Ethnobotanical study of nutri-medicinal plants used for the management of HIV/AIDS opportunistic ailments among the local communities of western Uganda

J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Nov 25;150(2):639-48. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.09.017. Epub 2013 Sep 26.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Herbal remedies are a source of therapeutics for nearly 80% of the population in Uganda. Poor health facilities and limited access to antiretroviral drugs have perpetuated and increased the use of traditional medicine especially in rural areas for the treatment of opportunistic ailments of HIV/AIDS. To document the traditional uses of nutri-medicinal plants in the management of immunocompromised ailments associated with HIV/AIDS. To document the parts and growth forms of plants used, methods of preparation and administration of the herbal remedies.

Materials and methods: The study was conducted in Mbarara and Isingiro districts of western Uganda between December 2010 and May 2011. Ethnobotanical information was collected from 64 respondents who were sampled based on recommendations of local elders and administrators. Ethnobotanical data on the use of nutri-medicinal plants for traditional treatment of HIV/AIDS opportunistic ailments were collected by employing semi-structured interviews with selected respondents, house hold visits and field observations as described by (Martin, 1995a). The respondents were mainly traditional medical practitioners who treat patients who are already receiving antiretroviral drugs. Fidelity levels of plant species and informant consensus factor were determined to show the percentage of informants claiming the use of certain plant species for the same major purpose and to analyse people's knowledge of plant use.

Results: The study revealed 81 plant species most of which were herbs (49%). Leaves (71%) were the most frequently used parts in remedy preparations which were mainly administered orally (85%). The majority of plants (54%) were harvested from wild populations. Hibiscus sabdariffa L., Plumeria obtusa L., and Abutilon guineense (Shumach.) Baker. F and Exell were the nutri-medicinal plants that scored the highest Fidelity level values. The informant's consensus about usages of plants ranged from 0.75 to 0.80. Plants that are presumed to be effective in treating a certain disease have higher informant consensus factor (ICF) values. Family Asteraceae accounted for 18% of the total species recorded. Thirteen species (16%) of the plants are edible and provide nutritional support.

Conclusion: The study recorded plant species with potential to treat ailments associated with immunocompromised people living with HIV/AIDS in western Uganda. Such studies can help stimulate confidence in traditional medicine and enhance appreciation of herbal medicine among the people and to appreciate the value of the plant resources and therefore enhance conservation efforts of the plant species. The high consensus means the majority of informants agree on the use of plant species and this reflects the intercultural relevance and the agreement in the use of the nutri-medicinal plants to the people. We recommend the documented plants for further Ethnopharmacological studies.

Keywords: Ethnobotanical study; HIV/AIDS; Immunocompromised; Nutri-medicinal plants; Uganda.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / drug therapy*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Candidiasis, Oral / drug therapy
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy
  • Ethnobotany
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Herpes Zoster / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, African Traditional*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Uganda
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-HIV Agents