Human Ecology

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 557–580 | Cite as

Yucatec Maya Medicinal Plants Versus Nonmedicinal Plants: Indigenous Characterization and Selection

  • Anita Ankli
  • Otto Sticher
  • Michael Heinrich


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.



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© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita Ankli
  • Otto Sticher
  • Michael Heinrich

There are no affiliations available

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