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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Traditional use of medicinal plants in south-central Zimbabwe: review and perspectives

Alfred Maroyi

Author Affiliations

Department of Biodiversity, School of Molecular and Life Sciences, University of Limpopo, Mankweng, South Africa

Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2013, 9:31  doi:10.1186/1746-4269-9-31

Published: 4 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Traditional medicine has remained as the most affordable and easily accessible source of treatment in the primary healthcare system of resource poor communities in Zimbabwe. The local people have a long history of traditional plant usage for medicinal purposes. Despite the increasing acceptance of traditional medicine in Zimbabwe, this rich indigenous knowledge is not adequately documented. Documentation of plants used as traditional medicines is needed so that the knowledge can be preserved and the utilized plants conserved and used sustainably. The primary objective of this paper is to summarize information on traditional uses of medicinal plants in south-central Zimbabwe, identifying research gaps and suggesting perspectives for future research.

Methods

This study is based on a review of the literature published in scientific journals, books, reports from national, regional and international organizations, theses, conference papers and other grey materials.

Results

A total of 93 medicinal plant species representing 41 families and 77 genera are used in south-central Zimbabwe. These plant species are used to treat 18 diseases and disorder categories, with the highest number of species used for gastro-intestinal disorders, followed by sexually transmitted infections, cold, cough and sore throat and gynaecological problems. Shrubs and trees (38% each) were the primary sources of medicinal plants, followed by herbs (21%) and climbers (3%). The therapeutic claims made on medicinal plants documented in south-central Zimbabwe are well supported by literature, with 82.8% of the plant species having similar applications in other regions of Zimbabwe as well as other parts of the world and 89.2% having documented biological and pharmacological properties.

Conclusion

This study illustrates the importance of traditional medicines in the treatment and management of human diseases and ailments in south-central Zimbabwe. Traditional medicines still play an important role in meeting basic health care of local communities in Zimbabwe.

Keywords:
Conservation; Medicinal plants; South-central Zimbabwe; Traditional knowledge