Medicinal plants used for management of malaria among the Luhya community of Kakamega East sub-County, Kenya

Mukungu NA, Abuga KO, Okalebo FO, Ingwela RT, Mwangi JW. "Medicinal plants used for management of malaria among the Luhya community of Kakamega East sub-County, Kenya." Journal of ethnopharmacology. 2016;194 :98-107.



Malaria remains a major health problem worldwide especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, 80% of the population is at risk of contracting the disease. Pregnant mothers and children under five years are the most affected by this disease. Antimalarial drug resistance poses a major threat in the fight against malaria necessitating continuous search for new antimalarial drugs. Due to inadequate and inaccessible health facilities, majority of people living in rural communities heavily depend on traditional medicine which involves the use of medicinal plants for the management of malaria. Most of these indigenous knowledge is undocumented and risks being lost yet such information could be useful in the search of new antimalarial agents.

Aim of study

An ethnobotanical survey was carried out among the Luhya community of Kakamega East sub-County, a malaria epidemic region, with the aim of documenting the plants used in the management of malaria.

Materials and methods

Semi-structured questionnaires were used to collect information from 21 informants who included traditional medicine practitioners and other caregivers who had experience in use of plants in management of malaria. These were drawn from 4 villages located in Kakamega East sub-county, within Kakamega County based on their differences in topography. Information recorded included plant names, parts used, mode of preparation and administration and the sources of plant materials. A literature search was conducted using PubMed and google scholar to identify the reported traditional uses of these plants and studied antiplasmodial activities.


In this study, 57% of the informants were aged above 50 years and a total of 61% had either no formal education or had only attained primary school education. A total of 42 plant species belonging to 24 families were identified. Most plants used in the management of malaria in this community belonged to Lamiaceae (18%), Leguminosae (9%) and Compositae (9%) plant families. Plants mostly used included Melia azedarach L, Aloe spp, Ajuga integrifolia Buch. Ham, Vernonia amygdalina Del., Rotheca myricoides (Hochst.) Steane and Mabb, Fuerstia africana T.C.E.Fr., Zanthoxylum gilletii (De Wild.) P.G.Waterman and Leucas calostachys Oliv. Rumex steudelii Hochst.ex A. Rich and Phyllanthus sepialis Müll. Arg are reported for the first time in the management of malaria. Although Clerodendrum johnstonii Oliv. ( Jeruto et al., 2011) and Physalis peruviana L.(Ramadan et al., 2015) are reported in other studies for management of malaria, no studies have been carried out to demonstrate their antiplasmodial activity.
The plant parts mostly used were the leaves (36%) and stem barks (26%). Majority of these plants were prepared as decoctions by boiling and allowed to cool before administration (66%) while infusions accounted for 28% of the preparations. The literature mined supports the use of these plants for the management of malaria since most of them have demonstrated in-vitro and in-vivo antiplasmodial activities.


Most of the reported plant species in this study have been investigated for antiplasmodial activity and are in agreement with the ethnomedical use. Two (2) plants are reported for the first time in the management of malaria. There is need for documentation and preservation of the rich ethnomedical knowledge within this community given that most of the practitioners are advanced in age and less educated. There is also the danger of over-exploitation of plant species as most of them are obtained from the wild, mainly Kakamega forest. Therefore, there is need for determining the economically and medicinally important plants in this community and planning for their preservation.

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