How scientific is the science in ethnopharmacology? Historical perspectives and epistemological problems

Gertsch, Jürg (2009). How scientific is the science in ethnopharmacology? Historical perspectives and epistemological problems. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 122(2), pp. 177-83. Shannon: Elsevier Science Ireland 10.1016/j.jep.2009.01.010

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This commentary is based on a general concern regarding the low level of self-criticism (-evaluation) in the interpretation of molecular pharmacological data published in ethnopharmacology-related journals. Reports on potentially new lead structures or pharmacological effects of medicinal plant extracts are mushrooming. At the same time, nonsense in bioassays is an increasing phenomenon in herbal medicine research. Only because a dataset is reproducible does not imply that it is meaningful. Currently, there are thousands of claims of pharmacological effects of medicinal plants and natural products. It is argued that claims to knowledge in ethnopharmacology, as in the exact sciences, should be rationally criticized if they have empirical content as it is the case with biochemical and pharmacological analyses. Here the major problem is the misemployment of the concentration-effect paradigm and the overinterpretation of data obtained in vitro. Given the almost exponential increase of scientific papers published it may be the moment to adapt to a falsificationist methodology.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine

UniBE Contributor:

Gertsch, Jürg




Elsevier Science Ireland




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 15:12

Last Modified:

04 May 2014 23:23

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URI: (FactScience: 196254)

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