Title

Yucatec Maya medicinal plants versus nonmedicinal plants: indigenous characterization and selection

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Ankli, A, Sticher, O & Heinrich, M 1999, 'Yucatec Maya medicinal plants versus nonmedicinal plants: indigenous characterization and selection', Human Ecology, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 557-580.

Publisher's version of article available at:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1018791927215

Abstract

Medicinal plants are an important part of the environment as it is perceived by Mexican indigenous groups. The aim of this study, which was conducted over a period of 18 months in three Yucatec Mayan communities, is to better understand the selection criteria for medicinal plants. An important group of selection criteria are the flavor and aroma of plants. The absence of smell or taste indicates that the taxon has no potential medical value. Medicinal plants are more often considered to be sweet or aromatic (to smell good) or astringent, while a similar percentage of medicinal and nonmedicinal plants are considered bitter, spicy, acidic, or bad smelling. The relationship between the ethnobotanical data obtained for the individual plants and the secondary plant products (natural products) prominent in each species is specifically addressed in this paper. It shows that an understanding of the indigenous concepts used to distinguish medicinal from nonmedicinal species has considerable heuristic value.