Ethnobotany is the study of a region's plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of a local culture and people. An ethnobotanist thus strives to document the local customs involving the practical uses of local flora for many aspects of life, such as plants as medicines, foods, and clothing. Richard Evans Schultes, often referred to as the "father of ethnobotany", explained the discipline in this way:
Ethnobotany simply means ... investigating plants used by societies in various parts of the world.
Since the time of Schultes, the field of ethnobotany has grown from simply acquiring ethnobotanical knowledge to that of applying it to a modern society, primarily in the form of pharmaceuticals. Intellectual property rights and benefit-sharing arrangements are important issues in ethnobotany.
The idea of ethnobotany was first proposed by the early 20th century botanist John William Harshberger. While Harshberger did perform ethnobotanical research extensively, including in areas such as North Africa, Mexico, Scandinavia, and Pennsylvania, it was not until Richard Evans Schultes began his trips into the Amazon that ethnobotany become a more well known science. However, the practice of ethnobotany is thought to have much earlier origins in the first century AD when a Greek physician by the name of Pedanius Dioscorides wrote an extensive botanical text detailing the medical and culinary properties of "over 600 mediterranean plants" named De Materia Medica. Historians note that Dioscorides wrote about traveling often throughout the Roman empire, including regions such as "Greece, Crete, Egypt, and Petra", and in doing so obtained substantial knowledge about the local plants and their useful properties. European botanical knowledge drastically expanded once the New World was discovered due to ethnobotany. This expansion in knowledge can be primarily attributed to the substantial influx of new plants from the Americas, including crops such as potatoes, peanuts, avocados, and tomatoes. One French explorer in the 16th century, Jacques Cartier, learned a cure for scurvy (a tea made from boiling the bark of the Sitka Spruce) from a local Iroquois tribe.
During the medieval period, ethnobotanical studies were commonly found connected with monasticism. Notable at this time was Hildegard von Bingen. However, most botanical knowledge was kept in gardens such as physic gardens attached to hospitals and religious buildings. It was thought of in practical use terms for culinary and medical purposes and the ethnographic element was not studied as a modern anthropologist might approach ethnobotany today.
The age of enlightenment saw a rise in economic botanical exploration. Alexander von Humboldt collected data from the New World, and James Cook's voyages brought back collections and information on plants from the South Pacific. At this time major botanical gardens were started, for instance the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1759. The directors of the gardens sent out gardener-botanist explorers to care for and collect plants to add to their collections.
As the 18th century became the 19th, ethnobotany saw expeditions undertaken with more colonial aims rather than trade economics such as that of Lewis and Clarke which recorded both plants and the peoples encountered use of them. Edward Palmer collected material culture artifacts and botanical specimens from people in the North American West (Great Basin) and Mexico from the 1860s to the 1890s. Through all of this research, the field of "aboriginal botany" was established—the study of all forms of the vegetable world which aboriginal peoples use for food, medicine, textiles, ornaments and more.
The first individual to study the emic perspective of the plant world was a German physician working in Sarajevo at the end of the 19th century: Leopold Glück. His published work on traditional medical uses of plants done by rural people in Bosnia (1896) has to be considered the first modern ethnobotanical work.
Other scholars analyzed uses of plants under an indigenous/local perspective in the 20th century: Matilda Coxe Stevenson, Zuni plants (1915); Frank Cushing, Zuni foods (1920); Keewaydinoquay Peschel, Anishinaabe fungi (1998), and the team approach of Wilfred Robbins, John Peabody Harrington, and Barbara Freire-Marreco, Tewa pueblo plants (1916).
In the beginning, ethonobotanical specimens and studies were not very reliable and sometimes not helpful. This is because the botanists and the anthropologists did not always collaborate in their work. The botanists focused on identifying species and how the plants were used instead of concentrating upon how plants fit into people's lives. On the other hand, anthropologists were interested in the cultural role of plants and treated other scientific aspects superficially. In the early 20th century, botanists and anthropologists better collaborated and the collection of reliable, detailed cross-disciplinary data began.
Beginning in the 20th century, the field of ethnobotany experienced a shift from the raw compilation of data to a greater methodological and conceptual reorientation. This is also the beginning of academic ethnobotany. The so-called "father" of this discipline is Richard Evans Schultes, even though he did not actually coin the term "ethnobotany". Today the field of ethnobotany requires a variety of skills: botanical training for the identification and preservation of plant specimens; anthropological training to understand the cultural concepts around the perception of plants; linguistic training, at least enough to transcribe local terms and understand native morphology, syntax, and semantics.
Mark Plotkin, who studied at Harvard University, the Yale School of Forestry and Tufts University, has contributed a number of books on ethnobotany. He completed a handbook for the Tirio people of Suriname detailing their medicinal plants; Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice (1994); The Shaman's Apprentice, a children's book with Lynne Cherry (1998); and Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature's Healing Secrets (2000).
