CSPH 5401 - People, Plants, and Drugs: Introduction to Ethnopharmacology

This course is offered completely online. 


Course Description:

Ethnopharmacology is the interdisciplinary science of medicinal plants or natural products utilized by humans. These people-plant (typically) relationships have historically and imminently have produced important medicines integral to modern medicine. Ethnopharmacology integrates aspects of botany, natural products chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacognosy, anthropology, medicine, psychology and comparative religious study. The discipline researches human interactions with biologically active plants (and other living things) as medicines, poisons, and intoxicants with a primary focus on indigenous and non- Western cultures. Ethnopharmacology seeks to document plants and animals used by various cultures, and describe their use and preparation. These plants and their preparations are then studied to identify, isolate, and characterize the active compounds responsible for the plants actions on people. 
This introductory ethnopharmacology course will cover both the ethnographic and scientific aspects critical to the process of drug discovery and the evolution of modern medicine. Students will compare cross-cultural perspectives on human interactions with drugs and examine the variety of human interaction with biologically active organisms in their environment.

Course Objectives:

  • At the conclusion of the course the student will be able to:
  • Define ethnopharmacology, and demonstrate a broad familiarity with the scope of the subject area covered by ethnopharmacology.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the principles and practices utilized in ethnopharmacological research.
  • Have an appreciation of the molecular and species diversity inherent in nature, its relevance to humanity’s well being, and the importance of its preservation.
  • Have an appreciation of contemporary issues, diverse perspectives, and ethical, commercial, and legal dilemmas related to issues pertaining to the ownership of indigenous knowledge, intellectual property, regulation of organisms, biopiracy, and genetic resources.
  • Understand the role and importance of botanical medicines in the public health programs and medical practices of developing countries and indigenous cultures.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the contributions of ethnopharmacology to Western medicine and sciences such as pharmacology and chemistry.
  • Be acquainted with the literature, databases, and other informational resources pertinent to the study and practice of ethnopharmacology.
  • Be familiar with the diverse uses of psychoactive plants in traditional and indigenous cultures, and demonstrate an understanding of cross­cultural perspectives pertinent to the use and misuse of psychoactive plants.

Course Details

Course ID: 
CSPH 5401
Graduate Students, Undergraduate students with junior status or above, or instructor consent.
Semesters Course Offered: 
Course Flyer: 
PDF icon Course Flyer (139.73 KB)


Lisa Philander