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In September, we happened upon this booth of medicinal cures at a market in Burkina Faso. The booth seemed to have a cure for everything: Super Health, Asthma, Hypertension, Stomach Ulcers, General Fatigue, and even a Sexual Aid for Female Frigidity (yikes!). Many of these cures are made by hand, with local herbs, and in the "Research Laboratory of Botanical Sciences," which could very well be the vendor's home.
If your initial reaction is to scoff at these herbal remedies as being rudimentary or complete hogwash, you might want to consider an article in this month's New York Times that revealed that many of the herbal supplements sold in the US are not what they claim to be. A group of Canadian researchers recently tested 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by 12 namebrand companies, and they found that many of the herbal supplements sold in the US were simply powdered rice, wheat, or soybean.
The FDA does not test or regulate herbal supplements, which allows companies to more or less fill pills with whatever they want. According to the NYT, "Of 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third showed outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place."
While we can't attest to the effectiveness of these local remedies, they are likely based on some sort of regional plant understanding that has been fostered over the years. At the very least, it's likely that these handmade medicines have much more healing potential than ground rice powder.