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Jillian De Gezelle

Teaching Associate Professor

Gardner Hall 4105


Ethnobotany is the interdisciplinary study of the relationship between plants and people. One of our primary research interests is the study of medicinal plants and traditional medical systems. We use participatory methods to document medicinal plants used in Indigenous and Immigrant communities in North and Central America in support of biocultural conservation. Some of our ethnobotanical studies lead to collaborative work with laboratories conducting bioassays for antimicrobial, anti-cancer, and hormone-micking bioactivities in the plant species we study. Historical literature including ancient and medieval herbal manuscripts also inform our bioactivity studies. In addition to the study of medicinal plants, our work also takes a broader look at traditional medical systems to study other ethnomedical topics such as traditional diagnostic techniques and treatment modalities. Our ethnobotanical studies often also include the documentation of plants used for food, construction, fiber, dye, poison, ritual and more. Plants of spiritual significance and the role of culture and spirituality in the conservation of biodiversity is another focal area of our interdisciplinary research program.

Courses Taught:

  • PB 213 Plants and Civilization
  • PB 219 Plants in Folklore, Myth, and Religion
  • PB 325 Culinary Botany
  • PB 345 Economic Botany
  • PB 495/595 Medical Ethnobotany
  • PB 595 Research Methods in Ethnobotany
  • PB 595 Ethnoecology and Biocultural Conservation

Select Publications:

Locklear, T. D., G. B. Mahady, J. Michel, J. De Gezelle, A. I. Calderon, J. A. McLeroy, J. A. McLeroy, B. J. Doyle, E. J. Carcache de Blanco, K. Nuñez Martinez, A. Perez. 2018. “The Role of Medicinal Plants in Maternal Health and Wellbeing of Women in Central America.” In: Schwartz, David (ed). Maternal Health, Pregnancy-Related Morbidity and Death Among Indigenous Women of Mexico and Central America: An Anthropological, Epidemiological and Biomedical Approach. Springer.

Wagner, C.S., J. De Gezelle, M. Robertson, K. Robertson, M. Wilson, S. Komarnytsky. 2017. Antibacterial Activity of Medicinal Plants from The Physicians of Myddvai, a 14th Century Welsh Medical Manuscript. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 203:171-181.

De Gezelle, J. 2014. Q’eqchi’ Maya Reproductive Ethnomedicine. Springer Briefs in Plant Sciences. Springer International Publishing, Switzerland.

Balick, M. J., R. Arvigo et al. 2014. Messages from the Gods: A Guide to the Useful Plants of Belize. Oxford University Press/The New York Botanical Garden, New York. [J. M. De Gezelle, Editorial Contributor].

Balick, M. J., J. M. De Gezelle and R. Arvigo. 2008. Feeling the Pulse in Maya Medicine: An Endangered Tool for Diagnosis, Therapy, and Tracking Patients’ Progress. EXPLORE-The Journal of Science and Healing 4(2):113-119.


Ph.D. Biology The City University of New York (CUNY) 2013

B.A. Biology Reed College, Portland, Oregon 2003

Area(s) of Expertise



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