Ethnobotanical study of indigenous knowledge on medicinal and nutritious plants used to manage opportunistic infections associated with HIV/AIDS in western Uganda

J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Aug 8;155(1):194-202. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.05.012. Epub 2014 May 24.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Traditional medicine plays an important role in the daily lives of the people of Uganda to treat a wide range of health problems. Our study presents results of an ethnobotanical inventory conducted to identify and document medicinal and nutritional plants used in the management of opportunistic infections associated with human immunodeficiency virus / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), the plant parts used, preparation and administration methods of herbal remedies.

Materials and methods: We performed semi-structured interviews with 79 respondents (women 78%, men 22%), who included specialists in medicinal plants (such as traditional birth attendants and herbalists) and non specialists with general knowledge of plant use. Respondents answered a semi-structured questionnaire regarding their knowledge of plants and general treatment practices including management of HIV/AIDS opportunistic infections. The reported plants were collected and identified. Data were analyzed using factor informant consensus and fidelity level to determine homogeneity of informants׳ knowledge on medicinal and nutritional plants suitable for different ailment categories and the most preferred plant species used to treat each ailment category in the study areas.

Results: The study revealed 148 plant species belonging to 54 families, most of which were herbs (50.7%). Leaves (61.6%) were the most frequently used parts in remedy preparations which were mainly administered orally (72%). The majority of plants (62%) were harvested from wild habitats. The most important species according to fidelity values are Hibiscus sabdariffa L. for anaemia, Mangifera indica L. for cough, Zehneria scabra (L. F.) Sond. for skin infections, Rhus natalensis Bernh.ex.Krauss for diarrhoea and Tarenna pavettoides (Harv.) Sim for appetite boosting. The factor informant consensus highlighted the agreement in the use of plants and showed that the respiratory infections category had the greatest agreement (0.60). Family Asteraceae accounted for 15% of the total species recorded. Sixty plant species (40%) of the plants provide nutritional support.

Conclusion: The study revealed that folk medicine is still widely practised. Fidelity level values indicate that these plants are the most preferred species for particular ailments. The high consensus value (0.6) indicated that there was high agreement in the use of plants for respiratory ailments among others. These preferred plant species could be prioritized for conservation and subjected to chemical screening to ascertain their pharmacological activities.

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

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / drug therapy*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ethnobotany
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, African Traditional
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytotherapy / methods
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Uganda


  • Plant Preparations