Gastrointestinal Health as a Stimulus for Native American Attraction to Medicinal Asteraceae and Further Implications for Human Evolution.

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 11 May, 2017 - 13:15
Abstract Key Words: 
Ethnomedicines, Ethnobotany, Biocultural Evolution
, Christopher - University of Arkansas

The Asteraceae is globally the largest family of flowering plants, and its economic and medical value is apparent cross-culturally. This study examines why genera of the Aster family have remained integral in human medicinal plant knowledge, and thereby reveals potential physiological mechanisms underlining patterns of Asteraceae use. Native American plant use frequencies and their corresponding applications for symptoms relating to human organ systems are examined. Analyses reveal that gastrointestinal ailments comprise more medical uses for the Asteraceae than any other organ system targeted by taxa within the family. It is posited here that the Asteraceae’s biochemical effects on the gastrointestinal tract continues to sustain human attraction to medicinal genera within the family. Data also suggest potential evolutionary advantages for human populations able to exploit the Asteraceae for medicine. While this study is limited to Native North America, the conclusions inform anthropological understandings of human-plant selection and co-evolution with the Asteraceae.