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Ethnomedicine of menstruation in rural Dominica, West Indies



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 May 14;153(3):624-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.03.015. Epub 2014 Mar 15.

Ethnomedicine of menstruation in rural Dominica, West Indies.

Flores KE1, Quinlan MB2.


  • 1Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, College Hall 150, PO Box 644910, Pullman, WA, USA. Electronic address: katherine.e.flores@email.wsu.edu.
  • 2Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, College Hall 150, PO Box 644910, Pullman, WA, USA.



In Dominica, women offer dysmenorrhea, delayed menses, and menorrhagia as prevalent menstrual troubles. Dominican humoral theory considers menstruation to be "hot" such that menstrual problems are caused by the introduction of too much "cold" in the body. These conditions can be painful and may require herbal medicine. Our method finds the most culturally salient plants for these conditions-those which are of common knowledge across the population. We hypothesize that cultural agreement on ethnobotanical treatments
(1) reflects their perceived ethnophysiological efficacy, and that
(2) salient plants contain bioactive compounds appropriate for the menstrual conditions for which Dominicans employ the plants.


Qualitative data on local explanatory models and treatment of menstrual conditions were collected using participant-observation, focus groups, and informal key informant interviews. Quantitative ethnobotanical data come from freelist (or "free-list") tasks, conducted with 54 adults.


Mean salience values calculated from freelisted data reveal that the same four plants,

  • Cinnamomum verum (synonym Cinnamomum zeylanicum) (Lauraceae),
  • Mentha suaveolens (Lamiaceae),
  • Pimenta racemosa (Myrtaceae) and
  • Sphagneticola trilobata (synonym Wedelia trilobata) (Asteraceae)

are used to treat dysmenorrhea and delayed menses. The only remedy reported for menorrhagia, Sphagneticola trilobata (Asteraceae), is also a treatment for dysmenorrhea and delayed menses.

The Dominican humoral system views menstruation as a "hot" condition, yet these "bush medicines" are also "hot." Dominicans do not view menstruation as a problem, rather, they reckon that excess "cold" in a woman׳s menstruating body impedes menstrual function to cause problems thus requiring "hot" plants to alleviate their symptoms. A literature review revealed that all four plants contain analgesic, anti-nociceptive, and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, Mentha suaveolens is muscle-relaxing and anti-spasmodic, Cinnamomum verum has a mild anti-coagulant, and Sphagneticola trilobata has wound healing, anti-stress, and sedative properties.


In Dominican menstrual problems there is correspondence between cultural consensus, bioactivity, and humoral theory. Examining the ethnophysiology of menstruation and its complications provides evidence for the expectations of actions and effectiveness of locally culturally salient medicinal plants.

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


Analgesic; Antinociceptive; Botany; Inflammation; Pain; Theories of illness



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