Ethnomedical Research Specialist, The New York Botanical GardenPh.D., Ghent University
Expertise: Ethnobotany, Medical Anthropology, Biocultural Conservation, Community Health, Migrant Studies
I am fascinated by the dynamics of medicinal plant knowledge and use by indigenous communities in rural areas, as well as by immigrants in the urban environment. I conducted two years of postdoctoral research in the Andes and Amazon region of Bolivia where I interviewed traditional healers and community members about the medicinal plants growing in their surrounding environment. This research showed that richness of plant diversity is not necessarily an indicator of the degree of knowledge held by traditional healers, since healers who live in an environment with considerably less floristic diversity can also hold rich plant pharmacopoeias.
Currently, I am working in the urban environment in New York City with Dominican immigrants on a project funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This project contributes to our understanding of the transnational dynamics of traditional health care practices. Dominicans are an important minority group in New York City, but as immigrants, they are also more vulnerable to disparities in health or health care. They maintain strong cultural traditions, including the tradition of using medicinal plants for a variety of health conditions. When Dominicans migrate from their island in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, to a metropolis such as New York City, the plants they used at home for health care are no longer directly available to them from their patios, home gardens, agricultural fields, or growing in the wild. However, research results point to a surprising degree of overlap in medicinal plant knowledge between first generation immigrants in New York City and Dominicans in the Dominican Republic. Dominicans even acquire new medicinal uses for plants that are readily available in supermarkets in New York City, while other plants familiar to Dominicans are imported and offered for sale in New York City in specialized Afro-Caribbean and Latino community-based shops annex herbal pharmacies, called botÃ¡nicas. Our research can help to bridge the gap between traditional and biomedical health care, and as such contributes to improved health for Dominican immigrants.
Vandebroek, Ina (In Press) Intercultural health and ethnobotany: How to improve healthcare for underserved and minority communities? Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
Van Andel, Tinde, Sylvia Mitchell, Gabriele Volpato, Ina Vandebroek, Jorik Swier, Sofie Ruysschaert, Carlos Ariel Rentería Jiménez & Niels Raas (2012). In search of the perfect aphrodisiac: Parallel use of bitter tonics in West Africa and the Caribbean. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 143: 840-850, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2012.08.008
Henderson, Flor, Ina Vandebroek, Michael J. Balick & Edward J. Kennelly (2012) Ethnobotanical research skills for students of underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines. Ethnobotany Research & Applications 10: 389-402. Available at http://bit.ly/Henderson-Vandebroek-Balick-Kennelly
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