Survey on medicinal plants and spices used in Beni-Sueif, Upper Egypt
© AbouZid and Mohamed; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2011
Received: 20 October 2009
Accepted: 27 June 2011
Published: 27 June 2011
This study was conducted to identify medicinal plants and spices used for medicine by the community of Beni-Sueif, Upper Egypt.
Ethnobotanical data from local people was collected using direct interviews and a semi-structured questionnaire.
Forty-eight plant species belonging to twenty-seven families and forty-seven genera were encountered during the study. Their botanical and vernacular names, plant parts used and medicinal uses are given. Results of the study were analyzed using two quantitative tools. The factor informant consensus indicated the agreement in the use of plants and the fidelity level indicated the ratio between the number of informants who independently suggested the use of a species for the same major purpose and the total number of informants who mentioned the plant for any use. The results of the factor informant consensus showed that the cardiovascular category has the greatest agreement, followed by the immunological, gastrointestinal and respiratory categories. The most important species according to their fidelity are: Hibiscus sabdariffa L. for the cardiovascular category; Trigonella foenum-graecum L. for the immunological category; Mentha piperita L. for the gastrointestinal category and Pimpinella anisum L. for the respiratory category.
Medicinal plants are still used for treatment in Beni-Sueif community despite the availability of prescribed medications. Documentation of this ethnomedicinal knowledge is important. Evaluation of pharmacological activity for the promising medicinal plants is suggested.
The use of medicinal plants has occurred in Egypt since Pharaonic times [1, 2]. This constituted an integral part of the practiced medicine at that time. Nowadays, Egyptians still depend of medicinal plants for treatment. In a recent study conducted by the Information and Decision Support Centre in Egypt , it was found that 23% of the Egyptian use medicinal plants as a remedy; 52% of them are living in urban areas and 48% are living in countryside. It is important to document these uses and perform studies about their pharmacological activities to assure their efficacy and safety.
Medicinal and aromatic plant production in Beni-Sueif, Egypt
Area (in Fadden)
Pelargonium roseum L.
Ocimum basilicum L.
Artemisia herba-alba Asso.
Anethum graveolens L.
Mentha piperita L.
Coriandrum sativum L.
Jasminum officinale L.
Origanum majorana L.
The present study aims to review traditional ethnomedicinal knowledge of the local people in Beni-Sueif governorate, focusing specifically on the medicinal uses of plants. These types of studies are urgent considering the loss of traditional knowledge accompanying alteration of the physical and biological environment.
Where Np is the number of informants that claimed a use of a plant species to treat a particular disease, and N is the number of informants that used the plant as a medicine to treat any given disease .
Number of uses mentioned (Um) refers to the mentions for one plant given by all of the informants for a specific disease.
These tools helped us to determine which illness categories had higher representation (using the FIC) and the plants with major fidelity (using the FI).
General analysis of the data
Medicinal plant species, plant parts used and ailments treated by local people of Beni-Sueif, Egypt
Plant name Voucher specimen code Used part
Use/ailment treated (No. of uses mentioned, FI)
Allium cepa L. (Alliaceae), Bassal, cultivated, CAIM101, B
Decoction, green parts
Heart diseases (1, 50), antiseptic for mouth infections (1, 50)
