Intangible Cultural Heritage of Asia and the Pacific

Knower tells a researcher about medical herbs during an expedition © Ak-Terek

The Use of Medical Herbs in Kyrgyz Traditional Medicine

Kyrgyz traditional medical knowledge formed and developed from ancient times based on empirical observation and personal experience. Along with other methods and techniques of preventing specific diseases, importance was placed on herbs. A good level of knowledge about the medicinal properties of plants was required. Healers (tamyrchy or tabyp), by feeling the pulse and making observations in other ways, determined the cause and nature of an illness and prescribed certain medicines, where the stems, leaves, roots, grasses, and shrubs played a considerable part.

Among the most commonly used medicinal plants are the roots of aconite rotundifolia (uu korgoshun). It is used to treat joint diseases, rickets, and other ailments. According to experts, it should be taken cautiously and in small doses

The leaves and roots of white aconite have always been an effective agent against colds, coughs, nervous disorders, and diseases of the joints. In the treatment of the latter, Ephedra is also commonly used.

Another root used is the wild sheep archar, which is quite rare. Its roots were used by those experiencing problems associated with anemia, high blood pressure, and bone fractures.

Broths plants such as thyme, edelweiss, gentian of Turkestan, birch leaves, chamomile, and plantain are used in treating stomach aches and digestive disorders.

Kyrgyz ancestors had their own recipes for the use of wormwood (ermen). Decoction of the herb has helped people with eczema, psoriasis, and other skin diseases. Fresh herb plantain leaves, crushed rock bow, and wild garlic were applied to the inflamed areas. As expectorants, widely used are dried herbs, mint, and oregano tea. Kyrgyz knew that rowan sour has excellent properties for treating kidneys and the urinary channel. The leaves of burdock were known as an effective tool in treating gastro-intestinal diseases, wounds, and severe pertussis.

Wild rue was used to normalize pressure and to treat diseases of the colon and throat. Traditionally, it is also widely used for fumigation. This herb is considered a good anti-influenza antibiotic. On the advice of doctors, one had to sniff wild rue smoke for about ten minutes. This would be a preventative measure on getting sick. Juniper twigs were also widely used for cleaning purposes to help ward off illness. Ala-archa fumigation is periodically held by some families in their homes and corrals to destroy viruses and banish evil spirits so that the people could maintain their health and the integrity of their herds. These plants are also used for fumigation at various festivals and rituals, and they play important roles as psychotherapeutic agents.

After centuries of empirical observation and botanical knowledge, people have mastered planting different types of vegetation. Traditional healers diverted attention to the timely collection of fruits, leaves, roots, wild grasses, and shrubs. For example, some herbs are usually collected at the stage when they are fully ripe. The roots of medical plants are often harvested in the fall. In addition, it is necessary to know the positive conditions needed while collecting, shredding, and drying herbs. It should be noted that traditional practitioners collected herbs that had positive results in treatment processes.