This article describes the market for medicinal plants sold in the Vietnamese town of Sapa as well as in nine different markets in the Vietnamese capital city, Hanoi. A total of 44 medicinal plants were identified botanically, 27 of which are on sale in Sapa and 28 in Hanoi. Most buyers of medicinal plants in Sapa are members of the Vietnamese middle classes who go to Sapa on holidays. Medicinal plants are gathered or cultivated predominantly by members of ethnic minority groups (Hmong and Dao) who live in small hamlets, some located several hours from the town of Sapa. Sapa is one of the poorest districts in Vietnam with a GDP per household of only U.S. $322 in 2005, so the cash that people are able to earn from the sale of medicinal plants is very important. The article argues that the social roles of the weekend market in Sapa are equally important, as the market helps ethnic minorities to fulfil their needs for a social life beyond the village.
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Vol. 59 • No. 4