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International Journal of Tropical Medicine
Year: 2009  |  Volume: 4  |  Issue: 3  |  Page No.: 82 - 90

The Kakamega Forest Medicinal Plant Resources and their Utilization by the Adjacent Luhya Community

A.R.O. Nyunja, J.C. Onyango and Beck Erwin    

Abstract: Kakamega Forest is a rich natural setting endowed with abundant flora and fauna used by the local communities who once lived within the forest and those who now border it. There has been scarcity of information on plants used in basic traditional healthcare by the adjacent communities, Luhya, yet alternative medicine continues to fill in the gap left over by modern medicine. This study sought to survey and document plants used from the forest as medicine or in traditional healthcare and collect, identify and preserve specimens of such plants in the herbarium. Field observation and 240 open-ended interviews conducted during this research have indicated that the people highly value plant medicines for their primary healthcare needs and that the plants are used to cover a wide range of ailments and conditions affecting both man and his domestic animals. The diseases range from topical to internal and psychosomatic ailments, to simple as well as stubborn conditions. Such diseases include whitlow, measles, chickenpox and cancer amongst others. A total of one hundred and twenty herbal practitioners, over 18 years of age, were interviewed between March and September 2002 in this ethno-medicinal study. There have since been bi-annual follow up visits for more information. A total of 168 plant species spanning 74 plant families are reported herein. Moraceae topped the list with 10 species followed by the Euphorbiacea with 9. The most frequently used were Zanthoxylum gillettii, Trichilia emetica, Olea capensis, Entada abyssinica and Croton macrostachyus. The biological diversity, as a phytomedical resource has been indexed thus, contributing to the database of the Kakamega Forest plants. It is hoped that the report will be of use to policy makers. There are several plants with uses hitherto not reported, for instance Craterispermum schweinfurthii an aphrodisiac, Allophylus abyssinica for the hunch back, Ensete edule for measles and Sapium ellipticum for burns. This research has the potential for production and industrialization of the medicinal plants. Medicinal value of plants is hereby fronted as a reason for conserving and preserving biodiversity in Kakamega Forest.

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