For many, many thousands of years, practically since we, the A wise manwe appeared on the planet about 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 is ethnobotany is to ask what relationship we really have with the plant kingdom and therefore why they are so important to us.
What is the definition of ethnobotany?
Ethnobotany (from the Greek ethnos meaning people and botanical herb) is a science that studies the relationships between humans and their plant environmentthat 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 to our advantage for thousands of years, ethnobotany appeared around the 77th century AD. C., when the Greek physician-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 you could have information about each of them: where and how they had been taken, whether or not they were poisonous, current use, whether they were edible or not. For many generations students learned from this herbarium, but they did not enter this field until the Middle Ages.
From then on, many others published equally important illustrations, such as “Species Plantarum” by Carlos Linnaeus (1753), to whom we owe the Binomial Nomenclature Method, 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, state the hypotheses. For example, if they know that there is a plant that could be medicinal, it is now when they expose their idea.
- Then they investigate itin books and in their own habitat.
- Then they compile statistics and analyze the data.
- Finally, interpret the results and check their hypotheses.
Because it is important?
Thanks to the study of plants, all humanity can benefit in the same way from them. We can know, thanks to books, which plants can be useful to us and which ones are not.
Ethnobotany is a very interesting subject, don’t you think?