Maternal Health in Central America: The Role of Medicinal Plants in the Pregnancy-Related Health and Well-Being of Indigenous Women in Central America

  • Tracie D. Locklear
  • Gail B. Mahady
  • Joanna Michel
  • Jillian De Gezelle
  • Angela I. Calderón
  • Jordan Alma McLeroy
  • Jesse Alice McLeroy
  • Brian J. Doyle
  • Esperanza J. Carcache de Blanco
  • Kelvin Nuñez Martinez
  • Alice L. Perez
Part of the Global Maternal and Child Health book series (GMCH)


Over the past 20 years, Central America (CA) has made considerable progress in improving the health status of its populations. However, in some countries, the overall health status remains below average with poor outcomes concentrated geographically among the poor and Indigenous populations. Although Indigenous people make up the second largest population in CA, these populations have less access to healthcare, and funding for initiatives to improve maternal health is scarce. In many communities across CA, women continue to rely heavily on plant-based medicines for health and well-being, and yet there is a paucity of information regarding the safety and efficacy of these therapies. Sourced from available academic, governmental, and gray literature, in both English and Spanish, this chapter reviews maternal health issues among the Indigenous, Ladino, and other ethnic women of CA, evaluates the role of traditional medicine practices and their influence on maternal health outcomes, and reviews the existing scientific evidence supporting the use of traditional (i.e., plant-based) medicines for pregnancy-related health conditions.


Indigenous women Medicinal plants Traditional medicine Herbal medicine Mexico Central America Reproductive health El Salvador Guatemala Honduras Belize Nicaragua Costa Rica Panama Maternal health Traditional birth attendant Midwife Comadrona Partera Nahua Maya Pregnancy Maternal mortality Maternal death 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tracie D. Locklear
    • 1
  • Gail B. Mahady
    • 2
  • Joanna Michel
    • 3
  • Jillian De Gezelle
    • 4
  • Angela I. Calderón
    • 5
  • Jordan Alma McLeroy
    • 5
  • Jesse Alice McLeroy
    • 5
  • Brian J. Doyle
    • 6
  • Esperanza J. Carcache de Blanco
    • 7
  • Kelvin Nuñez Martinez
    • 8
  • Alice L. Perez
    • 9
  1. 1.Outcomes Research and Assessment GroupDuke Clinical Research Institute, Duke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Medical EducationUniversity of Illinois at Chicago, College of MedicineChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Plant & Microbial BiologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  5. 5.Department of Drug Discovery and Development, Harrison School of PharmacyAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  6. 6.Departments of Biology and BiochemistryAlma CollegeAlmaUSA
  7. 7.Pharmacy Practice and Science, Medicinal Chemistry and PharmacognosyOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  8. 8.Universidad Nacional Autonoma de NicaraguaLeonNicaragua
  9. 9.School of Chemistry and Natural Products Research Center, University of Costa RicaSan JoséCosta Rica

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