AbstractsMedical & Health Science

The Role of Medicinal Plants in New Zealand's Settler Medical Culture, 1850s-1920s

by Joanna Lisa Bishop

Institution: University of Waikato
Year: 2014
Keywords: Medicinal plants, medical history, settler culture; medical history; settler culture
Record ID: 1317744
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/9013


Throughout history, medicinal plants have been important components of medical practices in almost all cultures of the world. This thesis focuses specifically on the changing uses and understandings of medicinal plants in New Zealand‘s settler medical culture from 1850 to 1920. Using a wide range of source material, and both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, it examines the plant species most popular in New Zealand, the reasons for their popularity, the introduction of these into the Colony, and their use and interpretation by three groups of healers: domestic healers, herbalists and doctors. This thesis deploys the concept of translation to argue that different qualities were attributed to the same plant in response to the needs and approaches of domestic healers, herbalists and doctors, each of whom had different ways of gathering, collating and assessing medico-botanical information. While British understandings of botany and medicine introduced during the course of colonisation guided healers and their use of plants in New Zealand significantly, this thesis posits that the flow of medico-botanical knowledge was more diffuse and highly complex, moving in multiple directions, and adapting and incorporating multiple meanings