Allium sativum L. (Alliaceae), Thawm, cultivated, CAIM102, B
Chewing fresh bulbs after removing external scales
Memory loss (1, 20), hypertension (2, 40), microbial infections (2, 40)
Ambrosia maritima L., (Asteraceae), Damsis, wild, CAIM110, L
Renal colic (4, 100)
Ammi visnaga (L.) Lam. (Apiaceae), Khillah, cultivated, CAIM103, S
Diuretic (1, 100)
Amomum cardamom L. (Zingiberaceae), Habbahan, imported, CAIM144, Fr
For general well-being (3, 100)
Artemisia herba-alba Asso. (Asteraceae), Shihh, wild, CAIM111, L, F
Colic in GIT (2, 100)
Boswellia carterii Birdw. (Burseraceae), Lubn dhakar, imported, CAIM113, G
Expectorant (4, 100)
Camellia sinensis L. Kuntze, (Theaceae), Shay akhdar, imported, CAIM142, L
For diet purpose (3, 100)
Capsicum annum L. (Solanaceae), Fulful ahhmar, imported, CAIM140, Fr
Condiment (1, 100)
Carum carvi L. (Apiaceae), Karawya, cultivated, CAIM104, Fr
Colic in GIT (3, 75), hypertension (1, 25)
Caryophyllus aromaticus L. (Myrtaceae), Qurunfil, cultivated, CAIM130, Fb
Buds are placed on pain site
Toothache (2, 100)
Cassia acutifolia Delile. (Fabaceae), Sana makki, imported, CAIM118, L
Constipation (6, 100)
Ceratonia siliqua L. (Fabaceae), Carob, cultivated, CAIM119, Fr, I
Diarrhea (3, 100)
Cinnamomum verum J. Presl (Lauraceae), Qirfah, imported, CAIM124, Bk
General well-being (1, 33.3), menorrheal pain (1, 33.3), colic in GIT (1, 33.3)
Citrus limon (L.) Burm. F. (Rutaceae), Laymun, cultivated, CAIM137, Fr
Common cold (6, 66.7), anxiety (3, 33.3)
Cladium mariscus (L.) Pohl (Cyperaceae), Hhalfa, wild, CAIM115, L
Colic in GIT (1, 100)
Coffea arabica L. (Rubiaceae), Bunn, imported, CAIM138, Be
For healing of wounds (1, 100)
Commiphora myrrha Engl. (Burseraceae), Murr, imported, CAIM114, G
Cough (1, 100)
Coriandrum sativum L. (Apiaceae), Kuzbarah, cultivated, CAIM105, Fr, L
Powder, green herb
Condiment (1, 50), dizziness (1, 50)
Cuminum cyminum L. (Apiaceae), Kammun, cultivated, CAIM106, Fr
Condiment (1, 50), colon colic (1, 50)
Cyperus longus L. (Cyperaceae), Su'd, wild CAIM116, L
Decreasing hair growth (1, 100)
Foeniculum vulgare Mill. (Apiaceae), Shamar, cultivated, CAIM107, Fr
Colic in GIT (2, 100)
Glossostemon bruguieri Desf., (Sterculiaceae), Moghat, imported, CAIM141, Rt
Powdered roots are cooked in margarine, and then water is added with continuous stirring. Taken with nuts and coconut.
For general well-being (4, 100)
Glyccyrrhiza glabra L. (Fabaceae), Erq sus, imported, CAIM120, Rt
Moistened powder in a gauze, then diluted with water.
Peptic ulcer (3, 42.9), anti-inflammatory (4, 57.1)
Hordeum vulgare L. (Gramineae), Sha'ir, cultivated, CAIM123, Be
Renal colic (2, 66.7), colon problems (1, 33.3)
Hibiscus sabdariffa L. (Malvaceae), Karkareeh, cultivated, CAIM131, F
Decoction or infusion
Hypertension (36, 97.3), antimicrobial (1, 2.7)
Hyphaene thebaica (L.) C. Martius, (Palmae), Doum, wild, CAIM134, Fr
Decoction, entire fruits, powder
Hypertension (2, 50), dyspepsia (1,25), cardiotonic (1, 25)
Lupinus albus L. (Fabaceae), Turmes murr, cultivated, CAIM121, S
Antiseptic for skin (2, 100)
Matricaria recutita (L.) Rauschert, (Asteraceae), Babunag, cultivated, CAIM112, F
Insomnia (1, 25), colon colic (1, 25), cough (1, 25), antiseptic for skin (1, 25)
Mentha piperita L. (Lamiaceae), Na'na, cultivated, CAIM125, L
Colic in GIT (28, 87.5), anxiety (4, 12.5)
Myristica fragrans Houtt. (Myristicaceae), Gawz et tib, imported, CAIM132, S
Condiment (1, 100)
Nigella sativa L. (Ranunculaceae), Habbet el barakah, cultivated, CAIM139, S
Powder, entire seeds
Immuno-stimulant (2, 50), condiment (2, 50)
Orchis hircine Crantz. (Orchidaceae), Sahhlab, imported, CAIM133, Rt
Powdered rots are boiled in milk with continuous stirring
Peptic ulcer (1, 100)
