Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Michael B. Thomas

May 2001

Chairman: Dr. J. Thomas Mullins
Major Department: Botany

This study describes details of a well-defined healing system and describes Pataxˇ plant use including scientific name, common name, plant parts used, and diseases treated. The Pataxˇ pharmacopoeia comprises at least 92 plants, which are employed to treat a variety of aliments. Pataxˇ practitioners of traditional medicine use these plants to heal and promote general health care. Their curative powers are culturally recognized and therefore they are regarded as specialists. Four individuals were interviewed to record their knowledge of medicinal plants presently in use. These individuals represent a rapidly disappearing tradition, one which is no longer being passed to the younger generation. Ninety-two plant species were identified, including 31 respective ailments, encompassing 49 families of flowering plants. Six angiosperm families (Asteraceae, Lamiaceae, Malvaceae, Leguminosae, Myrtaceae, and Rutaceae) contributed nearly half the total species. The ethnobotanical data were recorded using a new database model that provides a standardized environment for online data submission, storage, and retrieval. The model is based on object-oriented database technology. The database can store data, digital images, sound, video and can be used to model knowledge associated with plant-based medicine. The model incorporates both linguistic and semantic elements. Vocabulary terms are mapped to database objects that represent knowledge in various ethnomedicinal domains. Examples of several integrated domain models are presented which combine medical terminology with taxonomic, ecological, and pharmacological data. The distributed object infrastructure permits integration with taxonomic databases and includes an interface capable of supporting existing and emerging data standards. 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.
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