Who knew bindis could pack a vitamin punch for women in India?

The small dots some Indian women sport between their eyebrows may be an ancient Hindu tradition but modern medicine hopes to use them to deliver healthy doses of iodine through women's skin, reports NPR. Iodine is an essential micronutrient, particularly for pregnant women because it's critical for fetal brain development.

Some 350 million people are at risk for iodine deficiency in India because they live in areas where crops are grown in iodine-deprived soil. And about a third of families don't have access to iodized salt.

Now the Neelvasant Medical Foundation and Research Centre of India has come up with a way to coat the back of bindis with iodine. The hope is that the iodine will absorb into a woman's skin as she wears it, and at very little cost. The organisation is calling the effort the Life-Saving Dot.

The group is still conducting research to see how effective the bindis are at delivering iodine to the bloodstream. It's also important to determine if the iodine will stay on the bindis in hot, dry conditions. So far, the iodine-infused bindis have reached more than 30,000 women in 100 villages.