Plotkin was interviewed in 1998 by South American Explorer magazine, just after the release of Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice and the IMAX movie Amazonia. In the book, he stated that he saw wisdom in both traditional and Western forms of medicine:
No medical system has all the answers—no shaman that I've worked with has the equivalent of a polio vaccine and no dermatologist that I've been to could cure a fungal infection as effectively (and inexpensively) as some of my Amazonian mentors. It shouldn't be the doctor versus the witch doctor. It should be the best aspects of all medical systems (ayurvedic, herbalism, homeopathic, and so on) combined in a way which makes health care more effective and more affordable for all.
A great deal of information about the traditional uses of plants is still intact with tribal peoples. But the native healers are often reluctant to accurately share their knowledge to outsiders. Schultes actually apprenticed himself to an Amazonian shaman, which involves a long-term commitment and genuine relationship. In Wind in the Blood: Mayan Healing & Chinese Medicine by Garcia et al. the visiting acupuncturists were able to access levels of Mayan medicine that anthropologists could not because they had something to share in exchange. Cherokee medicine priest David Winston describes how his uncle would invent nonsense to satisfy visiting anthropologists.
Another scholar, James W. Herrick, who studied under ethnologist William N. Fenton, in his work Iroquois Medical Ethnobotany (1995) with Dean R. Snow (editor), professor of Anthropology at Penn State, explains that understanding herbal medicines in traditional Iroquois cultures is rooted in a strong and ancient cosmological belief system. Their work provides perceptions and conceptions of illness and imbalances which can manifest in physical forms from benign maladies to serious diseases. It also includes a large compilation of Herrick’s field work from numerous Iroquois authorities of over 450 names, uses, and preparations of plants for various ailments. Traditional Iroquois practitioners had (and have) a sophisticated perspective on the plant world that contrast strikingly with that of modern medical science.
Researcher Cassandra Quave at Emory University has used ethnobotany to address the problems that arise from antibiotic resistance. Quave notes that the advantage of medical ethnobotany over Western medicine rests in the difference in mechanism. For example, elmleaf blackberry extract focuses instead on the prevention of bacterial collaboration as opposed to directly exterminating them.
Many instances of gender bias have occurred in ethnobotany, creating the risk of drawing erroneous conclusions. Anthropologists would often consult with primarily men. In Las Pavas, a small farming community in Panama, anthropologists drew conclusions about the entire community's use of plant from their conversations and lessons with mostly men. They consulted with 40 families, but the women only participated rarely in interviews and never joined them in the field. Due to the division of labor, the knowledge of wild plants for food, medicine, and fibers, among others, was left out of the picture, resulting in a distorted view of which plants were actually important to them.
Ethnobotanists have also assumed that ownership of a resource means familiarity with that resource. In some societies women are excluded from owning land, while being the ones who work it. Inaccurate data can come from interviewing only the owners.
The Apache () are a group of culturally related Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States, which include the Chiricahua, Jicarilla, Lipan, Mescalero, Salinero, Plains and Western Apache. Distant cousins of the Apache are the Navajo, with which they share the Southern Athabaskan languages. There are Apache communities in Oklahoma, Texas, and reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Apache people have moved throughout the United States and elsewhere, including urban centers. The Apache Nations are politically autonomous, speak several different languages and have distinct cultures.
Historically, the Apache homelands have consisted of high mountains, sheltered and watered valleys, deep canyons, deserts, and the southern Great Plains, including areas in what is now Eastern Arizona, Northern Mexico (Sonora and Chihuahua) and New Mexico, West Texas, and Southern Colorado. These areas are collectively known as Apacheria. The Apache tribes fought the invading Spanish and Mexican peoples for centuries. The first Apache raids on Sonora appear to have taken place during the late 17th century. In 19th-century confrontations during the American-Indian wars, the U.S. Army found the Apache to be fierce warriors and skillful strategists.Cherokee ethnobotany
This is a list of plants documented to have been traditionally used by the Cherokee, and how they are used.Cuisine of North Dakota
The Cuisine of North Dakota differs from average Midwestern cuisine in a number of ways. Though much of the Midwest has strong German influences, North Dakota also has strong influence from Norway as well as the many ethnic Germans from Russia who settled there. There is also a strong Native American influence on the cuisine of North Dakota. Plants used as food by Native Americans are described in the North Dakota Ethnobotany database.As in the Midwest as a whole, meals are typically served in a smorgasbord format rather than as courses.Churches throughout the state commonly host annual fellowship dinners open to the community. Perhaps one of the largest authentic Norwegian dinners is the annual Lutefisk Dinner hosted by the First Lutheran Church, Williston, North Dakota, every February.
