Ethnobotany, the systematic study of the relationships between plants and people, is an interdisciplinary field touching upon such areas as botany, anthropology, archaeology, medicine, geography, [linguistics]], economics, pharmacology, and so forth.
People are endowed with a curiosity about nature, as well as the attributes of reason, creativity, and heart. These are employed in an effort to better understand the mysteries of life. In terms of ethnobotany, these attributes are used to understand how different cultures classify and perceive different plants, what people do to various species of plants (such as domesitcation), and how plants influence human cultures. They even examine the use of hallucinogenic plant substances in religious ritual.
Those studying ethnobotany have made important contributions and offer future benefits. For example, the study of indigenous food production and local medicinal knowledge may have practical implications for developing sustainable agriculture and discovering new medicines.
Ideally, those involved in ethnobotany use their attributes in ways to benefit others. That is, they are motivated by heart to help others, use reason in their scientific explorations, have a curiosity to understand, and approach the subject creatively. In many ways, the history of ethnobotany reflects those attributes, as native medicines are examined to see whether they have wider availability. Religious ritual is probed to see if deeper insights are possible, and learning how people perceive plants provides insights into human nature.
The study of ethnobiology also reflects the way that many religions see human beings relative to nature, serving as stewards. From Genesis 1:28 comes the concept of the “third blessing,” that is the blessing given by God to humans to exhibit a loving dominion over nature. Human curiosity, creativity, and reason are placed in service to this role. Ultimately, ethnobotany should be based on heart. A scientist should primarily be a person with a standard of values (a person of character) and secondarily a person of science. That is, ethics should be the very basis of the science of ethnobotany. Otherwise, the science of ethnobotany can be misused, just as other sciences have been misused (biological weapons, atomic bomb, pollution, etc.)