Open Access

Use and management of traditional medicinal plants by Maale and Ari ethnic communities in southern Ethiopia

  • Berhane Kidane1, 2Email author,
  • Tinde van Andel3,
  • Laurentius Josephus Gerardus van der Maesen3 and
  • Zemede Asfaw4
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine201410:46

https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-10-46

Received: 26 November 2013

Accepted: 30 April 2014

Published: 4 June 2014

Abstract

Background

Around 80% of the people of Ethiopia are estimated to be relying on medicinal plants for the treatment of different types of human health problems. The purpose of this study was to describe and analyse the use and management of medicinal plants used for the treatment of human health problems by the Maale and Ari communities in southern Ethiopia.

Methods

Quantitative and qualitative ethnobotanical field inquiries and analytical methods including individual and focus group discussions (18), observations, individual interviews (n = 74), preference ranking and paired comparison were used. Data were collected in three study sites and from two markets; the latter surveyed every 15 days from February 2011 to February 2012.

Results

A total of 128 medicinal plant species, belonging to 111 genera and 49 families, used as herbal medicine by Maale and Ari communities were documented. Predominantly harvested plant parts were leaves, which are known to have relatively low impact on medicinal plant resources. Species with high familiarity indices included Solanum dasyphyllum, Indigofera spicata, Ruta chalepensis, Plumbago zeylanica and Meyna tetraphylla. Low Jaccards similarity indices (≤ 0.33) indicated little correspondence in medicinal plant use among sites and between ethnic communities. The dominant ways of medicinal plant knowledge acquisition and transfer is vertical: from parents to children through oral means. Gender and site significantly influenced the number of human medicinal plants known currently in the study sites. Age was only a factor of significance in Maale. Marketing of medicinal plants harvested from wild and semi-wild stands is not common. Expansion of agricultural land and lack of cultivation efforts by local communities are mentioned by locals to affect the availability of medicinal plant resources.

Conclusion

S. dasyphyllum, I. spicata, P. zeylanica, M. tetraphylla, and Oxalis radicosa need to be considered for phytochemical and pharmacological testing to verify their efficacy and determine their dosages. Land use planning and development initiatives in the area and beyond need to sharply focus on strategies that could alleviate the major threats affecting medicinal plant resources in the landscape and encourage their cultivation to enhance their availability and complement ex-and in-situ conservation.

Background

Ethiopia is a country with regional differences in access to health services [1]. It is estimated that traditional medicine (about 95% herbal) is used by 80% of the Ethiopian population for the treatment of different types of human health problems [2]. Medicinal plants are used as a major source for health promotion, prevention and cure [3, 4]. The traditional use of medicinal plants by most Ethiopians in health care system is generally ascribed to the incomplete coverage of the modern medical system, unaffordable and not always available prescription drugs [57] and the widespread belief in the effectiveness of herbal medicine [8, 9].

Medicinal plant knowledge is shaped by the ecological diversity of the country [10], known to be site-specific [11] and varies across peoples with different religious, linguistic and cultural backgrounds [7]. In Ethiopia, there are over 70 ethnic communities, residing in different ecological regions [12] and the studies so far have shown extensive medicinal plant knowledge, acquired through centuries of experience. Although several studies have been conducted on medicinal plants throughout the country e.g. [1318], the full wealth of this knowledge has not yet been sufficiently studied. We therefore document medicinal plants used by the Maale and Ari communities less studied Ethiopian communities and evaluate similarities and differences among sites and between the two communities.

Ethiopian farmers’ knowledge on medicinal plants may be influenced by certain demographic characteristics. Awas [11] and Giday et al. [16] showed that gender and age significantly affected farmers’ knowledge on traditional medicine. However, in other farming communities, gender and age had no significant effect on useful plant knowledge [19]. In order to effectively preserve indigenous knowledge, we need to find out whether socio-demographic factors (age, gender, religion, educational level, family size) or locality affect the level of medicinal plant knowledge among the Maale and Ari communities.

Traditionally used medicinal plants and associated knowledge are disappearing at an alarming rate [20]. Natural and anthropogenic factors contribute to these losses but threatening factors may vary from one region to the other [17]. Therefore, we want to understand factors that threaten local traditional medicinal plant resources and knowledge, which are important for decision makers for their policy formulation and analysis. Mechanisms of medicinal plant knowledge acquisition and transfer affect knowledge continuity within a community. Most studies conducted in Ethiopia so far have shown that the major mechanism for transfer of ethnomedicinal knowledge is oral [20], although Fassil [8] indicated existence of pharmacopias (ancient written medicinal plant knowledge) in monasteries in the northern highlands of Ethiopia. In order to preserve herbal medicine traditions, we need to reveal the local mechanisms of knowledge transfer.

Marketing of medicinal plants may have implications on natural resources, depending on the species marketed, the type of plant part harvested, volumes sold and cultivation efforts of commercial species. A few of the ethnobotanical studies in Ethiopia attempted to highlight the issue of marketing of medicinal plants [21, 16]. However, the studies were of cross-sectional nature and did not conduct systematic repeated visits and data collection and elements that affect the marketing of traditional medicinal plants were hardly addressed. In this paper, we describe and analyse the use and management of medicinal plants by Maale and Ari communities by answering the following research questions:
  1. 1)

    Which plant species are used as medicines at different sites by the two communities and for what purposes?

     
  2. 2)

    What are the mechanisms of herbal medicinal plant knowledge transfer among different social groups?

     
  3. 3)

    Which demographic factors significantly influence medicinal plant knowledge?

     
  4. 4)

    How do the two communities differ in their use and handling of medicinal plants?

     
  5. 5)

    What factors threaten medicinal plant resources in the study area?

     
  6. 6)

    Which medicinal plants are commercialized and what elements affect their marketing?

     

Materials and methods

Study area and selection of informants

The study was conducted in the Maale and Debub Ari districts of southern Ethiopia, where the Maale and Ari communities reside. The study area is located at about 750 km south of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.A reconnaissance survey was conducted from July to August 2010 in the two study districts. Well settled areas by the two ethnic communities within the two districts studied. Detailed fieldwork was conducted from August 2010 to October 2012. Prior to detailed data collection, individual and focus group discussions (18) with informants were conducted. At each kebele (the lowest formal administrative unit in rural Ethiopia), 10 to 12 informants from different socio-demographic groups were involved in the focus group discussions. In general we used stratified simple random sampling for the selection of the study sites, study kebeles and study participants. The stratifying variables were ethnic communities and altitude. The three study sites selected for detailed formal survey were Maale, Ari 1 and Ari 2 (Figure 1). For each site, two kebeles (Shole teka and Beneta in Maale, Kure and Geza in Ari 1 and Pilla and Metser in Ari 2) were randomly selected (Figure 1). The Ari 1 and Maale study kebeles were selected from the area with altitude of 500-1500 m.a.s.l. However, the Ari 2 study site is located within altitude ranging from 1500-2500 with mean altitude of 1700 m. Despite the presence of areas with altitude ranging from 1500-2500 in Maale district, the area was not included in the study because there are no substantial settlements.
Figure 1

Location map of the study area in southern Ethiopia.

