andel, Ria Reis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Ethnopharmacological relevance Traditional medicine plays an important role in the primary health care practices of Maroons living in the interior of Suriname. Large numbers of medicinal plants are employed to maintain general health and cure illnesses. Little is known, however, on how knowledge of herbal medicine varies within the community and whether plant use remains important when modern health care becomes available. Aim of the study To document the diversity in medicinal plant knowledge and use in a remote Saramaccan Maroon community and to assess the importance of medicinal plants vis a vis locally available modern healthcare. We hypothesized that ailments which could be treated by the village health center would be less salient in herbal medicine reports. Methods During three months fieldwork in the Saramaccan village of Pikin Slee, ethnobotanical data were collected by means of participant observations, voucher collections and 27 semi-structured interviews and informal discussions with 20 respondents. To test whether knowledge of medicinal plant species was kept within families, we performed a Detrended Correspondence Analysis. Results In total, 110 medicinal plant species were recorded, with 302 health use reports and 72 uses, mostly related to general health concerns (42%), diseases of the digestive system (10%), musculoskeletal system and fever (each 7%). Bathing was the most important mode of application. Most health use reports related to cure (58%) and health promotion (39%), while disease prevention played a minor role. Traditional medicine not only treated cultural illnesses, but also health concerns that could be treated with locally available modern medicines. Knowledge of medicinal plant species is not strictly kept within families, but also shared with friends. Certain recipes and applications, however, may be specific family knowledge. Conclusion Medicinal plants play a very important role in the daily lives of the Pikin Slee villagers. Plant use reflects actual health concerns, but as modern medicines are available for most of these concerns, the use of herbal medicines seems to be a deep rooted cultural preference, especially when concerned with cultural illnesses and health promotion. Locally provided healthcare could be enriched if traditional knowledge, illness concepts, and medicinal plant uses could fit into a larger, community-oriented framework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-330
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Maroons
  • Medicinal plants
  • Saramaccan
  • Suriname
  • Traditional knowledge
  • Traditional medicines


Dive into the research topics of 'Patterns in medicinal plant knowledge and use in a Maroon village in Suriname'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this