Mothers’ medicinal plant knowledge, folk illnesses, and treatment preferences for childcare in two pluralistic healthcare settings
Little information is known on mothers’ knowledge of medicinal plants for childcare in Africa. We aimed to identify which infant illnesses mothers knew to treat with plants and for which illnesses they sought biomedical care or traditional healers. We conducted 81 questionnaires in Bénin and Gabon and made 800 botanical specimens. Mothers from both countries were most knowledgeable on plants to treat respiratory illnesses, malaria, and diarrhea. They also cited recipes to encourage children to walk early, to monitor the closure of fontanels, and for herbal enemas. Traditional healers were reported to have specialized knowledge of folk illnesses while advanced malaria was cited as an illness to directly seek biomedicine. Folk illnesses give insight into local healthcare treatments and may reveal important neglected diseases. African mothers’ knowledge of medicinal plants serves as an entry point to understanding local health concepts, treatments, and healthcare preferences.