Acacia - Commiphora and Combretum – Terminalia woodland is characterizes the remnant vegetation of Maale study site; the mean altitude of the selected study site is 1350 m.a.s.l. The remnant vegetation of Ari 1 is characterized by moist evergreen Afromontane forest and Combretum – Terminalia woodland [22] with a mean altitude of 1330 m.a.s.l. The forest area is converted to agricultural land, with scattered trees in the fields and home gardens of Ari 2. The language of Ari is Araf, while the Maale language is spoken by the Maale communities. The 2007 population census shows that there were 84657 in Maale and 212 389 in Debub Ari [23].

A total of 74 study participants (24 from Ari 1, 24 from Ari 2 and 26 from Maale), belonging to the two ethnic communities were considered for the interviews. The age range of randomly selected study participants lied between 20 and 60 except a single participant who was older: 70 years. Oral informed consent was obtained from each participant prior to conducting the interviews.

Ethical approval

Written permission (approval) was obtained from South Omo “zonal” council and also from the Maale and Debub Ari district council offices before the start of the study.

Consent

Oral and also signed informed consent were obtained from the study participants for the publication of this report and any accompanying images.

Data collection

We used semi-structured interviews, field observations, preference ranking and paired comparison following the standard ethnobotanical methods and procedures as given by various authors [2426] to collect information on various aspects of medicinal plants in the two districts. The semi-structured interviews contained questions on common health issues, medicinal plants, plant parts used, preparation and application methods, dosage, and possible threats to medicinal plant resources. Moreover, study participants were asked how they acquired medicinal plant knowledge and whether they were willing to transfer this knowledge. Each informant was visited at least two times during the study period in order to validate the information provided. Following the recommended procedures by Alexiades [25], responses of the study participants that contradicted with each other were not considered for analysis.

Voucher specimens of medicinal plants were collected with the assistance of key informants following standard botanical procedures. Preliminary plant identification was done in the field while collecting and further identification and confirmation was done at the National Herbarium (ETH) of Addis Ababa University (AAU) using taxonomic keys provided in the relevant volumes of the Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea [2733]. Finally, the identified specimens were deposited at the ETH. Scientific names were checked for accuracy by means of the Plant List [34].

Between February 2011 and February 2012, surveys were carried out at Beneta market (Maale area) and Jinka market (Debub Ari). Markets were visited every fifteen days and all medicinal plants sold were documented with their price, source and additional trade information.

Data analysis

Descriptive statistics were used to calculate average numbers of medicinal plants and illness types listed by the study participants, and to quantify acquisition and transfer of traditional knowledge. In Maale, ten key informants were selected to participate in a preference ranking exercise following Martin [24] for eight plants used to treat the most frequently cited health problem (in this case ascariasis). Key informants ranked plant species according to their perceived efficacy: the most effective being given a value of one, and the least effective a value of eight. Priority ranking was used to classify major issues that affected the availability of medicinal plants in the study sites.

The calculated Jaccard’s similarity indices [35] were used to compare similarity of medicinal plant knowledge among the studied communities. This index uses plant presence/positive reply or absence/negative reply data sets and is expressed as:
JI = c a + b + c

Where JI is the Jaccard similarity index, c is the number of species shared by the study sites, a is the number of species in study site A only and b is the number of species in study site B only. The JI values range between 0 and 1, whereby a value of 1 indicates complete similarity.

Familiarity index (FI) was used as an indicator of the popularity of a species [36]. FI was defined as the number of respondents that mentioned a species for a specific use, divided by the total number of respondents. The value of FI varies between 0 and 1, whereby a value of 1 represents the highest familiarity of a medicinal plant in the study site.
FI = Frequency of a given species mentioned as a medicine Total number of respondents

Multiple regression analysis was employed to reveal demographic factors that predicted traditional knowledge [37]. We used the number of plants known as dependent variable and considered age, gender, religion, education level, family size and geographic location as explanatory variables. Variables that were highly correlated (r ≥ 0.9) were not included in the model [37]. Independent t-tests were employed to compare the differences between gender and age groups. All statistical methods were carried out in the program SPSS 20.0.

Results and discussion

Medicinal plants reported

A total of 128 medicinal plant species, belonging to 111 genera and 49 families were reported by Maale and Ari communities for the treatment of 48 different types of health problems (see Table 1). The family Lamiaceae was represented by the highest number of species (19) followed by Leguminosae (10 species), Acanthaceae, Solanaceae, Cucurbitaceae, and Malvaceae (each 8 spp) and Rubiaceae and Compositae (6 spp each). The highest number (92 spp) was reported in Maale, while 54 species were jointly documented in Ari 1 and Ari 2, of which 18 species were shared. Medicinal plants were used as the first line of treatment by 96%, 83%, and 88% of the respondents of Maale1, Ari 1 and Ari 2 respectively. This indicates that traditional medicine plays a significant role in the primary health care system of the Maale and Ari communities.
Table 1

Medicinal plants used in Maale and Ari communities with plant parts used, growth form and applications

N o

Vernacular names: Maale (M), Araf (A)

Ailments

Scientific name

Family Name

Voucher №

Parts used

Growth form

Application route

Study sites

1

Tsinkaso (M)

Eye disease (infection), Headache

Barleria ventricosa Hochst. ex Nees

Acanthaceae

210 , 356

Leaves

Herb

Topical

M

2

Moro Golodo (M)

Gastritis

Blepharis maderaspatensis (L.) Roth.

Acanthaceae

234, 637

Whole

Herb

Oral

M

3

Golodo (M)

Oral trash, Gastritis, Malnutrition

Justicia bizuneshiae Ensermu

Acanthaceae

357

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

4

Busino (M)

Amoebiasis, Stomach ache, Diarrhea

Hypoestes forsskaolii (Vahl) R. Br.

Acanthaceae

30

Root

Herb

Oral

M

5

Kati Murso (M)

Constipation, Ascariasis

Thunbergia alata Boj. ex Sims

Acanthaceae

232,366, 391

whole

Climber

Oral

M

6

Majimaylo(M)

Tape worm

Celosia trigyna L.

Amaranthaceae

679

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

7

Tsami shinkurt (A)

Stomach ache

Allium sativum L.

