Does scent guide Indigenous People's perception of medicinal plants?

ID: 613 / 463

Category: Abstract

Track: Pending

Proposed Symposium Title: Does scent guide Indigenous People's perception of medicinal plants?


Kimberly P. Castro, Rodrigo Cámara-Leret

Affiliations: Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland


Understanding the interactions between people and plants is of great relevance for both biodiversity and biocultural conservation efforts. The use of plants has been considerably investigated based on morphological traits, but explaining how people recognize a plant's usefulness based on chemistry has been challenging. Here, we explore to what degree the selection and utilization of medicinal plants is influenced by people's smell perception of plants. We assess this through a literature review of works published over 50 years on smell perception and Indigenous People's knowledge of tropical plants. We find that the sense of smell may very well be a nexus between human-plant interactions, but the concept has been relatively complex to establish due to the confines posed by disciplinary perspectives and methodological limitations in most studies. To advance the field, we propose integrating phytochemistry with standard ethnobotanical data collection within study communities to better understand the role of plant scents and smell perception in medicinal plant selection.

Symposia selection: 8, 147, 67

Key words: aroma, medicinal plants, organoleptic, plant chemistry, sensory, traditional knowledge