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: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 1999 through August 1, 2002
Project Amount: $102,498
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Social Sciences , Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice


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.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000
  • 2001
  • Final