Tapping the experience of local people, for example, by asking them to
rank local treatments according to their perceived efficacy.
Searching the literature for available information on the botany,
phytochemistry, and in-vitro, in-silico (i.e., computer-based) and
in-vivo tests, and other relevant aspects.
Conducting laboratory tests.
Conducting clinical tests on station or in experimental herds.
Conducting clinical tests in selected herds kept by smallholders and
pastoralists. Alternatively, farmers may conduct their own tests.
Monitoring the use of remedies in the field.
Studying a remedy’s influence on production and economic parameters.
The exact method or combination of methods will depend on the intended
use of the practice to be tested and the purpose of the validation.
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The methodology for this should be scientifically valid, while at the
same time accounting for the fact that traditional remedies might work
differently from modern medicines. For example, they may not be as
powerful as modern drugs, but they do not wipe out all disease-causing
organisms and thus allow the patient’s defence system to get into
contact with the organisms and build up immunity. This might be a
long-term process and more difficult to determine than (say) counting
parasite eggs in the faeces. Therefore studying the efficacy of
traditional remedies likely requires a different combination of methods
and a longer time horizon than testing modern drugs. For example, the
examination of blood samples might be needed in addition to faecal
Besides, ethnoveterinary practices are parts of a complex system, and
isolating only one aspect for study precludes insights into the whole
system. If a farmer controls worms in her animals through a combination
of grazing management and herbal drenches, the drench alone may not
produce a distinct effect in clinical trials. Also, the genetic makeup
of the local breed may play an additional role in worm control. For such
complex practices, systems research is needed to capture synergistic
effects of the different aspects.
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If a plant remedy is to be studied for its suitability for drug
development, tests have to meet scientific standards. And if a
preparation is to be commercialised, it has to be tested according to a
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While some ethnoveterinary practices are location-specific, others are
suited for use in other communities and regions. Examples are the
widespread use of papaya as a dewormer and tobacco as an insecticide.
Not all aspects of ethnoveterinary medicine are as easily transferable
as plant medicines – a plant may not grow in the target area, a
practice may be culturally inappropriate to other regions, or it may be
too complicated to be easily learned.
Example: branding. Pastoralists around the world treat their animals by
burning them with a hot iron. Although its use is controversial among
outsiders, it may be beneficial in some conditions. Branding requires
special skills but these are difficult to transfer.
When transferring peoples’ practices from one location to another,
criteria similar to those for other technologies should apply: