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Research Article

Medicinal Plants used in Traditional Medicine in the Centre East Region of Burkina Faso

J.M.K. Ky, P. Zerbo, C. Gnoula, J. Simpore, J.B. Nikiema and J. Millogo-Rasolodimby
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The present research focused on the inventory and the use of plants in traditional medicine for the treatment of diseases in this area. The method was based on ethnobotanical surveys with semi-directing interview, conducted from November 2006 to December 2007 among a sample of 50 people aged between 40 and 80 years and very experienced in traditional medicine in the municipalities of Bissiga, Lalgaye and Tenkodogo. We identify 73 phytogenetic species and 175 therapeutic indications used to treat 52 diseases and the principal ones are the gastrointestinal diseases, the malaria, the various fevers, the jaundice, the skin diseases, the respiratory affections, the reproduction diseases, the hemorrhoids and the infantile diseases. In traditional veterinary pharmacopoeia, 18 phytogenetic species are used with 33 therapeutic indications to treat diseases including trypanosomiasis, tuberculosis, diarrheas and wounds. The interest of people of this area for medicinal plants, command a special attention to organize the actors and preserve the plant genetic resources.

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J.M.K. Ky, P. Zerbo, C. Gnoula, J. Simpore, J.B. Nikiema and J. Millogo-Rasolodimby, 2009. Medicinal Plants used in Traditional Medicine in the Centre East Region of Burkina Faso. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 12: 1287-1298.

DOI: 10.3923/pjbs.2009.1287.1298



The phytogenetic resources were strongly important in the life of the men who have always made recourse to them to satisfy the majority of their needs as well as the food or medicinal. This recourse to the plants, formerly anchored in the culture of the African populations was controlled and forbidden after independence to the profit of conventional medicine known as modern (Burkina Faso, Ministry of Health, 2000).

Moreover, since the monetary devaluation of the FCFA in 1994 and in spite of the advent of the generic drugs, many medical treatments remain financially expensive and inaccessible to the African populations whose great majority is economically helpless. In the inability to achieve the medical structures, these populations continue to seek essential remedies from medicinal plants (Bellakhdar, 1983; World Health Organization, 2002; Pare et al., 2009). In 1994, Law No. 23/94/ADP Code of Public Health of 19 May 1994 acknowledges Medicine and traditional medicines as a component of the national health system (Burkina Faso, Ministry of Health, 2004).

Like most of the other African countries, the pharmacopoeia and traditional medicine are increasingly used in Burkina Faso. According to the Centre d’Analyse des Politiques Economiques et Sociales (2004), 90% of the population of Burkina Faso, generally use traditional medicine for treatment.

Thus, to document and develop this traditional knowledge, various research were undertaken by Adjanohoun et al. (1979), Lejoly (1991), Merel et al. (2004), World Health Organization (2007), Ibara et al. (2007) and Coulidiati et al. (2009). In Burkina Faso, these research works concerning medicinal plants and traditional médicine have been done in the center region (Pale et al., 2004; Belem et al., 2006; Yelemou et al., 2007) in the West (Raebild et al., 2007; Olivier et al., 2003) and in the North-West (Zerbo et al., 2007). The majority of these works consisted on the inventory of medicinal plants and the Center East Region has not yet been explored.

The veterinarian pharmacopoeia has also been studied by Tamboura et al. (2000) and Tapsoba and Deschamps (2006). However, many regions are not yet explored. This is why; we chose to study the medicinal plants of human and veterinary pharmacopoeia from the Center-East Region of Burkina Faso. Some work are about the description of the plant group and some uses of plants for food and energy (Kere, 1998; Ky et al., 2009) have been done but no work about the use of medicinal plants of this region. Present study aims to identify and list the various plants used in pharmacopoeia and traditional medicine in the study area. It also aims to establish the situation of the therapeutic treatments used by the different actors in the purpose and objective of improving the health of populations as well as animals in the studied zone. This will contribute to a best development of the phytogénétic resources in terms of health in the area and also provide credit to local and traditional knowledge.


The study was conducted from August 2006 to April 2007 in a zone located in the eastern central region of Burkina Faso. This region is located between longitudes Western 1°0' and 0°45' and the latitudes 12°35' and 10°55' Northern. It covers a surface of 14.656 km-2 (Fig. 1). According to the new administrative map, it is limited to the East by the East Region, to the North by the Center-North Region, to the West by the Center-South Region, to the North-West by the Central Plateau Region and to the South by the republics of Togo and Ghana. The region Center-East is composed by 3 provinces: Boulgou, Kouritenga and Koulpélogo. It is subdivided in 30 communes including 6 urban and 24 rural. Several ethnic groups cohabit in the zone: Mossé, Bissa, Yanna, Zaosé and Peulh. Its border position with Ghana and Togo makes this area, a transit commercial and cultural zone. The population of Center-East of Burkina Faso in 2006 was about 1.132.023 and 70.91% was living in the provinces of Boulgou and Koulpélogho. The climatic situation is characterized by an monthly average temperature between 17.5° and 26.6°C in 2006 and an annual rainfall of 800 to 1.200 mm (Burkina Faso, Ministry of Economy and Development, National Institute of the Statistics and Demography, 2007).

Methodology: The methodology used is based on the ethnobotanical surveys using a semi-directing interview with questionnaires and interview guides elaborated beforehand (Foster and Anderson, 1978; Cotton, 1996; Peters, 1996). The questions were put in the two most spoken local languages: Mooré and Bissa. All of the other ethnic groups living in the study area understand Mooré. An interpreter explained us all the significances of the local words, mimes and proverbs in Mooré or Bissa. The 50 interviewed people were 40-80 years old and are recognized by the populations for their great experiences and knowledg in traditional medicine.

The data were collected on cards previously developed based on the different scientific themes and searched. They contain the information relating to the names of the plants, the organs used, the mode of preparation, the therapeutic indications, the mode of administration and the socio economic data. The first questionnaire was intended to the tradi- therapeutists salesmen (its) or consultants or prescribers of drugs and the second one was addressed to the traditional stockbreeders or veterinary. The Third one was used to receive information of socio-economical order.

Fig. 1:

Map of localization of the study zone in the Center East of Burkina Faso

The surveys were conducted from November 2006 to December 2007. They were conducted in 8 villages from 3 municipalities (Bissiga, Lalgaye and Tenkodogo) when traditional human and veterinary medicine are practiced by local specialists with great experience and recognized by opinion leaders and notables of the villages.

The scientific identification of the species was carried out at the Laboratory of Plant Biology and Ecology of the University of Ouagadougou under the supervision of Professor Jeanne MILLOGO-RASOLODIMBY. The species collected were compared with those of Herbarium AUO (African Union Organization) of the University of Ouagadougou. The listed and identified species was compared with that of the Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Burkina Faso (Lebrun et al., 1991) and of the floristic lexicons of Von Maydell (1983), Arbonnier (2000) and Bosch et al. (2002)


We counted 73 species of 59 genera and 36 families. Sixty three are woody species and 10 plants are herbaceous (Table 1).

The plant bodies used (Fig. 2) are: leaves (Fig. 2a), stem bark (Fig. 2b), rhizome, roots or its bark (Fig. 2c), fruits (Fig. 2d), Stems herbaceous (Fig. 2e), fruits and seeds (Fig. 2f), gum and latex.

The decoction, the aqueous mashing, the aqueous infusion, the calcination and the grinding are the principal modes of preparation of traditional remedies.

The drinking, the bath, the enema, the massage, the fumigation, the inhalation, the instillation, the application and scarification are the main modes of traditional drug administration.

We have identified 175 therapeutic indications used by the traditional medicinal practitioners and 93% of the medical recipes were products of phytogenetic woody species.

In the studied zone, 52 diseases treated by the traditional medicine practitioners were listed. They are gathered in 16 groups of diseases. The main diseases are related to the gastrointestinal diseases, the malaria, the various fevers, the jaundice, the wound and skin diseases, the infantile diseases, the respiratory diseases, the meningitis, the hemorrhoids and the reproduction diseases (Table 2).

Table 1:

Table of variation of the number of species per families, genera and number of treatments

Fig. 2: Some plant bodies used in pharmacopoeia and traditional medicine: (a) Sale of Maytenus senegalensis leaves in the market of Tenkodogo; (b) Roots of various plants in the market Garango; (c) Bark and roots of various plants in the market of Tenkodogo; (d) Fruits of Tamarindus indica for sale in the market of Tenkodogo; (e) Various parts of woody plants and herbs on sale in the market Tenkodogo and (f) Shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa manufactured in Sector 5 of Tenkodogo)

Fig. 3:

Proportion of the diseases treated in pharmacopoeia veterinary

Table 2:

Table of the various groups of listed diseases and therapeutic indications in human pharmacopoeia

We also identified 18 woody species used in the traditional veterinary medicine. These species are distributed in 16 genera and 11 families.

The leaf, the stem bark and the fruits are the main plant bodies used. The modes of preparation of the medical recipes are mainly based on the decoction, the aqueous infusion and grinding. The modes of administration used are the drinking, the rectal injection, the bathing and the local application. In the studied zone, thirty three therapeutic indications of medicinal plants have been identified with traditional medicine practitioners interviewed. These plants are used for the treatment of trypanosomiasis, bovine tuberculosis, various wounds, fractures, diarrheas and nodular dermatosis (Fig. 3).


Present results showed that more than 77% of the plants used in traditional human medicine are ligneous species. The perennial character of these plants which provides each season some plants bodies for the human diseases treatment seems to be at the base of this solicitude. Similar results were observed by certain authors (Stauble, 1986; Rwangabo and de Robert Anton, 1993; Olivier and Sanou, 2003; Togola et al., 2005; Belem et al., 2006; Zerbo et al., 2007; Gueye and Diouf, 2007).

Table 3:

Table of the therapeutic indications according to the plant bodies used in human pharmacopoeia

All the parts of the plants are used: roots, barks, leaves, twigs, stems, flowers, fruits, gums, resins, latex or the whole plant. But the roots and the bark are more used (Table 3). This practice can cause the disappearance of the species and the loss of floristic diversity if debarking and uprooting were repetitive and most frequent. Such concerns were reported by Zerbo et al. (2007) and Ky et al. (2009).

In total 175 medical recipes were listed with traditional medicine practitioners. We note that the number of therapeutic indications is not proportionally correlated to the frequency of use which is directly in relation to the frequency of the diseases and the availability of the product. The main botanic plant families used are the Mimosaceae, the Caesalpiniaceae, the Combretaceae, the Anacardiaceae and the Rubiaceae (Fig. 4). According to our results 93% of the medical recipes are provided by the ligneous phytogenetic species and 7% by the herbaceous ones. That testifies to the strong use of the woody phytogenetic species in the health care.

These therapeutic indications are used for the treatment of more than 50 diseases which main ones are gastrointestinal diseases (colics, dysentery, gastric ulcer and diarrhoea). More than thirty medical recipes are used to treat these pathologies of the digestive system. To treat malaria, 17 medical recipes are used. For the treatment of the skin diseases like wounds, oedema, itching, fractures, distortions and luxations, 15 traditional medicine recipes are used. The others traditional medicine recipes are used for the treatment of jaundice, the sterility, the birth control, the infantile diseases and the larynx and dental affections. Only one recipe has been listed for the treatment of leprosy and meningitis.

More than 22 recipes are made with the bodies of Mimosaceae, 14 recipes with the bodies of Combretaceae, of Anacardiaceae, of Rubiaceae, of Caesalpiniaceae, of Bombacaceae and of Olacaceae. Several other recipes are a combination of several species and with various parts of these species.

Fig. 4:

Distribution of the botanic families according to their use

The principal forms of administration are the decoction, the mashing, the infusion, the juice, the powder, the crude extracts or calcined, sometimes added to the shea butter, or to the honey. The modes of administration, most usually used are the oral way, the inhalations, the baths (seat, face, head and whole body), the gargarism, the local applications, the massages and the enema.

These forms and modes of administration were also observed in other regions of Burkina Faso by the following authors (Togola et al., 2005; Zerbo et al., 2007). Therefore, there is a difference in the drug administration and the different species combination. The plants frequently requested for the traditional medicine recipes, are not exactly the same as those used in the West by Olivier et al. (2003) nor in the North-West by Zerbo et al. (2007). Moreover the therapeutic indications are different from a region to another.

Farming is highly developed in the Central Region East (Burkina Faso, Ministry of Economy and Development, National Institute of the Statistics and Demography, 2007). However, the high cost of modern veterinary and distance from supply centers make them inaccessible. The results of our investigations show that thirty three therapeutic indications of traditional medicine contribute to the treatment of livestock against the major diseases that are trypanosomiasis, tuberculosis, sores and skin diseases, diarrhea and difficult deliveries. This is confirmed by Tamboura et al. (2000) and Tapsoba and Deschamps (2006) in Burkina Faso. The modes of preparation and administration are not very diversified; there are two main forms which are decoctions and infusions and two modes of administration: oral and local applications. The species most used by traditional veterinary medicine belong to the botanic families of Mimosaceae, Meliaceae, Caesalpiniaceae, Sapotaceae and Sterculiaceae (Table 4). The species of these botanic families are under more exploitation in the studied zone. These results show a significant contribution of traditional medicine in livestock development in the area.

Table 4:

Therapeutic indications of veterinary pharmacopoeia according to the botanic families


Medicinal plants are widely used in human and veterinary medicine in the Center-East of Burkina Faso. They contribute to improve population health at low cost. Our results showed this strong use of the woody and herbaceous species. In human traditional medicine, 175 therapeutic indications were listed and 33 for veterinary medicine. These results show clearly the contribution of the traditional pharmacopoeia to human and animal healthcare. They also contribute to the achievement of objectives of the Strategic Framework of Traditional Medicine and Pharmacopoeia of Burkina Faso which aims to strengthen scientific research in the field of Traditional Medicine and Pharmacopoeia, to improve the system of production and distribution of medicines derived from Traditional Pharmacopoeia, to contribute to the protection of natural areas and to promote the cultivation of medicinal plants.

The results have also improved the level of knowledge of the use of the pharmacopoeia and traditional medicine in this area.

Therefore, the strong use of the woody species has necessarily negative impacts on the vegetation. Indeed the abusive exploitation of the barks, roots or stems contribute to the destruction of vegetation.

Moreover, with the strong use of the pharmacopoeia by the large majority of the population, the démographic growth rate and the migratory movements, it appears obvious that the vegetation in this area could suffer damage. It is therefore important to have scientific knowledge on the evolution of this vegetation across a floristic inventory in order to determine its production capacity and to better organize and control its exploitation and its sustainable management.


Appendix 1:

Plants used in the human pharmacopoeia and therapeutic indications in the treatment of some diseases. B F = Biological Form; T = Tree; Sh = Shrub; H = Herbaceous; Li = Lianas; Li Sh = Lianous Shrub; Sh P = Shrubs Parasitic

Appendix 2:

Principal plants used in the pharmacopeia veterinary

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