Herbal remedy knowledge acquisition and transmission among the Yucatec Maya in Tabi, Mexico: A cross-sectional study

Allison L. Hopkins, John Richard Stepp, Christopher McCarty, Judith S. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Ethnobotanical knowledge continues to be important for treating illness in many rural communities, despite access to health care clinics and pharmaceuticals. However, access to health care clinics and other modern services can have an impact on the distribution of medical ethnobotanical knowledge. Many factors have been shown to be associated with distributions in this type of knowledge. The goal of the sub-analyses reported in this paper was to better understand the relationship between herbal remedy knowledge, and two such factors, age and social network position, among the Yucatec Maya in Tabi, Yucatan. Methods: The sample consisted of 116 Yucatec Maya adults. Cultural consensus analysis was used to measure variation in herbal remedy knowledge using competence scores, which is a measure of participant agreement within a domain. Social network analysis was used to measure individual position within a network using in-degree scores, based on the number of people who asked an individual about herbal remedies. Surveys were used to capture relevant personal attributes, including age. Results: Analysis revealed a significant positive correlation between age and the herbal medicine competence score for individuals 45 and under, and no relationship for individuals over 45. There was an insignificant relationship between in-degree and competence scores for individuals 50 and under and a significant positive correlation for those over 50. Conclusions: There are two possible mechanisms that could account for the differences between cohorts: 1) knowledge accumulation over time; and/or 2) the stunting of knowledge acquisition through delayed acquisition, competing treatment options, and changes in values. Primary ethnographic evidence suggests that both mechanisms may be at play in Tabi. Future studies using longitudinal or cross-site comparisons are necessary to determine the whether and how the second mechanism is influencing the different cohorts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number33
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 30 2015


  • Ethnobotany
  • Knowledge acquisition and transmission
  • Medicinal plants
  • Yucatan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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