Origanum majorana L. (Lamiaceae), Bardaqush, cultivated, CAIM126, L
Stomach troubles and coli (1, 50), hypertension (1, 50)
Petroselinum sativum Hoffm. (Apiaceae), Baqdunis, cultivated, CAIM143, L
Green leaves in salad
Urinary tract infection (2, 100)
Pimpinella anisum L. (Apiaceae), Anisun, cultivated, CAIM108, Fr
Renal colic (2, 5.9), colic in GIT (11, 32.4), upper respiratory tract problems (19, 55.9), anxiety (2, 5.9)
Piper nigrum L. (Piperaceae), Fulful aswad, cultivated, CAIM146, Fr
Condiment (1, 100)
Plantago afra L. (Plantaginaceae), Bazr qatuna, cultivated, CAIM135, S
Antiseptic for skin (1, 100)
Portulaca oleracea L. (Portulacaceae), Riglah, wild, CAIM136, L, S
Painful joints are exposed to steam evaporating from boiling leaves with water, powdered seeds
Rheumatic pain (2, 50), stomachic appetizer (2, 50)
Psidium guajava L. (Myrtaceae), Guwafah, cultivated, CAIM147, L
Cough and cold (3, 100)
Rosmarinus officinalis L. (Lamiaceae), Hassa el-ban, cultivated, CAIM127, L
Infusion, volatile oil
Carminative (1, 33.3), diuretic (1, 33.3), antiseptic (1, 33.3)
Salvia officinalis L. (Lamiaceae), Maryamiyah, cultivated, CAIM128, L
Colic in GIT (3, 60), antiseptic (1, 20), common cold (1, 20)
Solenostemma argel Hayne (Asclepiadaceae), Hhargal, wild, CAIM109, L
Antispasmodic for renal colic (2, 100)
Tamarindus indica L. (Caesalpiniaceae), Tamer Hindi, imported, CAIM117, Fr
Laxative (3, 100)
Thymus vulgaris L. (Lamiaceae), Za'tar, cultivated, CAIM129, L
Condiment (4, 100)
Tilia sylvestris Desf. (Tiliaceae), Zayzafun, imported, CAIM148, L, F
Cough due to common cold (2, 100)
Trigonella foenum-graecum L. (Fabaceae), Hhelbah, cultivated, CAIM122, S
Diuretic (1, 4), colic in GIT (14, 56), nutritive (9, 36), diabetes (1, 4)
Zingiber officinale Roscoe (Zingiberaceae), Zangabil, imported, CAIM145, R
Voice problems in common cold (4, 100)
The informants in this study use plants for three main reasons: (1) medicinal plants are safer than prescribed medications (81%), (2) medicinal plants are cheaper than prescribed medications (11%) and (3) medicinal plants are easier to get from herbalist shops widely available in rural areas (8%). Only 3% of the informants were against the use of medicinal plants as remedy because of their unknown composition, prescribed medications are more effective and faster in their actions or medicinal plants are not prescribed by the physicians. The plants with the highest number of uses mentioned for any disease were Hibiscus sabdariffa L. (37), Pimpinella anisum L. (34), Mentha piperita L. (32) and Trigonella foenum-graecum L. (25). The complete data are presented in Table 2.
Factor informant consensus and fidelity level
The results of the FIC showed that the cardiovascular category had the greatest agreement with an FIC of 0.88, followed by immunological disorders (0.80), gastrointestinal disorders (0.78), respiratory disorders (0.78) and neurological disorders (0.50). Within the cardiovascular category, the main reported ailment was hypertension (36 reports). Within the gastrointestinal category, there were 28 reports of colic. Within the respiratory category, there were 19 reports of cough.
We analyzed the categories with the major agreements to indicate the most important plants in each category. For the cardiovascular category, we found that the most important species, according to fidelity, was Hibiscus sabdariffa (FI = 97.3). Trigonella foenum-graecum (FI = 36) was the most important species for the immunological category. The most important plants in the gastrointestinal category were Mentha piperita (FI = 87.5), Trigonella foenum-graecum (FI = 56) and Pimpinella anisum (FI = 32.4). Pimpinella anisum (FI = 55.9) was the most important plant in the respiratory category.
