Open Access

Ethnobotanical survey in Canhane village, district of Massingir, Mozambique: medicinal plants and traditional knowledge

  • Ana Ribeiro1Email author,
  • Maria M Romeiras1,
  • João Tavares1 and
  • Maria T Faria2
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine20106:33

DOI: 10.1186/1746-4269-6-33

Received: 18 June 2010

Accepted: 3 December 2010

Published: 3 December 2010

Abstract

Background

Medicinal plants are used by 80% of people from developing countries to fulfill their primary health needs, occupying a key position on plant research and medicine. Taking into account that, besides their pharmaceutical importance, these plants contribute greatly to ecosystems' stability, a continuous documentation and preservation of traditional knowledge is a priority. The objective of this study was to organize a database of medicinal plants including their applications and associated procedures in Canhane village, district of Massingir, province of Gaza, Mozambique.

Methods

In order to gather information about indigenous medicinal plants and to maximize the collection of local knowledge, eleven informants were selected taking into account the dimension of the site and the fact that the vegetation presents a great homogeneity. The data were collected through intensive structured and semi-structured interviews performed during field research. Taxonomical identification of plant species was based on field observations and herbarium collections.

Results

A total of 53 plant species have been reported, which were used to treat 50 different human health problems. More than half of the species were used for stomach and intestine related disturbances (including major diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery). Additionally, four species with therapeutic applications were reported for the first time, whose potential can further be exploited. The great majority of the identified species was also associated with beliefs and myths and/or used as food. In general, the community was conscientious and motivated about conservational issues and has adopted measures for the rational use of medicinal plants.

Conclusions

The ethnomedicinal use of plant species was documented in the Canhane village. The local community had a rich ethnobotanical knowledge and adopted sound management conservation practices. The data compiled in this study show the social importance of the surveyed plants being a contribution to the documentation of PGR at the national and regional level.

Background

In ancient times, medicinal plants have been used all over the world as unique sources of medicines and may constitute the most common human use of biodiversity [1, 2]. According to the World Health Organization, 80% of people in developing countries still depend on local medicinal plants to fulfill their primary health needs [3]. Besides that, there is a global consensus on the benefits of phytopharmacy and at present medicinal plants occupy a key position in plant research and medicine. These facts associated with the progressive loss of traditional knowledge, due to rural exodus, and with the threats to which Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) are exposed, make the efforts to study and preserve PGR relevant in every respect. In this context, several conservation studies have been performed [46].

Like most African countries, Mozambique is an important repository of biological diversity. This diversity is used by ca. 90% of the country's population to fulfill its housing, food, energy and health needs. According to [7], in Mozambique approximately 15% of the total PGR (ca. 5,500 plant species) is used by rural communities for medical purposes and plays a key role in basic health care. Despite a long history of medicinal plants use in Mozambique, research on this subject is still incipient [810] and poorly disseminated, focusing mainly on medicinal plant markets and trade issues from Maputo province [7]. The work presented in this article reports on the utilization of medicinal plants in the Canhane village, district of Massingir, Province of Gaza. The last survey in the region dates from 1960-70 [11, 12].

Canhane village is located 32° 09' 30" E and 24° 4' 30" S (Figure 1). With an extension of 7,200 ha, the village has a flat landscape with slopes ranging from 0 to 2% and altitudes from 95 m N to 200 m S [13]. The climate is semi-arid with two seasons: (i) dry season (April/May to October/November), with temperatures varying from 14.5°C to 28.5°C and a maximum annual precipitation of 67.9 mm; and (ii) hot and rainy season (October/November to April/May), with temperatures ranging from 19.9°C to 32.8°C and a maximum annual precipitation of 370 mm [14]. The humidity index may vary between -50 and -70, the negative values indicating the dryness of the region [15]. The soils are essentially sandy with a low to moderate percentage of organic matter (0-3%) and thus poor for agriculture.
https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1746-4269-6-33/MediaObjects/13002_2010_Article_206_Fig1_HTML.jpg
Figure 1

Geographical location of the study site. Left: Map of Mozambique illustrating the geographical position of the Province of Gaza and the District of Massingir. Right: Geographical position of Canhane within the District of Massingir.

The village has 1357 inhabitants (51% women, 49% men) the great majority belonging to the Valoyi ("Witch doctor") family from the Changana ethnic group [16, 17]. The community has poor access to water resources, health services (the closest health center is located in the Massingir village, seven Km away from Canhane), trading and communications, an obsolete energy system and an unsuccessful school system. Due to the lack of a local health center, traditional medicine plays an important role in basic health care. The main activity is agriculture, followed by livestock and fisheries. Handicraft is a tertiary activity.

The major habitat types of Canhane are woodlands, savannah and grasslands [18, 19]. Currently, the vegetation communities are at different levels of degradation mainly due to human practices (e.g. production of firewood, charcoal and grazing). The over-exploitation of resources and the limiting environmental conditions seem to be associated with the decay of the resilient capacity of the ecosystems as evidenced by the occurrence of great devastated areas [17].

With this study, we intended to contribute to the conservation and valorization of the local floristic and cultural heritage. It should be noted that the study area is of particular importance, since it is located in the heart of the Limpopo National Park, which together with Kruger National Park (South Africa) and Gonarezhou National Park (Zimbabwe) constitute the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and Conservation Area (GLTP). The study reports on 53 medicinal plant species and their traditional applications.

Methods

Ethnobotanical data collection

The work was initiated with a meeting between the researchers, the community leader and the Commission for Social Management from Canhane Village, in order to: i) explain the aim and importance of the work and its integration on the Community-based Development Program; ii) get cooperation and permission to use the cultural heritage; iii) collect information for structuring the interviews; iv) give orientations for the selection of informants by age and gender; and v) plan the field activities.

