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Research Article Open Access
Objective: Edible plants of medicinal value can serve as a resource for sustainable development in Ecuador, a country rich in agrobiodiversity and traditional ecological knowledge. This study surveyed the nematicidal, antimicrobial, and antioxidant potential of plants sold in local Ecuadorian markets through participatory scientific discovery workshops with local Ecuadorian students and researchers, while simultaneously enhancing the knowledge and technological capacity of workshop participants.
Methods: Edible plants were purchased from city markets at 3 distinct research sites in Ecuador - Cuenca, Quito, and Santa Elena. Botanical identification and traditional uses of each plant were assessed via herbarium specimen preparation and reference to ethnobotanical texts. Portable screens-to-nature (STN) extraction and assay technologies were employed to rapidly and qualitatively detect roundworm lethality, antibacterial, antifungal, and free radical scavenging activities of the plants during 3-day STN workshops at each research site. Participant learning was assessed through a retrospective pretest-posttest administered at the end of each STN workshop.
Results: A total of 50 plants were collected, representing 30 vascular plant families and a wide variety of traditional uses. Thirty-two participants among 3 STN workshops identified 1 plant with nematicidal activity, 14 plants with antibacterial activity, 20 plants with antifungal activity, and 41 plants with antioxidant activity. Nearly half of the plants (24 species) demonstrated both antimicrobial and antioxidant activities, correlating to their reported uses to treat both infectious and chronic/metabolic disorders in traditional Ecuadorian medicine. During the STN workshops, participant knowledge of pharmacological screening increased by 77%, whereas knowledge of biodiversity and conservation increased by 69%.
Conclusion: This study demonstrated that STN technologies, employed through a participatory research approach, are highly efficient in the detection of biochemical activities of traditionally used plants. Furthermore, edible Ecuadorian plants possess nematicidal, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties with potential for further development as functional foods, botanical supplements, or cosmetics.
Agrobiodiversity, Bioactivity, Bioexploration, Ecuador, Functional food, Medicinal plants, Traditional use, Screens-to-nature, Biopiracy, Wildlife and Pollution, Bioprospecting