In Haiti, Vodou priests (houngans) and priestesses (mambos) use a wide variety of plant species to treat illnesses. About 20 plants are employed as a vermifuge–a medicine that expels intestinal worms.
A recent study screened 12 commonly-used plants used in Vodou treatments for intestinal parasites to detect their effectiveness against infective-stage larvae of a species of hookworm. Four of the 12 plants demonstrate inhibitory behavior against hookworm.
In rural Haiti, commercial deworming medicines are not widely available. If available, their price puts them out of reach of most people.
Vodou practitioners thus are providing valuable health care services for the poor. Additional research on the effectiveness of various plants used could help traditional healers improve their treatments and the health of their patients.
Image: “Hookworm,” from flickr user AJC1, licensed with Creative Commons.