Hybridization between biomedicine and alternative medicine in COVID-19 care in a neo-rural population of Córdoba, Argentine


  • Flavia Rosa Santoro
  • Leonardo da Silva Chaves
  • Bárbara Arias Toledo Universidad Nacional de Córdoba




Vaccine hesitancy, Social isolation, Use of masks, Medicinal plants, Urban Ethnobiology


We propose to investigate if the use and knowledge of medicinal plants and alternative medicine influence the adoption of biomedical strategies in dealing with COVID-19 - such as the use of masks, social isolation, and vaccination - in a context of a neo-rural population. We collected data through online questionnaires, using the Google Forms platform in the “Paravachasca Valley”, Córdoba, Argentine. The questionnaires, anonymous, contained multiple choice questions about attitudes and opinions concerning prophylactic strategies against COVID-19. To test whether the use or knowledge of medicinal plants is associated with trust in the efficiency and adoption of biomedical strategies, we used a chi-square test of independence. We saw that this neo-rural population does not differ from urban populations in terms of the proportion of people who deny biomedical strategies to prevent COVID-19. Furthermore, we verified that the knowledge about medicinal plants is related to distrust and reluctance to the adoption of the use of masks, social isolation, and vaccination. Also, our results suggest that alternative medicine users are afraid of the vaccine effects. In this plural medical context of a neo-rural population, belief in alternative medicines for the treatment of COVID-19 can be an obstacle to immunization programs.


Abreu, D. B. O., Santoro, F. R., Albuquerque, U. P., Ladio, A. H., & Medeiros, P. M. (2015). Medicinal plant knowledge in a context of cultural pluralism: A case study in Northeastern Brazil. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 175, 124-130. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2015.09.019

Allington, D., McAndrew, S., Moxham-Hall, V., Duffy, B. (2021). Coronavirus conspiracy suspicions, general vaccine attitudes, trust and coronavirus information source as predictors of vaccine hesitancy among UK residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological Medicine , 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291721001434 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291721001434

Alta Gracia Digital (2020). Retrieved April 3, 2020 from https://altagraciadigital.com/2018/12/13/descubriendo-el-valle-de-paravachasca/

Arias Toledo, B., Galetto, L., & Colantonio, S. (2007a). Uso de plantas medicinales y consumo de alimentos silvestres según características socio-culturales en la Comuna de Los Aromos (Córdoba). Kurtziana 33 (1): 79-88.

Arias Toledo, B., Colantonio, S & Galetto, L. (2007b). Knowledge and use of food and medicinal plants in two populations from the Chaco, Córdoba province, Argentine. Journal of Ethnobiology, 27(2), 218-232. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771(2007)27[218:KAUOEA]2.0.CO;2

Attwell, K., Ward, P. R., Meyer, S. B., Rokkas, P. J., & Leask, J. (2018). “Do-it-yourself”: Vaccine rejection and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Social Science & Medicine, 196, 106-114. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.11.022

Belliard, J. C. & Ramírez-Johnson, J. (2005). Medical pluralism in the life of a Mexican immigrant woman. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 27(3), 267-285. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0739986305278130

Brehm, S.S., Brehm, J.W. (1981). Psychological reactance: A theory of freedom and control. New York: Academic.

Cassell, J.A., Leach, M., Poltorak, M.S., Mercer, C.H., Iversen, A., & Fairhead, J.R., (2006). Is the cultural context of MMR rejection a key to an effective public health discourse? Public Health, 120, 783–794. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2006.03.011

Cheng, Y., Ma, N., Witt, C., Rapp, S., Wild, P. S., Andreae, M. O., Pöschl, U. & Su, H. (2021). Face masks effectively limit the probability of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Science, 372(6549), 1439-1443. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abg6296

C.T.R (2019) R: A language and environment for statistical computing, from https://www.r-project.org/.

Dunn, F. (1976). Traditional Asian medicine and cosmopolitan medicine as adaptive systems.. In: C. Leslie (Ed.). Asian medical systems: a comparative study (1st ed., pp. 133-158). University California Press, California. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520322295-011

Fieselmann, J., Annac, K., Erdsiek, F.,Yilmaz-Aslan, Y. & Brzoska, P. (2022) What are the reasons for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine? A qualitative analysis of social media in Germany. BMC Public Health 22, 846. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-13265-y DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-13265-y

Fong, L.K., Fong, D.P. (2002). Usage of complementary medicine among children. Australian Family Physician 31, 388–391.

