In graduate school, my focus was on maritime communities. For anyone who has read more than one or two posts in this blog, that’s no surprise. But during the time I spent as a practicing anthropologist, the opportunities to wander down towards the shore were few. I wound up working with primarily urban populations. Rather than analyzing the economic and cultural patterns of life in coastal communities, I was on the case for urban ethnic gardens, cuisine, saints festivals, and curiously folk medicine.
This innocuous detour leads me into the world of herbal and vegetative products of the garden that get used for treating any number of ills. I was deep enough in the weeds ( so to speak) that I incorporated what I found into my class lectures when I taught anthropology to nursing students.
To be clear, I was not on an adventure seeking new cures and drugs. Instead, I investigated kitchen gardens and found that any number of remedies lurked among the pot herbs. Or that across ethnic groups, a particular flowering herb had great symbolism as a sign of springtime. The same plant used in one dosage with alcohol aided digestion but stronger stimulated an abortion.
These days across the internet, there are thousands of dealers pandering miraculous herbal cures. But, if you are into this sort of medication, the alternatives could be available in your garden. Be careful, though; there are some potent and dangerous things growing in your flower patch, and more than one innocent abroad has been poisoned by sampling the unknown.


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