Introduction: Malagasy Jungle Remedy: Multipurpose Lemon

About: I want computers to be wilder. Running a Jungle makerspace in Panama.…

Health Lessons from Professional Porters in Madgascar

When doing scientific exploration in Madagascar (our project:, you get the added benefit of hanging out with the Malagasy people. Not only are they incredibly nice, the people we worked with were also amazing masters of navigating and living in the jungle. The way they moved through the rainforest was awe-inspiring, and made your own feet feel really stupid. Also, despite traversing dozens of kilometers of unexplored rain forest BAREFOOT and in shorts, their feet and legs survived much better than ours.

Obviously they are much more experienced than we were, but there also seemed to be an extra secret to their success:


Most of the porters always carried a lemon around with them. They would rub it all over their legs to fight infections, fungus, and leeches.

This is not a very complicated instructable. It basically comes down to two points for health when you are in the jungle:

  • Always Carry a Lemon
  • Rub it all over

For more descriptions, insights, discussions of parasites and diseases (and pictures of lemons in the jungle!) check out the next steps.

This is all part of the project exploring biology and technology with Dr. Brian Fisher and Hannah Perner-Wilson:

Step 1: Lemons Everywhere

It took me just one day into the expedition to start noticing the prevalence of LEMONS EVERYWHERE. The malagasy always had a lemon in hand. It became a sort of fun game to snap a photo and try to hunt down the lemons in the scene!

Step 2: Remedies: Leeches, Foot Rot, and Refreshment

Here are the main uses we noticed for this all-purposes jungle remedy. They usually start by smashing up the lemon a bit to get its juice flowing easier.


Rub the lemon juice all over your legs and the leeches seem to not attack you as much! It also feels like it cleans up your wounds a bit and stops them from getting infected.

"Foot Rot"

This was the big cure! Daily rubbing with lemon juice seemed to prevent foot rot in the first place. (As well as not wearing shoes).

The local cure for advanced cases of foot rot sounded a bit painful though!

Advanced "Foot Rot"

  1. Hold down the patient (they are gonna be kicking in pain)
  2. Heat up a lemon to boiling over a fire
  3. Rub the boiling lemon juice really hard all over their feet (They are going to scream)
  4. The painful burning supposedly lasts 3-6 hours after

Only one member of our team tried it out, and according to him it was super painful, but the day after his foot rot started going away pretty good! All the people who wimped out of the treatment, their feet just kept getting worse.


It was so hot, and arduous moving through the jungle (especially with all our gear), that sucking on a lemon MADE YOU FEEL AMAZING. Those little bits of extra sugars and citrusy chemicals gave you the super powers you needed to keep hiking for the rest of the day (even without any food!)

Home Remedies Challenge

First Prize in the
Home Remedies Challenge

Explore Science Contest

Participated in the
Explore Science Contest

Apocalypse Preparedness Contest

Participated in the
Apocalypse Preparedness Contest