The ethnopharmacological study of plant drugs used traditionally in Djibouti for malaria treatment

J Ethnopharmacol. 2024 Feb 3:325:117839. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2024.117839. Online ahead of print.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Djibouti was a country where malaria has been endemic for centuries. The local population use the plants as repellents or first aid for uncomplicated malaria.

Aim of the study: The aim was, for the first time, to collect and identify plants used by the local population to treat malaria and select the most interesting plants (those that are more commontly used, more available, and have fewer studies). These plants were evaluated for their antiplasmodial activity as well as their cytotoxicity on human cell lines for the most active ones.

Materials and methods: A semi-structured questionnaire was developed for this study to collect information about the use and identity of botanical drugs used to treat malaria. The use-reports (percentage) of each plant were recorded to determine their use importance. Also, the availability status of the plants was assessed; and those in critical condition were discarded excluded from further study. Fifteen plants, out of the 41 listed, were extracted with hydro alcohol, ethyl acetate, and dichloromethane for biological testing. Chloroquine-resistant strain FcB-1 of P. falciparum and a human diploid embryonic lung cell line were used for the antiplasmodial test, and to assess the cytotoxicity for human cells respectively. Preliminary analysis of extract constituents was carried out using thin layer chromatography (TLC).

Results: This study identifies 41 plant taxa belonging to 32 families and records their use against malaria. Balanites rodunfolia, belonging to the Zygophyllaceae family, was the most commonly used plant, representing 44 % of use-reports. It was followed by Cadaba rodunfolia (15 %) from the Capparaceae family, and then the three species of Aloe: Aloe djiboutiensis (8.2 %), Aloe ericahenriettae (3.4 %), and Aloe rigens (3.4 %) from the Asphodelaceae family. The leaves are the most commonly used part of the plants to treat malaria, accounting for 76 % of usage. The preparation methods were decoction (52 %), maceration (29 %), and boiling (19 %). The administration routes were by oral (80 %), inhalation 19 %), and bathing (1 %). The best antiplasmodial activities were observed in the dichloromethane extracts of Cymbopogon commutatus and the ethyl acetate extracts of Aloe rigens and Terminalia brownii, with IC50 values of 9.8, 5, and 7.5 μg/mL, respectively. Their toxicity/activity levels were very favorable with selectivity indices of 5.6, 8.1, and 11.8 for C. commutatus, A. rigens, and T. Brownii, respectively.

Conclusion: Forty-one species of botanical drugs were listed as being used to treat malaria in Djibouti. All fifteen selected species showed antiplasmodial activity (IC50 < 50 μg/mL). This work will help guide the valorization of botanical drugs used to treat malaria in Djibouti.

Keywords: Antiplasmodial; Chloroquine-resistant strain; Cytotoxicity; Djibouti antimalarial plant.