The "horchata" is a herbal mixture infusion consumed in Southern Ecuador. It remains unknown how vendors group the plant species to sell them at traditional markets. This research documented the following: 1) a list of medicinal plant species sold for the drink; 2) the culturally important medicinal plant species; 3) the agreement among vendors regarding the medicinal plants species and their therapeutic use; and 4) the groups of medicinal plants sold for the preparation of "horchata."
Interviews were made to 185 vendors at 31 traditional markets in Loja province. Bunches of medicinal plants were purchased to identify the species and to prepare voucher specimens. Culturally important medicinal plants species were established with the Fidelity Level (FL) index. Agreement among vendors on the therapeutic use of medicinal plants was measured with the Factor of Informant Consensus (FIC) index. A cluster analysis was made to determine the groups of medicinal plants sold by market vendors to prepare the "horchata" drink.
In Loja province, the "horchata" drink is consumed for its therapeutic uses. This study registered 33 families with 58 genera and 71 medicinal plant species, 50 of which are herbs and three are endemic to the Andean highlands of Ecuador. The FL index (46.1-96.3) determined 20 culturally important medicinal plant species. The highest FIC value (1.00) among vendors corresponds to four plant species employed each for a different therapeutic use. The cluster analysis identified a core group of 16 plant species which are essential to the drink and which likely interact to provide wellbeing.
The "horchata" is a heritage drink in Loja province. The 71 medicinal plants species registered for this drink is the largest number reported to date, and they have a total of 32 therapeutic uses. The combined results of the FL and FIC indices, the cluster analysis, and the field observations reveal an agreement among vendors on 16 medicinal plant species and their therapeutic use. This core group of plants requires bioactivity and bioassays analyses to determine biomedicine benefits that would be based on their pharmacological properties.