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Fertility and fontanels: women’s knowledge of medicinal plants for reproductive health and childcare in western Africa

Promotor: Prof.dr. E.F. Smets, Co-promotor: T.R. van Andel

A.M. Towns
30 September 2014
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Women’s knowledge of medicinal plants has largely been understudied in the field of ethnobotany. In addition to this gender bias, most ethnobotanical research has focused on the expert knowledge of traditional healers, overlooking the domestic knowledge of women. This is a particular concern for African women’s knowledge of reproductive health and childcare, since gynecological morbidity and infant mortality are among the most severe health problems in African countries. This dissertation sought to unravel the relationship between women and plants by assessing women’s medicinal plant knowledge and plant use practices for reproductive health and childcare in Bénin, West Africa and Gabon, Central Africa. Through the use of ethnobotanical questionnaires, botanical specimen collection, and herbal market surveys this study assesses (1) which types of vegetation women harvest for medicinal plants, (2) how closely women’s health perspectives, plant knowledge, and plant use practices reflect the statistical causes of maternal mortality (3) which infant illnesses mothers know how to treat with medicinal plants and for which illnesses they seek biomedical care or traditional healers, and (4) which species, volume, and value of medicinal plant products are sold on herbal markets in Gabon.

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