Ethnobotany in Mesoamerica

  • Richard Evans Schultes
Reference work entry

The ethnobotany of Mesoamerica is extremely rich. The region is the original home of many useful plants. Amongst the numerous species, maize (Zea mays), avocado (Persea americana), henequen (Agave fourcroydes), maguey (Agave cantala), and chili pepper (Capsicum frutescens) immediately come to mind. All of these are inherited from aboriginal peoples who domesticated them long before the arrival of Europeans.

Perhaps the ethnobotanical aspect most typical of the region was the medicinal and ceremonial use of psychoactive or hallucinogenic plants. The Indian populations of Mesoamerica discovered and still employ in their magic and medicine many species with psychophysical properties. Even more significant is the evidence that from ancient times these plants have been considered sacred. That explained why the few plants with these unworldly effects amongst the half‐million species in the world have such weird effects when ingested; they must be endowed with spiritual power, according to...

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

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  • Richard Evans Schultes

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