Medicinal Plants in Holistic Perspective - ANTB5750

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2022 to 2023.


This module is an introduction to ethnopharmacology, a multidisciplinary field of study that employs chemistry, ecology, biology, pharmacology and anthropology to evaluate and understand the use of plants (and other substances) in non-western medical systems. While students will be introduced to all of the disciplines involved in ethnopharmacological research, this module will have a heavy anthropological focus. Lecture and reading materials will address questions related to the actions of natural products in the human body, the ecological and evolutionary basis of medicinal plants use, the epistemology of non-western medical systems, the efficacy of medicinal plants and the development of pharmaceuticals based on traditional medicines. Topics discussed in class will provide ideas and models for student research projects. This module should appeal to students with interests in anthropology and/or medical care/research.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22

Private study hours: 128

Total study hours: 150


BSc Anthropology
BA Social Anthropology
Available as an elective module.

Method of assessment

Essay (2000 words) (20%)
Research Proposal (2000 words) (20%)
Examination, 2 hour (60%)

Reassessment method: Like for Like

Indicative reading

Etkin, Nina, ed. 1986. Plants in Indigenous Medicine and Diet: Biobehavioral Approaches. Bedford Hills, NY: Redgrave Publishing Co.

Evans, W. C. 1996. Trease and Evans' Pharmacognosy. London: WB Saunders Company Ltd.

Johns, Timothy 1990. With Bitter Herbs They Shall Eat it: Chemical Ecology and the Origins of Human Diet and Medicine. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
8.1 Understand theoretical concerns, methods, and findings of current theoretical research on medicinal plants.
8.2 Understand how and why medicinal plants affect human physiology.
8.3 Understand the implications of nature, complexity and richness of human diversity and adaptation in health, wellness, illness and death.
8.4 Understand the diverse strategies that humans have developed for dealing with sickness.
8.5 Understand the interaction of social, cultural and biological aspects of human groups.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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