Amaryllidaceae

-

Bulb

Herb

Oral

A1, A2

8

Salvano (M)

Ascariasis

Ozoroa insignis Delile

Anacardiaceae

177 224 289 302

Stem bark

Tree

Oral

M

9

Kubri (M)

Diarrhea, Toothache, Food poisoning, Vomiting

Rhus natalensis Krauss

Anacardiaceae

28

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

10

Muralatse (M)

Food poisoning, vomiting

Uvaria leptocladon Oliv.

Annonaceae

24

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

11

Afi Deshe (A)

Evil eye

Agrocharis melanantha Hochst.

Apiaceae

309

Leaves

Herb

 

A 2

12

Etsewayo (M), Ountinkam (A)

Gastritis, Headache Evil eye

Centella asiatica (L.) Urban

Apiaceae

36,128

whole

Herb

Oral

M, A1, A2

  

Swelling

Centella asiatica (L.) Urban

  

Whole

Herb

Topical

 

13

Ambelto (M), Almi (A)

Tonsilites

Carissa spinarum L.

Apocynaceae

33,119

Leaves

Tree

Oral

M, A1

  

Snake protection

Carissa spinarum L.

  

Root

Tree

Smoke

 
  

Stomach ache,

Carissa spinarum L.

  

Root

Tree

Oral

 
  

Evil eye

Carissa spinarum L.

  

Root

Tree

Inhale

 

14

Pijie (M)

Ascariasis

Pergularia daemia (Forssk.) Chiov.

Apocynaceae

304

Root

Climber

Oral

M

  

Malnutrition (Child)

Pergularia daemia (Forssk.) Chiov.

  

Leaves

 

Oral

M

15

Metse (M)

Retained placenta

Leptadenia hastata (Pel's.) Decne.

Apocynaceae

101

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

  

Liver disease(Ara)

Leptadenia hastata (Pel's.) Decne.

  

Leaves

 

Inhale

 

16

Zolpe (M)

Liver disease (Ara)

Stereospermum kunthianum Cham.

Bignoniaceae

282,402

Leaves

Tree

Inhale

M

17

Achenti (A)

Stomach ache

Cynoglossum lanceolatum Forssk.

Boraginaceae

2

Root

Herb

Oral

A2

18

Kolpo (M)

Common cold

Brassica carinata A. Braun

Brassicaceae

 

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

19

Feto

Common cold

Lepidium sativum L.

Brassicaceae

-

Seed

Herb

Oral

A2

20

Afi Deshe (A)

Evil eye

Monopsis stellarioides (Presl) Urb.

Campanulaceae

246

Leaves

Herb

Oral

A2

 

Guni deshe (A)

Snake bite

Monopsis stellarioides (Presl) Urb.

      

21

Chedi (A)

Oral trash

Garcinia livingstonei T.Anders.

Clusiaceae

14

Fruit

Tree

Topical

A2

22

Yemdir Berbere (A)

Tooth ache, Tonsillitis

Acmella caulirhiza Delile

Compositae

89,313

Flower

Herb

Topical

A1

23

Dunko (M), Duno (A)

Stomach ache

Artemisia absinthium L.

Compositae

-

Leaves with stem

Herb

Oral

M, A1

  

Evil eye, Sudden disease, Headache

Artemisia absinthium L.

  

Leaves with stem

 

Oral/Inhale

 

24

Hachenti (M)

Diarrhea

Bidens pilosa L.

Compositae

233

Root

Herb

Oral

M

25

Azi deshe (A)

Swelling(eti)

Conyza gouanii (L.) Willd.

Compositae

311

Leaves

Herb

Topical

A2

26

Rebasho (M) Haro mato (M)

Rheumatism

Tagetes minuta L.

Compositae

203

Leaves

Herb

Topical

M

  

Amoebiasis

Tagetes minuta L.

  

Leaves

Herb

Oral

 

27

Gera (A)

Malaria

Vernonia amygdalina Delile

Compositae

-

leaves

shrub

Oral

M, A1

28

Kwakuch deshe (A)

Skin disease (‘Kwakucha)

Cuscuta campestris Yuncker

Convolvulaceae

259

Leaves with succulent stem

Herb

Topical

A1

29

Lago (M)

Malnutrition (Child) Diarrhea, Hheart disease, Gastritis

Ipomoea obscura (L.) Ker-Gawl.

Convolvulaceae

211

Leaves

Herb/climber type

Oral

M

30

Welanke (M)

Liver disease

Ipomoea spathulata Hall.f.

Convolvulaceae

173,404

Leaves

Herb

Inhale

M

31

Kamakarsho (M)

Ascariasis

Combretum aculeatum Vent.

Combretaceae

287,504

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

32

Gaal (M)

Typoid

Terminalia brownii L.

Combretaceae

 

Leaves

Tree

Oral

M

  

Snake bite

Terminalia brownii L.

  

Bark

 

Oral/Topical

 

33

Hachirindo (M)

Lower extremity weakness

Cucumis dipsaceus Ehrenb. ex Spach

Cucurbitaceae

15

Leaves

Herb

Topical

M

  

Amoebiasis

Cucumis dipsaceus Ehrenb. ex Spach

  

Whole

 

Oral

 

34

Botayilashe (M), Bota (A)

Tape worm

Cucurbita pepo L.

Cucurbitaceae

-

Seed

Herb

Oral

M, A1

 

Bota

Tape worm

Cucurbita pepo L.

  

Seed

Herb

Oral

 

35

Shuntee (M)

Mouth wound

Kedrostis foetidissima (Jacq.) Cogn

Cucurbitaceae

84

Leaves

Herb

Topical

M

36

Choko (M)

Amoebiasis

Momordica foetida Schumach.

Cucurbitaceae

204, 242

Whole

Herb

Oral

M

37

Najie (M)

Evil eye

Momordica pterocarpa Hochst. ex A. Rich.

Cucurbitaceae

20

Leaves

Climber

Topical

M

  

Amoebiasis

Momordica pterocarpa Hochst. ex A. Rich.

  

Leaves

Climber

Oral

 

38

Ounsi (M)

Stomach ache

Euclea divinorum Hiern

Ebenaceae

26

Root

Shrub

Oral

M

39

Sauto zao (M)

Stomach bloating, food poisoning, Vomiting

Acalypha fruticosa Forssk.

Euphorbiaceae

98

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

  

Stomach ache

Acalypha fruticosa Forssk.

  

Stem

 

Oral

M

40

Sauti (M)

Eye injury

Acalypha volkensii Pax

Euphorbiaceae

223

Leaves

Herb

Topical

M

41

No local name

Eye disease (Cataract)

Euphorbia hirta L.

Euphorbiaceae

496

Latex

Herb

Topical

M

42

Tsedo (M)

Rabies

Euphorbia tirucalli L.

