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Home >> Politics
The Role of Indigenous Medicinal Plants in Ethiopian Healthcare

Fekadu Fullas, RPh, PhD

     In today's world of evidence-based medicine, the old system of traditional medicine has been scrutinized very closely, and rightly so, from the scientific angle in an attempt to render it more amenable to systematic investigation. In fact, looking back in time, modern medicine has benefited a lot from traditional medicine in that the latter had provided key leads emanating from folkloric uses of medicinal plants. A large array of modern pharmaceutical agents has been derived from such leads, which were eventually traced back to traditional uses of medicinal plants. Consequently, substances such as the antimalarial quinine, the decongestant pseudoephedrine, the pain killer codeine, just to name a few, were discovered as a result of ethnobotanical information obtained from traditional uses of plants, which are the natural "manufacturing houses" of these drugs. Plants continue to play a major role in providing prototype molecules for possible development into conventional drugs by the pharmaceutical industry. This article deals with the role played by medicinal plants in healthcare in Ethiopia against a backdrop of condensed history. It also provides synopses of select Ethiopian medicinal plants, and concludes by pointing out the future role that they can play as a source of enhanced herbal products.
History and Current Status

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    A cursory look at the history of the use of traditional medicine (especially of medicinal plants) in Ethiopia reveals that such use dates back to the time of the Axumite kingdom, if not to earlier periods. Many manuscripts attesting to this fact, and which are now in the custody of the Ethiopian National Traditional Medicine Preparation and Therapy Association, have been recovered. They mention, among other traditional practices, that a large number of medicinal plants were used. The manuscripts claim that during the era of the Axumite kingdom (7th-11th C), about 8,000 plants were used as medicinal agents. This period was followed by the Zagwe dynasty (11th-13th C), during which time about 2,800 medicinal plants were recorded to have been used. Similarly, during the era of Gondarine kingdom (1636-1865), medicinal plants numbering some 2,900 were employed. A manuscript was also recovered from the ruins of Aba Jifar's palace in Jimma during the era of King Menelik II over 100 years ago. It included about 589 plants which were used as therapeutic agents. Close to 700 medicinal plants were also recorded to have been used during the reigns of King Hailemelekot through Emperor Haile Selassie I (1870-1974). In each of the above manuscripts, a lesser number of other medicinal agents of animal and mineral origins were also presented. It is worth noting that the number of plants may have been exaggerated, especially in the older manuscripts, considering the fact that only about 7,500 plant species are known to exist in Ethiopia today. It is also possible that many of the plants may have been counted more than once. This may be true even after allowing for plant species that could have been extinct since the times of the manuscripts. In any event, it is clear that medicinal plants played a pivotal role in the treatment of various afflictions.

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View Comments
Date:Feb 14, 2013
Please tell me what we call in Ethiopia "Water cress seeds"

Yonas Abesha
Date:Feb 14, 2013
Great finding

getachew alemu
Date:Feb 04, 2013
I went to make a future film on tradetional medicn and I collect alot of information it incloud yours. thank uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

Date:Jan 29, 2013
- Woohooo! Happy 1st day of spring! I love the vertaiy of your work! Your portraits are captivating and your floral/natural pictures are so beautifully composed. I will check you out often and I wish you a lovely spring.

Date:Nov 20, 2012
Actually i referring one book but i'm not sure whheter it is similar to yours or not name as New! Gardening Indoors Its really Combines the basics of gardening and electrical lighting into an outstanding easy-to-read book This newly revised edition book will give you a simple and complete description of both basic and advanced indoor gardening techniques that gardeners worldwide employ to achieve garden fresh produce and ornamentals year-round. Packed full of pictures illustrations and explanations on such topics as lighting soil nutrients hydroponics and atmospheric control.

damtew gashawbeza
Date:May 08, 2012
we have to work to promote ethiopian indiginious knowledge of medicinal plants globally and have to preserve it .

Solomon Tekle-London
Date:May 08, 2012
Dear Dr Fekadu Your rlentless contribution and strong affilation did help for those who do research and work on Ethiopian Medicinal Plant. You always inspire me with your detailed informative articles and further I harvested a lot from your direction. Thank you for that please keep on giving the world what Ethiopia bear in her land. A lot more to learn from. Thank you Dr Fekadu.

