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The medicinal power of plants, in the new book published by Editorial UdeA

By Julián David Ospina Sánchez, Journalist

“Plantas medicinales y otros recursos naturales aprobados en Colombia con fines terapéuticos” (Medicinal plants and other natural resources approved in Colombia for therapeutic purposes), the latest publication of Editorial Universidad de Antioquia, invites readers into the botanical universe and explores its qualities for managing different ailments. Authored by Ramiro Fonnegra Gómez, a biologist and retired professor of Alma Mater, the book details 137 species and provides insights into the regulations for their use, therapeutic information, and application in traditional medicine.

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Ramiro Fonnegra Gómez’s book could be the first step in consolidating the Colombian vademecum of medicinal plants. Photo: Communications Office / Alejandra Uribe F. 

The new publication by Editorial Universidad de Antioquia, “Plantas medicinales y otros recursos naturales aprobados en Colombia con fines terapéuticos,” encapsulates over 40 years of work by biologist and retired Alma Mater professor Ramiro Fonnegra Gómez.

The author expressed, “It is a contribution towards the eventual creation of a comprehensive vademecum of medicinal plants in the country,” detailing the characteristics of 137 species across 982 pages, including their therapeutic uses, regulations governing them, and their application in traditional medicine.   

This means that beyond fundamental botanical information, readers will discover comprehensive details regarding Colombian regulations governing the use of each species, an existing bibliography documenting their properties in treating different diseases, and recommendations from traditional medicine for their formulation. Fonnegra Gómez stated, “Through the organized presentation of all the data, we demonstrate to those interested that these plants can be effective and safe when used in the indicated doses and times.”

The author had previously documented much of this data in the Herbarium of the Universidad de Antioquia (HUA), following his travels through the Colombian territories and conversations with peasant, indigenous, and black communities. “The publication is indebted to these informants whose specimens serve as vital witnesses,” explained Felipe Alfonso Cardona Naranjo, head of the HUA.

Silvia García Sierra, the editor of this book, highlighted that the work “distinguishes itself through its content and presentation, featuring a significant compendium of illustrations showcasing botanical species approved by the National Institute of Food and Drug Surveillance (Invima) in its latest evaluation of 2022.”

The importance of the graphic content must be balanced. “It serves as a means for readers to easily identify each plant, often including its flowering and fruits,” noted the author, who highlighted the quality of the illustrations produced by the HUA's scientific cartoonists. 

Diego Zapata Zapata, one of the graphic artists involved in the book, explained, “We collected the existing images, made by two retired Herbarium artists, and collaborated closely with Professor Fonnegra Gómez to meticulously depict the characteristics of each species mentioned in the book through new drawings.”

A person reading a book

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According to the editorial criteria, one of the publication's notable achievements lies in its illustrations, made possible by the presence of scientific cartoonists at the UdeA Herbarium, a rarity among Colombian institutions. Photo: Communications Office / Alejandra Uribe F. 

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“In Colombia, and I believe in many parts of the world, there is no text offering such extensive and accurate information on medicinal plants and their applications,” said Cardona Naranjo. He emphasized that the book’s scientific value is enriched by acknowledging the communities settled in different regions of the country and the ancestral uses of these healing species.

According to Zapata Zapata, who illustrated the pages of Editorial UdeA’s latest release, “It is a work with profound social significance that opens a reflection on human interaction with the natural environment. It allows academic, aesthetic, cultural, and even mythological and fantastical discussions.”  

A multitude of elements were intertwined to accomplish this: the researcher's dedication and experience, the contributions of the HUA and its scientific illustrators, the meticulous efforts of the University Publishing House, and the insights drawn from previous publications by Fonnegra Gómez and Professor Silvia Luz Jiménez in 1996 and 2006, titled “Plantas medicinales aprobadas en Colombia” (Approved Medicinal Plants in Colombia.)

As for the editorial process, two and a half years were invested in multiple readings, revisions, layouts, and other procedures, resulting in a meticulously crafted work. “We thought every detail to ensure readability, enjoyment, friendliness, and ease of consultation for the reader,” García Sierra noted.

The hardcover book costs 270,000 pesos. It can be purchased at the Editorial Universidad de Antioquia bookstores, located on the second floor of the UdeA Extension Building and in the San Ignacio Building in downtown Medellin. It is also available at the Cooprudea University bookstore on the central campus of Alma Mater and the Al Pie de la Letra bookstore. 

On Friday, March 15, at 10:00 a.m., Ramiro Fonnegra will present the book in Medellin’s Main Auditorium of the Extension Building. The author will discuss with Felipe Cardona, director of the Universidad de Antioquia Herbarium, and Consuelo García, illustrator. 

In addition, “Plantas medicinales y otros recursos naturales aprobados en Colombia con fines terapéuticos” is an e-book priced at 109,900 Colombian pesos. “This effort from Editorial UdeA aims to make the content accessible to a wider audience without the limitations of physical shipping," explained García Sierra.

Editorial UdeA announced that the book includes a section on homemade and pharmaceutical methods of preparing plants, a glossary of botanical terms, and a scientific index to locate species by names, ailments, diseases, and actions.
  
“I am overwhelmed with satisfaction and gratitude towards the Universidad de Antioquia. In addition, I personally see this as a way to immortalize my work, allowing future generations to learn about the botanical research I have conducted and its extensive applications in healing and medicine,” said Professor Fonnegra Gómez.     

About the author  

Ramiro de Jesús Fonnegra Gómez dedicated 42 years of service to the Universidad de Antioquia, holding positions as a professor at the Institute of Biology. Within the institution, he also served as director of the Herbarium and the Research and Postgraduate Center of the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences. In addition, he founded and directed the Botanical Studies group and was a researcher of the Ophidism, Scorpionism, and Natural Products groups.  

Fonnegra Gómez is a biologist at the Universidad de Antioquia, a Master’s and Ph.D. in Sciences with a specialization in Botany at the Universidade de São Paulo. Fonnegra Gómez pursued postdoctoral studies in Electron Microscopy at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

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