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Botanist at work (drawing by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout around 1650)

Ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology are the sciences of plants ( botany ) in relation to their use by humans: as useful or medicinal plants ( herbal medicine , folk medicine ) and in customs , especially among pre-industrial ethnic groups and indigenous peoples . The term ethnobotany was first used in 1895 by the American botanist John William Harshberger . Richard E. Schultes (1915–2001), a luminary in the field of hallucinogenic and medicinal plants, is considered the “father of ethnobotany” . The biologist and consciousness researcher Terence McKenna (1946–2000) is regarded as a pioneer of ethnopharmacology, his focus on shamanic techniques.


The task of ethnobotany is the discovery and research of plants and materials that are valuable to humans ; But it is also dedicated to nutrition , biochemistry , health and other vital components of human life in relation to the flora . She therefore uses both methods of botany as well as ethnomedicine or medical anthropology (see also ethnopharmacy ). For example, it examines the medical or ritual use of plants and animals as well as the socio-cultural background of their use.

Ethnopharmacology also studies entheogenic drugs used in connection with shamanism .

Well-known ethnobotanists and ethnopharmacologists

  • Markus Berger (* 1974), German non-fiction author and ethnobotanist
  • Eunike Grahofer (* 1975), Austrian herbalist, ethnobotanist and non-fiction author
  • John William Harshberger (1869–1929), American botanist and mycologist
  • Michael Heinrich (* 1957), German pharmaceutical biologist
  • Dennis and Terence McKenna (1946-2000), American linguist, biologist, consciousness researcher, pioneer of ethnopharmacology (shamanic techniques)
  • Katharine Luomala (1907–1992), American ethnologist, ethnobotanist and mythographer
  • Jeremy Narby (born 1959), Canadian anthropologist ( The Cosmic Serpent for Ayahuasca )
  • Cassandra Quave (* 1978), American ethnobotanist ( Emory University )
  • Christian Rätsch (* 1957), German American scholar and ethnopharmacologist (cultural use of psychoactive plants and mushrooms in shamanism)
  • Richard Evans Schultes (1915–2001), American biologist, "father of ethnobotany" (hallucinogenic and medicinal plants)
  • Wolf-Dieter Storl (* 1942), German-American cultural anthropologist, ethnobotanist and non-fiction author
  • Joachim Sterly (1926–2001), German ethnologist, founded the “Arbeitsgemeinschaft Ethnomedizin” (AGEM) in 1970, the journal Ethnomedizin / Curare
  • Alain Touwaide (* 1953), Belgian historian of medicine and natural sciences
  • Arthur Whistler (1944-2020), American ethnobotanist (Pacific archipelago)

See also


  • Vagn Jørgensen Brøndegaard: Ethnobotanics: Plants in Customs, in History and Folk Medicine (=  contributions to ethnomedicine, ethnobotany and ethnozoology. Volume 6). Mensch & Leben, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-88911-006-1 .
  • CM Cotton: Ethnobotany: Principles and Applications. Wiley, Chichester 1997, ISBN 0-471-95537-X (English).
  • Roy Ellen: Ethnobiology and the Science of Humankind. Blackwell, Malden 2006, ISBN 978-1-4051-4589-3 (English).
  • Michael Heinrich: Ethnopharmacy and Ethnobotany: An Introduction. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-8047-1775-6 .
  • Gary J. Martin: Ethnobotany: A Methods Manual. Earthscan, London 2004, ISBN 1-84407-084-0 (English).
  • Richard Evans Schultes, Siri von Reis (Ed.): Ethnobotany: Evolution of a Discipline. Dioscorides, Portland 1995, ISBN 0-931146-28-3 (English).
  • Richard Evans Schultes , Albert Hofmann : Plants of the Gods: The magical powers of consciousness-expanding plants. With plant lexicon and overview of application. Aarau 1998, ISBN 3-85502-645-9 .
  • Ingvar Svanberg, Łukasz Łucza (Ed.): Pioneers in European Ethnobiology (=  Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Uppsala Studies on Eastern Europe. Volume 4). Uppsala University , 2014 (English; PDF: 7.5 MB, 326 pages at
  • Gerhard Wagenitz : Dictionary of Botany: The terms in their historical context. 2nd, expanded edition. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg / Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-8274-1398-2 , p. 105.

Web links

Commons : Ethnobotany  - Images and Media Files

Individual evidence

  1. Christian Rätsch : Plants of love, aphrodisiacs in myth, past and present . Magic-Bookworld, Essen 2008, ISBN 978-3-939690-01-6 , p. 26 .
  2. Kai Kupferschmidt : The plant detective. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . May 12, 2018, accessed August 10, 2020.
  3. Katja Ridderbusch, Inge Wünnenberg: Herbs against germs. In: Technology Review . June 4, 2018, accessed August 10, 2020.