Evaluation of indigenous medicinal plants and setting priorities for their domestication in Ukambani district of Kenya
Kivyatu, Bernard Mulei
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In many developing countries, herbal medicine is the foundation of health care. This has been attributed to affordability and convenience of accessing herbal medicine. The objective of this research was to evaluate the type of medicinal plants used by Ukambani people, the ailments they treat, knowledge flow and socioeconomic drivers of herbal medicinal use. This research was carried out in Machakos, Makueni, Kitui and Mwingi districts and targeted herbalists in selected locations, and the local people in selected villages bordering urban centers and natural forests. Kitui district harbored over 40% of the herbalists. Male and female herbalists accounted for 71% and 29% respectively. The interviewed herbalists had herbal medicine practice experience ranging from 1 to 57 years. Five percent of the herbalists had been health care providers for over 50 years, while 33% had been in herbal medicine for only I to 10 years. Those who had practiced herbal medicine for 11-20 years and 21-30 years accounted for 27% and 21% respectively with 8% having practiced herbal treatment for between 31-40 years. Acquisition of herbal knowledge was mostly through family inheritance. The study revealed that those who acquired herbal knowledge from their fathers, grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers accounted for 25%, 13%, 11% and 10% respectively. Herbal medicine was sold in either powder or liquid form. Most dry and powdered packed drugs were being sold for between Kenya shillings 50 and 100 for 50 grams sachets translating to between Ksh. 1000 and 2000 per kilogram. Drugs in liquid form (made from approximately 10 grams of powdered medicine) were being sold for Ksh. 10 per glass. Storage of Strychnos henningsii, Cassia abbreviata and Albizia anthmentica was reported by 27%, 20% and 12% of the herbalists respectively. Other important plants that were stored were Zanthoxylum chalybueum, Croton megalocarpus and Terminalia brownii. Decline in availability of medicinal plants was reported by 96% of the herbalists. According to this study, there is need for domestication of popular medicinal plants since the wild resource, which accounts for 60% is diminishing. The study showed that 45% of both herbalists and local people have planted medicinal plants. However, 90% and 98% of herbalist and local people reported willingness to plant medicinal plants respectively. Priority species identified for domestication include Strychnos henningsii, Zanthoxylum chalybeum, Cassia abbreviata, Terminalia brownii, Croton megalocarpus and Albizia anthelmintica among others. This study concludes that herbal medicine is a way of life of Ukambani people with well-developed and continuous training and markets. The fact that both local people and herbalists are planting medicinal plants implies that they are willing to sustainably exploit the practice for development and health purposes.
- MST-Zoological Sciences