Exploring Healing Plants Used by the Yi Community in Mile

Jenn Hoskins
25th February, 2024

Exploring Healing Plants Used by the Yi Community in Mile

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

In the verdant hills of southeastern Yunnan, China, the Yi people of Mile City have long harnessed the power of nature for healing. With a history rich in ethnomedicine, the Yi have developed an intricate understanding of medicinal plants, a practice deeply rooted in their culture and daily life. A recent study by researchers from Yunnan Minzu University[1] has shed light on this traditional knowledge, revealing the breadth and depth of the Yi's use of natural remedies. The study, conducted over two years, involved interviews with 114 local informants across five townships. Researchers employed a mix of semi-structured interviews, key informant discussions, and participatory observation to gather data. They meticulously identified plant specimens and analyzed the information using various ethnobotanical methods, such as informant consensus factor and fidelity level. The findings are remarkable: the Yi people use a staggering 267 medicinal plant species from 104 different families to treat a wide array of diseases. Among these, the Asteraceae, Lamiaceae, and Fabaceae families stand out as the most commonly used. Herbs are the preferred type of plant, and the whole plants and roots are often the parts utilized for their medicinal properties. The traditional preparation method of choice is decoction, a process of boiling the plant material to extract its healing essence. The study highlights the importance of plants like Zingiber officinale (ginger), known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and Panax notoginseng, valued for its ability to aid in blood circulation and reduce pain. These plants are central to the Yi's approach to preventing and treating diseases, particularly respiratory ailments, rheumatism, traumatic injuries, fractures, and digestive system issues. This research echoes the findings of previous studies in other regions, such as the Xiaoliangshan area[2], where the Yi's counterparts also rely heavily on traditional medicinal plants. Both studies underscore the significance of cultural practices in healthcare and the extensive use of natural resources in traditional medicine. Moreover, the study in Kwara State, Nigeria[3], which documented the use of medicinal plants in treating malaria, shares a common thread with the Yi's approach to healthcare. It emphasizes the reliance on folk medicine in areas where access to modern healthcare is limited or where traditional practices are deeply ingrained in the community. Similarly, the Bulang ethnic community in southwest China[4] has a rich tradition of using medicinal plants, which, like the Yi, is threatened by the encroachment of modern medicine and environmental degradation. The Bulang's use of plants such as Camellia sinensis (tea) and Zingiber officinale (ginger) for their medicinal properties further illustrates the widespread recognition of certain plants' healing potential across different cultures. The study from Yunnan Minzu University not only documents the Yi's extensive knowledge but also raises concerns about the sustainability of these practices. The challenges are manifold: the number of local healers is dwindling, the existing ones are aging, there's a lack of successors, and the overharvesting of medicinal plants is jeopardizing their availability. The research serves as a crucial step toward preserving the Yi's ethnomedical wisdom. It provides a foundation for the sustainable use of medicinal plants and the continuation of traditional healthcare practices. By bringing this knowledge to the forefront, the study advocates for the conservation of both the plants and the cultural heritage they represent. In conclusion, the Yi people's use of medicinal plants is a testament to the enduring relationship between humans and nature. The study from Yunnan Minzu University not only documents this rich tradition but also highlights the urgent need to protect it. As modern medicine continues to advance, it is essential to remember the value of traditional practices and the natural resources that have supported human health for centuries.

MedicinePlant Science


Main Study

1) Ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants used by the Yi people in Mile, Yunnan, China.

Published 23rd February, 2024


Related Studies

2) Ethnobotanical study on medicinal plants used by the Yi people in Xiaoliangshan, Yunnan Province, SW China.


3) Indigenous medicinal plants used in folk medicine for malaria treatment in Kwara State, Nigeria: an ethnobotanical study.


4) Ethnobotanical study on medicinal plants used by Bulang people in Yunnan, China.


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