Ethnobotany in Native North America

  • Daniel E. Moerman
Reference work entry

Native American peoples developed a sophisticated plant‐based medical system in the ten millennia before the European conquest of America. Although there were significant differences between the systems developed by the many native groups, about which many fine works have been written, there were also many broad similarities which will be detailed here. There are approximately 28,000 species of plants in North America. Native Americans used about 2,500 of them medicinally (Moerman 1996, 1998); a convenient database of all of these plant uses is available at The utilized portion (the medicinal flora) is a distinctly nonrandom assortment of the plants available. The richest sources of medicines are the sunflower family (Asteraceae), the rose family (Rosaceae) and the mint family (Menthaceae). By contrast, the grass family (Poaceae) and the rush family (Juncaceae) produce practically no medicinal species. This remarkable volume and extraordinary selectivity...

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel E. Moerman

There are no affiliations available