Guide to Reference and Information Sources in Plant Biology (book) Web Resources 

This Web page contains the URLs and annotations for the Web-accessible resources listed in Guide to Reference and Information Sources in Plant Biology, published by Libraries Unlimited in December 2005.


Chapter 5:  Ethnobotany

Databases, Abstracts & Indexes




PubMed includes peer-reviewed articles dealing with research concerning the medical use of plants, so it is useful for ethnobotanists.  Relevant Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) include “Phytotherapy;” “Plant Extracts;” “Plants, Medicinal;” “Eclecticism, Historical;” and “Medicine, Traditional.”  Some keyword search terms that might be useful are: ethnomedicine, folk remedy(ies), home remedy(ies), folk medicine, indigenous medicine, or primitive medicine.


Back to top





Economic Botany. Vol. 1‑ . New York: New York Botanical Garden, 1947- . Quarterly. $122.00. ISSN 0013‑0001. Available electronically.


Published for the Society for Economic Botany (SEB).  "Devoted to past, present, and future uses of plants by man," with emphasis on scientific papers relating to "uses" rather than growing of plant materials.  Issues contain original research and review articles, book reviews, annotated bibliotheca, and notes on economic plants.  There is a chronological article title index for Volumes 1–50 (1947-1996) available from the SEB Web site, as well as free full-text access to this journal for Volumes 54 (2000) to the present.



Herbalgram. Vol. 1- . Austin, TX: Herb Research Foundation; American Herbal Products Association, 1984- . Quarterly. $250.00. ISSN 0899-5648. Available electronically.


Published for the American Botanical Council (ABC).  This peer-reviewed scientific journal covers medicinal plant research, research and book reviews, conference reports, legal and regulatory updates, plant patents, and ABC news.  ABC members have free access to the electronic version of Herbalgram from issue 22 (1990) to the present.  An issues list, journal departments list, author list, and topic index are also provided on their Web site.



Journal of Ethnobiology. Vol. 1- . Chapel Hill, NC: Society of Ethnobiology, 1981- . Semiannual. $80.00. ISSN 0278-0771.


Publication of the Society of Ethnobiology.  This peer-reviewed journal deals with research in “the interdisciplinary study of the relationships of plants and animals with human cultures worldwide.”  Topics include ethnobotany, paleoethnobotany, and ethnoecology, and other biological and anthropological areas. Index of Journal Articles Presented in the Journal of Ethnobiology from 1981-1999 is available electronically.


Back to top



Dictionaries and Encyclopedias


Buckingham, J. Dictionary of Natural Products. New York: Chapman and Hall, 1993. 7 vol. $6,349.95 (set). ISBN 0412466201 (set).


A massive undertaking covering over 130,000 natural products and their derivatives.  It is arranged alphabetically by name of compound.  Each entry has chemical, structural, and bibliographic information, as well as two index volumes with indexes by species, type of compound, name, molecular formula, and CAS registry number.  Annual supplements, Volume 8 (1995)-Volume 10 (1998).  Chapman and Hall/CRC Press also produce the Dictionary of Natural Products on CD-ROM (2000, ISSN 0412491508, $6,600.00) with updates every six months.  Web access is also available via Chapman and Hall/CRC CHEMnetBASE. Browse, perform searches and view search hitlists for free; subscription required to view or print the full product entries.


Back to top



Handbooks and Methods


Blumenthal, Mark, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs, Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council, 1998. 685 p. $165.00. ISBN 096555550X.


Commission E is a panel of experts first created by the German Ministry of Health in 1978 to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of herbal and phytochemical medicines.  Commission E used a bibliographic review of 100-200 global scientific references for each herb to evaluate safety and effectiveness.  They examined traditional use; chemical data; experimental, pharmacological, and toxicological studies; clinical studies; field and epidemiological studies; patient care records submitted from physicians' files and occasionally unpublished data from manufacturer.  Their findings, published in the Bundesanzeiger (German Federal Gazette) as monographs, are recognized as being the most complete and exact available on herbs and phytomedicines.  This guide contains the English translation of Germany's Commission E Monographs for 380 approved and unapproved herbs.  The introduction gives a very detailed examination about the use, sales, marketing, standards, and regulations of herbs in the United States and Europe.  There are therapeutic indexes on herbal uses, indications, contraindications, side effects, pharmacological actions, drug interactions, and duration of administration.  There are a chemical glossary and index; a taxonomic cross-reference index alphabetized by English name and followed by botanical name, plant family, pharmacopeial, and German name; and excerpts from the German Pharmacopoeia on selected herbal drugs for quality standards.  Includes appendices for abbreviations and symbols, weights and measures, German Federal Gazette, ESCOP [European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy] Monographs, World Health Organization (WHO) Monographs, general glossary, general references to sources used for the translation from German to English, and general index.  The references for literature used by the Commission members were not included in the Commission E Monographs and are available only to lawyers or scientific organizations for disputes/conflicts through the Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte (BfArM) [Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices].



Brown, Dan. Cornell University Poisonous Plants Information Database. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Animal Science Department, 2003.


Scientific and common names, primary poisons, and species most affected can be found in the Poisonous Plants database.  Details include the poisonous parts of the plant as well as a color photo, when available.  There are alphabetical listings for both the botanical and common names.  There is a list of toxic plant agents with links to associated stereochemistry and information for related classes of agents.  Poisonous plants of concern to particular animals are provided as well as details about safety issues concerning the medicinal use of plants for livestock. 



Ethnobotanical Databases.  


James A. Duke is a prolific and renowned USDA ethnobotanist and herbal researcher.  Several types of searches can be done from this Web site:  Plant Searches for chemicals and activities in a particular plant, Chemical Searches, Activity Searches, and Ethnobotany Searches for ethnobotanical uses concerning a particular plant.  Contains links to other databases and information of interest.  No longer being updated, but a valuable resource nonetheless.



