||Photo Ken Hill|
ETHNOBOTANY OF CYCADS
Nadia Audhali and Dennis Stevenson
- Cycads are widely distributed across the globe and have long been exploited by people as a source of food and medicine. Click on the higlighted links to see some of these uses of cycads
- They contain a large amount of starch in roots, stem, seeds as well as many bioactive compounds.
- These compounds are part of what distinguishes cycads from other plants; Cycasin and BMAA which are both highly toxic are found in most parts of the plant. These components must be removed through extended processing before any part can be safely eaten. Even so, cycad consumption has been implicated in a number of disease occurrences (read about cycads and Guam disease).
- There are differences between processing methods used in different areas and through time. In some cases influences from one culture have affected the use/preparation methods of another culture. Within each culture, different types of processing can be used to give the end product different handling and storage qualities.
- The slow growth rates and requirement for extended processing may be one of the reasons they have rarely been grown commercially. In many cases cycads are used only as a famine food.
- For many cultures they hold symbolic/reverential status and are venerated or used during ceremony and ritual. They are often highly prized as ornamentals and used as bonsai.
- Different genera are found in different continents, and uses often differ according to region or according to genus or species. Click here to look at uses in different regions and for different cycads