Eleven informants (six men and five women) were selected as the best traditional knowledge holders. The selection criteria were based on the size of the study site, the vegetation homogeneity and on the indications provided by the community.

Due to reasons related to beliefs and myths, it was not possible to get the information directly from Witch doctors. However, it should be highlighted that most of the Canhane inhabitants belong to the Valoyi ("Witch doctor") family. Using standard methods [20, 21], the data was collected through intensive structured interviews and complemented with semi-structured interviews in local language (i.e. Changana). These included: common and local name of the plant, applications, parts of the plant used, methods of preparation and administration routes. Translation to Portuguese was validated by linguistic specialists.

Taxonomic identification

The medicinal plants reported by the informants were collected during three field surveys (in October of 2007 and in March and November of 2008). The team was accompanied by two local guides with a deep knowledge of local flora. Species identification was done during the field visits and by comparing voucher specimens with specimens deposited at the Herbarium of the Faculty of Sciences, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (LMU, Maputo, Mozambique). The scientific names were confirmed through specialized bibliography [2225] as well as the African Plant Database [26], Tropicos database [27] and the International Plant Names Index [28]. Additional information was gathered from the study of numerous herbarium specimens, mainly from the Tropical Research Institute Herbarium (LISC, Lisbon, Portugal).

Results and Discussion

Medicinal Plants' Survey

A total of 53 plant species distributed over 47 genera and 31 families were reported by the 11 informants (Table 1). All the reported species grew naturally in the area, reflecting the social importance of the local floristic resources. Most of the identified plants were shrubs or trees (15 spp. or 28.3%), herbs and trees (11 spp. for each category or 20.8%), and shrubs (nine species or 17.0%). The best represented families were Fabaceae (six species), Euphorbiaceae (four species) and Tiliaceae (three species). Altogether the 53 species were used to treat 50 different human health problems (Table 1), the great majority of which (75.5%) having more than one medical application. The most cited species were Euclea racemosa (ca. 82%), Colophospermum mopane, Cucumis sp. and Elephantorrhiza elephantina (ca. 73% each species), Cassia abbreviata and Cissus quadrangularis (ca. 64% each species), Aloe marlothii, Maerua edulis, Secamone parvifolia and Terminalia sericea (ca. 55% each species) and Boscia albitrunca, Gossypium herbaceum and Gymnosporia heterophylla (ca. 46% each species) (data not shown). The number of medicinal plants and their potential applications reflect the rich ethnomedicinal knowledge in the Canhane community. Similar potentialities were found in other African countries like Cameroon [29] and Ethiopia [3032] as well as in non-African countries [3335]. Certainly, there is a lot more knowledge to exploit on the topic in Mozambique.
Table 1

Medicinal plants (53 spp.) used in the Canhane village (2007- 2008)

Scientific name*

Local and Common name

Habit

Part used

Main Diseases

Administration Route

Method of preparation

Acanthaceae

      

Blepharis diversispina (Nees) C.B. Clarke

Nchachacha wa mananga

Velvet bushwillow

Sub-shrub or Herb

Fruits

Hemorrhoids

Topic

Burning and grinding

    

Cough

Oral

Grinding and maceration

   

Roots

Hemorrhoids

Topic

Burning and grinding

   

Seeds

Wounds

Topic

Burning and grinding

    

Fontanel hardening

Topic

Burning and grinding

Aloaceae

      

Aloe marlothii A. Berger

Mhanga

Flat-flowered aloe, Mountain aloe

Herb

Leaves (sap)

Biliary disorder; Malaria

Oral

Direct

    

Wounds

Topic

Direct

   

Roots; Leaves

Toothache

Oral

Direct; Decoction

    

Liver disorder

Oral

Decoction

Aloe zebrina Baker

Ximhangani

Small maculate aloe

Herb

Leaves (sap)

Eye treatments

Eyewash

Direct; Maceration

    

Wounds

Topic

Direct

   

Roots

Liver disorder

Oral

Decoction

Amaryllidaceae

      

Crinum stuhlmannii Baker

Khonwua

Candy-striped crinum

Herb

Stem

Swellings

Topic

Decoction

Anacardiaceae

      

Lannea schweinfurthii (Engl.) Engl.

Xivombo nkanyi, xihumbunkany, munganikomo

False marula

Tree

Bark

Anemia; Diarrhea; Stomach disorders

Oral

Decoction

   

Stem

Malaria

Oral

Decoction

Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Hochst.

Nkanyi

Marula

Tree

Bark

Anemia

Oral

Infusion

    

Diarrhea; Stomach disorders

Oral

Scraping and decoction

    

Hemorrhoids

Topic

Decoction and vapors; Scraping

   

Stem

Anemia

Oral

Maceration

Apocynaceae

      

Sarcostemma viminale (L.) R. Br.

Neta, netha

Caustic vine

Herb (succulent)

Root

Stomach ache

Oral

Decoction

   

Sap

Eye treatments

Eyewash

Direct

Secamone parvifolia (Oliv.) Bullock

Nyokani, nyoka ya yitsongo

Milimili

Shrub

Roots

Deworming; Rheumatism

Oral

Decoction

    

Epilepsy

Oral

Decoction; Heating; Grinding and water

    

Stomach ache

Oral

Crushing and water; Decoction

   

Stem; Roots

Varicose veins

Topic

Decoction

Asparagaceae

      

Asparagus africanus Lam.

