Medicinal plants uses of the Tacana, an Amazonian Bolivian ethnic group

We present the results of an ethnopharmacological investigation of a Bolivian lowland ethnic group, the Tacana. The Tacana have a long tradition of exchange with highland communities. Though facing rapid acculturation, highlighted by the loss of the Tacana language among the younger generations, the knowledge and uses of medicinal plants are still alive. Of the approximately 450 different plant species collected during this survey, 33% had medicinal uses. We present an overview of the traditional Tacana ethnomedicine and pharmacopoeia.

The Tacana are a group of original inhabitants of lowland forest at the base of the last foothills of the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes in Iturralde Province, Department of La Paz, Bolivia (Fig. 1). The Tacana language is part of the Tacana linguistic family, which includes several ethnic groups. Many of these groups are either acculturated or in risk of extinction: the Tacana, the Ese’ejja, the Araona, the Toromona (still nomads), the Reyesano, and the Cavinen˜o (Diez Astete, 1991). The Tacana have the highest population of these groups — approximately 5000 people living in small communities in the eastern part of Iturralde Province. Their lands are delimited by the Beni River to the east, the Madidi River to the north, and the last slopes of the Andes to the west (Diez Astete, 1991). Since the 17th century the Tacana population has been settled into ‘reduciones’ by Franciscan missionaries (Wentzel, 1989). The Tacana are now completely sedentary, define themselves as agriculturists, while also dedicated to fishing and hunting.