Euphorbiaceae

285

Root

Shrub

Oral

M

43

Tsamo desho (M)

Wound

Ricinus communis L.

Euphorbiaceae

350

Seed

Shrub

Topical

M,A2

44

Beto (M) Beta (A)

Gonorrhea ,Tape worm

Croton macrostachyus Hochst. ex Ferret & Galinier

Euphorbiaceae

 

Leaf bud

Tree

Oral

M, A1, A2

45

Gaina deshe/Azi deshe (A)

Stomach bloating,

Geranium arabicum Forssk.

Geraniaceae

312,445

Leaves

Herb

Oral

A2

  

Swelling

Geranium arabicum Forssk.

  

Leaves

Herb

Topical

 

46

Bato ketero deshe (M)

Amoebiasis

Pelargonium quinquelobatum Hochst. ex A.Rich.,

Geraniaceae

227

Whole

Herb

Oral

M

47

Afi Deshe (A)

Evil eye

Hypericum peplidifolium A.Rich.

Hypericaceae

263

Leaves

Herb

Oral

A1,A2

48

Harsi deshe/ Gaina deshe/Shai Shar (A)

Diarrhea

Ajuga leucantha Lukhoba

Lamiaceae

274, 278, 441

Leaves

Herb

Oral

A1,A2

49

Baye Apo Desho (M)

Stomach ache, Heart, Rheumatism

Becium filamentosum (Forssk.) Chiov.

Lamiaceae

196,221,324

Whole

Herb

Oral

M

50

Bokolo (M), Dumfeken (A)

Stomach bloating, vomiting

Clerodendrum myricoides (Hochst.) Vatke

Lamiaceae

195,346

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M, A1, A2

  

Evil eye

Clerodendrum myricoides (Hochst.) Vatke

Lamiaceae

38

Root

Shrub

Oral ,Inhale

 

51

Apo Desho (M)

Evil eye

Endostemon tereticaulis (Poir.) M.Ashby

Lamiaceae

99,165

Whole

Herb

Topical

M

52

Tsamo desho (M)

Cold

Fuerstia africana T.C.E. Fr.

Lamiaceae

230

Leaves

Herb

Topical

M

53

Pelo Tsala (M)

Stomach ache, Amoebiasis, Stomach bloating, Head ache, Food poisoning, Vomiting

Leucas abyssinica (Benth.) Briq.

Lamiaceae

167,321

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

  

Rheumantism

Leucas abyssinica (Benth.) Briq.

  

Leaves

 

Topical

 

54

Chergicola

Pus from Ear, nose, mouth; Eye disease (cataract), Rheumatism

Leucas glabarata (Vahl) Sm. in Rees

Lamiaceae

237, 281, 320, 365

Leaves

Herb

Topical

M

  

Headache

   

Leaves

 

Oral/inhale

 

55

Azi deshe

Swelling

Leucas martinicensis (Jacq.) R.Br.

Lamiaceae

315

Leaves

Herb

Topical

A2

56

Lamo (M)

Stomach ache

Ocimum basilicum L.

Lamiaceae

222 ,317

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

57

Gurdarindo (M)

Headache, Diarrhea Stomach bloating, Stomach ache, Vomiting

Ocimum forskolei Benth.

Lamiaceae

214 , 235

Whole

Herb

Oral

M

58

Pasi kedo

Heart disease

Ocimum laliifolium Hochst. ex Benth.

Lamiaceae

225,37

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M,

 

Demakesse

Headache

Ocimum lamiifolium Hochst. ex Benth.

 

134

Leaves

 

Oral/Inhale

A1, A2

59

Kuliti kup (M)

Herpes simplex ( “Mich”)

Ocimum urticifolium Roth

Lamiaceae

133

Leaves

Shrub

Topical

A1,A2

  

Stomach ache, Vomiting

Ocimum urticifolium Roth

    

Oral

 
  

Headache

Ocimum urticifolium Roth

    

Inhale

 

60

Pero (M)

Amoebiasis, Stomach ache

Plectranthus barbatus Andrews

Lamiaceae

85

Root

Herb

Oral

M

61

Dumio (M)

Lower extremity weakness

Plectranthus cylindraceus Hochst. ex Benth.

Lamiaceae

229,503

Leaves

Herb

Topical

M

62

Ketero Desho Solelo (M)

Stomach ache, Amoebiasis, Diarrhea

Plectranthus longipes Baker

Lamiaceae

464

whole

Herb

Oral

M

63

Banjirindo (M)

Ease of Birth

Plectranthus punctatus (L.f) L.'Hér.

Lamiaceae

207,318,369

Whole

Herb

Oral

M

64

Anchip (M)

Amoebiasis, Diarrhea, Stomach bloating, Stomach ache, Food poisoning

Pycnostachys abyssinica Fresen.

Lamiaceae

205, 319

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

65

Sheto (M)

Constipation

Satureja abyssinica (Benth.) Briq.

Lamiaceae

292, 690

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

66

Zene gaime Deshe (A)

Stomach ache

Satureja paradoxa (Vatke) Engl. ex Seybold

Lamiaceae

310, 371

Leaves

Herb

Oral

A2

67

Kayneka/Digita (A)

Stomach ache

Calpurnia aurea (Ait.) Benth.

Leguminosae

247,272

Leaves

shrub

Oral

A1, A2

  

Diarrhea

Calpurnia aurea (Ait.) Benth.

  

Root

Herb

Oral

 

68

Aro Dor deshe (M)

Malnutrition (Child)

Chamaecrista mimosoides (L.) Greene

Leguminosae

197,322

Whole

Herb

Oral

M

69

Dongordoso (M)

Tonsilites

Indigofera spicata Forssk.

Leguminosae

202, 251, 256,261, 345,388

Root

Herb

Oral

M, A1

 

Afi Deshe/Gaina Deshe/Wesfat deshe (A)

Diarrhea, Evil eye Ascariasis, Stomach ache

Indigofera spicata Forssk.

 

467

Whole

 

Oral

 

70

Birbira (A)

To close wound caused by Jiggers

Millettia ferruginea (Hochst.) Baker

Leguminosae

-

Seed

Tree

Topical

A2

71

Dawrake (M)

Liver disease

Piliostigma thonningii (Schumach.) Milne-Redh.

Leguminosae

117

Leaves

Tree

Inhale

M

72

Ara Deshe (A)

Liver disease (Ara)

Senna petersiana (Bolle) Lock

Leguminosae

260

Leaves

Shrub

Inhale

A1, A2

73

Karhaleko (M)

Stomach ache, Diarrhea , Food poisoning, Vomiting, Ascariasis

Senna singueana (Delile) Lock

Leguminosae

59,28

Root

Shrub

Oral

M

74

Dino desho (M)

Diarrhea ( Children)

Stylosanthes fruticosa (Retz.) Alston

Leguminosae

 

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

  

Snake bite

Stylosanthes fruticosa (Retz.) Alston

  

Root

 

Oral

 

75

Dolkoiso (M)

Stomach ache, Vomiting

Tephrosia bracteolata Guill. & Perr.

