Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ethnobotany



"Ethnobotany is the systematic study of the botanical knowledge of a social group and its use of locally available plants in foods, medicines, clothing, or religious rituals. Rudimentary drugs derived from plants used in folk medicines have been found to be beneficial in the treatment of many illnesses, both physical and mental." (1)

Some may wonder why ethnobotany holds such interest for me. Of course, the traditional Spokane plant knowledge is important to my personal and family history. Much of this knowledge has been lost, but its retrieval may not only restore essential cultural knowledge, but may also prove useful to our health. Just today, my wife was cured of a dreadful headache using a plant known to my ancestors.

Many traditional uses and preparation methods are private. And while I may not be able to share them in public, I would encourage people to become aware of the physical place in which they live, and to become acquainted with its various plants and natural features. As we learn to appreciate the natural spaces about us, we become more deeply connected to life.

By the way, the plant pictured here is tansy. It is native to Europe and Asia and is often considered invasive to North America. Many of its traditional uses have been discredited, especially because of its toxicity. However, some evidence persists that it may help eliminate certain pests.

Whatever the case, I do admire their bright yellow flowers. More importantly, learning to appreciate our natural environment is itself an act of devotion.

(1) ethnobotany. (n.d.). © Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, Inc.. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethnobotany

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