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Extramural Research

Grantee Research Project Results

Grantee Research Project Results

Highland Maya Medical Ethnobotany in Ecological Perspective

EPA Grant Number: U915574
Title: Highland Maya Medical Ethnobotany in Ecological Perspective
Investigators: Stepp, John R.
Institution: University of Georgia
EPA Project Officer: Edwards, Jason
Project Period: August 1, 1999 through August 1, 2002
Project Amount: $102,498
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1999)
Research Category: Fellowship - Social Sciences , Academic Fellowships , Economics and Decision Sciences



Two-thirds of the world's population relies on plant-based medicines for primary health care. However, there has been little research on the interaction between cultural knowledge and use of medicinal plants in relation to the biophysical environment. The objective of this research project is to conduct an ethnoecological study of the most utilized medicinal plants of the Highland Tzeltal Maya in Chiapas, Mexico. The overall research design is guided by several hypotheses related to the cultural selection, procurement, and management of medicinal plants.


This research has two interrelated domains of investigation: cognitive and behavioral. This approach allows for a greater understanding of human-environmental relations by contextualizing human behavior within local perceptions of the environments. The study is based primarily on ethnographic research, which means that multiple methods—both quantitative and qualitative—are used. Also, a substantial amount of time is spent in the field. The research design is systematic as opposed to interpretive and, for the most part, involves an explanatory (hypothesis testing) approach.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, Maya, Tzeltal, Mesoamerica, Mexico, Chiapas, Highlands, ecological anthropology, medical anthropology, ethnobotany, ethnoecology, medical ethnobotany, illness, healing, medicinal plants.

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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