A brief history of the International Society of Ethnopharmacology

The international society of Ethnopharmacology (ISE) was initiated and founded in 1990 at a conference in Strasbourg, France by Prof. Laurent Rivier, a toxicologist.

The concept of the formation of ISE was suggested by Prof Rivier on June 20, 1986 at an editorial meeting for the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (JEP). In September 1986 an editorial entitled “Creation of the International Society for Ethnopharmacology (I.S.E.P)” was published in JEP. All responders to this editorial were considered to be founding members of ISE. The first International Congress of Ethnopharmacology was held in Strasbourg, France, on 6th June 1990.

The Strasbourg conference was partly organized to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in which the editorial board met for the second time in 10 years. Two days later on 8th June 1990, at the constitutional meeting of the society, Laurent was elected president, Prof. Jan G. Bruhn as president elect and Prof Peter de Smet was elected the treasurer. Other important original members were Profs Elaine Elisabetsky, Nina L Etkin and Xiao Pei-Gen.

Later in 1992, at a second congress on ethnopharmacology, In the years that followed a second congress in Uppsala, Sweden Profs Bo Holmstedt, Dick Schultes and Professor Finn Sandberg were appointed honorary members of ISE. A third congress in Beijing, China (1994) consisted of 500 participants, a landmark occasion for Ethnopharmacology. Chinese researchers, headed by Professor Xiao Pei-Gen at the Institute for Medicinal Plant Development (IMPLAD) in Beijing, increasingly turned to JEP to publish their research in a journal without a negative bias to “traditional medicines”.

A detailed analysis of the JEP (Journal of Ethnopharmacology) examined by Profs Nina Etkin and Paul Ross described the Journal as “a reliable gauge of what is au courant and important in ethnopharmacology”. In their review they reported that the Journal of Ethnopharmacology is “a pioneering effort to collect in one locus scientific research into indigenous medicines”.

Finally, in 1997, the then president of the International Society for Ethnopharmacology, Professor Nina I. Etkin announced that the Journal of Ethnopharmacology would be adopted as the official journal of the society. Membership and conferences are worldwide and interdisciplinary and the journal itself has become even more interdisciplinary; its contents dramatically different from its humble beginnings.


Ethnopharmacology – A journal, a definition and a society. A commentary by Jan G. Bruhn and Laurent Rivier in the Journal of Ethnopharmacolgy.

J.G.Bruhn and L.Rivier, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 242 (2019) 112005