Native American Ethnobotany: A Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants.


Over 44,500 items can be found in this freely accessible database that is hosted by the University of Michigan-Dearborn.  Plant species are entered into the system by scientific name, which in most cases hyperlinks to the USDA Plants Database.  Common name and plant use(s) with citation of use source are referenced for over 4,000 species and over 240 plant families.  Drugs, dyes, fibers, foods, cleaning agents are just some of the plant uses indexed here.  Entries link to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plants Database, which provides color photographs and botanical details.  The book Native American Ethnobotany is based on this database.



People and Plants Handbook: Sources for Applying Ethnobotany to Conservation and Community Development. Issue 1- . Paris: WWF, UNESCO, RGB, Kew, 1996- . Irregular. 


Publication of the World Wide Fund for Nature and UNESCO, and their associate, and Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (UK), as part of the People and Plants Initiative.  Created to provide “information on ethnobotany, conservation and development, and to enable ethnobotanists and others in developing countries to be in touch with one another and with a wider global network.”  Sources of information, ethics, methods of assessing biological resources and local knowledge, resource centers and programs, interviews, and advice from the field are some of the many topics covered in this publication.  Beginning with Issue 8 (2002), the Handbook moved from theme-focused issues to issues with news about the practices and activities of the People and Plants program. 


Back to top





The American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP). c/o David J. Slatkin, Treasurer, P.O. Box 28665, Scottsdale, AZ 85255-0161. Phone: 623-572-3500. Fax: 480-513-2782. E-Mail:


This international scientific organization works to “promote the growth, and development not only of pharmacognosy but all aspects of those sciences related to and dealing in natural products.”  Co-publishes the Journal of Natural Products with the American Chemical Society.



Herb Society of America (HSA). 9019 Kirtland Chardon Rd., Kirtland, OH 44094. Phone: 440-256-0514. Fax: 440-256-0541. E-mail:


Society members are scien­tists, educators and others interested in botanical and horticul­tural research on herbs and culinary, economic, decorative, fragrant, and historic use of herbs.  The Society maintains plant collections, seed exchanges, symposia, and annual conferences.  The National Herb Garden ( was designed and donated to the National Arboretum in Washington, DC by the HSA.  The Society operates a library on botany and horticulture, conducts slide shows and lectures, maintains speakers' bureau, and bestows awards.  Publishes The Herbarist, membership directory, and newsletter.



International Council for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ICMAP). c/o Prof. Dr. Chlodwig Franz, President, Institute for Applied Botany, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Veterinärplatz 1, A-1210 Vienna, Austria. Phone: +43 1 250 77 3101.  Fax: +43 1 250 77 3190. E-mail:


The Council was created by nine international organizations to foster cooperation concerning knowledge, education, and training concerning medicinal and aromatic plants.  Publishes the international Newsletter on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants.



International Society for Ethnopharmacology (ISE). c/o Prof. Dr. Elaine Elisabetsky, President, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Caixa Postal 5072, 90041-970 Porto Alegre RS, Brazil. Fax: +55 51 3316 3121. E-mail:


International scientists dedicated to interdisciplinary study of the physiological actions of plant, animal, and other substances used in indigenous medicines of past and present cultures.  Official journal of ISE is the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.  Web site includes information about the Society, its annual meetings and biennial congresses, upcoming conferences of other organizations, and newsletter.



International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE). c/o Executive Secretary, International Society of Ethnobiology, 250 Baldwin Hall, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. E-mail:


“Non-profit charitable organization dedicated to the research, study, promotion, and enhancement of ethnobiology.”  The Society was the first international scientific organization that formally acknowledged full respect and compensation for indigenous peoples concerning human rights, compensation for knowledge and resources, and sharing of research findings (Declaration of Belém, 1988).  Web site includes information about the Society, its biennial international congress, and links to related sites.



Society for Economic Botany (SEB). PO Box 7075, Lawrence, KS 66044. Phone: 785-843-1235; 800-627-0629. Fax: 785-843-1274. E-mail:


Botanists, anthropologists, pharmacologists, and others interested in scientific studies of useful plants.  Seeks to develop interdisciplinary channels of communication among groups concerned with past, present and future uses of plants.  Publishes Economic Botany journal, Membership Directory, Plants and People newsletter, and occasional symposium volumes.  Web site includes information about the Society, its annual meeting, related news, and free full-text access to its newsletter and recent issues (2002 to date) of their journal Economic Botany.



Society for Medicinal Plant Research (Gesellschaft fur Arzneipfl­anzenforschung-GA). c/o Dr. Renate Seitz, Secretary. Emmeringerstr. 11, D-82275 Emmering, Germany. Phone: 49 8141 613749. Fax: 49 8141 613749. E-mail:


Scientists in 70 countries who promote medicinal plant research.  Organized to serve as an international focal point for such interests as pharmacognosy, pharmacology, phytochemistry, plant biochemistry and physiology, chemistry of natural products, plant cell culture and application of medicinal plants in medicine.  Publishes newsletter and Planta Medica journal.  Web site includes information about the Society, selected workshop documents, and its annual congress and other meetings.



Society of Ethnobiology (SE). c/o Margaret Scarry, Sec.-Treas., Dept. of Anthropology, CB 3115, Alumni Bldg., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3155. Phone: 919-962-3841. Fax: 919-962-1613. E-mail:


“Non-profit professional organization dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the relationships of plants and animals with human cultures worldwide.”  Publishes Journal of Ethnobiology.  Web site includes information about the Society, its annual conferences, and links to related resources.


Back to top



Biology Library Homepage
School of Life Sciences | The Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Please send your comments on this page to Diane Schmidt.
12/22/2005   mma