Leguminosae

291

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

76

Seringo demo golodo (M)

Gastritis

Zornia pratensis Milne-Redh.

Leguminosae

192, 328

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

77

Polo Golodo (M)

Stomach ache, Diarrhea, Gastritis

Abutilon longicuspe Hochst. ex A.Rich

Malvaceae

193

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

78

Puta (M)

Heart, food poisoning

Gossypium herbaceum L.

Malvaceae

621

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

  

Ear ache

Gossypium herbaceum L.

  

Leaf bud

 

Topical

 

79

Wari Beshe (M) Civil deshe (A)

Oral trash, Diarrhea , Malnutrition (Child)

Kosteletzkya adoensis (Hochst. ex A.Rich.) Mast.

Malvaceae

209,368,465

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M,

  

Fresh cut to stop bleeding

Kosteletzkya adoensis (Hochst. ex A.Rich.) Mast.

  

Leaves

Herb

Topical

A1

80

Chuksha (A )

Swelling

Sida rhombifolia L.

Malvaceae

93, 314

Leaves

Herb

Topical

A2

81

Kautso (M)

Vomiting, Food poisoning

Sterculia africana (Lour.) Fiori

Malvaceae

47

Leaves

Tree

Oral

M

82

Gontersa (M)

Snake bite, Liver disease

Bersama abyssinica Fresen.

Melianthaceae

436,475

Stem bark

Shrub

Oral/

Topical

A1,

A2

83

Chorahe (M)

Amoebiasis

Chasmanthera dependens Hochst.

Menispermaceae

100

Stem

Herb

Oral

M

  

Swelling

Chasmanthera dependens Hochst.

    

Topical

 

84

Balari (M)

Amoebiasis, Diarrhea, Rabies, Stomach ache

Cissampelos mucronata A.Rich.

Menispermaceae

29,96

Root

Herb

Oral

M

85

Haleko, Kellengi (A)

Eye disease (cataract)

Moringa stenopetala (Bak.) Cuf.

Moringaceae

-

Stem bark

Tree

Topical

M,

  

Malaria

Moringa stenopetala (Bak.) Cuf.

  

Leaves

Tree

Oral

A1

86

Musi (A)

Diarrhea

Musa paradisiaca L.

Musaceae

-

Fruit

Herb

Oral

A1

87

Enkoko (A)

Tape worm

Embelia schimperi Vatke

Myrsinaceae

-

Seeds

Shrub

Oral

A2

88

Diko (M)

Lower extremity weakness, Rheumatism

Commicarpus grandiflorus (A.Rich) Standley

Nyctaginaceae

 

Leaves

Herb

Topical

M

89

Mukalle (M)

Wound

Ximenia caffra Sond.

Olacaceae

22

Seed

Tree

Topical

M

90

Chamo (M)

Tape worm

Jasminum grandiflorum L subsp. floribundum (R.Br. ex Fresen.) P.S.Green:

Oleaceae

415,727

 

Climber

Oral

M

91

Rimiti (M)

Ascariasis, Gonorrhea

Olea europaea L. subsp. cuspidata (Wall.ex G.Don) Cif.

Oleaceae

108

Leaves

Tree

Oral

M

92

Afi deshe (Bere Keno) (A)

Evil eye

Biophytum umbraculum Welw.

Oxalidaceae

264

Leaves

Herb

Oral

A2

93

Solcarindo (M), Kinsa kins (A)

Malnutrition (children) Diarrhea, Tooth ache, Stop fresh cut bleeding

Oxalis radicosa A. Rich.

Oxalidaceae

212, 326

Leaves with succulent stem

Herb

Oral

M, A1

94

Azi (ite) deshe

Swelling

Phyllanthus ovalifolius Forssk.

Phyllanthaceae

200

Leaves

Shrub

Topical

A1,A2

95

Afi Deshe (A)

Evil eye

Phyllanthus rotundifolius Willd

Phyllanthaceae

244, 305

Leaves

Herb

Oral

A1

96

Tolsi (M), Andod (A)

Gonorrhea, Stomach bloating

Phytolacca dodecandra L 'Hérit.

Phytolaccaceae

97,241

Leaves

Climber

Oral

M,A1

97

Kurupe (M), Guni deshe (A)

Tooth ache

Plumbago zeylanica L.

Plumbaginaceae

90, 279, 284,306,367

Root bark

Climber

Topical

M, A1,A2

  

Snake bite

Plumbago zeylanica L.

  

Whole

 

Oral

 

98

Tsoralle (M)

Skin burns

Portulaca quadrifida L.

Portulacaceae

 

Leaves

Herb

Topical

M

99

Wuchanbe (M)

Tape worm

Myrsine africana L.

Primulaceae

178

Seed

Shrub

Oral

M

100

Gero (M)

Tooth ache

Faurea speciosa Welw.

Proteaceae

109,413

Leaves

Tree

Topical

M

101

Dishoo (M)

Ear ache

Clematis hirsuta Perr. & Guill.

Ranunculaceae

110,231

Leaves

Climber

Topical

M

  

Headache

Clematis hirsuta Perr. & Guill.

  

Leaves

 

Oral

 

102

Afi Deshe (M)

Evil eye

Ranunculus multifidus Forssk.

Ranunculaceae

381,111, 270

Leaves

Herb

Topical

A2

  

Tonsillitis

Ranunculus multifidus Forssk.

    

Oral

 

103

Ziambee

Ascariasis

Caylusea abyssinica (Fresen.) Fisch. & Mey

Resedaceae

16

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

104

Kulmi (A)

Tonsilities

Rhamnus prinoides L.'Hérit.

Rhamnaceae

-

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

A1,A2

105

Kosso (A)

Tape worm

Hagenia abyssinica (Brace) J.F.Gmel.

Rosaceae

-

Flower

Tree

Oral

M, A2

106

Afi Deshe(b)

Evil eye

Oldenlandia lancifolia (Schumach.) DC.

Rubiaceae

245

Leaves

Herb

Oral

A1

107

Wari ampi (M)

Liver disease (Ara)

Pavetta gardeniifolia A.Rich.

Rubiaceae

325

Leaves

Shrub

Inhale

M

  

Common cold

Pavetta gardeniifolia A Rich.

