Ethnobotanical knowledge on botanical repellents employed in the African region against mosquito vectors
Native people from Africa regions know three major methods of using repellent plants: (i) production of repellent smoke from burning plants, (ii) hanging plants inside the house or sprinkling leaves on the floor, (iii) the use of plant oils and juices from crushed fresh plants applied on uncovered parts of the body.
Mosquitoes represent a threat for millions of humans and animals worldwide, since they are vectors for parasites and pathogens, including malaria, filariasis and important arboviruses, such as dengue, West Nile and Zika virus. There are no vaccines or specific treatments available against the arboviruses transmitted by mosquitoes, and avoidance of mosquito bites remains the best strategy. The aim of this review was to summarise the knowledge about botanical mosquito repellents used in rural African areas. The use of repellent plants is the most used and most efficient method against vectors in endemic areas of Africa. The knowledge of such plants is passed on orally from one generation to another. Ethnobotanical research projects carried out in endemic regions of Africa indicate that its native inhabitants traditionally used 64 plant species belonging to 30 families. Aromatic plants were the most commonly used in all the study regions. The studies covered by this review were conducted only in a limited part of the African continent, highlighting the importance to undertake further research to preserve the unique knowledge and traditions of the native tribes. The authors searched several databases but did not describe further review methodology.