Interest in herbal treatment increased in Kyrgyzstan due to COVID-19 pandemic

In-depth interviews were recently completed as part of a study of herbal medicine use by local people during the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on traditional knowledge of herbal medicine. This research in Kyrgyzstan is conducted by the public fund Rural Development Fund ("Rural Development Fund") in the framework of the project "Study of traditional knowledge with the use of medicinal herbs during the pandemic and after the pandemic COVID-19" with the financial support of the International Research Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Asia-Pacific Region (IRCI).

Field interviews within the project were conducted from September 2022 in Issyk-Kul, Naryn and Chui oblasts. Participants of the study are custodians of traditional knowledge from the KEAK ("Kyrgyz El Akyl Kazyna") network, representatives of local communities - users of traditional knowledge, as well as experts from research organizations: botanists, ethnobotanists, representatives of phytolaboratories.

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic - COVID-19 - many people preferred to turn to herbalists and use traditional methods of treatment and prevention of the virus with medicinal plants. Studies showed that 62% of households where at least one family member was infected with coronavirus faced problems accessing formal medicine and acquiring the necessary drugs. Of these, about 39% of people experienced difficulties in accessing health care services and 58% had difficulties in obtaining necessary medicines.

RDF experts note that there has been an increase in the number of calls to herbalists, herbal medicine sellers and traditional knowledge keepers for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 caused by Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus. People asked herbalists for recipes to treat manifestations of infection with plants such as chamomile, nettle, barberry, sea buckthorn, and mint.

According to the feedback from traditional knowledge keepers from the Kyrgyz El Akyl Kazyna (KEAK) network established by RDF, treatment with various herbs in combination with medical services contributed to quick recovery from the virus as well as prevention of the disease. In general, the level of trust of the population in traditional practices has increased, as well as interest in the traditional use of medicinal plants for the treatment of various ailments.

Since ancient times, Kyrgyz people have had extensive knowledge about the use of useful plants in everyday life, as well as for the treatment of people and animals. At the same time, they have always adhered to the rules of rational collection of natural resources. Collection of useful plants gives additional or even main income to families and positively affects people's health through their use.

During the period of the Soviet Union, due to the development and spread of medical care, traditional knowledge about the use of medicinal herbs began to be forgotten. Despite this, experts and scientists conducted several studies and expeditions to study the properties of various useful plants growing in Kyrgyzstan, which led to the systematization of information and knowledge. One of the first such scientists was Prof. A. A. Altymyshev.
Traditional Knowledge