Economic Botany

, Volume 69, Issue 4, pp 360–369 | Cite as

The Eruption of Technology in Traditional Medicine: How Social Media Guides the Sale of Natural Plant Products in the Sonoran Desert Region1

  • Andrew J Semotiuk
  • Nancy L Semotiuk
  • Exequiel Ezcurra

The Eruption of Technology in Traditional Medicine: How Social Media Guides the Sale of Natural Plant Products in the Sonoran Desert Region

Because the adoption of technology into traditional systems has unknown effects, we examined the hypothesis that social media aids shopkeeper selection of herbs or herbal preparations that the public is exposed to. Medicinal plant shopkeepers in southern Sonora, Mexico, were interviewed about their customer base and marketing strategy. The majority, 85%, of their customers had low to middle incomes as ranked by the shopkeepers, of which seven of seventeen incorporate social media marketing into their marketing strategy. Shopkeepers preferentially selected herbal preparations over loose herbs for online marketing. The results indicate that the incorporation of social media marketing aids a shift from herbs to herbal preparations in Sonoran traditional medicine markets. In short, social media use may act as a conditioning factor used by shopkeepers to promote herbal preparations and, in doing so, may provide a critical tool for the long–term survival of traditional plant markets, but at the risk of also contributing to the loss of the culture of home remedies and traditional domestic preparation of natural products.

Key Words

Ethnobotany selection medicinal plants social media marketing Sonora. 

La irrupción de tecnologías modernas en la medicina tradicional: Cómo los medios sociales guían la venta de productos vegetales tradicionales en la región del Desierto Sonorense

Porque la adquisición de tecnologías modernas en sistemas tradicionales tiene efectos desconocidos, examinamos la hipótesis que las redes sociales asisten a la población en la selección de vendedores o marchantes de hierbas y preparaciones de hierbas. Los marchantes de plantas medicinales en el sur de Sonora, México, fueron entrevistados acerca de su base de clientes y su estrategia de mercadotecnia. La mayoría, 85%, de los clientes fueron identificados como de ingreso bajo a medio por los propios marchantes, de la cuales siete de diecisiete incorporan redes sociales por medio del Internet en su estrategia de mercadotecnia. Los marchantes entrevistados seleccionaron preferencialmente preparaciones de hierbas más que hierbas sueltas para sus ventas en línea. Los resultados indican que la incorporación de redes sociales para apoyar las ventas impulsa un cambio de hierbas a preparaciones de hierbas en mercados de medicina tradicional en Sonora. En resumen, el uso de redes sociales puede funcionar como un factor condicionante usado por los marchantes para promover preparaciones de hierbas, y, al hacerlo, puede proveer una herramienta critica para la sobrevivencia de los mercados de plantas tradicionales en el largo plazo, pero al riesgo de también contribuir a la pérdida de una cultura de remedios de hogar y de preparación tradicional domiciliaria de productos naturales.

Supplementary material

12231_2015_9327_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 19 kb)