Kwangwa la tilo

Bush asparagus

Shrub

Roots

Stomach disorders

Oral

Decoction

   

Whole plant

Stomach disorders

Oral

Grinding and maceration

Balanitaceae

      

Balanites maughamii Sprague

Nulu, nulo

Green thorn, Y-thorned

Tree

Roots

Malaria

Oral

Scraping and infusion

Bombacaceae

      

Adansonia digitata L.

Ximuwa, ximuhu, ximuvo

Baobab

Tree

Bark

Debility

Bath

Maceration

   

Roots

Diarrhea

Oral

Maceration

Capparaceae

      

Boscia albitrunca (Burch.) Gilg & Gilg-Ben.

Nxunkutso, xikutse, xikutso, xikutsu, xukutsi

Shepherd's tree

Shrub or tree

Leaves

Diarrhea; Hemorrhoids

Topic

Crushing and infusion

Boscia foetida Schinz subsp. filipes (Gilg) Lötter

Xicutso

Bushveld shepherds tree, sandveld shepherds, tree smelly shepherds tree

Shrub

Roots

Stomach and kidney purification

Oral

Infusion

Maerua edulis (Gilg & Gilg-Ben. ) De Wolf

Xikolwa, xikolwe

Blue-leaved bush cherry

Suffrutex or Shrub

Roots

Women fertility,

Oral

Decoction; Infusion

    

Stomach ache

Oral

Decoction

Maerua parvifolia Pax

Nongonoko

Dwarf bush-cherry, small-leaved maerua

Shrub

Roots

Diarrhea; Stomach ache and purification

Oral

Decoction

Celastraceae

      

Loeseneriella crenata (Klotzsch) Wilczek ex N.Hallé

Lorho, nhlohlo

Valley paddle-pod

Climbing shrub

Roots

Epilepsy; Stomach ache

Oral

Decoction

    

Malnutrition

Oral; Vaccine

Burning and decoction; Grinding; Scraping and burning

   

Stem

Antialergic

Necklace

Direct

Gymnosporia heterophylla (Eckl. & Zeyh.) Loes.

Xivambulani, xichangwa, libatzondze

Angular-stemmed spikethorn, common spikethorn

Shrub or Small tree

Leaves

Swellings

Oral

Decoction

   

Roots

Internal clots

Oral

Decoction

    

Stabbing heart

Oral; Topic

Burning and grinding; Decoction; Scraping

Combretaceae

      

Combretum imberbe Wawra

Mondzo

Leadwood

Shrub or tree

Bark

Toothache

Oral

Decoction

   

NA

Stomach ache

Oral

Burning and watering

Terminalia sericea Burch. ex DC.

Nsunsu, nkonola, kondla, mogonono

Silver cluster-leaf, silver terminalia

Tree

Branches (bark)

Burns; Wounds

Topic

Drying and grinding

   

Leaves

Stomach ache

Oral

Decoction

   

Roots

Diarrhea

Oral

Decoction

    

Burns; Wounds

Topic

Drying and grinding; Scraping

Cucurbitaceae

      

Cucumis metuliferus E.Mey. ex Naudin

Dema

Herb

Roots

Appendicitis; Stomach ache

Oral

Decoction

Cucumis zeyheri Sond.

Xiyakayani, xihakahani, chihacaiane

Wild cucumber

Herb

Fruits

Stomach disorders

Oral

Drying and grinding

    

Laxative

Enema

Decanting and filtration; Grinding; Maceration

   

Leaves

Dysentery; Laxative

Oral

Decoction; Maceration

Dracaenaceae

      

Sansevieria hyacinthoides (L.) Druce

Xikwenga xa kwhati

Mother-in-law tongue

Herb

Leaves

Contusions; Hemorrhoids; Rheumatism; Swellings;

Topic

Decoction and vapors; Heating

   

Roots

Women fertility

Oral

Crushing and water

    

Epilepsy

Oral

Decoction

Ebenaceae

      

Euclea racemosa Murr.

Mulala, nhlangulo

Bush guarri, glossy guarri river guarri

Shrub

Roots

Caries; Toothache

Oral

Direct (chewing)

    

Wounds

Topic

Peeling and grinding

   

Stem

Wounds

Bath

Cutting and water

Euphorbiaceae

      

Acalypha indica L.

Ntlambissana

Copperleaf, indian nettle

Herb

Leaves

Hemorrhoids

Oral; Topic

Crushing; Decoction

    

Intestinal lavage

Enema

Grinding and decoction; Maceration

    

Laxative

Oral; Topic

Crushing; Infusion

   

Roots

Laxative

Oral

Decoction; Infusion

   

Stem

Hemorrhoids

Oral

Decoction

Androstachys johnsonii Prain

Cimbiri

Lebombo-ironwood, simbi tree

Tree

NA

NA

NA

Kept in secret by Hitch doctors

Flueggea virosa (Roxb. ex Willd.) Voigt

Nsangasi, sangasi

Snowberry tree, whiteberry bush

Shrub

Branches

Abcesses

Topic

Heating (with castor oil on top)

Spirostachys africana Sond.

Xilangamahlo, dzanvori

African Sandal, tamboti

Tree

Bark

Debility (HIV-AIDS)

Oral

Decoction (in milk)

   

Sap

Ear and eye treatments

Topic

Direct

   

Stem

Burns, Wounds

Topic

Burning; Grinding; Scraping

Fabaceae

      

Cassia abbreviata Oliv.

