A Database Model for Integrating and Facilitating Collaborative Ethnomedicinal Research
Michael B. Thomas1, Nan Lin2 and Howard W. Beck3

Abstract: A model for a database system that provides a standardized environment for submission, storage, and retrieval of ethnomedicinal data was developed. The model is based on object oriented database technology, and is suitable for not only storing data, digital images, sound and video, but also for modeling domain knowledge associated with plant-based medicinal preparations utilized in systems of traditional medicine. The model incorporates both linguistic and semantic elements. Terms in natural language are mapped to database objects that represent knowledge in various ethnomedicinal domains. The distributed object infrastructure permits integration with other authoritative taxonomic databases and includes an interface capable of supporting existing and emerging standards of data. The model provides a foundation for a globally current dynamic data resource that encourages comparative ethnomedicinal research through direct contributions by members of the research community. Examples of integrated domain models are presented incorporating medical terminology, plant systematics, ecology, and pharmacology.

Keywords: ethnomedicine, ethnopharmacology, medicinal plants, ethnobotany, object database, Java, Internet.

1 Department of Botany, University of Florida, PO Box 118526, Gainesville, FL 32611-8526, Fax: (352) 392-3993, mthomas@botany.ufl.edu
2 Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville,
FL 32611-8526, (352) 392-3797, nlin@ufl.edu
3 Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville,
FL 32611-8526, (352) 392-3797, hwb@agen.ufl.edu


A Prototype for the Global Ethnomedicinal Information Retrieval System

M. B. Thomas
Department of Botany, University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611

Abstract. A model for a global ethnomedicinal information retrieval system (GEIRS) was developed using the Internet as the medium for delivery. GEIRS is a computer-based system developed to serve indigenous, educational and professional communities in which users can retrieve ethnomedicinal data. Conventional electronic retrieval techniques including hypertext and full text searching are available. A user interface was developed to provide a variety of capabilites including viewing of educational publications, illustrative botanical drawings and high resolution digitized color plant images. An object-oriented database was developed and a web interface allows users to both input and query ethnomedicinal data through the Internet. For each plant record of the database, extensive descriptive data are included. Publications for each species can be viewed onscreen or can be printed. GEIRS offers a rapid, economical and effective model for processing, storing and retrieving ethnomedicinal data as well as educational publications.

Keywords: Ethnobotany, medical botany, database, information retrieval, World Wide Web.

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