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Conserving Tibetan Medicinal Plants in the Khawakarpo Region

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image of Asian Medicine

To local Tibetans, Mt. Khawakarpo is not only an important sacred mountain but also a major storehouse of medicinal plants, which they use. Recent field surveys show that Mt. Khawakarpo and adjacent areas (‘the Khawakarpo region’) are home to 144 species of household medicinal plants from 126 genera of 63 families, which are used in both Chinese and Tibetan medicine. These plants include eight Class I and Class II nationally protected species (four being CITES—Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna—listed); of these, 37 species have been recognized by local practitioners of Tibetan medicine as plants in need of conservation. Results from fieldwork indicates that initiatives to conserve plants used in Tibetan medicine should consider not only their biological properties but also their cultural values to local communities; in order for these efforts to be sustainable, the communities must be brought in as key players. The fieldwork described here comprised a participatory resources inventory, the creation of community-based medicinal plants reserves, cultivation trials, and training opportunities for medicinal practitioners to share indigenous knowledge and acquire skills in plant conservation and harvesting on a sustainable basis.


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