Lumanyama

Longtail cassia, sjambok pod

Tree

Fruits

Eye treatments

Eyewash

Heating and grinding

   

Leaves, roots and stems (mix)

Stomach ache

Oral

Infusion

   

Roots (bark)

Diarrhea

Oral

Decoction

   

Stem

Malaria; Stomach ache

Oral

Decoction

Colophospermum mopane (Benth.) Léonard

Gungwa, nxanati, nxanatsi, mesanya

Mopane

Shrub or Tree

Bark

Bleeding; Dysentery; Stomach ache

Oral

Decoction

   

Leaves

Stomach ache

Oral

Crushing; Direct (chewing); Infusion

    

Dysentery

Oral

Grinding and water

   

Roots

Stomach ache

Oral

Decoction

   

Stem; Stem and leaves (mix)

Stomach ache; Diarrhea

Oral

Decoction; Infusion

Dalbergia melanoxylon Guill. & Perr.

Xipaladze, xiphalanzi

African blackwood

Shrub or Tree

Roots

Toothache

Oral

Decoction

Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight & Arn

Ndzenga, ntsenga, ndzhenga

Small-leaved sickle bush

Shrub or Small tree

Roots

Skeletal disorders

Topic; Vaccine

Burning and grinding; Scraping

   

Roots (sap)

Laxative

Oral

Direct

Elephantorrhiza elephantina (Burch.) Skeels

Xivurayi

Dwarf elephant's root

Shrub or Sub-shrub

Roots

Anemia

Oral

Cutting and maceration; Decoction and grinding

    

Pain killer, Fever

Oral

Decoction

Guibourtia conjugata (Bolle) J. Léonard

Ntsotso

Small copalwood, small false mopane

Tree

Leaves

Stomach disorders

Oral

Crushing and water

   

Roots

Intense cough

Oral

Decoction

Malvaceae

      

Gossypium herbaceum L.

Thonji ra khwati, thondji la khwati, nuba

Wild cotton

Sub-shrub

Fruits

Ear treatment

Topic

Direct

   

Roots

Vomits control

Oral

Decoction

    

Tonic

Oral

Decoction

Hibiscus meyeri Harv.

Muxaxayevu, kongowa, kloklonya, muchachanyevo

Dainty white wild hibiscus, lebombo hibiscus

Herb

Roots

Tonic, Stabbing heart

Oral

Decoction

Meliaceae

      

Trichilia emetica Vahl subsp. emetica

Nkuhlu

Natal-mahogany

Tree

Branches (sap)

Stomach ache

Oral

Direct (chewing)

   

Roots

Contraceptive

Oral

Infusion

Menispermaceae

      

Tinospora caffra (Miers) Troupin

Nyokani ya yikulo, nyoka ya yikulu

Orange grape creeper

Creeper

Leaves

Paralysis and Children diseases

Oral

Decoction

   

Roots

Epilepsy; Pain killer;; Paralysis and Children diseases; Stomach ache

Oral

Decoction; Infusion

   

Stem

Epilepsy

Oral

Decoction

Moraceae

      

Ficus sycomorus L.

Nkuwa

Common cluster fig, sycamore fig

Tree

Sap

Ringworm

Topic

Direct

Olacaceae

      

Olax dissitiflora Oliv.

Nkondzomhuntana, ximanimurhi, nondzomuntana

Small sourplum, small-fruit olax

Shrub or Tree

Leaves

Wounds

Topic

Grinding

Ximenia americana L.

Ntsengele, matsengele, tsingela

Blue sourplum, small sourplum

Shrub or Tree

Roots

Antiabortifacients, HIV-AIDS, Menstrual cycle, Stabbing heart, Stomach ache, Women fertility,

Oral

Decoction

    

Wounds

Topic

Drying and grinding

Orchidaceae

      

Ansellia africana Lindl.

Phakama

Leopard orchid, monkey sugarcane, mopane orchid, tree orchid

Herb (Epiphyte)

Fruits

Cough, Rheumatism

Necklace, Bath

Direct; Heating and grinding

   

Fruits and stem (mix)

Cough

Oral

Decoction

Poaceae

      

Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.

Rintlhangi, nulangi-rithangi

Bermuda grass

Herb

Leaves

Antiabortifacients

Oral

Grinding and water

Ptaeroxylaceae

      

Ptaeroxylon obliquum Radlk.

Ndzharhi

Sneezewood

Shrub or Tree

Sap

Stomach ache

Oral

Direct

Rubiaceae

      

Gardenia volkensii K. Schum.

Xitsalala

Bushveld, savanna or woodland gardenia, transvaal gardenia

Shrub or Tree

Leaves

Stomach ache

Oral

Grinding and water

Rutaceae

      

Zanthoxylum humile (E.A. Bruce) P. G. Waterman

Manungwani, manongwane, manungwame

Hairy knobwood

Shrub

Roots

Mouth anesthetic; Toothache

Oral; Topic

Decoction; Peeling, grinding, drying. and grinding

    

Wounds and Burns

Topic

Peeling, grinding, drying. and grinding

   

Stem

Pain killer

Vaccine

Burning

Sapotaceae

      

Manilkara mochisia (Baker) Dubard

N'whamba, wambo, n'wambu

Lowveld milkberry

Shrub or tree

Roots

Toothache

Oral; Topic

Decoction; Maceration and scrapping

    

Ear treatments

Topic

Direct

Strychnaceae

      

Strychnos madagascariensis Spreng. ex Baker

Nkwankwa

Black monkey-orange, hairy-leaved monkey-orange

Shrub or Tree

Roots

Fever

Oral

Peeling and decoction

Sterculiaceae

      

Hermannia micropetala Harv. & Sond.

