Knowledge for Development

Feature articles

Ethnobotany and the Future of R&D on Indigenous Plant Resources

The term ‘Ethnobotany’, used by Harshberger in 1896, was defined as the study of “plants used by primitive and aboriginal people”. Years later, Jones (1941) advanced a more concise definition: ‘‘The study of the interrelationships of primitive men and plants.” Schultes (1967) expanded this to include “the relationships between man and his ambient vegetation”. Ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology are interdisciplinary fields of research that look specifically at the empirical knowledge of indigenous peoples concerning medicinal substances, their potential health benefits and the health risks associated with such remedies (Schultes and Von Reis, 1995).