Symposium “Plants in Health and Culture”

Medicinal plants in health and healing in rural Crete: tailoring evidence from anthropology and medicine

Dr. Christos Lionis, Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Crete, Greece (


A bilateral agreement between the Department of Cultural and Social Studies, University of Leiden, the Netherlands and the Department of Social Medicine, University of Crete, Greece, has been established, during the past 15 years under the SOCRATES/ERASMUS European Programme.

An important cooperation between Medical Anthropology and Social Medicine was commenced and several Dutch students were invited to tailor concepts and theories from Medical Anthropology with clinical observations and experiences learned from the primary health care field.

The first student reports and the experiences exchanged between teachers created research ideas and questions leading to some hypotheses that had to be tested. A general conclusion was that a medical pluralism system was existing in rural Crete and the use of the Cretan herbs for medical purposes was found to be a key component in the established multivariate health utilization model. Thus, it was interesting to study further the potential association between the consumption of medicinal plants and health of Cretans. This presentation highlights some evidence that was emerged from anthropological fieldwork studies and experimental laboratory research. Hypotheses, which have been also formulated and remain some further research, would be outlined during this presentation. Published research in biomedical and anthropological journals will be discussed with the Symposium participants.