Correlation between number of uses mentioned and fidelity level
The categories of the plants with higher number of uses mentioned (for one purpose) were correlated with their fidelity level (Table 2). The plants with higher number of uses mentioned for all categories were Hibiscus sabdariffa with 36 mentions for hypertension (FI = 97.3), Mentha piperita with 28 mentions for colic in gastrointestinal tract (FI = 87.5), Trigonella foenum-graecum with 14 mentions for colic in gastrointestinal tract (FI = 56) and Pimpinella anisum with 19 mentions for upper respiratory tract problems (FI = 55.9). Some plants showed a high fidelity level (FI = 100) for one ailment such as Ambrosia maritima L. for renal colic (4), Boswellia carterii Birdw. as expectorant (4), Cassia acutifolia Delile. for constipation (6) and Tilia sylvestris Desf. for cough (4). The following plants were mentioned once that is considered of low fidelity: Ammi visnaga (L.) Lam. as diuretic, Capsicum annum L. as a condiment, Cladium mariscus (L.) Pohl for colic in gastrointestinal tract, Coffea arabica L. for healing of wounds, Commiphora myrrha Engl. for cough, Cyperus longus L. for decreasing hair growth, Myristica fragrans Houtt as a condiment, Orchis hircine Crantz. for peptic ulcer, Piper nigrum L. as a condiment and Plantago afra L. as antiseptic for skin.
Documentation of ethnobotanical knowledge is important to study/understand human-plant relationships , implement general policies about the use of natural resources  and assess potential livelihood and monetary benefits [11, 12].
In this work, we used two quantitative tools to study the main medicinal plants and spices used by the local people in Beni-Sueif governorate. With the FIC, the main categories of health conditions for which plants are used, are detected, and with the FI, we selected the most important species from these categories. The cardiovascular, immunological, gastrointestinal and respiratory categories used the most plants.
The FI and the number of uses mentioned support the FIC. This is indicated by the observation that the cardiovascular category has the highest FIC. This means that the cardiovascular illnesses have the greatest agreement among the informants for being treated by medicinal plants. Hibiscus sabdariffa, the most used plant in the cardiovascular category, has the highest FI and number of uses mentioned among all of the plants. Therefore, the FIC is a good analytical tool to select categories of illness when analyzing the data as they are presented here.
If we consider FI and the use mentions to analyze the most important plants, we get the following plants: Hibiscus sabdariffa for hypertension, Mentha piperita for colic in gastrointestinal tract, Trigonella foenum-graecum for colic in gastrointestinal tract and Pimpinella anisum for upper respiratory tract problems. These plants are cultivated plants and widely used in the Egyptian folk medicine . There are a lot of studies about the pharmacological activities of these plants; Hibiscus sabdariffa [14–18], Mentha piperita , Trigonella foenum-graecum [20, 21] and Pimpinella anisum [22, 23]. We have decided to present here the most significant and important studies related to the uses mentioned in our study. The uncommon ethnopharmacological uses of Glossostemon bruguieri Desf., Lupinus albus, Orchis hircine and Portulaca oleracea L. deserves phytochemical and pharmacological studies to examine the reported activities. Some of the uses mentioned are in agreement with those previously reported in the Mediterranean region . For example, Portulaca oleracea was reported to be used in muscular-skeletal diseases and for nutritional purposes in Albania, Ammi visnaga for kidney and respiratory diseases in Algeria and Egypt, Coriandrum sativum as digestive in Algeria, Foeniculum vulgare as digestive in Algeria and Cyperus, Solenostemma argel for kidney diseases in Egypt, Mentha piperita for mental-nervous disorders in Algeria, Hibiscus sabdariffa for cardiovascular disorders in Egypt.
The current study targeted the medicinal plants used by local people of Beni-Sueif, Upper Egypt. Beni-Sueif is a biodiversity area rich of wide-variety of plant species. The calculated FIC and FI values were used as a tool to understand which illnesses are preferentially treated with medicinal plants. Gastrointestinal problems, cough and hypertension were the main illnesses treated by medicinal plants in Beni-Sueif governorate. People may use medicinal plants as an adjuvant therapy to treat these illnesses due to the common occurrence of the former two illnesses and the chronic nature of the latter illness. This may be the reason for why these illnesses have high agreement values. The preservation of the traditional knowledge is an essential requirement for maintaining traditional Egyptian medicine as a cultural resource.
This research work was supported by a research grant from the International Foundation for Sciences (Project No. AF/19300).
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