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Food, Feed or Medicine: The Multiple Functions of Edible Wild Plants in Vietnam

Britta M. Ogle, Ho Thi Tuyet, Hoang Nghia Duyet and Nguyen Nhut Xuan Dung
Economic Botany
Vol. 57, No. 1 (Spring, 2003), pp. 103-117
Published by: Springer on behalf of New York Botanical Garden Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4256646
Page Count: 15
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Food, Feed or Medicine: The Multiple Functions of Edible Wild Plants in Vietnam
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Abstract

Many of the edible wild plants that are included in local food baskets have both therapeutic and dietary functions. Such medicinal foods have been part of Eastern medicinal theories since ancient times and have recently received attention in the USA and Europe within the fields of functional foods, neutraceuticals and phyto-nutrients. This paper provides an example from Vietnam of the continued use of a multitude of edible wild vegetables. Vietnamese traditional medicine also holds an important position within the health care system and many of the plants that are used have both dietary and medicinal functions. Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative techniques (Rapid Rural Appraisal and Food Frequency Questionnaires), information on over 90 species of edible wild plants was obtained from 4 villages in the Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands. About a third of the plants also had therapeutic roles, forty percent were used also as livestock feeds and one fifth were used as food/livestock feed/ medicine. From a nutrition viewpoint it is important to pay attention to this group of traditional foods for several reasons. Their direct nutritional contribution is often significant but neglected. Very little is known about the health benefits of regular consumption of small quantities of medicinal foods and an important "medicinal role" of traditional plant medicines may be the contribution of small quantities of trace minerals and vitamins. The parallel functions as livestock feeds make animal products more accessible to poor households and help improve the quality of their diets.

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