Ethnobotany and quantitative analysis of medicinal plants used by the people of Malava sub-county, Western Kenya
Background: This research aims to identify and document medicinal plants used by locals in Malava sub-county, Western Kenya, and explore their traditional knowledge and transmission. The ethnomedicinal knowledge in this area is on the brink of extinction due to the increasing prevalence and usage of modern medicine, changing livelihoods, rapid modernization, and urbanization.
Methods: The survey was conducted between July and December 2022, using semi-structured open-ended questionnaires and guided field walks. A total of 102 respondents, including Traditional Medical Practitioners (TMPs), participated. The quantitative analysis involved calculating the use value (UV), frequency of citation (FC), family use value (FUV), and informant agreement ratio (IAR) to assess the significance of each medicinal plant and understand its acceptance.
Results: The study documented 62 vascular medicinal plant species from 30 families. The most represented families were Asteraceae and Fabaceae, with seven species each (11.3%). Families with the highest FUV values were Xanthorrhoeaceae (0.235) and Meliaceae (0.612). Leaves were the most commonly used plant part (40%), while trees were the most prevalent plant form (39%). Crushing was the highest recorded mode of preparation (46.2%) with oral administration being common (76.9%). Azadirachta indica A. Juss. was the most utilized plant species medicinally, with the highest use value (UV=0.25). The majority of plant species were used for curing stomachaches (18 species) and malaria (15 species).
Conclusions: The findings of this study underscore the urgent need to document traditional knowledge before it becomes lost with the decline of rural practitioners. Therefore, there is a pressing need for ethnobotanical research, policy initiatives, and community programs to protect the biocultural diversity associated with the traditional medical system and ensure the well-being of both the environment and human populations in this region.
Keywords: Ethnobotany, medicinal plants, quantitative analysis, traditional medical practitioners, Malava sub-county, Western Kenya
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