      

108

Afi deshe/gaina deshe (A)

Diarrhea, Evil eye, Tooth ache, Stomach ache, Head wound

Pentas lanceolata (Forssk.) Deflers

Rubiaceae

277,243,250, 276, 249

Root

Herb

Oral

A1, A2

109

Garo (M)

Ascariasis

Vangueria apiculata K. Schum.

Rubiaceae

8,157

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

110

Gembala (M)

Malaria

Gardenia ternifolia Schumach. & Thonn.

Rubiaceae

352

Leaves

Tree

Oral

M

111

Onaki (M)

Ascariasis

Meyna tetraphylla (Schweinf. ex Hiern) Robyns

Rubiaceae

4

Leaves

Tree

Oral

M

112

Lomi (A)

Oral trash; Food poisoning

Citrus aurantiifolia (Christm.) Swingle

Rutaceae

-

Fruit

Tree

Oral

A1

113

Tselto (M)

Stomach ache, common cold

Ruta chalepensis L. var.tenuifolia D'Urville

Rutaceae

-

Leaves with succulent stem

Herb

Oral

M, A1.A2

114

Gedai (M)

Common cold

Zanthoxylum chalybeum Engl.

Rutaceae

31

Seed

Tree

Oral

M

115

Wulchi (M)

Scorpion bite

Anemia schimperiana Presl.

Schizaeaceae

290

Leaves

Herb

Oral

M

116

Mitmita (A)

Malaria

Capsicum annuum L.

Solanaceae

-

Fruit

Herb

Oral

A1

117

Guni deshe (A)

Snake bite

Datura metel L.

Solanaceae

103

Whole

Herb

Oral/topical

A1

118

Atsefaris (M)

Toothache

Datura stramonium L.

Solanaceae

 

Leaf bud

Shrub

Topical

M

119

Ara Deshe (A)

Liver disease

Discopodium penninervium Hochst.

Solanaceae

339

Leaves

Tree

Inhale

A2

120

Tumbaho (M)

Leeches

Nicotiana tabacum L.

Solanaceae

-

Leaves

Herb

Topical/ Oral

A1,A2

121

Achi Kolpo (M), Garenti (A)

Amoebiasis, Stomach ache, Evil eye

Solanum dasyphyllum Schumach.

Solanaceae

9,94

Root

Herb

Oral

M,A1,A2

122

Kotse Garenti (A) Bulabulo(M)

Ascariasis, stomach ache

Solanum incanum L.

Solanaceae

94

Root

Herb

Oral

M

123

Muto (M)

Cold

Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal

Solanaceae

176, 208

Root

Herb

Oral

M

124

Azi deshe/masna (A)

Swelling

Veronica abyssinica Fres.

Scrophulariaceae

316, 334

Leaves

Herb

Topical

A2

125

Enaro (M)

Headache, Vomiting

Lantana camara L.

Verbenaceae

169

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

126

Dolo amede (M)

Headache

Lantana trifolia L.

Verbenaceae

190

Leaves

Shrub

Oral

M

127

Atuch

Stomach ache

Verbena officinalis subsp. africana R.Fernandes & Verdc.

Verbenaceae

268

Leaves

Herb

Oral

A2

128

Kuze (M)

Ascariasis, Food poisoning ,Vomiting

Balanites rotundifolia (van Tieghem) Blatter

Zygophyllaceae

41

Leaves

Tree

Oral

M

Study sites: M= Maale, A1= Ari 1and A2= Ari 2 ; Plant names are checked based on http://www.theplantlist.org.

Malaria, diarrhoea, ascariasis and amoebiasis were the most frequently cited health problems in Maale. Ascariasis is a helminthic human infection caused by Ascaris lumbricoides, a large roundworm. It is found worldwide with highest prevalence in tropical and subtropical regions, and in areas with inadequate sanitation [38, 39]. Malaria, headache, stomach ache and diarrhoea were the main cited ailments in Ari 1 and Ari 2. Respondents said they identified and diagnosed the type of ailments by visual observation of the human body. Yellow, white of the eyes, for example, indicated liver health problem. Lulekal et al. [40] reported similar ways of diagnosis among traditional healers in Mana Angetu, southeastern Ethiopia. On the other hand, tape worm and ascariasis were diagnosed by observation of the worms in human faeces by the patients themselves or elders in the case of young children.

The average number of medicinal plants cited by each study participant of different age and gender groups is displayed in Table 2. The highest numbers of species were mentioned by participants from the Maale ethnic community. Moreover, in all study sites the results revealed that male participants mentioned a higher number of medicinal plants than female ones (t-test, p < 0.05). Our results are in agreement with the study results reported for the Bench ethnic communities in south-western Ethiopia by Giday et al. [16] that they found that the male study participants to have greater plant knowledge than females, because boys were favoured for the transfer of medicinal plant knowledge.
Table 2

Average number of medicinal plants cited per respondent groups

Study sites

Gender

T-test

Age groups

T-test

Male

Female

P-value

> 40

≤40

P-value

Maale (n = 26 )

20.33

13.64

0.01*

19.67

12.73

0.01*

Ari 1(n = 24)

9.40

5.00

0.00*

8.06

7.22

0.65

Ari 2 (n = 24)

7.57

3.80

0.00*

6.77

5.09

0.13

Overall

  

0.01*

   

People aged above 40 are considered matured adult by the community; P-values < 0.05 are marked with*.

In all study sites more medicinal plants were reported by participants over 40 years of age than by younger ones but this difference was significant for the Maale site. Awas [11] found that older people knew more than the youngsters in his study of the Kefficho people, in south-western Ethiopia. This may be due to the fact that knowledge tends to be accumulated through time. The relative lack of knowledge in the young will further be aggravated in the future when many species become scarce in the landscape and this might have negative impact on knowledge continuity in the near future. On the other hand, the results from Ari showed that knowledge is not always disappearing, as there were no significant differences in plant knowledge between age groups.

