The Ritual Use of Herbs for Female Genital Modifications (FGMo) in Africa

  • Pia Grassivaro Gallo
  • Miriam Manganoni
  • Franco Viviani


Different herbs are commonly used in Africa during traditional practices connected to female genital modifications (FGMo) — expansive (genital stretching) and reductive forms (infibulation). The herbal component is an integral part of ritual genital stretching, often carried out in the grassy ground. Usually, these herbs act as lubricants and/or anesthetics to help labial manipulation. In the reductive forms of FGMo (i.e., infibulation), post-intervention herbal compresses, with hemostatic and cicatrizing functions, are placed on the wound. In particular, in the infibulation ritual, substances emitting marked aromatic perfumes are used. In Somalia, in the ùnsi ceremony, incense and myrrh are burned; in Sudan, in the dukhàn ceremony, sandal and acacia woods. These are the specific smoke ceremonies purifying women. In both expansive and reductive FGMo, a deep knowledge about the local herbs is reported, which connects the present African populations with those of the past, from which they probably inherited the knowledge and the utilization of FGMo interventions.


Female Genital Mutilation Vegetal Sample Labium Minora Acacia Nilotica Labial Manipulation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pia Grassivaro Gallo
    • 1
  • Miriam Manganoni
    • 2
  • Franco Viviani
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Padua Working Group on FGMo, Department of General PsychologyUniversity of PaduaItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of UdineItaly

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