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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 Oct 26;9(11):3911-33. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9113911.

Treatment of diarrhoea in rural African communities: an overview of measures to maximise the medicinal potentials of indigenous plants.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, Walter Sisulu University, Mthatha 5117, South Africa.


Diarrhoea is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in rural communities in Africa, particularly in children under the age of five. This calls for the development of cost effective alternative strategies such as the use of herbal drugs in the treatment of diarrhoea in these communities. Expenses associated with the use of orthodox medicines have generated renewed interest and reliance on indigenous medicinal plants in the treatment and management of diarrhoeal infections in rural communities. The properties of many phenolic constituents of medicinal plants such as their ability to inhibit enteropooling and delay gastrointestinal transit are very useful in the control of diarrhoea, but problems such as scarcity of valuable medicinal plants, lack of standardization of methods of preparation, poor storage conditions and incertitude in some traditional health practitioners are issues that affect the efficacy and the practice of traditional medicine in rural African communities. This review appraises the current strategies used in the treatment of diarrhoea according to the Western orthodox and indigenous African health-care systems and points out major areas that could be targeted by health-promotion efforts as a means to improve management and alleviate suffering associated with diarrhoea in rural areas of the developing world. Community education and research with indigenous knowledge holders on ways to maximise the medicinal potentials in indigenous plants could improve diarrhoea management in African rural communities.

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