Ethnobotany and Medical Anthropology
Plants and People
Many of us have seen fictionalized accounts of researchers in the jungle searching for cures for disease, yet truth be told, very few universities actually offer degrees in this fascinating discipline. The goal is generally a quest for a chemical, usually one that can be synthesized in a laboratory and commercialized, though the reality is that ethnobotanists usually spend many years in the field before they find what may be useful. A simple definition of ethnobotany might be that it is the study of how people use plants.
A closely related discipline is medical anthropology, but the scope of the discipline is somewhat broader because it refers to all practices that might alleviate disease, including rituals and psychotherapeutic approaches to healing that are regarded as effective by members of the ethnic group being studied.