Medicinal plants used by traditional medicine practitioners in the treatment of tuberculosis and related ailments in Uganda

Author(s): Tabuti JR, Kukunda CB, Waako PJ


Aim of the study: Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the most difficult ailments to control in the world today. The emergence of drug resistant strains has made previously effective and affordable remedies less effective. This has made the search for new medicines from local traditional medicines urgent. The specific objectives of this study were to (1) identify plant species used in the treatment of TB, their methods of preparation and administration, (2) document TB recognition, and (3) document medicine processing and packaging practices by traditional medicine practitioners (TMPs).

Methods: We interviewed 32 TMPs from the districts of Kamuli, Kisoro and Nakapiripirit using a guided questionnaire.

Results: We documented 88 plant species used to treat TB. Seven of these, Eucalyptus spp., Warburgia salutaris (G. Bertol.) Chiov., Ocimum suave Willd., Zanthoxylum chalybeum Engl., Momordica foetida Schum., Persea americana Mill. and Acacia hockii De Wild. were mentioned by three or more TMPs. Medicines were prepared mostly as mixtures or infrequently as mono-preparations in dosage forms of decoctions and infusions. They were administered orally in variable doses over varying periods of time. The TMPs did not know how to preserve the medicines and packaged them in used water bottles. Almost all TMPs mentioned the most important signs by which TB is recognised. They also knew that TB was a contagious disease spread through poor hygiene and crowding.

Conclusions: Local knowledge and practices of treating TB exist in the districts surveyed. This knowledge may be imperfect and TMPs appear to be still experimenting with which species to use to treat TB. There is need to screen among the species mentioned to determine those which are efficacious and safe. The technology of processing, packaging and preserving traditional medicines for the treatment of TB is very basic and needs improving. The TMPs appear to be playing a significant role in primary health care delivery and this lends further justification for the ongoing Uganda government efforts to integrate the allopathic and traditional medicine systems.

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