Women’s Knowledge of Medicinal Plants in Madagascar’s Littoral Forest


Medicinal plants used by women from Agnalazaha littoral forest (Southeastern Madagascar)

Razafindraibe M, Kuhlman AR, Rabarison H, Rakotoarimanana V, Rajeriarison C, Rakotoarivelo N, Randrianarivony T, Rakotoarivony F, Ludovic R, Randrianasolo A, Bussmann RW
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2013 Nov 4;9:73
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3827988

Atsimo Atsinanana Region of Madagascar
Madagascar with Atsimo Atsinanana Region highlighted [Source: Esculapio, Wikimedia Commons]
Mendrika Razafindraibe and coauthors from the University of Antananarivo and Missouri Botanical Garden conducted an ethnobotanical study to assess utilization of the Agnalazaha littoral forest by women in the commune of Mahabo-Mananivo, and to determine the diversity of medicinal plants used by them.

Agnalazaha Forest is located within the Atsimo Atsinanana region of southeastern Madagascar, and has been under the management of the Missouri Botanical Garden since 2002.

Working with 498 residents of Commune Rural Mahabo-Mananivo, the team collected 152 medicinal plants used by local people, including eight native species that were very well known and used for multiple conditions:

Nepenthes madagascariensis
Nepenthes madagascariensis [Source: Yves-Pascal Suter, Wikimedia Commons]
  • Voacanga thouarsii (used in childbirth and to treat gonorrhea, syphilis, mycosis, wounds, hypertension and stomach ulcers and for the care of the digestive tract)
  • Cinnamosma madagascariensis (for dental decay and general oral care, to treat malaria, and for care of complications after childbirth)
  • Olax emirnensis (used in childbirth and to treat malaria, hepatitis, epilepsy, dysentery and fatigue)
  • Syzygium emirnense (used in childbirth and to treat diarrhea, dental disease and scabies)
  • Nepenthes madagascariensis (used in childbirth and to treat malaria, filariasis, ear infections, syphilis and gonorrhea)
  • Phyllarthron madagascariense (to support breastfeeding and treat malaria and fatigue)
  • Suregada boiviniana (to help evacuate the placenta and treat epilepsy, dysentery and malaria)
  • Asteropeia micraster (to help evacuate the placenta and treat diarrhea, fatigue and mumps)

The authors conducted their work in the context of severe biodiversity loss (particularly of the littoral forest, of which only 10% of the original forest that once stretched 1600km along the eastern coast of Madagascar remains):

“Biodiversity loss, in general, has severe implications on environmental stability which in turn affects human health. When biodiversity directly adds to the wellness of a community as a resource for medicine, biodiversity loss can have even deeper consequences as medicinal plant species are lost or are no longer available….

“Our study found that many of the medicinal species sourced from Agnalazaha Forest were also utilized for other daily living needs. Native medicinal species may also be used as timber, construction materials, and firewood. Conservation concerns mostly lie in the overuse of these valuable daily living species. Conversations with community members highlighted the concern and interest they had for protecting the natural resource of Agnalazaha Forest while ensuring the forest could still be used. It is our goal that through careful ethnobotanical studies of the modern use of Agnalazaha Forest, we can help the community of Mahabo-Mananivo understand their forest use and establish community driven sustainable conservation plans.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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