Spiritual and Ceremonial Plants in North America: An Assessment of Moerman's Ethnobotanical Database Comparing Residual, Binomial, Bayesian and Imprecise Dirichlet Model (IDM) Analysis
Ethnobotanical research and the study of plants used for rituals, ceremonies and to connect with the spirit world have led to the discovery of many novel psychoactive compounds such as nicotine, caffeine, and cocaine. In North America, spiritual and ceremonial uses of plants are well documented and can be accessed online via the University of Michigan's Native American Ethnobotany Database.
Aim of the study
The objective of the study was to compare Residual, Bayesian, Binomial and Imprecise Dirichlet Model (IDM) analyses of ritual, ceremonial and spiritual plants in Moerman's ethnobotanical database and to identify genera that may be good candidates for the discovery of novel psychoactive compounds.
Materials and methods
The database was queried with the following format “Family Name AND Ceremonial OR Spiritual" for 263 North American botanical families. Spiritual and ceremonial flora consisted of 86 families with 517 species belonging to 292 genera. Spiritual taxa were then grouped further into ceremonial medicines and items categories. Residual, Bayesian, Binomial and IDM analysis were performed to identify over and under-utilized families.
The 4 statistical approaches were in good agreement when identifying under-utilized families but large families (>393 species) were underemphasized by Binomial, Bayesian and IDM approaches for over-utilization. Residual, Binomial, and IDM analysis identified similar families as over-utilized in the medium (92–392 species) and small (<92 species) classes. The families Apiaceae, Asteraceae, Ericacea, Pinaceae and Salicaceae were identified as significantly over-utilized as ceremonial medicines in medium and large sized families. Analysis of genera within the Apiaceae and Asteraceae suggest that the genus Ligusticum and Artemisia are good candidates for facilitating the discovery of novel psychoactive compounds.
The 4 statistical approaches were not consistent in the selection of over-utilization of flora. Residual analysis revealed overall trends that were supported by Binomial analysis when separated into small, medium and large families. The Bayesian, Binomial and IDM approaches identified different genera as potentially important. Species belonging to the genus Artemisia and Ligusticum were most consistently identified and may be valuable in future studies of the ethnopharmacology.
- Ceremonial plants;
- Ritual plants;
- Bayesian analysis;
- Ethnobotanical databases;
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