Journal of Ethnopharmacology

The Journal of Ethnopharmacology published by Elsevier is dedicated to the exchange of information about peoples’ uses of plants, fungi and other natural products and is the official journal of the Society.


Journal of Ethnopharmacology: An interdisciplinary journal devoted to indigenous drugs

The editorial statement of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology has remained practically unchanged since the Journal was first published in 1979. Since then numerous studies in the Journal dealing with medicinal and other useful plants as well as their bioactive compounds have used a multitude of concepts and methodologies. In many cases these were interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary studies combining such diverse fields as anthropology, pharmacology, pharmacognosy…. pharmaceutical biology, natural product chemistry, toxicology, clinical research, plant physiology and others (see Soejarto, D.D., 2001, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 74: iii). However, many studies still only pay lip service to such interdisciplinary research and there still remains an urgent need to further strengthen the contributions made by anthropology and other social and cultural sciences as well as to explore the political and social implication of our research.

Since 1996, the Journal has been the official journal of the International Society for Ethnopharmacology (ISE). After recent discussions of the membership during the meeting of the Society in Zurich (CH) in September of 2000, the board took the initiative and proposed a revised statement to the editors and the publisher. We are happy to inform you today about the outcome of this discussion. With this new statement we want to draw attention to the importance of nature-derived products (plant extracts and pure compounds) in the healthcare of the original keepers of such ethnopharmacological knowledge. This needs to be a primary goal of truly interdisciplinary ethnopharmacological research.

Ethnopharmacology will also contribute to the development of new pharmaceutical products for the markets of the North. Also, truly anthropologically-oriented research on medicinal plants requires not only a detailed understanding of these medicines, but also the scientific support to autochthonous developments in order to make better use of these products. The revised statement can be found on the inside cover of the Journal and reads as follows: The Journal of Ethnopharmacology is dedicated to the exchange of information and understandings about people’s use of plants, fungi, animals, microorganisms and minerals and their biological and pharmacological effects based on the principles established through international conventions. Early people confronted with illness and disease, discovered a wealth of useful therapeutic agents in the plant and animal kingdoms. The empirical knowledge of these medicinal substances and their toxic potential was passed on by oral tradition and sometimes recorded in herbals and other texts on materia medica. Many valuable drugs of today (e.g., atropine, ephedrine, tubocurarine, digoxin, reserpine) came into use through the study of indigenous remedies. Chemists continue to use plant-derived drugs (e.g., morphine, taxol, physostigmine, quinidine, emetine) as prototypes in their attempts to develop more effective and less toxic medicinals.

In recent years the preservation of local knowledge, the promotion of indigenous medical systems in primary health care, and the conservation of biodiversity have become even more of a concern to all scientists working at the interface of social and natural sciences but especially to ethnopharmacologists. Recognizing the sovereign rights of States over their natural resources, ethnopharmacologists are particularly concerned with local people’s rights to further use and develop their autochthonous resources. Accordingly, today’s ethnopharmacological research embraces the multidisciplinary effort in the:

• documentation of indigenous medical knowledge
• scientific study of indigenous medicines in order to contribute in the long-run to improved health care in the regions of study
• as well as, search for pharmacologically unique principles from existing indigenous remedies.

The Journal of Ethnopharmacology publishes original articles concerned with the observation and experimental investigation of the biological activities of plant and animal substances used in the traditional medicine of past and present cultures. The journal will particularly welcome interdisciplinary papers with an ethnopharmacological, an ethnobotanical or an ethnochemical approach to the study of indigenous drugs. Reports of anthropological and ethnobotanical field studies fall within the journal’s scope. Studies involving pharmacological and toxicological mechanisms of action are especially welcome. Clinical studies on efficacy will be considered if contributing to the understanding of specific ethnopharmacological problems. The journal also welcomes review articles in the above mentioned fields especially on novel methodologies relevant to disease states.

We hope this will further encourage the scholarly community to submit exciting manuscripts, especially ones, which broaden our theoretical understanding in this exciting and rapidly developing discipline.

Michael Heinrich
UUBook Review Editor, JEP

ISE Official Journal:

Journal of Ethnopharmacology

Notes on the JEP

Beginnings of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology
(by Marco Leonti)