What is ethnobotany

For many thousands of years, practically since we Homo sapiens appeared on the planet some 200,000 years ago, we have always had a very close relationship with plants . Thanks to them we have been able to protect ourselves from the cold and the scorching sun, we have been able to feed ourselves and, also, we have learned to heal wounds and other ills.

To ask what ethnobotany is is to ask what relationship we really have with the plant kingdom and, therefore, why they are so important to us.


  • 1 What is the definition of ethnobotany?
  • 2 How are the uses of plants studied?
  • 3 Why is it important?

What is the definition of ethnobotany?

Ethnobotany (from the Greek ethnos, which means people and botáne grass) is a science that studies the relationships between humans and their plant environment , that is, the use and the way we have to take advantage of them in different parts of the world and at different times.

Although, as we said, we have been using plants for our benefit for thousands of years, ethnobotany appeared around the 77th century AD. C., when the Greek doctor-surgeon Dioscorides published »De Materia Medica», the first catalog with 600 Mediterranean plants explaining how they were used for medical purposes. In this illustrated herbarium one could have information about each of them: where and how they had been taken, whether or not they were poisonous, their current use, whether they were edible or not. For many generations, students learned from this herbarium, but they did not enter the field until the Middle Ages.

Since then, many others published equally important illustrations, such as “Species Plantarum” by Carlos Linnaeus (1753), to whom we owe the Method of binomial nomenclature, in which all species have two names (genus and species ), or »Plants of the Tewa people» of New Mexico, published by Barbara Freire-Marreco in 1916.

How are the uses of plants studied?

The method of studying the uses of plants is as follows:

  • First, they state the hypotheses . For example, if they know that there is a plant that could be medicinal, it is now that they present their idea.
  • Later, they investigate her , in the books and in her own habitat.
  • They then compile statistics and analyze the data.
  • Finally, they interpret the results and test their hypotheses.

Because it is important?

Thanks to the study of plants, all humanity can benefit equally from them . We can know, thanks to books, which plants can be useful to us and which are not.

View of the Jasminum polyanthum plant

Ethnobotany is a very interesting topic, don’t you think?

What is ethnobotany

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