The ethnomedical use of Black Drink to treat iron deficiency anemia in Bastimentos, Panama
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Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world and intestinal parasites are estimated to be responsible for 30-57% of IDA cases (Yip 2001; Stoltzfus 1997). With an iron-poor diet and the high incidence of blood-sucking helminthes, the people in Bastimentos, Panama struggle with IDA. Black Drink is the ethnopharmacological answer to these pathologies. It is prepared with juice from Citrus aurantifolia, a cast iron vessel, and three biologically active plants, Stachytarpheta jamaicensis, Hyptis suaveolens, and Senna spp. The iron content and the pharmacognosy of the plants used to prepare Black Drink are investigated here. Analysis of Black Drink revealed an iron content of 2.5% indicating a dose of iron comparable to that prescribed by U.S. physicians for IDA. In Bastimentos, Panama, Black Drink is an effective, affordable, two-prong strategy for the treatment of IDA, intestinal parasite burdens, and is congruent with the popular therapeutic traditions.