Table 3 shows the familiarity indices of medicinal plants for the treatment of different types of health problems. Meyna tetraphylla in Maale and Solanum dasyphyllum in Ari 1 and 2 were most cited. There was little correspondence between the two sites with regard to frequently mentioned plant species, but health problems treated with medicinal plants were quite similar. Species with high familiarity indices should be considered for further phytochemical and pharmacological studies.
Table 3

Familiarity index (FI) of medicinal plants In Maale (M), Ari 1 (A1) and Ari 2 (A2)

Scientific name

Family name

Illness

Frequency

FI

Site

Meyna tetraphylla

Rubiaceae

Ascariasis

11

0.42

M

Plectranthus barbatus

Lamiaceae

Amoebiasis

11

0.42

M

Ozoroa insignis

Anacardiaceae

Ascariasis

11

0.42

M

Hypoestes forskaolii

Acanthaceae

Stomach ache

10

0.38

M

Ocimum basilicum

Lamiaceae

Stomach ache

10

0.38

M

Celosia trigyna

Amaranthaceae

Tapeworm

10

0.38

M

Plectranthus barbatus

Lamiaceae

Stomach ache

10

0.38

M

Solanum dasyphyllum

Solanaceae

Stomach ache

16

0.67

A1

Indigofera spicata

Leguminosae

Ascariasis

12

0.50

A1

Ruta chalepensis

Rutaceae

Stomach ache

12

0.50

A1

Plumbago zeylanica

Plumbaginaceae

Snake bite

10

0.42

A1

Acmella caulirhiza

Compositae

Tonsillitis

9

0.38

A1

Kosteletzkya adoensis

Malvaceae

Fresh cut to stop bleeding

9

0.38

A1

Vernonia amygdalina

Compositae

Malaria

9

0.38

A1

Citrus aurantifolia

Rutaceae

Oral trash

9

0.38

A1

Acmella caulirhiza

Compositae

Tooth ache

8

0.33

A1

Oxalis radicosa

Oxalidaceae

Fresh cut to stop bleeding

8

0.33

A1

Rhamnus prinoides

Rhamnaceae

Tonsillitis

8

0.33

A1

Citrus aurantifolia

Rutaceae

Food poisoning

8

0.33

A1

Solanum dasyphyllum

Solanaceae

Stomach ache

10

0.42

A2

Garcinia livingstonei

Clusiaceae

Oral trash

10

0.42

A2

Millettia ferruginea

Leguminosae

Close wound caused by Jiggers

9

0.38

A2

Nicotiana tabacum

Solanaceae

Leeches

8

0.33

A2

Hagenia abyssinica

Rosaceae

Tape worm

8

0.33

A2

Preference ranking among ten key informants for eight selected medicinal plants used for the treatment of ascariasis is shown in Table 4. From Table 4 it appears that people had certain preferences for medicinal plants based on their perceived efficacy for the treatment of the frequently cited health problem, ascariasis. Species with higher preference ranking may indicate effective healing properties, which suggests that they are interesting for further phytochemical and pharmacological research.
Table 4

Preference ranking of eight medicinal plants used for the treatment of ascariasis based on perceived efficacy by ten respondents in Maale

Scientific name

Total sum of ranks (n = 10)

Standard deviation

Mean ranking

Rank values

Ozoroa insignis

18

± 1.0

1.8

1

Meyna tetraphylla

22

± 1.4

2.2

2

Indigofera spicata

34

± 1.6

3.4

3

Vangueria apiculata

45

± 1.6

4.5

4

Balanites rotundifolia

54

± 2.1

5.4

5

Pergularia daemia

59

± 1.7

5.9

6

Senna singueana

61

± 0.6

6.1

7

Combretum aculeatum

67

±2.0

6.7

8

Mechanisms of knowledge transfer among social groups

Most medicinal plant knowledge is transferred orally, as was reported by 71 study participants (96%) in the study sites (Table 5). This is the dominant mechanism of traditional knowledge transfer system in Africa [8], although this type of transfer cannot guarantee continuity under the current circumstances, where plant resource degradation and loss is severe. Most people (82%) obtained their knowledge from their (grand) parents, which is similar to the percentage found by a study in Wonago district, Ethiopia [41]. The great majority of the study participants preferred to transfer their medicinal plant knowledge to their children or grandchildren, which favours knowledge conservation and continuity mostly within the family line.
Table 5

Acquisition and willingness to transfer medicinal plant knowledge in the study sites

 

Maale frequency (%)

Ari 1 frequency (%)

Ari 2 frequency (%)

Total frequency (%)

Knowledge acquired

    

Parents/grandparents

20 (76.9)

19 (79.1)

22 (91.7)

61 (81.4)

Friends

1 (3.9)

1 (4.2)

0 (0.0)

2 (2.7)

Neighbours

2 (7.7)

1 (4.2)

0 (0.0)

3 (4.1)

Other (Given from God, accidentally encountered individuals)

3 (11.5)

3 (12.5)

2 (8.3)

8 (10.8)

Knowledge willing to transfer to:

    

Children and grand children

17 (65.4)

22 (91.6)

20 (87.5)

59 (79.7)

Any family member

4 (15.4)

1 (4.2)

1 (4.2)

6 (8.1)

Neighbours

4(15.4)

0(0.0)

0 (0.0)

4 (5.4)

No one

1(3.8)

1(4.2)

3 (12.5)

5 (6.8)

The majority of study participants who showed interest to transfer their medicinal plant knowledge, preferred to transfer this to their first son. This preference was associated with the perception and fear that daughters would share the knowledge with their husbands’ family when they get married. Knowledge transfer to the new family was not appreciated by respondents with the perception that their secret knowledge would be known by others. When the first son was not considered trustworthy to keep the knowledge secretly or not judged interested in the subject as assessed through what he says, what he does and his general attitudes, parents transferred it to their second son or grandson.

In most cases there existed a concern among communities and elder knowledgeable people on plant resource degradation around their village. Dwindling resources around settlements may have negative implications for the future transfer of medicinal plant knowledge, as elders are unable to walk long distances from their residence. If the plants are no longer available, it becomes difficult to show and teach others about their names, characteristics and uses.

Demographic factors influencing medicinal plant knowledge

Gender significantly predicted medicinal plant knowledge. Male study participants knew a higher number of medicinal plants than female ones. This is probably associated with the perception and culture of both ethnic communities to favour males in transferring medicinal plant knowledge. This must have implications for the cultivation of medicinal plant species in home gardens as women play a major role in managing these gardens. Moreover, site also strongly influenced the number of medicinal plants known and used (Table 6). Religion, family size and education did not influence plant knowledge.
Table 6

Socio-demographic and site factors prediction on the number of medicinal plant knowledge

 

Unstandardized

Standardized

 
 

Beta coefficient

Std. error

Beta coefficient

p-value

R2 = 74.2

    

Constant

3.831

0.443

  

Age

0.016

0.006

0.198

0.014*

Gender

-0.819

0.149

-0.419

0.000*

Educational level

0.266

0.167

0.135

0.117

Family size

-0.041

0.025

-0.122

0.101

Site (Ari 1)

-1.485

0.185

-0.716

0.000*

Site (Ari 2)

-1.905

0.189

-0.918

0.000*

Religion (Protestant Christian)

0.136

0.178

0.068

0.449

Religion (Orthodox Christian)

0.190

0.199

0.093

0.343

Sites are compared against Maale site. Religion is compared against traditional religion. Variables with a significant influence (P<0.05) are marked with*.