Gellin, B.G., Maibach, E.W. & Marcuse, E.K. (2000). Do parents understand immunizations? A national telephone survey. Pediatrics 106, 1097–1102. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.106.5.1097

Gosnell, H., & Abrams, J. (2011). Amenity migration: diverse conceptualizations of drivers, socioeconomic dimensions, and emerging challenges. GeoJournal, 76(4), 303-322. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-009-9295-4

Gumbo, M. T., & Gaotlhobogwe, M. (2021). African Indigenous Knowledge and Practices to Combat COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 18(5), 462-481. DOI: https://doi.org/10.51327/EDTA1013

Hornsey, M. J., Lobera, J., & Díaz-Catalán, C. (2020). Vaccine hesitancy is strongly associated with distrust of conventional medicine, and only weakly associated with trust in alternative medicine. Social Science & Medicine, 255, 113019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113019

INDEC, Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Censos (2010). Retrieved March 7, 2023 from www.indec.gob.ar.

Khadka, D., Dhamala, M.K., Li, F., Aryal, P. C., Magar, P. R., Bhatta, S., Thakur, M. S., Basnet, A., Cui, D., Shi, S. (2021) The use of medicinal plants to prevent COVID-19 in Nepal. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 17, 26 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-021-00449-w DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-021-00449-w

Ladio, A. H., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2014). The concept of hybridization and its contribution to urban ethnobiology. Ethnobiology and Conservation, 3. DOI: https://doi.org/10.15451/ec2014-11-3.6-1-9

Luján, M. C., & Martínez, G. J. (2017). Dinámica del conocimiento etnobotánico en poblaciones urbanas y rurales de Córdoba (Argentina). Boletín Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Plantas Medicinales y Aromáticas, 16(3), 278-302.

Luti, R., Bertrán De Solís, M.A., Galera, M. F,. Muller De Ferreira, N., Berzal M., Nores, M., Herrera, M.A., & Barrera, Y J.C. (1979). Vegetación. In J. V., Vázquez, R. A. Miatello & M. E. Roque (Eds). Geografía Física de la Provincia de Córdoba (1st ed., pp 297-368). Boldt, Córdoba.

Martínez, G. J., Planchuelo, A. M., Fuentes, E., & Ojeda, M. (2005). A Numeric Index to Establish Conservation Priorities for Medicinal Plants in the Paravachasca Valley, Córdoba, Argentina. Biodiversity and Conservation, 15(8), 2457–2475. doi:10.1007/s10531-004-7179-y DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-004-7179-y

Mccool, S.F, & Kruger, L.E. (2003). Human migration and natural resources: Implications for land managers and challenges for researchers. USDA Forest Service - General Technical Report (PNW), 580, 1-19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2737/PNW-GTR-580

Ministerio de Salud de la Nacion (2022) - Sala de Situación Coronavirus online. Retrieved November 22, 2022 from https://www.argentina.gob.ar/salud/coronavirus-COVID-19/sala-situacion.

Mirzaie, A., Halaji, M., Dehkordi, F. S., Ranjbar, R., & Noorbazargan, H. (2020). A narrative literature review on traditional medicine options for treatment of corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 40, 101214. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101214

Muhajarine, N., Adeyinka, D.A., McCutcheon, J., Green, K.L., Fahlman, M., & Kallio, N (2021) COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and refusal and associated factors in an adult population in Saskatchewan, Canada: Evidence from predictive modelling. PLoS One 16(11): e0259513. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0259513 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0259513

Nascimento, A. L. B., Medeiros, P. M., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2018). Factors in hybridization of local medical systems: Simultaneous use of medicinal plants and modern medicine in Northeast Brazil. PLoS One, 13(11), e0206190. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0206190

Nelson, P.B. & Frost, W. (2022) Migration Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study of New England Showing Movements down the Urban Hierarchy and Ensuing Impacts on Real Estate Markets. The Professional Geographer, doi 10.1080/00330124.2022.2114092 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00330124.2022.2114092

Pochettino, M. L., Arenas, P., Sánchez, D., & Correa, R. (2008). Conocimiento botánico tradicional, circulación comercial y consumo de plantas medicinales en un área urbana de Argentina. Boletín Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Plantas Medicinales y Aromáticas, 7(3), 141-148.

