Post-Grant Reports


Peru Ethnomedical Project: Survey of Urban and Rural Community Ethnomedical Practices and Ethnobotanical Knowledge II

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Anthropology | Botany | Environmental Sciences | Plant Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology


I worked closely in northern Peru in summer 2018 with one Linfield student (Elide Sanchez Rivera) to provide key support for the ongoing efforts of a project to document and foster traditional ethnomedical practices, as well as to take first steps in an entirely new direction with this now two-decade old project. Working in pairs, Elide worked with the other MHIRT (Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training)-supported students to conduct community surveys in two neighborhoods of the traditional community of Huanchaco (the main village) and neighboring Huanchaquito on the northern edge of the Trujillo metropolitan area. Under the supervision of Dr. Douglas Sharon and me, students surveyed medicinal plant practices and knowledge among householders in these two neighborhoods. Results from the community survey were analyzed in a final report to MHIRT and translated into Spanish for use by our long-term colleagues at the Trujillo alternative medicine clinic of the national EsSalud program.

Doug Sharon’s focus for decades had been on the peri-urban communities around the major north coastal Peruvian city of Trujillo. Given my background and experience with small-scale farmers in several parts of Peru, I had been urging us to include at least some probes into rural people’s knowledge. Aided by Dr. Brian Billmann, UNC archaeologist, we managed to do a rapid assessment of ethnobotanical knowledge in the up-valley rural community of Jesus Maria. Humble as this effort was, this is very exciting, because we can already see how rural villagers have extensive but very localized knowledge of plants in their immediate area, while peri-urban dwellers have extensive but very secondhand, market-mediated plant knowledge. I am working up a paper on this comparison, perhaps with Elide’s co-authorship.

Based on more than three decades of research in north coastal Peru, we can conclude that ethnomedical systems continue to flourish alongside more standard, institutionalized allopathic systems – an exciting region of both cultural and biological diversity. Our work to date suggests that despite the slow decay of herbal medicinal knowledge, people variously situated in the Trujillo social space continue to value and utilize these remedies.


This research was conducted as part of a Linfield College Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grant in 2018, funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

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