Medicinal plants of Suriname: changes in plant use after migration to the Netherlands

Researcher: Tinde van Andel, PhD
Institute: National Herbarium of the Netherlands

Duration: 2005-2009

Apart from contributing to their health, the sale of wild-harvested medicinal plants provides a significant income for rural people in Suriname. Almost half of the Surinamese population migrated to the Netherlands during the last three decades, and many immigrants continued their use of medicinal plants and traditional health care (‘winti’) in our country. Hardly any information exists on the scale and ecological effects of the trade in medicinal plants from Suriname.

Which species are sold in Paramaribo, which are exported to the Netherlands, where and how are they harvested, who is using them and why?
This research project will clarify the role medicinal plants play in the traditional health care among various ethnic groups in Paramaribo and assess the principal factors influencing people’s choice to use traditional medicine, whether or not in combination with conventional medicine (in both Suriname and the Netherlands). How does medicinal plant use change after migration?
It is expected that when people migrate from rural areas to Paramaribo and onwards to the Netherlands, their focus of herbal medicine shifts from the treatment of basic health problems of a forest dweller to sexual and gynaecological disorders and psychosocial ailments typical to immigrants.
By investigating the importance of Suriname’s biodiversity for the country’s citizens and overseas immigrants, this study will bridge the gap between biological research on the floral diversity and conservation in the Guianas, anthropological research on winti religion and health studies on Surinamese immigrants. Sustainable harvesting is not only essential for conservation of the medicinal plant species, but also for the livelihoods of many forest-dwelling communities. This study will not allow for a hard judgment on the sustainability of current harvesting practices, but we will look for possible indications of overharvesting of medicinal plant resources in Suriname that can form a basis for further sustainability and conservation studies. Apart from scientific publications, results of this study will be made available by means of an on-line database and an illustrated field guide of Surinamese herbal medicine

Andel, T.R. van & S. Ruysschaert. 2011. Medicinale en rituele planten van Suriname. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam. ISBN 9789460221392.
Medicinale en Rituele Planten van Suriname