Literature Cited

  1. Arizona Desert Museum. 2014. The Sonoran Desert region and its subdivisions. (5 August 2014).
  2. Ayuntamiento de Cajeme. 2010. Enciclopedia de los Municipios y Delegaciones de México—Cajeme. (25 November, 2014).
  3. Ayuntamiento de Hermosillo. 2010. Enciclopedia de los Municipios y Delegaciones de México—Hermosillo. (25 November 2014).
  4. Ayuntamiento de Navojoa. 2010. Enciclopedia de los Municipios y Delegaciones de México—Navojoa. (25 November 2014).
  5. Berkes, F. 2012. Sacred ecology. New York: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  6. Bernhardt, J. M., D. Mays, and A. K. Hall. 2012. Social marketing at the right place and right time with new media. Journal of Social Marketing 2(2):130–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bussmann, R. W., N. Y. Paniagua–Zambrana, and A. L. M. Huanca. 2015. Dangerous confusion—“cola de caballo”—horsetail, in the markets of La Paz, Bolivia. Economic Botany 69(1):89–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. ———, N. Paniagua–Zambrana, M. Rivas Chamorro, N. Molina Moreira, M. Cuadros Negri, and J. Olivera. 2013. Peril in the market–classification and dosage of species used as anti–diabetics in Lima, Peru. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 9(37).Google Scholar
  9. CONABIO. 2010. Portal de geoinformación. (10 December 2014).
  10. Cowan, D., F. McGarry, H. Moran, D. McCarthy, and C. King. 2012. Dreamcatcher: IT to support indigenous people. IT Professional 14(4): 0039–0047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. eMarketer. 2012. Facebook dominates social media in Mexico.–Dominates–Social–Media–Mexico/1009255 (20 May 2013).
  12. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2014. Hermosillo. (14 November 2014).
  13. Escobar, A. 2011. Encountering development: The making and unmaking of the third world. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Euromonitor International. 2014. Herbal/traditional products in Mexico. London: Euromonitor Country Reports.Google Scholar
  15. Facebook Newsroom. 2014.–info/ (1 October 2014).
  16. Folke, C. 2006. Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social–ecological systems analyses. Global Environmental Change 16(3):253–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Foux, G. 2010. Integrating social into your business. Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice 12(2):128–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Guillaumin, M. D. 2010. Un breve comentario sobre la historia de los tianguis y los mercados de México. (6 November 2014).
  19. Hewitt de Alcántara, C. 1973. The ‘Green Revolution’ as history: A Mexican experience. Development and Change 5(2):25–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. INEGI (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía). 2010a. Informaciónn por entidad: Clima. (10 September 2014).
  21. ———. 2010b. Censo de Población. (15 November 2014).
  22. International Society of Ethnobiology. 2006. International Society of Ethnobiology Code of Ethics (with 2008 additions).–of–ethics (1 February 2012).
  23. Internet World Stats. 2015. World Internet users and population statistics. Miniwatts Marketing Group. (22 October 2015).
  24. Krigas, N., V. Menteli, and D. Vokou. 2014. The electronic trade in Greek endemic plants: Biodiversity, commercial and legal aspects. Economic Botany 68(1):85–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee, S., C. Xiao, and S. Pei, 2008. Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants at periodic markets of Honghe Prefecture in Yunnan Province, SW China. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 117(2):362–377.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Long Towell, J. and A. A. Lecón. 2010. Caminos y mercados de México. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.Google Scholar
  27. López, A. 2012. The media ecosystem: What ecology can teach us about responsible media practice. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.Google Scholar
  28. Luquín, L. H. 2005. Origen y evolución de los mercados públicos en la zona metropolitana de Guadalajara. Mercados Municipales en Guadalajara – 1era parte. Guadalajara, Mexico: Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente. (24 September 2014).
  29. Mangold, W. G. and D. J. Faulds. 2009. Social media: The new hybrid element of the promotion mix. Business Horizons 52(4):357–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Monteiro, J. M., E. de Lima Araújo, E. L. C. Amorim, and U. P. de Albuquerque. 2010. Local markets and medicinal plant commerce: A review with emphasis on Brazil. Economic Botany 64(4):352–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Owiny, S. A., K. Mehta, and A. N. Maretzki. 2014. The use of social media technologies to create, preserve, and disseminate indigenous knowledge and skills to communities in East Africa. International Journal of Communication 8:14.Google Scholar
  32. Pew Research Center. 2014. Emerging nations embrace Internet, mobile technology: Cell phones nearly ubiquitous in many countries.–nations–embrace–internet–mobile–technology (20 May 2014).
  33. ———. 2015. Internet use over time. Data Trends.–trend/internet–use/internet–use–over–time/ (22 October 2015).
  34. R Core Team. 2015. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. (available at
  35. Safko, L. and Brake. 2009. The social media bible. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  36. Sánchez, V., 2010. Mercados Mexicanos, síntesis y germen de cultura.–mercados–mexicanos–sintesis–y–germen–de–cultura (11 November 2010).
  37. Scott, D. M. 2013. The new rules of marketing & PR: How to use social media, online video, mobile applications, blogs, news releases, and viral marketing to reach buyers directly. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  38. Sistema de Información Cultural. 2009. Historia de los mercados en México. (5 November 2014).
  39. Smith, A. 2003. Mexican cultural profile.–latino/mexican–cultural–profile (1 November 2014).
  40. Vervoort, J., M. Hoogstra, K. Kok, R. van Lammeren, A. Bregt, and R. Janssen. 2014. Visualizing stakeholder perspectives for reflection and dialogue on scale dynamics in social–ecological systems. Human Ecology Review 20(2):157.Google Scholar
  41. Walsh, C. 2011. Drugs, the Internet and change. Journal of psychoactive drugs 43(1):55–63.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wenger, E., N. White, and J. D. Smith. 2009. Digital habitats: Stewarding technology for communities. Portland, Oregon: CPsquare.Google Scholar
  43. WHO (World Health Organization). 2002. WHO traditional medicine strategy 2002–2005. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  44. Yetman, D., T. R. Van Devender, P. Jenkins, and M. Fishbein. 1995. The Río Mayo: A history of studies. Journal of the Southwest 37(2):294–345.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew J Semotiuk
    • 1
  • Nancy L Semotiuk
    • 2
  • Exequiel Ezcurra
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Botany and Plant SciencesUniversity of California, RiversideRiversideUSA
  2. 2.Department of Communications and LanguagesWalla Walla UniversityCollege PlaceUSA

Personalised recommendations