Sindzambita, xisindzambita

Cactus wine, wild grape

Shrub or Sub-shrub

Fruits

Laxative

Topic

Juice

   

Leaves

Laxative

Topic

Juice

   

Roots

Fontanel hardening

Topic

Burning and oil

Tiliaceae

      

Grewia flavescens Juss. var. flavescens

Nsihana, nsiphane, dzuwa wa mananga

Donkeyberry, Sandpaper raisin, Rough-leaved raisin

Climbing shrub

Leaves

Stomach disorders

NA

NA

Grewia hexamita Burret

Nsihana, nsihani, nsihane, nsiphane

Giant grewia, Giant raisin

Shrub or Tree

Roots

Menstrual cycle, Women Fertility

Oral

Infusion

   

Sap

Post-delivery cleaning

Oral

Direct

Grewia monticola Sond.

Nsihana, nsihani, nsiphane

Grey grewia, Grey raisin, Silver raisin

Shrub or Tree

Fruits

Ear treatments

Topic

Heating and grinding

   

Fruits; Seeds

Wounds

Topic

Heating and grinding

   

Roots

Diarrhea

Oral

Decoction

   

Stem

Swellings

Topic

Heating

Vitaceae

      

Cissus cornifolia (Bak.) Planch.

Mphesani, mphensana

Ivy-grape

Shrub or Tree

Roots

Burns; Wounds

Topic

Crushing

Cissus quadrangularis L.

Covoloti, Covoluti

Cactus vine, wild grape

Creeper (succulent)

Roots

Ear treatments

Topic

Warming and squeezing

   

Sap

Ear treatments; Wounds

Topic

Direct

   

Seeds

Antidote; Wounds

Topic

Grinding

   

Stem

Sprains; Swellings

Topic

Heating

    

Cough

Oral

Cutting and decoction

    

Antidote; Wounds

Topic

Crushing and water

Family, scientific, local and common names, growth habit, parts used, main diseases, administration route and method of preparation.

*Scientific names are according to [2228]

NA = Not Available

More than half of the reported species (54.7%) were used for stomach and intestine related disturbances (Table 2). Of these, almost 38% were used to treat diarrhea and dysentery, a major concern in the region. In fact, in Mozambique diarrhea has for a long time been associated with a complex array of illnesses. Amongst them, dysentery and cholera usually have a high mortality rate if not treated promptly [10]. The use of traditional medicinal plants seems to play a major role in controlling diarrhea-associated diseases.
Table 2

Distribution by category of disease

Analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic

Adansonia digitata, Cissus quadrangularis, Crinum stuhlmannii, Dichrostachys cinerea, Elephantorrhiza elephantina, Grewia monticola, Gymnosporia heterophylla, Sansevieria hyacinthoides, Strychnos madagascariensis, Tinospora caffra, Zanthoxylum humile

Anemia

Elephantorrhiza elephantina, Lannea schweinfurthii, Sclerocarya birrea

Antialergic

Loeseneriella crenata

Antidote

Cissus quadrangularis

Appendicitis

Cucumis metuliflerus

Bleeding

Colophospermum mopane

Burns

Cissus cornifolia, Spirostachys africana, Terminalia sericea, Zanthoxylum humile

Cough

Ansellia africana, Blepharis diversispina, Cissus quadrangularis, Guibourtia conjugata

Debility and malnutrition

Gossypium herbaceum, Hibiscus meyeri, Loeseneriella crenata, Spirostachys africana

Dentistry

Aloe marlothii, Boscia albitrunca, Combretum imberbe, Dalbergia melanoxylon, Euclea racemosa, Flueggea virosa, Manilkara mochisia, Zanthoxylum humile

Deworming

Secamone parvifolia

Ear diseases

Cissus quadrangularis, Gossypium herbaceum, Grewia monticola, Manilkara mochisia, Spirostachys africana

Epilepsy

Loeseneriella crenata, Sansevieria hyacinthoides, Secamone parvifolia, Tinospora caffra

Eye diseases

Aloe zebrina, Cassia abbreviata, Sarcostemma viminale, Spirostachys africana

Ginecology

Cynodon dactylon, Grewia hexamita, Maerua edulis, Sansevieria hyacinthoides, Trichilia emetica, Ximenia americana

Heart

Gymnosporia heterophylla, Hibiscus meyeri, Ximenia americana

Hemorrhoids

Acalypha indica, Blepharis diversispina, Boscia albitrunca, Sansevieria hyacinthoides, Sclerocarya birrea

HIV-SIDA

Ximenia americana

Internal clots

Gymnosporia heterophylla

Kidney disorders

Boscia foetida

Liver disorders

Aloe marlothii, Aloe zebrina

Malaria

Aloe marlothii, Balanites maughamii, Cassia abbreviata, Lannea schweinfurthii

Non-identified diseases

Androstachys johnsonii

Paralysis and other children diseases

Tinospora caffra

Ringworm

Ficus sycomorus

Skeletal structure

Dichrostachys cinerea

Stomach and intestine disorders

Acalypha indica, Adansonia digitata, Asparagus africanus, Boscia albitrunca, Boscia foetida, Cassia abbreviata, Colophospermum mopane, Combretum imberbe, Cucumis metuliflerus, Cucumis zeyheri, Dichrostachys cinerea, Hermannia micropetala, Gardenia volkensii, Grewia flavescens, Grewia monticola, Guibourtia conjugata, Gossypium herbaceum, Lannea schweinfurthii, Loeseneriella crenata, Maerua edulis, Maerua parvifolia, Ptaeroxylon obliquum, Sarcostemma viminale, Secamone parvifolia, Sclerocarya birrea, Terminalia sericea, Tinospora caffra, Trichilia emetica, Ximenia americana

Varicose veins

Secamone parvifolia

Wounds

Aloe marlothii, Aloe zebrina, Blepharis diversispina, Cissus cornifolia, Cissus quadrangularis, Euclea racemosa, Grewia monticola, Olax dissitiflora, Spirostachys africana, Terminalia sericea, Ximenia americana, Zanthoxylum humile

Distribution of the 53 medicinal plant species within different disease categories (Canhane, 2007-2008).

