Integrating Indigenous Knowledge into Maternal and Child Health Programs in Southern Africa

  • Cheryl V. Nikodem
  • Blessing Silaigwana


Background and Significance of the topic: Indigenous knowledge (IK) can be defined as cultivated knowledge encompassing personal experiences, observations and trial and error experiments that evolved over centuries, and that are transferred from one generation to the next. This chapter presents a systematic review on the efficacy of traditional medicinal plants (TMPs) used for the treatment of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) with the intention of encouraging western health professionals to acknowledge cultural practices, and to support the use of IK, as well as the IK users’ quest for justice in accepting their health belief systems. Methodology: The methodology utilised involved a systematic review comparing the efficacy of antihelmintic plants with albendazole and/or mebendazole, and any other antihelmintic TMPs or placebo. Application/Relevance to systems analysis: A systematic review is an effective way to systematically analyse the effectiveness of traditional medicinal plants (TMPs) for use as an antihelmintic. Policy and/or practice implications: This analysis highlights the absence of high quality randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that are so critical to evidence-based healthcare and we therefore identified a need for more professionally executed studies with larger samples: results from such superior quality trials could provide sufficient, conclusive evidence to influence policy regarding the integration of plant-based antihelmintic treatment. Discussion and conclusion: This study demonstrated that TMPs was just as effective as routine treatment with albendazole or mebendazole, but slightly more adverse events were reported with the use of TMPs (19.1% vs. 16.8%). It is concluded that plant-based, antihelmintic treatment has the potential to treat intestinal helminthic infections effectively in humans. However, it must be acknowledged that not one of the studies was a true, high quality RCT, and hence there is a need for research clinicians to conduct high quality, large-scale multicentre RCTs to investigate the efficacy and safety of antihelmintic TMPs in treating helminthic infections.


Traditional medicinal plants Antihelmintic Worms Helminthiaisis 



We are grateful to the Southern African Young Scientist Summer Programme (SA-YSSP) in conjunction with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and National Research Foundation (NRF) for funding. Sincere gratitude also goes to the University of Free State librarians, Hesma and Annamarie, for their assistance in searching for studies to be included in this review.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Health SciencesUniversity of Fort HareEast LondonSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Applied Human SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalScottsville, PietermaritzburgSouth Africa

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