Relying on nature's pharmacy in rural Burkina Faso: empirical evidence of the determinants of traditional medicine consumption

Soc Sci Med. 2011 Nov;73(10):1498-507. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.08.037. Epub 2011 Sep 28.


Traditional medicine is believed to constitute a crucial healthcare option for poor or remote households in developing countries that have limited access to allopathic medicine and/or a strong cultural attachment to traditional medicine. However, little research has been performed on medicinal plant reliance in developing countries, and the determinants of medicinal plant consumption at the household level in these countries have not been empirically studied. Quantifying the use of traditional medicine at the household level is, therefore, essential to the development of sustainable healthcare policies in the developing world. This paper quantifies household-level use of traditional medicine and identifies determinants of the choice of traditional treatment in the south central region of Burkina Faso. Structured household interviews (n = 205) were conducted in nine villages of rural Burkina Faso from November 2007 to November 2008 and in November 2009 to collect data on household characteristics (e.g., income, education, demographics), illness frequencies, illness types, and treatment strategies employed. Comprehensive analysis of treatment choice was performed through bivariate analyses. Results indicate that traditional medicine was primarily relied on by middle-aged individuals from relatively uneducated households who were living in villages with limited allopathic medicine service provision. Moreover, a differential approach to medicinal plant consumption was used to distinguish between patients using traditional medicine as a self-care treatment and those visiting a traditional healer. Although poorer households were shown to use traditional medicine as a self-treatment, traditional healers' services were relied on by wealthier households.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Burkina Faso
  • Child, Preschool
  • Concept Formation
  • Culture
  • Developing Countries
  • Empirical Research
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Medicine, African Traditional / methods
  • Medicine, African Traditional / psychology
  • Medicine, African Traditional / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Naturopathy*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires