Use Patterns of Medicinal Plants by Local Populations

  • Patrícia Muniz de MedeirosEmail author
  • Ulysses Paulino Albuquerque


In this chapter, the similarities and differences in the ways by which local populations appropriate available plant resources are discussed. Patterns related to taxonomy, plant habit, biogeographical origin, and therapeutic indications are discussed to illustrate how the environment may play an important role in the composition of local pharmacopoeias. We show that some plant families are overused for medicinal purposes in a wide variety of contexts (e.g., Asteraceae) while some others are commonly underused in several studies (e.g., Poaceae). We also challenge the idea that herbs are the main components of traditional pharmacopoeias and the idea that the entrance of exotic species in local medical systems is necessarily related to a process of acculturation. The reasons why the most important body systems (in terms of number of medicinal plants) are commonly the same are also discussed. Many of the topics addressed here could be applied to other areas of study, including ethnozoological research because little is known of the behavioral patterns related to animal use.


Evolutionary ethnobiology Human ecology Local ecological knowledge Plant resource use 



This work was supported by funding from the National Counsel of Technological and Scientific Development (CNPq—Proc. 471989/2012-6, Proc. 407583/2013-0).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrícia Muniz de Medeiros
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ulysses Paulino Albuquerque
    • 2
  1. 1.Ethnobiology and Human Ecology Group, Center of Biological and Health SciencesUniversidade Federal do Oeste da BahiaMorada Nobre, BarreirasBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratory of Applied and Theoretical Ethnobiology, Biology DepartmentUniversidade Federal Rural de PernambucoDois Irmãos, RecifeBrazil

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