The largest Scandinavian Festival in North America is the annual Norsk Høstfest held every October, in Minot, North Dakota. This five-day cultural event features Scandinavian dishes (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland), but does accommodate those who are not fond of lutefisk by providing hundreds of choices of ethnic foods.Ethnobiology
Ethnobiology is the scientific study of the way living things are treated or used by different human cultures. It studies the dynamic relationships between people, biota, and environments, from the distant past to the immediate present."People-biota-environment" interactions around the world are documented and studied through time, across cultures, and across disciplines in a search for valid, reliable answers to two 'defining' questions: "How and in what ways do human societies use nature, and how and in what ways do human societies view nature?"Ethnomedicine
Ethnomedicine is a study or comparison of the traditional medicine based on bioactive compounds in plants and animals and practiced by various ethnic groups, especially those with little access to western medicines, e.g., indigenous peoples. Often these traditions constitute significant interactions with insects as well, in Africa or around the globe. The word ethnomedicine is sometimes used as a synonym for traditional medicine.
Ethnomedical research is interdisciplinary; in its study of traditional medicines, it applies the methods of ethnobotany and medical anthropology. Often, the medicine traditions it studies are preserved only by oral tradition. Often these traditions constitute significant interactions with insects as well
Scientific ethnomedical studies constitute either anthropological research or drug discovery research. Anthropological studies examine the cultural perception and context of a traditional medicine. The purpose of drug discovery research is to identify and develop a marketable pharmaceutical product.Ethnozoology
Ethnozoology is the study of the past and present interrelationships between human cultures and the animals in their environment. It includes classification and naming of zoological forms, cultural knowledge and use of wild and domestic animals. It is one of the main subdisciplines of ethnobiology and shares many methodologies and theoretical frameworks with ethnobotany.
Ethnozoology is the study of human and animal interaction. Ethnobiology includes ethnobotany, which concerns the study of human-plant relationships and ethnozoology. Ethnozoology focuses explicitly on human-animal relationships and knowledge humans have acquired concerning the Earth's fauna. Ethnozoological study concerns the significance of this knowledge to our understanding of the roles played by animals in human society. Faunal resources play a variety of roles in human life throughout history, and their importance to human beings is not only utilitarian but cultural, religious, artistic, and philosophical. Ethnozoology can be understood broadly, from ecological, cognitive, and symbolic perspectives. Human knowledge about natural faunal resources entails sensing, recognizing, classifying, living things. Ethnozoology is a discipline that connects scientific methods to traditional systems of knowledge and cultural beliefs.Human uses of plants
Human uses of plants include both practical uses, such as for food, clothing, and medicine, and symbolic uses, such as in art, mythology and literature. The reliable provision of food through agriculture is the basis of civilization. The study of plant uses by native peoples is ethnobotany, while economic botany focuses on modern cultivated plants. Plants are used in medicine, providing many drugs from the earliest times to the present, and as the feedstock for many industrial products including timber and paper as well as a wide range of chemicals. Plants give millions of people pleasure through gardening.
In art, mythology, religion, literature and film, plants play important roles, symbolising themes such as fertility, growth, purity, and rebirth. In architecture and the decorative arts, plants provide many themes, such as Islamic arabesques and the acanthus forms carved on to classical Corinthian order column capitals.Hupa
Hupa are a Native American people of the Athabaskan-speaking ethnolinguistic group in northwestern California. Their endonym is Natinixwe, also spelled Natinook-wa, meaning "People of the Place Where the Trails Return". The majority of the tribe is enrolled in the federally recognized Hoopa Valley Tribe.Ka'apor
The Ka'apor are an indigenous people of Brazil. They live on a protected reserve in the state of Maranhão. They were the subject of a book by anthropologist Dr. William Balée in an exhaustive study of their ethnobotany lifeways and the historical ecology of the area they currently inhabit.
They live in a heavily deforested area of Pre-Amazonian forest, but have managed to protect the forest within their designated reserve.There is a high degree of congenital deafness among the Ka'apor, and consequently most of the hearing community knows sign language. (See Ka'apor Sign Language.)
Their forest reserve is under attack from illegal loggers, and in September 2014 the tribe took matters into their own hands when they attacked a group of loggers, tying them up, humiliating them before destroying the logs that had been extracted from the forest and burning the logger's lorry, before eventually setting them free.Kapa
Kapa is a fabric made by native Hawaiians from the bast fibres of certain species of trees and shrubs in the orders Rosales and Malvales.Meskwaki
The Meskwaki (sometimes spelled Mesquaki) are a Native American people often known by Western society as the Fox tribe. They have been closely linked to the Sauk people of the same language family. In the Meskwaki language, the Meskwaki call themselves Meshkwahkihaki, which means "the Red-Earths", related to their creation story. Historically their homelands were in the Great Lakes region. The tribe coalesced in the St. Lawrence River Valley in present-day Ontario, Canada. Under French colonial pressures, it migrated to the southern side of the Great Lakes to territory that much later was organized by European Americans as the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.
