Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies for Postpartum Care and Uterine Health

Jenn Hoskins
18th June, 2024

Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies for Postpartum Care and Uterine Health

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In rural Uganda, pregnant women heavily rely on medicinal plants for inducing labor, treating postpartum hemorrhage, and inducing abortion
  • The study documented 104 plant species used for maternal health, with oral administration being the most common method
  • The use of these plants poses risks due to unspecified dosages and potential toxicity, highlighting the need for further research and integration into formal healthcare systems
Pregnant women in rural Uganda heavily rely on medicinal plants for various health needs, including inducing labor, treating postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), and inducing abortion. A recent study conducted by Makerere University documented how ethnomedical folklore aids childbirth and manages postpartum complications in Najjemebe sub-county, Buikwe district[1]. This study sheds light on the extensive use of traditional medicine, a practice deeply rooted in Uganda's culture, and its implications for maternal health. Traditional medicine is a cornerstone of healthcare in rural Uganda, with about 90% of the population relying on herbal remedies for day-to-day health care needs[2]. This reliance is particularly pronounced among women and children. The study by Makerere University involved a cross-sectional ethnobotanical survey conducted from May to December 2023, including 206 respondents from 12 villages. The key informants were Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) and herbalists, who provided insights into the use of various plants for maternal health. The study documented 104 plant species used primarily to induce labor, treat PPH, and induce abortion. The most frequently cited plants were Hoslundia opposita, Phytolacca dodecandra, and Commelina erecta. These plants belong to 49 different families, with Lamiaceae and Fabaceae being the most represented. The methods of administration included oral intake, topical application, and vaginal insertion, with oral administration being the most common. The findings of this study align with previous research which highlighted the use of 75 plant species in Bushenyi district for inducing labor, some of which may have oxytocic properties[2]. Oxytocic agents are substances that stimulate uterine contractions, which are essential during labor. However, the use of these plants comes with risks due to unspecified dosages and potential toxicity, which can endanger both the mother and the unborn child[2]. Abnormalities in uterine muscle contractility can have significant clinical implications, such as preterm labor, which is a leading cause of maternal and prenatal mortality in the Western world[3]. While natural products have been a rich source of therapeutic compounds, the lack of potency and selectivity in current interventional therapies for inducing or suppressing uterine contractions remains a challenge. The study by Makerere University underscores the need for further research into the active components and mechanisms of traditionally used uterotonic plants[3]. The study also highlights the importance of community mobilization in improving maternal health outcomes. A previous study in northwestern Nigeria demonstrated that community-based distribution of misoprostol, a drug used to prevent PPH, significantly increased its uptake and correct use through community education and involvement of TBAs and other resource persons[4]. Similarly, the Makerere University study suggests that integrating herbal medicine into formal healthcare systems and involving community stakeholders could enhance maternal health services in Uganda. In conclusion, the extensive use of medicinal plants for maternal health in rural Uganda presents both opportunities and challenges. While these plants play a crucial role in managing labor and postpartum complications, the unknown dosages and potential toxicity pose significant risks. The study calls for a reevaluation of gendered health provision policies and the integration of herbal medicine into healthcare systems to address Uganda's high rates of population growth, fertility, maternal mortality, and morbidity.



Main Study

1) Understanding maternal Ethnomedical Folklore in Central Uganda: a cross-sectional study of herbal remedies for managing Postpartum hemorrhage, inducing uterine contractions and abortion in Najjembe sub-county, Buikwe district.

Published 17th June, 2024


Related Studies

2) Medicinal plants used to induce labour during childbirth in western Uganda.

Journal: Journal of ethnopharmacology, Issue: Vol 109, Issue 1, Jan 2007

3) Uterotonic plants and their bioactive constituents.


4) Community mobilization to reduce postpartum hemorrhage in home births in northern Nigeria.


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