Around 23% of the surveyd species were used as analgesic, anti-inflammatory or anti-pyretic and for wound treatment, 15% for dentistry and 11% for gynecology-related problems. Approximately 9% of the reported species were used to treat ear diseases and hemorrhoids, 8% for burns, cough, debility and malnutrition, epilepsy, eye diseases and malaria, and 6% for heart problems. Only one species, Ximenia americana (ca. 2%) was used against HIV-AIDS. Thus, looking at the three major national health concerns, namely diarrhea and dysentery, malaria and HIV-AIDS a considerable number of potentialities are available for the first group (11 species), while moderate (four species) and low (one species) alternatives can be exploited for malaria and HIV-AIDS. In fact, several pharmacological studies of these three groups of human ailments are available for most of the species reported in the present survey [3642].

With the exception of six species (Blepharis diversispina, Grewia flavescens, Guibourtia conjugata, Hermannia micropetala, Loeseneriella crenata, Zanthoxylum humile), all species under study have been reported as medicinal plants in other African countries [11, 4346]. While the use of G. flavescens and Z. humile by traditional healers has been reported in India and Mozambique, respectively [7, 47], as far as our literature review goes, four species (i.e. B. diversispina, G. conjugata, H. micropetala, and L. crenata) were reported here for the first time. Of these, only two genera have been associated with ethonomedicine: the genus Blepharis [48] and the genus Loeseneriella (L. obtusifolia). Thus, these species constitute new potential sources of natural medicines.

From the 53 species, nine were reported previously by [10] and 3 by [7] in studies conducted in the province of Maputo. Besides that, several other species belonging to 11 genera (Aloe, Asparagus, Boscia, Cissus, Crinum, Cucumis, Ficus, Grewia, Maerua, Secamone, Strychnos) were also reported as medicinal species [7]. The potential medicinal plant markets from the southern provinces of Maputo and Gaza seem to be different. This may reflect the rich ethonomedicinal potential which exists in the entire country.

A comparative analysis with local specific ethnobotanical literature [11, 12, 46] and complementary information gathered from the LISC Herbarium plant collections, identified 25 different plant species used for medicinal purposes (Table 3) of which only two, Combretum imberbe and Lannea schweinfurthii, are common to those reported in this study. Regarding their applications, similarities were found for C. imberbe (stomach disorders) and L. schweinfurthii (diarrhea and stomach disorders). According to the available data, C. imberbe was also used to treat schistosomiasis and L. schweinfurthii to treat tuberculosis, while in our survey they were additionally indicated for the treatment of toothache (C. imberbe), anemia and malaria (L. schweinfurthii). Because the older surveys did not specifically target medicinal plants, we believe that our data are more accurate in what concerns the applications of these two species. This fact may also explain why the great majority of the species reported 40 years ago (23 out of 25 or 92%) does not overlap with those identified in this survey. However, the possibility of loss of genetic resources and/or traditional knowledge should also be considered.
Table 3

List of medicinal plants (25 spp.) surveyed in the district of Massingir in 1960-70.

Scientific name*

Local name

Diseases- Gaza district

Alismataceae

  

Limnophyton obtusifolium (L.) Miq.

NA

Ear diseases

Amaranthaceae

  

Chenopodium ambrosioides L.

Kanunka uncono

Intestinal ulcers; Stomach-aches

Hermbstaedtia odorata (Burch.) T. Cooke

Chomeli

Diuretics; Stomach wash

Anacardiaceae

  

Lannea schweinfurthii (Engl.) Engl.

chiumbocanhe, chebombocanho, munganicomo

Abdominal pain; Choleric diarrhea; Cough; Tuberculosis

Ozoroa obovata (Oliv.) R.Fern. & A. Fern.

xinungu, chimungumango, chinungo, chinungumafe, chinungumafi

Diarrhea; Laxative; Pain

Sclerocarya birrea Sond.

canhi (tree and fruit), tsula (tree), ditsula (fruit)

Diarrhea; dysentery

Apocynaceae

  

Adenium multiflorum Klotzsch

chimua

Male sterility; Sexual performance

Pergularia daemia (Forssk.) Chiov.

furana

Antiemetic; Cough

Araceae

  

Stylochiton natalensis Schott

NA

Ear diseases; Respiratory diseases; Tranquilizing

Asteraceae

  

Ageratum conyzoides L.

NA

Abdominal disorders; Laxative

Burseraceae

  

Commiphora africana (A. Rich.) Engl.

NA

Abdominal disorders; Asthma; Head ache; Stomach ache

Capparaceae

  

Boscia mossambicensis Klotzsch

Chimapamapane, chicutlu

Eye disinfectant

Cadaba natalensis Sond.

tssatssassana, mejacocone

Tuberculosis

Capparis tomentosa Lam.

caua, cahu

Respiratory diseases; Tuberculosis

Cladostemon kirkii (Oliv.) Pax & Gilg

tumangoma, mahuco, maúco, buguane, tambocolata

Abdominal disorders; Colds; Sexual performance; Venereal diseases

Thilachium africanum Lour.

compfa, compha

Asthma; Diarrhoea; Edema; General pain; Vomiting

Celastraceae

  

Elaeodendron schlechteranum (Loes.) Loes.

chigugutzo; chigugusse

Aphrodisiac; Deworming.