Robbiati, F. O., Minervini, M. G., Triquell, X., Machado, M., & Nores, M. J. (2020). El bosque serrano en Paravachasca: conocimientos científicos y saberes tradicionales. Universidad Nacional de Córdoba. Secretaría de Extensión Universitaria. RevistaExt 11. 1-23

Rochel de Camargo, Jr. K. (2020). Here we go again: The reemergence of antivaccine activism on the internet. Cadernos de Saúde Pública, 36, e00037620. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311x00037620

Rosso, C. & Scarpa, G. (2012). Identificaciones botánicas de las plantas empleadas entre los mocovíes en la reducción San Javier durante el siglo XVIII a partir de la obra de Florián Paucke, S.J. In: P., Arenas (Ed). Etnobotánica en zonas áridas y semiáridas del Cono Sur de Sudamérica. (1st ed, pp. 45–70). Sigma, Buenos Aires.

Santoro, F. R., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2021). What factors guide healthcare strategies over time? A diachronic study focused on the role of biomedicine and the perception of diseases in the dynamics of a local medical system. Acta Botanica Brasilica, 34, 720-729. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-33062020abb0002

Santos, S. S., Santoro, F. R., & Ferreira Júnior, W. S. (2023). New evidence regarding the role of previous disease experiences on people’s knowledge and learning of medicinal plants and biomedical drugs. Ethnobotany Research and Applications, 25, 1–23. DOI: https://doi.org/10.32859/era.25.36.1-23

Soldati, G. T., Hanazaki, N., Crivos, M., & Albuquerque, U. P. (2015). Does environmental instability favor the production and horizontal transmission of knowledge regarding medicinal plants? A study in Southeast Brazil. PLoS One, 10(5), e0126389. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0126389

Taylor, S., & Asmundson, G. J. (2021). Negative attitudes about facemasks during the COVID-19 pandemic: The dual importance of perceived ineffectiveness and psychological reactance. PLoS One, 16(2), e0246317. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0246317 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0246317

Trillo, C., Arias Toledo, B. & Colantonio, S. (2016). Diferencias en el uso y la percepción del bosque por pobladores de diferente tradición cultural de la laguna de Mar Chiquita, Córdoba, Argentina. Ecología Austral, 26, 7-16. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25260/EA.

Villena-Tejada, M., Vera-Ferchau, I., Cardona-Rivero, A., Zamalloa-Cornejo, R., Quispe-Florez, M., Frisancho-Triveño, Z., Abarca-Meléndez, R. C., Alvarez-Sucari, S. G., Mejia, C. R., & Yañez, J. A. (2021). Use of medicinal plants for COVID-19 prevention and respiratory symptom treatment during the pandemic in Cusco, Peru: A cross-sectional survey. PLoS One, 16(9), e0257165. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257165 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257165

Waldstein, A. (2006). Mexican migrant ethnopharmacology: pharmacopoeia, classification of medicines and explanations of efficacy. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 108(2), 299-310. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2006.07.011

Wannes, W. A., & Tounsi, M. S. (2020). Can medicinal plants contribute to the cure of Tunisian COVID-19 patients. Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies, 8, 218-226. DOI: https://doi.org/10.22271/plants.2020.v8.i5c.1218

Watson, O.J., Barnsley, G., Toor, J., Hogan, A.B., Winskill, P., & Ghani, A.C. (2022). Global impact of the first year of COVID-19 vaccination: a mathematical modelling study. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 22(9), 1293-1302. doi 10.1016/S1473-3099(22)00320-6. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(22)00320-6

Wilson, K., Busse, J.W., Gilchrist, A., Vohra, S., Boon, H., & Mills, E. (2005). Characteristics of pediatric and adolescent patients attending a naturopathic college clinic in Canada. Pediatrics 115, e338–343. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2004-1901

Zank, S., & Hanazaki, N. (2017). The coexistence of traditional medicine and biomedicine: A study with local health experts in two Brazilian regions. PLoS One, 12(4), e0174731. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174731

Zuzak, T.J., Zuzak-Siegrist, I., Rist, L., Staubli, G., & Simoes-Wust, A.P. (2008). Attitudes towards vaccination: users of complementary and alternative medicine versus nonusers. Swiss Medical Weekly, 138, 713–718. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2008.12423




How to Cite

Santoro, F. R., da Silva Chaves, L., & Arias Toledo, B. (2023). Hybridization between biomedicine and alternative medicine in COVID-19 care in a neo-rural population of Córdoba, Argentine. Ethnobiology and Conservation, 12. https://doi.org/10.15451/ec2023-11-12.22-1-25



Original research article