Folk cures

Sunday 15 December 2002

In Ethiopia, traditional healers can be a good alternative to an inefficient public health system

in many parts of Ethiopia, traditional healers are tackling malaria quite easily with the help of a few medicinal plants. This was found during a study, carried out by researchers from Germany-based Martin Luther University.

A total of 44 traditional healers were studied from two areas in Ethiopia -- Butajira and Addis Ababa. Other than general information, the healers were questioned regarding their perception about the cause of the disease, symptoms and the process of treatment.

Analysis of the answers showed that most healers considered mosquito bites and a dirty environment as the major causes for malaria. Only one healer could relate the disease with its pathogen. However, most of the healers knew the precise symptoms of the disease. The researchers identified 16 plants that were being used for treating the disease. Amongst them, eight were used more often; and included plants like papaya, garlic and fennel. Leaves were the most commonly used part of these plants, followed by the roots.

On the basis of the study, the authors conclude that these healers should be trained to provide better medicare, especially as the public health system in Ethiopia is not quite efficient. This is essential to educate people about the usefulness of biocontrols like bednets.

Commonly found malaria cures
Plant Medicinal formulation
Carica papaja Hot water extract of leaves
Adhatoda schimperiana Squeezed leaves mixed with milk
Vernonia amygdalia Hot water extract of whole plant
Artemisia rehan Aqueous solution of powdered leaves
Croton macrostchys Juice of squeezed leaves
Allium sativum Extract of grinded and macerated bulb
Withanai somenifera Aqueous solution of powdered leaves
Foenicum vulgare Hot water extract of grinded root
Traditional healers also need training
Causes perceived by healers No of healers
Mosquito bite 18      (54.55%)
Dirty environment 5      (15.2%)
Hot/cold weather 4      (12.1%)
Malnutrition 3      (9.1%)
Evil spirits 2      (6.1%)
Small germs in mosquitoes 1      (3.0%)
  Source: Tropical Doctor, October 2002, 32, 206-209

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