Ethnobotanical investigation of herbal food additives of Morocco used as natural dyes

Aziz Drioiche, Nadia Benhlima, Amale Kchibale, Salima Boutahiri, Atika Ailli, Fatima El Hilali, Brahim Moukaid, Touriya Zair


We undertook this ethnobotanical study for identifying and valorising medicinal plants exploited as food additives, and to establish a database of aromatic and medicinal plants used as food additives in traditional phytotherapy in Morocco (Fez-Meknes, Beni-Mellal, Khenifra, Draa-Tafilalt).

Methods: An ethnobotanical investigation was carried out among 200 main actors in traditional medicine (herbalists, healers, collectors, researchers) of Meknes, El Hajeb, Taza, Azrou, Ain Leuh, Boulemane, Ifrane, Khenifra, M'rirt, and Midelt; data on the use of plants as food additives and especially those used as tinctorial plants was collected via questionnaire sheets. The data was then subjected to principal component analysis.

Results: The population surveyed use plants for three major purposes: therapeutic (39.60%), food (35.84%) and cosmetics (24.56%). Majority (33.01%) of the people surveyed use plants to provide aroma, followed by dyes (25.24%), spices (24.27%) and as food preservative (17.48%). We identified 56 plants used as dyes among the 79 species identified. From a botanical point of view, the 79 species listed are divided into 35 families. The most represented families are Asteraceae (16.55%), Lamiaceae (15.17%), Punicaceae (7.24%) and Zingiberaccea (7.24%). The survey confirmed the excessive use of Punica granatum L., Curcuma longa L., Matricaria camomilla L., Crocus sativus L. and Carthamus tinctorius L.

Conclusion: This study showed that the indigenous populations of the Pre-Rif, Middle Atlas and High Atlas regions use the plants as natural food additives, especially dyes. This wealth of plants is accompanied by knowledge and practices in phytotherapy acquired by the inhabitants over the centuries. We recommend that the documented plants be evaluated for their safety and efficiency in order to conclusively demonstrate their beneficial effects on health.

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