Cape Breton University Researchers Awarded $850,000 Research Grant for the Re-Discovery of an L’nu Traditional Medicine

Members of the project team: Tuma Young, Assistant Professor, Mi’Kmaq Studies, Claudette Taylor, Associate Professor, Nursing, Dr. Matthias Bierenstiel, Professor of Chemistry, and Audrey Walsh, Associate Professor, Nursing.

Working alongside Elders and knowledge-holders in Membertou First Nation, Dr. Matthias Bierenstiel, Professor of Chemistry at Cape Breton University, has been awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Project Grant of $856,800 for his work on maskwiomin (birch bark-oil).

Maskwiomin was an almost forgotten traditional L’nu medicine, which had historically been used in the treatment of skin conditions such as rashes, eczema and psoriasis. For the past six years, Tuma Young, also of Cape Breton University has been working with Dr. Bierenstiel on the re-discovery of birch bark-oil through the re-telling of stories and practical experiments.

“The goal of this five-year project is to expand the fundamental knowledge of maskwiomin,” says Dr. Bierenstiel. “We work together with L’nu communities to re-discover this traditional medicine through their stories and with the respect of traditions while using modern scientific methodology, when appropriate.”

The CIHR Project Grant supports research projects that have great potential to advance health-related fundamental or applied knowledge, health research, health care, health systems and/or health outcomes.

“We are thrilled that our researchers and members of the L’nu community are being recognized for their important collaborative work,” says Tanya Brann-Barrett, Associate Vice-President, Academic & Research. “This CIHR Project Grant speaks to the innovative research that is possible when traditional knowledge and modern scientific methodology are blended here at CBU.”

The 5-year CIHR Project Grant is one of the largest health research grants received at Cape Breton University.