Traditional medicine — and medicinal plants in particular — have been in the news of late. Two weeks ago, for example, the New York Times reported that “Dragon’s blood” is good for you:

Researchers have discovered that a plant widely used in traditional Chinese medicine contains compounds that slow the growth of the germ that causes most peptic ulcers.

The chemists, led by Weimin Zhao of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, isolated 22 compounds from the treelike plant, Dracaena cochinchinensis, which gives off a dark-red resinous substance called dragon’s blood. They found two that were effective against the ulcer bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, and eight others that worked as blood thinners.

Their report appears in the October issue of The Journal of Natural Products.

Earlier this year, NPR ran a series on “Sacred, threatened plants of the Himalayas.” The series includes a report on Tibetan medicinal plants, which are increasingly endangered by global climate change and by global demand for the plants.

As you read or listen to these stories, keep in mind some of the different perspectives we encountered from medical anthropology this semester. How can we understand the ecological relationships between plant biodiversity and ethnomedical knowledge? What factors at a global and local level influence the use, distribution, and ownership of medicinal plants? How do U.S. media outlets depict traditional healing practices and the medicinal plants, relative to Western biomedicine? What values underlie the standards of evidence used to evaluate the efficacy of traditional healing practices?