Older members of the community in Maale knew more medicinal plants than youngsters (Table 2), which may also reflect an ongoing gradual knowledge loss of knowledge in the study community. Hence, it is important to include traditional knowledge in the school curricula to raise awareness as recommended by Awas [11].

Similarities on in medicinal plant knowledge among sites

Generally we found little similarity among the three study sites. The calculated Jaccard similarity index was relatively higher between the two Ari sites (0.33), lower between Maale and Ari 1 (0.14) and lowest between Maale and Ari 2 (0.08). Our results showed that the Ari 1 and Ari 2 sites are more similar in medicinal plant knowledge than each of them compared to Maale. This can be explained by the geographical proximity between the two Ari sites and also supported by the fact that they belong to the same ethnic group and share their cultural background.

Medicinal plant collection, conservation efforts and major threats

Study participants mostly collected medicinal plants from crop fields, home gardens and nearby forest patches. The results of the growth form analysis revealed that herbs were the most common growth form and the dominant plant parts harvested were leaves. This was found by many researchers in different parts of East Africa [42, 43]. Harvesting of leaves may not have negative effects on resource availability, provided that the plant itself is not destroyed during harvesting, which is especially relevant for herbs.

A few study participants brought seedlings of medicinal herbs from fields and forest patches and started cultivating them in their home gardens. Their main reasons for doing so were to conserve plants that were scarce in their surroundings, to keep herbs available that were unavailable during the dry season and to have the medicine at hand during emergency situations. The practice of nurturing of wild species in home gardens was limited to a very small area, because people suspected that their importance as medicine could be easily guessed by outsiders. This unwillingness to share resources with neighbours or other non-family members may negatively affect the conservation of medicinal plant knowledge and resources. Giday and Teklehaymanot [44] did not encounter any cultivation of medicinal plants by Afar people in Ethiopian Ada’ar district. The main reason mentioned for this was the easily availability of the medicinal plant in areas that are not far from the homesteads.

Agricultural expansion and lack of cultivation tradition were indicated by our study participants as major threats in all study sites (Table 7). The conversion of natural vegetation to agricultural fields is a serious issue in Eastern Africa, where the rural population is highly dependent on subsistence agriculture [45]. Sustainable management of resources may not be an easy task, but it is crucial to guarantee future access to herbal medicine for rural communities [46]. Other threats that were mentioned were a lack of maintenance and the fact that people with little knowledge considered medicinal plants growing among their crops as weeds were likely to uproot them.
Table 7

Threats for medicinal plant resources and their priority ranking

Threats

Herbs

Trees, shrubs, climbers

Maale

Ari 1

Ari 2

Maale

Ari 1

Ari 2

Agricultural land expansion

2

2

2

1

1

1

Lack of cultivation and maintenance

1

1

1

2

2

2

Conflicting uses (timber, fencing, firewood, etc)

0

0

0

3

3

3

Grazing pressure

4

4

4

4

5

4

Drought or unreliable rainfall

3

3

3

5

4

5

“0”’ = not mentioned as a threat.

Most respondents (76% in Maale, 75% in Ari 1, 83% in Ari 2) collected plants at any time or day of the week. A few herbalists did not harvest plants on Sundays and some orthodox Christians did not harvest on Wednesdays and Fridays as these are fasting days. In emergency cases, they used stored herbal medicine on these days.

Commercialization of herbal medicine

Marketing of medicinal plants was not common at the studied markets, apart from the well-known Hagenia abyssinica flowers and Embelia shimperi seeds (both wild collected) and the cultivated Allium sativum and Artemisia absinthium that are also used as spices. The commercialization of other wild and semi-wild species is hampered by the fact that medicinal knowledge is only held by few people. Tolassa [21] also found only a few species (Thalictrum rhynchocarpum, Piper capense and Echinops kebericho) at Gimibi and Gaba Senbeta markets, in western Ethiopia, while Giday et al. [16] found that the few species sold by Bench communities in south-western Ethiopia doubled as spices. In our study area, market chains were short and medicinal plants were directly sold by harvesters without further processing. The economic importance of the trade was limited: the price of Embelia shimperii seeds was only 2 Ethiopian Birr (0.10 $) per glass (about 250 ml). The product was not always available and marketed in small quantities.

Although herbalists’ incomes obtained through giving treatments to local communities were not high, the most important aspect observed from traditional healers is local recognition and respect by the community. In our study sites, respondents mentioned that on average they were consulted by patients five times per month. The charges for a treatment depended on the type of health problem treated and on patient/healers’ relationships. Payment per treatment ranged from 1-10 Ethiopian Birr (equivalent to 0.05 - 0.5 $) and sometimes were free of charge, especially in Maale area. However, in the Ari sites traditional healers believed that whatever relation existed, the patient had to pay money for a consult; otherwise they underlined that the medicine would not be effective. Limited income obtained from marketing of medicinal plants or from treatments given to patients may have negative implications future cultivation, maintenance and conservation of medicinal plants in the landscape.

Conclusion

This study indicated that medicinal plants were important for the health care of the Maale and Ari communities, as they used at least 128 species and traditional medicine was considered as the first line of treatment by 89% of our respondents. Knowledge differed between and within ethnic groups and also among sites. The fact that knowledge transfer was predominantly to family members and in particular to first-born sons may negatively affect its continuity and may result in knowledge loss if medicinal plant resources become scarce in the future. Low income obtained from marketing of medicinal plants and herbal treatments may have strong implications on the future conservation of medicinal plants in the landscape.

Agricultural land expansion and a lack of cultivation practices limit the availability of medicinal plant resources in the area. Urgent action is required towards conservation (both ex-situ and in-situ combined) of medicinal plants and traditional knowledge before we lose them in the near future. Moreover, land use planning and development plan should also consider strategies that stimulate medicinal plant availability in the landscape and work towards increasing their cultivation to complement ex-and in-situ conservation efforts.

Popular medicinal species such as Solanum dasyphyllum, Indigofera spicata, Plumbago zeylanica, Meyna tetraphylla and multi-use species like Oxalis radicosa are good candidates for consideration in further phytochemical and pharmacological research to verify their efficacy.

Declarations

Acknowledgements

This research project was granted by the Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education (Netherlands Fellowship Programme) as part of the PhD research of the first author. Our gratefulness goes to the informants in all study sites who shared with us their knowledge on medicinal plants used for the treatment of human health problems. Our appreciation goes also to the staff of the National Herbarium of Addis Ababa University and the Biosystematics group at Wageningen University for their technical assistance. We are also thankful to zonal, district and kebele administrators and experts (health, forestry and agricultural development) in the study area.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, Forestry Research Center
(2)
Biosystematics Group, Wageningen University and Research Center
(3)
Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden University
(4)
Department of Plant Biology and Biodiversity Management, The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University

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