Maytenus senegalensis (Lam.) Exell

Chixangua, Chichangua; chilhangua

Bilharziosis; Bronchitis and tuberculosis; Convulsions; Diarrhoea and dysentery; Male and female sterility

Combretaceae

  

Combretum apiculatum Sond.

Chivonzôane, samabulile

Abdominal pain; Conjunctivitis

Combretum imberbe Wawra

Monzou; mondzo

Bilharziosis; Stomach-aches

Combretum microphyllum Klotzsch

Funté, mumbambanguene pfunte

Abdominal pain; Bilharziosis; Diarrhoea; Female sterility

Combretum molle R.Br ex G. Don

Chicucudze, xicucutce

Antiabortifacients, Dysentery

Combretum mossambicense (Klotzsch) Engl.

Futé, funté, fute

Diarrhoea; Laxative

Combretum zeyheri Sond.

NA

Eye cleaning

Pteleopsis myrtifolia (M.A. Lawson) Engl. & Diels

Ludzane

Fever; Madness Male and female sterility

NA = Not Available

The table provides the family, scientific and local names, habit and diseases of 25 spp. surveyed in the district of Massingir mainly during the 60-70 s. *[11, 12, 43]

The great majority of the identified species (46 spp. or 86.8%) were also used for other purposes than medicine (Table 4; Figure 2). The major groups of applications were associated with beliefs and myths (26 spp. or ca. 49%) or used as food (24 spp. or ca. 45%). Wood production, handicraft and veterinary were the third major class of application, with 10 (ca. 19%), 9 (ca. 17%) and 8 (ca. 15%) species, respectively. This reinforces the socio-economic importance of the reported species, placing them in a privileged position for conservational aspects and income-generating purposes.
Table 4

Other applications of the surveyed plant species from Canhane village (2007- 2008).

Scientific name

Other Applications

Acanthaceae

 

Blepharis diversispina (Nees) C.B. Clarke

Beliefs and myths

Aloaceae

 

Aloe marlothii A. Berger

Beliefs and myths; Food (nectar); Veterinary (cattle diseases)

Aloe zebrina Baker

Food (leaves); Veterinary (cattle, chicken and lamb's diseases)

Anacardiaceae

 

Lannea schweinfurthii (Engl.) Engl.

Beliefs and myths; Food (fruits); Handicraft, Ornamental

Sclerocarya birrea Hochst.

Beliefs and myths; Food (fruits); Handicraft; Ornamental; Wood

Apocynaceae

 

Sarcostemma viminale (L.) R.Br.

Food (fruits); Forage

Asparagaceae

 

Asparagus africanus Lam.

Beliefs and myths

Balanitaceae

 

Balanites maughamii Sprague

Beliefs and myths; Forage; Ornamental; Wood

Bombacaceae

 

Adansonia digitata L.

Food (fruits); Paper

Capparaceae

 

Boscia albitrunca (Burch.) Gilg & Gilg-Ben.

Food (fruits); Firewood; Handicraft; Wood

Maerua edulis (Gilg & Gilg-Ben.) DeWolf

Food (Fruits)

Maerua parvifolia Pax

Beliefs and myths; Fishery; Food (Fruits)

Celastraceae

 

Loeseneriella crenata (Klotzsch) Wilczek ex N. Hallé

Beliefs and myths; Carts and animal traction; Textile

Combretaceae

 

Combretum imberbe Wawra

Charcoal; Firewood; Kitchen handicraft; Wood

Terminalia sericea Burch. ex DC.

Beliefs and myths; Fiber; Firewood; Handicraft; Ornamental; Wood

Cucurbitaceae

 

Cucumis zeyheri Sond.

Beliefs and myths; Food (leaves); Veterinary (Cattle and lambs wounds)

Cucumis metuliferus E.Mey. ex Naudin

Veterinary (Goat diseases, Newcastle disease)

Dracaenaceae

 

Sansevieria hyacinthoides (L.) Druce

Beliefs and myths; Textile

Ebenaceae

 

Euclea racemosa Murr.

Cosmetics; Food (fruits)

Euphorbiaceae

 

Androstachys johnsonii Prain

Wood

Flueggea virosa (Roxb. ex Willd.) Voigt

Beliefs and myths; Food (fruits)

Spirostachys africana Sond.

Veterinary (cattle eye diseases); Wood

Fabaceae

 

Cassia abbreviata Oliv.

Beliefs and myths; Ornamental; Wood

Colophospermum mopane (Benth.) Léonard

Charcoal; Firewood; Handicraft; Wood

Dalbergia melanoxylon Guill. & Perr

Handicraft; Musical instruments

Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight & Arn

Beliefs and myths; Farm fencing; Forage

Elephantorrhiza elephantina (Burch.) Skeels

Beliefs and myths

Guibourtia conjugata (Bolle) J.Léonard

Beliefs and myths; Firewood; Glue; Handicraft; Ornamental

Malvaceae

 

Gossypium herbaceum L.

Food (Leaves); Textile

Hibiscus meyeri Harv.

Aphrodisiac; Broom

Meliaceae

 

Trichilia emetica Vahl subsp. emetica

Cosmetics; Food (fruits, seeds)

Moraceae

 

Ficus sycomorus L.

Beliefs and myths; Food (fruits); Forage

Olacaceae

 

Olax dissitiflora Oliv.

Beliefs and myths; Food (fruits); Forage; Wood

Ximenia americana L.

Beliefs and myths; Cosmetics; Farm fencing; Food (fruits, seeds); Veterinary (cattle wounds)

Orchidaceae

 

Ansellia africana Lindl.

