Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Dan K. Evans, Ph.D., Chairperson

Second Advisor

Dr. Charles Somerville, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Dr. Tom Pauley, Ph.D.


Ceremonial cleansing plays a vital role in indigenous societies where ‘folk illnesses’ such as susto (fright) are common. Indigenous Andean Qechuans commonly use cleansing plants to treat susto, and related ‘folk illnesses’.The purpose of this study was to characterize and compare market plants and to define methods and knowledge used in ceremonial cleansing among Ecuadorian Qechuans. Interviews were conducted with 22 vendors at 13 marketplaces. Regression Analysis (RA) determined preferentially selected plant families and residual value of RA determined the highest and lowest preferentially selected plant families.Hierarchical cluster analysis and coefficient of similarity demonstrated the relationship between marketplaces and cleansing plants. Intracultural comparision determined if plant species from the Amazonion region were being used in the Andean markets for cleansing purposes. A total of 101 species from 50 plant families was reportedly used for cleansing. Two types of ritual cleansing (limpia) methods were recorded: internal and external cleansing. Both methods employed dulce (sweet) and amargos (bitter) plants. Mal aire (bad air), mal energia (bad energy) and susto were prominent ailments treated. Cluster analysis demonstrated that markets of Pujilli and Otovalo were the most floristically related while Cuenca was the least related of the 13. Lamiaceae had the highest number of plant species (15) used. According to residual of RA, Lamiaceae (14.4757) was the most selected and Orchidaceae (- 4.9433) was the least selected family. Highest residual of RA demonstrated preferential selection of the Lamiaceae. According to coefficient of similarity, all 13 markets share 0.75 (out of value 1) similar plant species. Similarity in market flora can be partially explained by similarity in geographic location. Further, limited markets having the fewest species shared a similar flora despite being widely separated. No significant number (11 speceis) of Amazonion plants were used in the Andean markets. Knowledge of plants used in ceremonial cleansing was prevalent throughout the study area with minor variations in species employed.


Indians of South America -- Ecuador -- Rites and ceremonies.