Ethnopharmacology: quo vadis? Challenges for the future
It is well-known that humans have used medicinal plants for millennia, but as a defined field of scientific research called ethnopharmacology, it has a relatively short history. It is linked to the development of pharmacology in the 19th century (as exemplified in the work of Claude Bernard linking the explorers’ observations on traditional uses of medicines and toxins) and to fascination with psychoactive drugs in the 1960s. This fascination gave rise to what we now call ethnopharmacology, a term first used as recently as 1967. With thousands of ethnopharmacological articles published each year now, the field has expanded greatly. It nowadays covers a wide range of topics based on the anthropological, historical and other socio-cultural studies of local and traditional plants, fungi and animals; as well as the biological and clinical studies of resources used as medicines, toxins, foods, among other applications. It is one of the few fields in science truly transdisciplinary and it is a key bridge between socio-cultural and the natural/medical sciences. More importantly, ethnopharmacological research is crucial for the improvement of livelihood, health and wellbeing of humans.