The scorpion in Spanish folk medicine: a review of traditional remedies for stings and its use as a therapeutic resource
Journal of ethnopharmacology | 8 Jan 2013
JA González and JR Vallejo
ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: While scorpionism is not a serious public health problem in Spain, traditional Spanish knowledge has retained a large number of plant-based and animal-based remedies for scorpion stings. Additionally, this arthropod plays an important role in the treatment of its own sting and has become a significant therapeutic resource in the treatment of several human pathologies. These remedies are distributed across a large number of references. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A thorough review of Spanish literature has been conducted in the fields of folklore, ethnography, ethnomedicine, ethnobotany, ethnozoology, social anthropology and medical anthropology from the early twentieth century to the present. Automated searches in national and international databases have been performed. RESULTS: The results include more than 110 traditional remedies for scorpion stings. Forty- eight remedies are based on the use of 29 vascular plants in 19 different botanical families. This listing of useful plants is broader than that provided by other researchers studying neighboring areas. Seventeen remedies based on the use of nine animal species, including humans, are also reported. Remedies have also been documented involving mud and water, while other remedies indicate the use of scorpions (crushed and applied directly). Many remedies emphasize the topical use of “scorpion oil” (i.e., oil from fried scorpions). Two remedies are based on the maceration of scorpions in alcohol. In most cases, topical remedies are applied locally on the affected area. There is also some use of magical remedies as well. The scorpion has also been used as a major component in 22 Spanish remedies and healing rituals associated with 17 human pathologies. CONCLUSIONS: The present study demonstrates the importance of the scorpion in Spanish folk medicine. In general, the remedies evaluated mix magic and empiricism. The data we obtained may represent relevant background knowledge for studies aimed at developing and applying new therapeutic remedies for scorpion stings and other human pathologies. The data also invites further research to determine the validity of these folk remedies.
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