Medicinal Plants of the Maasai of Kenya: A Review

Plants (Basel). 2019 Dec 27;9(1):44. doi: 10.3390/plants9010044.


The use of medicinal plants for treatment of humans and animals is entrenched in the Maasai culture and traditional knowledge related to it is passed on from one generation to the next. A handful of researchers have in the past decades documented this knowledge. No single study has documented medicinal plant uses of the Maasai community as a whole. This review provides a consolidated database of the diversity and uses of medicinal plants among the Maasai in Kenya. The study will help conserve traditional medicinal plant knowledge that is valuable for the development of modern medicine. Relevant information on medicinal plants used by the Maasai of Kenya was extracted from journals, books, M.Sc., and Ph.D. dissertations. We found evidence of 289 plant species used by the Maasai of Kenya in traditional medicine. Most species were used to treat health conditions in the categories gastrointestinal and respiratory system disorders. The most used families were Leguminosae, Asteraceae, Malvaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and Lamiaceae. Medicines were commonly prepared as a decoction and administered through oral ingestion, with roots reported to be the preferred plant part for medication. The Maasai preference for roots compared to other plant parts may be unsustainable and could threaten species availability in the future.

Keywords: ethnobotany; medicinal use category; traditional knowledge; traditional medicine; traditional practices; traditional use patterns.

Publication types

  • Review