Modernization and Medicinal Plant Knowledge in a Caribbean Horticultural Village

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Abstract

Herbal medicine is the first response to illness in rural Dominica. Every adult knows several “bush” medicines, and knowledge varies from person to person. Anthropological convention suggests that modernization generally weakens traditional knowledge. We examine the effects of commercial occupation, consumerism, education, parenthood, age, and gender on the number of medicinal plants freelisted by individuals. All six predictors are associated with bush medical knowledge in bivariate analyses. Contrary to predictions, commercial occupation and consumerism are positively associated with herbal knowledge. Gender, age, occupation, and education are significant predictors in multivariate analysis. Women tend to recall more plants than do men. Education is negatively associated with plants listed; age positively associates with number of species listed. There are significant interactions among commercial occupation, education, age, and parenthood, suggesting that modernization has complex effects on knowledge of traditional medicine in Dominica.