© 2018

Ethnoecology and Medicinal Plants of the Highland Maya


Part of the Ethnobiology book series (EBL)

Table of contents

About this book


Plants play a central role in human existence. Medicinal plants, in particular, have allowed for the continued survival of the human species. This book, based on over a decade of research in Southern Mexico with the Highland Maya, explores the relationship between medicinal plants, traditional ecological knowledge and the environment. The biodiversity of the region remains among the highest in the world, comprising more than 9000 plant species. Over 1600 employed for medicinal uses and knowledge for approximately 600 species is widespread. Medicinal plants play an overwhelmingly primary role in the daily health care of the Highland Maya. Three principal objectives are addressed: 1) identifying which medicinal plants are used; 2) determining the role of environmental variation on use and selection of medicinal plants; and 3) identifying which habitats are preferred for medicinal plant procurement. Findings demonstrate the overwhelming importance of human modified environments for medicinal plants. Explanations are presented from human ecology and biochemical ecology. Implications for conservation, health and the environment are discussed.


Maya conservation ethnobiology ethnoecology medicinal plants

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

About the authors

Dr. John Richard Stepp serves as Associate Professor of Anthropology and Latin American Studies at the University of Florida. For the last decade he has conducted ethnobiological research with the Tzeltal Maya in Highland Chiapas, Mexico. He currently coordinates an interdiscplinary research program in the Maya Forest of Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. His research explores persistence, change and variation of traditional ecological knowledge and ethnobotany.

Bibliographic information