When Inter-Ethnic Botanical Borrowing Does Not Rely on Obvious Efficacy: Some questions from Western Amazonia

Marc Lenaerts


Inter-ethnic botanical borrowing is usually deemed to be
based on pragmatic efficiency. However, in the regional
system we discovered between several indigenous groups
from the Peruvian rainforest, the transfer of ethnomedicinal
knowledge relies much more on relational factors than
on any kind of strictly therapeutic efficacy. This is clearly
substantiated by a detailed comparison between objective
ethnobotanical measurements and indigenous selfassessments
recorded by anthropologists. Such alternative
motivations for ethnobotanical borrowing are probably
not so exceptional. They raise some questions about the
representation of plant efficiency from an indigenous point
of view, and probably in some Western contexts too. They
also entail direct implications for development and cooperation

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