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Ethnomedicine in Latino Communities of Madison


David S. Kiefer
Department of Family Medicine
University of Wisconsin-Rock County


This PowerPoint-delivered case study guides the reader, a hypothetical student intern with the City of Madison (Wisconsin) Public Health Department, as he/she assists a physician who was awarded a grant to investigate the use of herbal medicines by Latinos. The focus is on Ecuadorian immigrants but more generalized herbal medicine knowledge is involved as the reader and physician explore the many aspects of traditional medicine and the intersections of those beliefs with allopathic medicine. The reader is involved with synthesizing information from scientific articles, background reading, and interviews into a concrete, practical plan for the area's clinics and retail outlets, relevant also to future research efforts. This teaching case was developed for undergraduate ethnobotany, pharmacy, and global health students, but it has also been used in medical and nursing student classes as well as with graduate students from a variety of departments.


  • Identify factors that affect why Latinos might or might not use herbal medicine either in their original country or in a newly adopted home.
  • Use an example plant species to understand the kinds of information that we should know to help us decide about using that plant as medicine (e.g., traditional use, scientific name, plant secondary compounds, and possible efficacy/safety as a medicine).
  • Compare plant use in your own life with Latino herbal medicine.
  • Demonstrate skills of performing as an effective team member.
  • Apply learning of concepts through working with a team to create a final report.
  • Demonstrate skills of participating in small group discussion.


Ethnomedicine; ethnobotany; herbal medicine; traditional medicine; cross-cultural health; mint; Latino; Hispanic patients; Ecuador; Madison; Wisconsin

Topical Areas

Social, Policy

Educational Level

Undergraduate upper division, Graduate, Professional (degree program), Clinical education


PDF, PowerPoint

Type / Methods

Directed, Discussion



Subject Headings

Botany / Plant Science  |   Interdisciplinary Sciences  |   Medicine (General)  |   Public Health  |   Pharmacy / Pharmacology  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

Supplemental materials for this case include two student handouts in MS Word format (Homework Handout and Final Report) and an MS PPT presentation for classroom presentation (see links below).

  Homework Handout
  Final Report
  Classroom PPT Presentation

Answer Key

Answer keys for the cases in our collection are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.


Vicki Kyarsgaard
Crown College
St. Bonifacius, MN
This is great! I will be using it with my Junior Community Health nursing students as an exercise in Community Assessment, trans-cultural and inter-professional practice. They have had Pharmacology, but only some exposure to cultural use of herbs and other remedies.