This project will investigate the folk medical beliefs and practices (particularly those involving herbs) among Mexican Americans in South Texas, many of whom still rely extensively on the folk medical system. the project will evaluate the efficacy of the herbal remedies used within this folk medical system and identify those herbs which are potentially hazardous. The results of this investigation will be made available to folk practitioners and their prospective clientele in the region, as well as to the scientific community. Using the methodology common to field investigations in medical anthropology/sociology, researchers (including MBRS students) will do the following: (1) ascertain the extent to which Mexican Americans in South Texas use herbal remedies; (2) carefully review the literature about folk healing in this region to begin identifying the herbs used in the folk medical system; (3) identify and locate the best (i.e., most popular folk healers in the region; (4) interview these practitioners in depth to discover the emic view of health and illness categories and the prescribed ritual and/or herbal treatments for various illnesses; (5) carefully document each herbal remedy, including which herb is used, what its effects are believed to be, why it is believed to produced such results, what part of the plant is used, when and how often it should be taken; (6) collect voucher specimens of the herbs for classification, for preservation, and for possible future analysis--insuring that some of the specimens conform to #5 above; (7) scientifically identify/classify the herbs; (8) carefully review the literature to discover which plants have been analyzed for chemical or pharmacological properties and to identify the active chemicals; (9) for those plants which have been analyzed, search the relevant literature to determine if the chemical properties of these plants could produce the results claimed by the folk practitioners; (10) where possible, determine from the literature which plants are toxic at what levels of use; and (11) to communicate the findings of the study tot he scholarly community through oral presentations and publications and to the subject community through publications, audiovisuals, and museum exhibits.

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