The Meskwaki suffered damaging wars with French and their Native American allies in the early 18th century, with one in 1730 decimating the tribe. Euro-American colonization and settlement proceeded in the United States during the 19th century,, forced the Meskwaki/Fox south and west into the tall grass prairie in the American Midwest. In 1851 the Iowa state legislature passed an unusual act to allow the Fox to buy land and stay in the state. Other Sac and Fox were removed to Indian territory in what became Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. In the 21st century, two federally recognized tribes of "Sac and Fox" have reservations, and one has a settlement.Native American ethnobotany
This is a list of plants used by the indigenous people of North America. For lists pertaining specifically to the Cherokee, Navajo, and Zuni, see Cherokee ethnobotany, Navajo ethnobotany, and Zuni ethnobotany.Nlaka'pamux
The Nlaka'pamux or Nlakapamuk ( ing-klə-KAP-mə; Salish: [nɬeʔképmx]), also previously known as the Thompson, Thompson River Salish, Thompson Salish, Thompson River Indians or Thompson River people, and historically as the Klackarpun, Haukamaugh, Knife Indians and Couteau Indians, are an indigenous First Nations people of the Interior Salish language group in southern British Columbia. Their traditional territory includes parts of the North Cascades region of Washington.Nuxalk Nation
The Nuxalk Nation is the band government of the Nuxalk people of Bella Coola, British Columbia. It is a member of the Oweekeno-Kitasoo-Nuxalk Tribal Council, and until March 2008 was a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. The population is 1,479.Potawatomi
The Pottawatomi , also spelled Pottawatomie and Potawatomi (among many variations), are a Native American people of the Great Plains, upper Mississippi River, and western Great Lakes region. They traditionally speak the Potawatomi language, a member of the Algonquian family. The Potawatomi called themselves Neshnabé, a cognate of the word Anishinaabe. The Potawatomi were part of a long-term alliance, called the Council of Three Fires, with the Ojibwe and Odawa (Ottawa). In the Council of Three Fires, the Potawatomi were considered the "youngest brother" and were referred to in this context as Bodéwadmi, a name that means "keepers of the fire" and refers to the council fire of three peoples.
In the 19th century, they were pushed to the west by European/American encroachment in the late 18th century and removed from their lands in the Great Lakes region to reservations in Oklahoma. Under Indian Removal, they eventually ceded many of their lands, and most of the Potawatomi relocated to Nebraska, Kansas, and Indian Territory, now in Oklahoma. Some bands survived in the Great Lakes region and today are federally recognized as tribes. In Canada, there are over 20 First Nation bands.Poultice
A poultice, also called a cataplasm, is a soft moist mass, often heated and medicated, that is spread on cloth over the skin to treat an aching, inflamed or painful part of the body. It can be used on wounds such as cuts.
Poultice may also refer to a porous solid filled with solvent used to remove stains from porous stone such as marble or granite.
The word "poultice" comes from the Latin puls, pultes, meaning "porridge".Serenoa
Serenoa repens, commonly known as saw palmetto, is the sole species currently classified in the genus Serenoa. It is a small palm, growing to a maximum height around 7–10 ft (2.1–3.0 m). It is endemic to the subtropical Southeastern United States, most commonly along the south Atlantic and Gulf Coastal plains and sand hills. It grows in clumps or dense thickets in sandy coastal areas, and as undergrowth in pine woods or hardwood hammocks.Vaccinium myrtilloides
Vaccinium myrtilloides is a shrub with common names including common blueberry, velvetleaf huckleberry, velvetleaf blueberry, Canadian blueberry, and sourtop blueberry. It is common in much of North America, reported from all 10 Canadian provinces plus Nunavut and Northwest Territories, as well as from the northeastern and Great Lakes states in the United States. It is also known to occur in Montana and Washington.Wuikinuxv
The Wuikinuxv IPA: [ʔuwik'inuxʷ], also rendered Oowekeeno , Wuikenukv, Wikeno, Owikeno, Oweekano, Awikenox, and also known as the Rivers Inlet people, are an Indigenous First Nations people of the Central Coast region of the Canadian province of British Columbia, located around Rivers Inlet and Owikeno Lake, to the north of Queen Charlotte Strait. The Wuikinuxv people and their neighbours the Heiltsuk and Haisla peoples were in the past sometimes known incorrectly as the "Northern Kwakiutl".
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