Students discuss traditional medicine, medicinal plants

Two Linfield students traveled to Trujillo, Peru, to conduct a local survey about the use of traditional medicine and medicinal plants. Seniors Anna Sours and Susana Fajardo presented their findings to students and professors Nov. 5 in Jonasson Hall.

The two wanted to find out what herbs and plants locals in Peru used and what they used them for. They found that the use of medicinal plants stretches back thousands of years, and the belief in these traditional practices and diseases still exist today.

Fajardo and Sours discovered that the use of medicinal plants was not exclusive among Peruvians. Along with traditional medicines, people frequently used Western medicines and pharmaceuticals to combat illness.

The two worked with Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training (MHIRT), which has programs in countries, such as Peru, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, Sours said.

They also worked with students from the State University of New York at Buffalo, who worked in labs doing research on medicinal plants and their properties in the National University of Trujillo and UPAO, another private university in Trujillo.

To conduct the study, Sours and Fajardo went to a health clinic where doctors prescribed medicinal plants to patients. They asked patients waiting in the clinic to participate in their survey. Patients were asked which herbs they used for self-medication and what for.

Sours and Fajardo also asked how the knowledge of medicinal traditions was transferred between generations and if patients preferred medicinal plants or pharmaceuticals for their health needs.

Although some were suspicious and nervous at first, many of the participants were patient and eager to help. Nearly everyone knew about herbs and remedies and gave multiple examples.

Fajardo and Sours wanted to capture emotions and experiences in an authentic way, which was sometimes difficult because all of the interviews were conducted in Spanish. The two had to get used to the different culture and had to be wary of sensitive topics.

“The hardest thing for me was probably having so much freedom with our research design. We got a lot of independence to shape the study in the way we wanted to do it, which was a really exciting opportunity and very applicable to the real world,” Sours said. “We had to narrow down our topics and research areas, which can be really difficult when there are so many directions to take.”

Herbs and medicinal plants are easily accessible and affordable at markets in Peru.

Fajardo and Sours found that identifying plants’ identities can be difficult, and it could present a problem to the person buying the plants. Some participants expressed worry that vendors might try to sell the wrong thing.

“Personally, I am quite open to the use of medicinal plants. So many pharmaceuticals are based on plants and are meant to have some of the same effects, so I think it is a great alternative to use the plants themselves,” Sours said. “It’s more natural and a cheaper option for many people, especially in countries like Peru.”

Kelsey Sutton

Managing editor

Kelsey Sutton can be reached at

Photo courtesy of Anna Sours

Seniors Anna Sours and Susana Fajardo stand with the entire group of researchers, as well as friends from their hostel and Dr. Douglas Sharon. On Nov. 5, the two discussed their visit to Trujillo, Peru and what they learned about the use of traditional medicine and medicinal plants in Peru.

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