Program Symposium “Plants in Health and Culture”

February 16-17, 2004, Leiden


An inititiative from scientists of the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Archaeology, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, the symposium "Plants in Health and Culture" deals with the knowledge, use and role of plants, wild or cultivated,  in health care systems, herbaria and gardens, in various cultures.


Day 1: Monday 16 February. Venue: Gorlaeus Laboratoria, Einsteinweg 55, Leiden


From 8:30: coffee/tea and registration

9:30 – 10:00 Opening Session: F. Saris, Dean, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Leiden University


Session 1

Plants and Culture. Chair: H. Beukers

In this session different aspects of the role of plants in quite divergent cultures, "east" and "west" and "north" and "south", will be highlighted. It introduces the interdisciplinary area of inquiry into the roles and uses of plants, wild or cultivated, in various cultures.

10:00-10:30: L.J. Slikkerveer (Leiden University): Bio-Cultural Plant diversity in Shaman transformative knowledge and practice. [abstract]

10:30-11:00: C. Lionis (University of Crete): Medicinal plants in health and healing in rural Crete, Greece. [abstract]

Coffee/tea break: 11:00-11:30

11:30-12.00: K. Take (Leiden University, CNWS): The Role of Plants in Ñuu Sau (Mixtec) Medicine (Mexico). [abstract]

12.00-12:30: L. Zuyderhoudt (Leiden University, CNWS): Plants of the Plain Indians. [abstract]

Lunch Break: 12:30-14:00

Session 2

Psychoactive Plants in Ritual and Religion. Chair: J. Slikkerveer

This session and session 6 will consider the role of plants as source of compounds that have an effect on the human mind in various ethnocultural backgrounds.

14:00-14:30: D. Flattery (University of California, Berkeley): Central Asian ritual and psychoactive plants. [abstract]

14:30-15:00: J.E.M. Houben (Paris/Leiden): The ritual of the Soma juice:  physiological and conceptual construction of transformative experience. [abstract]

15:00-15:30: C.C. Bakels (Leiden University): Papaver somniferum culture in prehistory and early history. [abstract]

Coffee/Tea break: 15:30-16:00

Session 3

Gardens and Herbaria. Chair: J.E.M. Houben

The role of gardens and herbaria in the history of science, art and culture will be considered in this session.

16:00-16:30: P. Baas (Nationaal Herbarium Nederland): Historical and modern motives for plant exploration in South-East Asia. (N.B. This lecture has been shifted from Tuesday.) [abstract]

16:30-17:00: G. van Uffelen (Leiden University) & R. Ek (Utrecht University): Netherlands’ oldest herbarium and botanical garden: links to traditional medicine. [abstract]


Forum discussion

17:00-17:45: Forum on: Strategies and synergies in teaching and research on plants in health and culture. Chair: F. Saris, Dean, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Leiden University.

Day 2 of the Symposium “Plants in Health and Culture”

also being the

14th symposium ALW-discussion group "Secundair metabolisme in plant en plantencel"

  Tuesday 17 February. Venue: Gorlaeus Laboratoria, Einsteinweg 55, Leiden


From 8:30: coffee/tea and registration; mounting posters [poster abstracts]


Session 4

Plants in the History of Medical Applications. Chair: R. Verpoorte

The focus of this session is on the historical dimension of the use of plants in various medical knowledge systems. 

9:00-9:30: P.U. Unschuld (Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität, München): Plants and the culture of health and politics. Two thousand years of Chinese pharmaceutical history. [abstract]

9:30-10:00: A.K. Ibui (National Museums of Kenia, Nairobi): Medicinal, aromatic & cosmetic plants in Meru, Kenya. [abstract]

10:00-10:30: I. Vandebroek (Leiden University): Historical perspectives on the medicinal plants in the Bolivian Andes and Amazon. [abstract]

Coffee/Tea break: 10:30-10:45


10:45-11:15: H. Beukers (Leiden University): Japanese plant collections in the context of early nineteenth century medicine. [abstract]

11:15-11:45: Mei Wang (TNO, Leiden). Novel approaches to study traditional Chinese medicines. [abstract]

11:45-12.45: Poster session

Lunch Break: 12:45-14:00


Session 5

Wild and Domesticated Plants in Nature and Society.  Chair: P. Baas

The importance of traditional knowledge and uses of wild and domesticated plants for the exploration of novel applications.

14:00-14:30: D.J. Mabberley (Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney): Hesperides to Lemon-Aids: the ethnobotany of Citrus. [abstract]

14:30-15:00: E. de Jong (New York/Leiden University): Earth on their hands: gardeners, plants and gardening. (N.B. this lecture has been shifted from Monday). [abstract to follow]

15:00-15:30: T. van Andel (Netherlands Biodiversity Information Facility, Amsterdam): The use of plants in the daily medical practice of the peoples of the Guyanas. [abstract]

Coffee/Tea break: 15:30-16:00

Session 6

Psychoactive plants in ritual and religion, II. Chair: C.C. Bakels

16:00-16:30: R. Verpoorte (Leiden University): Ethnopharmacology as source of drugs. [abstract]

16:30-17:00: A. Hazekamp (Leiden University): Medicinal uses of Cannabis, from past to present. [abstract]

17:00-17:30: Conclusion and valediction


Advance registration before January 31 as regular or student participant is required. Registration fee including contribution for lunches is € 30, with student ID € 12. The costs for one day are respectively € 15 and € 6. Those who want to present a poster on the second day should register and send an abstract (ca. 250 words, not more than 1 page with letter size 12) per Email before 15 January. In view of the limited number of places, early registration is strongly recommended.

Further information:, or

See also the website


Organising committee Plants in Health and Culture:

Prof. Pieter Baas, National Herbarium of the Netherlands.

Prof. Corrie Bakels, Faculty of Archeology, Leiden University.

Prof. Harm Beukers, Leiden University Medical Centre.

Prof. Jan Houben, EPHE, Paris/Institute Kern, Leiden.

Prof. Jan Slikkerveer, Leiden Ethnosystems And Development Programme, Leiden University.

Prof. Rob Verpoorte, Insitute of Biology Leiden, Leiden University.



The organisation of this symposium was made possible by:

Erasmus, European Union

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Leiden University

International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS)

Leiden Ethnosystems And Development Programme (LEAD), Leiden University

Leiden University

Leids Universiteits Fonds (LUF)

National Herbarium of the Netherlands

Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Earth and Life Sciences

Research School CNWS, School of Asian, African and Amerindian Studies, Leiden University

(updated 14 february 2004)