Medicinal plants used in treatment and management of cancer in Kakamega County, Kenya

Ochwang’i DO, Kimwele CN, Oduma JA, Gathumbi PK, Mbaria JM, Kiama SG. "Medicinal plants used in treatment and management of cancer in Kakamega County, Kenya.". In: Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Vol. 151.; 2014:.


Ethnopharmacological relevance

Traditional medicine plays a critical role in treatment of chronic debilitating and life threatening conditions and diseases. Cancer is one such condition whose therapeutic intervention is commonly through inexpensive traditional herbal remedies. Increasingly industrialised societies are developing drugs and chemotherapeutics from these traditional herbal plants. Plant biogeography determines the abundance and availability of medicinal plants which in turn determine their use by local communities. The present study was carried out in Kakamega County of Kenya to identify and document medicinal plants used for treatment and management of cancer states by communities living adjacent to Kakamega Tropical rainforest of Kakamega County, Kenya.

Materials and methods

An ethnobotanical survey was done using semi-structured questionnaires administered to 32 randomly selected herbalists from Kakamega County.

Results and discussion

Sixty five (65) plants of 59 genera and 32 families were identified as candidates in therapeutic intervention against cancer states. Most commonly cited plant species were Spathodea campanulata P. Beauv. ssp. nilotica (Seem), Microglossa pyrifolia (Lam.) Kuntze, Harungana madagascariensis Lam. ex poir, Prunus africana (Hook. f.) kalkman, Cyphostemma serpens (A. Rich), Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don and Aloe volkensii Engl. The following were documented for the first time; Aeschynomene abyssinica (A. Rich.) Vatke, Synsepalum cerasiferum (welw.) T. D penn., Albizia coriaria Welw. ex Oliv., Aloe volkensii Engl. Bridelia micrantha (Hochst.) Baill, Croton macrostachyus Delile, Cyphostemma serpens (A. Rich), Dicliptera laxata C.B. Clarke, Ekebergia capensis Sparrm., Gardenia volkensii K. schum. ssp. volkensii, Glycine wightii (wight & Arn.), Ocimum gratissimum Suave, Olea hotcsh spp. hochstetteri, Pavetta abyssinica Fresen., Phyllanthus fischeri Pax, Psydrax schimperiana (A. Rich), Rhus vulgaris Meikle, Senna didymobotyra (Fresen.) Irwin and Barneby, Solanecio nandensis (S. Moore) C. Jeffrey, Solanum mauritianum Scop, Spathodea campanulata P. Beauv. ssp. nilotica (Seem), Spermacoce princea (K. Schum.) Verdc., Tabernaemontana stapfiana Britten, Tragia brevipes Pax and Zanthoxylum gilletii (De Wild.) P.G.Waterman. The most frequently used plant parts were fresh or dried leaves and stem barks. Administration to patients was almost exclusively oral, with the exceptions being topical application especially for breast cancer and skin sarcomas.


This study identified diverse medicinal plants used in therapeutic and management intervention against cancer by communities living adjacent to Kakamega Tropical Rainforest. The primary mode of administration was oral.


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