Bot 761 Study Theme 1 Essay

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BOT 761 Study Theme 1: Ethnobotany and Phytochemistry by Stephen Rouncivell 27253075 BSc (Hons): Medicinal Plant Science University of Pretoria Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences Supervisor: Dr. Quentin Kritzinger 27 August 2010 INTRODUCTION The popular prefix ethno- is often used these days as it is a simple way of saying “the way other people view the world”. In short, researchers, adding this prefix to disciplines such as botany or pharmacology, are implying that local people’s cultural and scientific perceptions are being taken into account regarding these various academic disciplines. Thus, ethnobotany can be defined as “the study of the interactions between people and plants”. The broader term, ethnoecology (a.k.a. ethnobiology), as implied previously, can be defined as “the study of how people interact with all aspects of the natural environment”. Given that ethnobiology encompasses such a diverse variety of subjects pertaining to the natural environment; such as plants and animals, land forms, forest types, soil types, etc., it can be seen as multidisciplinary subject attracting a diverse community of people each bringing their own knowledge and skills to the table (Martin, 1995). Ethnobotanists are involved in the documentation, description and explanation of the complex relationships that are found to exist between cultures and the plants they have traditionally used, with particular interest being devoted to how the plants are used, managed and perceived across human societies. For example, these plants, used by various societies, may be used as a food source, as medicines, in cosmetics, dyeing, textiles, construction, rituals and divination, etc., etc. (Acharya & Shrivastava, 2008). In this text, a brief overview of how ethnobotany has changed through time will be discussed, as

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