Beliefs and myths

Poaceae

 

Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.

Forage

Rubiaceae

 

Gardenia volkensii K. Schum.

Beliefs and myths; Food (fruits); Textile

Rutaceae

 

Zanthoxylum humile (E.A. Bruce) P.G. Waterman

Beliefs and myths; Snake repellent

Sapotaceae

 

Manilkara mochisia (Baker) Dubard

Food (fruits)

Strychnaceae

 

Strychnos madagascariensis Spreng. ex Baker

Beliefs and myths; Food (fruits); Handicrafts; Musical instruments

Sterculiaceae

 

Hermannia micropetala Harv. & Sond.

Beliefs and myths

Tiliaceae

 

Grewia flavescens Juss. var. flavescens

Beliefs and myths; Food (fruits)

Grewia hexamita Burret

Food (fruits); Handicraft

Grewia monticola Sond.

Food (fruits); Ornamental; Veterinary (relieves cow's pain during calf-birth)

Vitaceae

 

Cissus cornifolia (Bak.) Planch.

Food (fruits); Repellent; Veterinary (cattle wounds)

Cissus quadrangularis L.

Beliefs and myths; Repellent; Veterinary (cattle Newcastle disease, wounds)

The table presents a list of 46 spp. which, besides their medicinal use, are used for non-medical purposes (e.g. applications related to beliefs and myths, food, handicraft, animal diseases, ornamental).

https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1746-4269-6-33/MediaObjects/13002_2010_Article_206_Fig2_HTML.jpg
Figure 2

Non-medical applications. Non-medical applications of the 53 medicinal plant species (Canhane, 2007- 2008).

Plant parts used, methods of preparation and administration routes

Several plant parts were used (Table 1), the most frequent being roots (38.8%), followed by leaves (17.5%), stems (13.6%), fruits (8.8%), bark (5.8%), sap (5.8%), combinations of plant organs (3.9%), branches (2.9%) and seeds (2.9%). Regarding the methods of preparation (Figure 3), in many cases (38%) a combination of methods was used. The most common method was decoction (25%), followed by direct consumption (10%), infusion (6%), crushing (5%), grinding (5%), maceration (4%), scraping (2%), heating (2%), burning (1%), cutting (1%) and juice (1%). Fifty nine percent of the medicines were administered orally, 31% topically and only 10% through vaccine, bath, enema, eyewash and necklace (ca. 2% for each mode) (Figure 4). In general, the results seem to follow the pattern of medicinal plant uses in Africa [26, 28, 49] except that in Canhane, instead of leaves, roots occupy the top position which is concordant with the results from [7]. Consistent with the findings of [28, 49] in Kenya and Ethiopia respectively, is the lack of standardized dosage and quality control.
https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1746-4269-6-33/MediaObjects/13002_2010_Article_206_Fig3_HTML.jpg
Figure 3

Methods of preparation. Methods of the 53 medicinal plant species (Canhane, 2007-2008).

https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1746-4269-6-33/MediaObjects/13002_2010_Article_206_Fig4_HTML.jpg
Figure 4

Administration routes. Administration routes of the 53 medicinal plant species (Canhane, 2007-2008).

Conservational aspects

In general, the community was conscientious and motivated regarding conservational issues and had adopted sound measures for the rational use of medicinal plants. Conservation in farms or home gardens was performed for the most commonly used plants, namely Aloe marlothii, A. zebrina, B. albitrunca, C. mopane, C. zeyheri, E. racemosa, Ficus sycomorus, Flueggea virosa, Grewia hexamita, G. monticola, H. micropetala, Sclerocarya birrea and T. sericea. Additionally, the intensity and frequency of exploitation was controlled and there were local rules to protect native plant species, particularly Adansonia digitata, B. discolor, Cissus cornifolia, C. mopane, E. elephantina, F. sycomorus, F. virosa, G. monticola, G. conjugata, Manilkara mochisia, S. birrea, and Strychnos madagascariensis. Other conservation measures included community guards in protected places to control fires and logging, mostly due to South African migrants. On the other hand, trading was controlled and confined to the village.

Conclusions

This study shows the social importance of the floristic richness in the Canhane village, particularly regarding the significance of medicinal plants in primary healthcare. This is reflected in the great diversity of plants used for medical purposes as well as in the wide range of their applications and associated procedures. The data compiled in this study are a contribution to the documentation of PGR at the national and regional level and can serve as a basis to develop larger and interdisciplinary studies.

List of abbreviations

GLTP: 

Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and Conservation Area

PGR: 

Plant Genetic Resources.

Declarations

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to express their gratitude to the Canhane community, particularly the 11 informants for their unreserved efforts in transmitting traditional local knowledge, the Canhane Community Lodge for coordinating the work with the community and for the logistics, the direction of Paulo Samuel Kankhomba Primary school for selecting the students and Non-Governamental Organization LUPA. Acknowledgments are also due to botanical collectors, António Zacarias and Ernesto Macamo, and translators, Arminda Mfumo, dr. David Langa and dr. Orlando Bahule. Thanks to Dr. José Manuel Mota Cardoso (Veterinary Hospital, Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique) for medical terminology and language revision, Dr. Katharina Pawlowsi (Stockholm University) for the language revision, Dr. Cristina Duarte (Tropical Research Institute, Portugal) for the taxonomic revision, and Ezequiel Correia for preparing the distribution map of the study area. This work was supported by a grant from Fundo Aberto - Universidade Eduardo Mondlane and the Swedish International Development Agency (Research Funding).

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Tropical Research Institute
(2)
Faculdade de Agronomia e Engenharia Florestal, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (<url>http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0</url>), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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