Data reported in this study clearly show that links between taste
perceptions and the medicinal uses of herbal drugs may be quite
different across diverse cultures.
We feel that these phenomena can be much better explained using
Shepard's "sensory ecology" approach, in which sensations can be
understood as bio-cultural phenomena rooted in human physiology, but also constructed through individual experiences and culture .
Hence assumptions regarding the existence of presumed universal roles
played by chemosensory perception in the medicinal perceptions of
should be very critically verified by further studies, since
chemosensory is probably only one of the key criteria that people –
especially in urban and acculturated societies – use to "categorise"
widely available herbal drugs.
A major role in these phenomena is surely played also by individual
and collective experiences and the cultural history of botanicals too
may also explain for example in our study why South-Asians (Kashmiris
and Gujaratis) seemed to more frequently link for ginger, garlic,
clove, and cinnamon bitter and spicy tastes with medicinal perceptions.
However, our findings could have been influenced or limited by our specific research settings:
• our study was based on perceptions recorded for "only" five herbal
drugs that are widely known by all three communities. This small number
was necessary in order for us to be able to manage the research with an
acceptable sample of interviewees and in a reasonable time span;
nevertheless by targeting so few drugs, we have clearly limited the
possibility of including less known herbal drugs. In other words, our
data refer to remedies, whose "cultural history" of use has been
extraordinarily dense and have instead ignored botanicals, which are
much less used, or whose cultural history of use has been less
• while, on the one hand, the inclusion of the English group has
permitted an interesting comparison between migrant and autochthonous
communities, in contrast it has highlighted the problem of the relevant
erosion of TK (Traditional Knowledge) about medicines and herbal drugs
within this group. This in turn means that we could have "artificially"
overestimated for the English group the disjunction between specific
tastes and medicinal perceptions;
• the different age composition of the three cultural groups
(especially in the case of the English sample, which was
overrepresented by elderly people), could have had an effect on the
results of interviewees' taste perceptions regarding the herbal drugs,
although this influence could have been compensated by the effect that
may have occurred as a consequence of the major erosion of TK among the
It could be worthwhile to observe future trajectories in research on
the role played by taste in the medicinal perceptions of herbal drugs,
and to conduct further studies like this one but with broader samples
of informants and including more botanicals.
thanks are due to all the individuals involved in the study, for having
accepted to share their knowledge on herbal drugs; to the last year
MPharm students who collected the data: Alexis Tunney, Amjid Rasool,
Khuram Amini, Nafisa Hussain, Saif Rehman, Shameila Afsar, Samera
Zreen, and Wajid Hussain; to the Bradford School of Pharmacy of the
University of Bradford, for having funded the project.