Ethnobotany of South America presents a survey over the life of the diverse Indian communities in South America, related with the use of plants. All plants are useful for them, including plants for firewood.
Foodstuff and medicinal plants, such as chocolate, coca, tobacco, sugar substitutes (stevia), species of Strichnos for anaesthesia, (used also in European medicine, but not without side effects), occupy the first rank in the list of important plants.
Other plants are used for arrow- and fish-poisons, housing and clothing, and dyeing of textiles. The use of drugs (only for religious ceremonies), is controlled by shamans, to avoid misuse. At the time of the Incas, the 'Callawayas' were specialists for medicinal herbs and were wandering as healers through the country. Exchange without money and banks was practised by the Indios since thousands of years. Women in the agricultural society accumulated knowledge of plants over hundreds of years, especially the selection and breeding of medicinal plants, passing this knowledge from generation to generation.