Date:May 08, 2012
I agree with you about having a lot more escpert for someone who at least has adopted domestically themselves if they are expressing those strong views in favor of domestic adoption only. Every child needs a family! And I believe that there is a family for every child. So some are meant to adopt domestically some internationally some black some white some asian I do think *generally* that perhaps some people dismiss their calling in favor of something they perceive as better or easier especially in the case of children with black skin. You have to call that one just by the statistics. But I try very hard to never try to judge whether any *individual* is doing the right thing in their adoption choices. Who am I to judge that?? I am glad if a child finds a healthy home and family.

Date:May 08, 2012
it is a nice paper even u have used articles which can not easily accessed. if u have papers which are related to herbal medicine pls mail me thru stargebretsadik@yahoo.com

Fekadu Fullas
Date:May 08, 2012
Thank you all for the positive comments. Regarding the subject of Ethiopian medicinal plants in the past several years I have put out four books (in print and CD versions) which are now available at Aritiherbal.com in Addis Ababa. Those interested may want to check out the website to inquire more about these books.

Date:Sep 10, 2011
it it good information to good ethiopian

Date:Jan 04, 2011
As per the information the many medicinal plants of Ethiopia have not been studied scientifically so far. It is needed by the govt to take move and establish center for medicinal plant research so in future people of Ethiopia will not be deprived of their natural system of curing various aliments.

Tegenu Gelana
Date:Dec 10, 2010
It is nice to have such information in order to do a good research paper now i am on the ways of doing my thesis on the antimicrobial of some Ethiopian medicinal plan.If you have any relevant literature please help me with gelanategenu@yahoo.com

Ayanaw Worku
Date:Dec 10, 2010
an intersting article keep it up. I am intersted to do research concerning histological changes of certain body parts ie toxicity on liver and kidney due to these traditional medicines. call 0913472003

Date:Nov 21, 2010
Thanks and keep it up. It is very informative

Date:Oct 29, 2010
Ethiopia is rich in almost everything but lacking an Ethiopian government caring for the country and its people. I am afraid useful plants will be lost in indiscriminate lease of land to foreigners whose main interest is short term and quick profit. some of the Ethiopians killed by DERG and Woyane would have been great scientists who might be useful for their people and country.

Sintayehu Fekadu
Date:Oct 14, 2010
Yes we Ethiopians have many indigenous medicinal plants and I hope for the future Ethiopia become the sole source of world major medicine. To realize these intention all of us work on CONSERVATION of these future best bullets.

Date:Oct 09, 2010
Thank u i was working on my project and i got so many informations its good for students like for more more knowledge thank u keep it up. 0920803212

Date:Oct 01, 2010
God bless you and keep you safe for your work. You give me great joy in your findings and please fight to keep the biodiversity in the hands of the people and to keep the soil fertile and organic.

Segewkal Hawaze
Date:Sep 15, 2010
Bravo good work keep it up! I'm planning to do screening test for some of our traditional plants starting from october therefore if you have any relevant litrature; I 'll be glad if you can send me some of them e-mail sigwkal@yahoo.com Thank you

Date:Sep 03, 2010
very interesting!! I'm a researcher at PARC Ethiopia and Coordinating the research entiteled "community partesipatory collection conservation and genetic diversity study of medcinal plants in Gumuze-Shenasha community" pawe

Abdulfeta Nesro
Date:Sep 01, 2010
hi I'm from bahir dar university i read you're book and it is best keep it up!! since i read you're book I'm eager to work my research entitled on 'the indigenous medicine in Ethiopia' so pleas help me to find related articles thank you by my e-mail is yosefget@yahoo.com

Date:May 25, 2010
This is a nice article with short and precise information in it. Thanks

Tena Regasa
Date:May 01, 2010
I did my Msc on Ethnomedicine of Limu people western eEthiopia. I want to proceed my further study in the same field. Address: ten_regasa@yahoo.com. Tel. 0917814745

wuletaw zeleke
Date:Mar 30, 2010
that is great help me to do research on traditional plant which having antimicrobal effect . call 091-1737141

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