In recent years there has been a surge in so-called ‘medical’ or ‘shamanic’ tourism, with people from Western countries visiting retreats in foreign locations – such as the Amazon – to partake in indigenous ceremonies involving plant brews. But an overlooked element of such tourism is the question of whether this higher level of plant harvesting is sustainable.
Long-time Grailer Michael Coe, a graduate student working on his PhD in ethnobotany, is conducting research to try and answer this important question. As a recipient of the prestigious Richard Evans Schultes Award he has been able to partially fund his work already, but he is also seeking extra crowd-funding assistance for his research from the community:
Certain plant species are fundamental to the identity and longevity of cultural groups. Culturally important medicinal plants that are used for multiple purposes and have gained global attention are expected to be harvested frequently. I will identify medicinal plants that are culturally irreplaceable for local healers in Peru but that are used in medical tourism, and use mathematical models to investigate if and how harvesting these plants for medical tourism can be sustainable.
Michael’s research is endorsed by the likes of Luis Eduardo Luna and Dennis McKenna, who notes that Michael’s “important ethnobotanical fieldwork is a major undertaking, to understand the ecological and environmental context for the medicinal complex associated with ayahuasca.”
So if you’d like to help out a fellow Grailer doing legit scientific research on an important topic, head over to his page on Experiment.com and help him reach his funding goal!