Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 851-65. 2008.
An Ethnobotanical Survey of Herbal Markets and Medicinal Plants in Lagos State of Nigeria
Olowokudejo J. D., Kadiri A. B*. and Travih V.A.
Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
For correspondence: ,
Issued 30 October 2005
An ethno-botanical survey of three largest herbal markets and medicinal plants used for treating ailments in Lagos state of Nigeria was undertaken by means of oral and written questionnaire. Traditional medicine is undoubtedly a reliable alternative approach to health care delivery in the metropolis because it is cheap, easily accessible, and efficacious. Herbs are obtained from bushes around the neighbourhood and forests from adjacent states. Recipes for the treatment of common ailments which are reported almost on daily basis such as hypertension, dysentery, low sperm count and weak erection, coated tongue, pile, menstrual disorder, leucorrhoea and fevers were given by the practitioners. Moreover, a list of medicinal plants and their reported folkloric uses was compiled during the survey. Apparently, daily health issues of Lagosians are partly taken care of by traditional medicine and its use is on the increase in Lagos state. The efforts of the Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board and Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency are praised in facilitating recognition of herbal medicine in the metropolis. Government should help in the area of conservation of medicinal plant and protect patent right of the Traditional Medicine Practitioners to encourage release of information.
Animals live in equilibrium with the plants surrounding them, using these plants as sources of food and intuitively or through years of trials and error, as medicine. Traditional medicine refers to health practices, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plants, animals and mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well being (NNMDA, 2008; WHO, 2005) . The use of plants as medicine to cure or prevent illness and to lubricate the wheels of social interaction at the interpersonal and group level is a behaviour that predates civilization, and in todays civilization, it is found in every society irrespective of its level of development and sophistication (Odugbemi, 2006).
The earliest references to these medicinal plants as cure for diseases are to be found in the manuscript of the Eber papyrus which contains 700 medical formulas and it dates back to 16th century B.C (Simpson and Ogorzaly, 1986). The drugs of todays modern society are products of research and development by major pharmaceutical companies but among the most important raw materials researched and developed are naturally occurring materials obtained from plants. Hence, when we take well packaged medicines today, it is well to remember that we might be taking a processed plant product. Interest in medicinal plants as a re-emerging health aid has been fuelled by the rising costs of prescription drugs in the maintenance of personal health and well-being, and the bio-prospecting of new plant-derived drugs. Based on current research and financial investments, medicinal plants will, seemingly, continue to play an important role as a health aid (Hoareau and DaSilva, 1999; Moerman, 1996).
In spite of the millions of chemical compounds currently synthesized in the laboratory, and available for screening for action of therapeutic value, natural products, particularly of plants origin remain the most important sources of new drugs (Odugbemi, 2006).
The use of medicinal plants constitutes an important part of traditional medicine which is a part of African heritage. Though modern / orthodox medicine has improved the lot of many people worldwide, it is noteworthy that in many cultures, modern medicine complements traditional practices as is obtainable in industrialized societies e.g. China and India (Odugbemi, 2006). In these societies, herbal remedies have become more popular in the treatment of minor ailments, and also on account of the increasing costs of personal health maintenance. Indeed, the market and public demand has been so great that there is a great risk that many medicinal plants today, face either extinction or loss of genetic diversity.
In Nigeria, the majority of citizens still use medicinal plants and visit traditional medicine practitioners for their health care need (Odugbemi, 2006). It was reported by WHO that in Nigeria, the ratio of Traditional Health Practitioners to the population was 1:110, while the ratio of Medical Doctors to the population was 1:16, 400 (African Health Monitor, 2003). This gives credence to the fact that people patronise Traditional medicine practitioners (TMPs) for their primary health needs more than orthodox medical doctors.
Medicinal plant is defined as any substance with one or more of its organ containing substances that can be used for therapeutic purposes or which can be used as precursors for the synthesis of antimicrobial drugs (Sofowora, 1982, 1984). It is estimated that there are about 250, 000 500, 000 species of plants on earth (Borris, 1996), of which a relatively small percentage (1-10%) of these are used for food by humans and animals. It is possible that more serve medicinal purposes (Moerman, 1996). Medicinal plants contain numerous biologically active compounds such as carbohydrates, proteins, enzymes, fats and oils, minerals, vitamins, alkaloids, quinones, terpenoids, flavonoids, carotenoids, sterols, simple phenolic glycosides, tannins, saponins, polyphenols, to mention a few which have medicinal activities.
Lagos State is a city in the South-Western part of Nigeria, located on the Bight of Benin. It is the largest city in Nigeria (in terms of population size), the chief port as well as the economic and cultural centre. The metropolitan area spreads over much of the state, covering about 3557 sq. km. It has a diverse and fast growing population resulting from heavy and on-going migration to the city from all parts of Nigeria as well as neighbouring countries. The population of its metropolis increased to about 10.1 million in 2003 and the United Nations predicted that the citys metropolis will exceed 20 million come 2010.
This population explosion means that the citys infrastructure will be under stress. The primary health care sector, largely the responsibility of the Local Government with support from the State Government, might not be able to cater for everyone in the state. Hence, TMPs will have more people coming to them for their health care needs. This invariably brings medicinal plants, which are and would be in high demand, under threats of extinction. This trend would have serious consequences on the survival of some plant species, hence the need to conserve them. Conservation of medicinal plants is, therefore, an important step that should be taken in order to prevent the extinction of threatened species of medicinal plants. Because of the foregoing, the study was undertaken in order to provide information on how much in demand the medicinal plants, availability status of the plants, method of collection, preservation methods before marketing, medicinal plant farm and conservation methods.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Information was obtained from herb sellers and traditional medicine practitioners by the means of questionnaire from three popular and largest markets in Lagos: Oyingbo, Mushin and Bariga, located within the Lagos mainland where the largest proportion of Lagosians dwell. Cross referencing of facts was carried out at the Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board and the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA. Relevant literature and the University of Lagos Herbarium were consulted for plant nomenclature authentication (Gbile, 1984 ). A list of medicinal plants and their reported folkloric uses was compiled during this survey. Also, some recipes used for curing several ailments are also reported in the study.
Some of the questions that were responded to included: market location, sex of practitioner, medicinal plants sold, medicinal uses of the plant, do you give herbal prescriptions, do you have herbal farm, where do you collect medicinal herbs, method of preservation before sale, any information of medicinal plants that are becoming rare, any conservation approaches known, year of experience in the trade and cost of services rendered.
Table 1 shows a summary of names of some medicinal plants, their families, parts that are used, their local names and medicinal importance.
It was reported that plant parts like roots, bark, leaves and flowers are usually collected from the forest, around the neighbourhood, along road sides and many other places. However, it was established that most of the medicinal plants brought to the markets were randomly collected in the wild and bushes from Lagos environs and adjacent states. These plant parts are preserved by cutting them into smaller pieces and then sun-dried or kept in the ceiling of thatched houses, hung in the kitchen or fire places where they are exposed to constant heat that dries them up in order to reduce moisture content. Some are ground into powder and preserved for future use. As regards conservation, most of the herb sellers and practitioners have no idea about the threat levels of most of the medicinal plants due to their low literacy level. When asked if they noticed any scarcity in some particular plants, many of them responded that the shortage is due to seasonal changes. None of them have personally monitored medicinal plant farms where medicinal plants are cultivated.
The collection method was reported in all markets to be hygienic in that well kept harvesting hatchets are used and transportation of the herbs is done almost immediately to prevent nutrient degradation.
From the responses to the questionnaire, it was provided that medicinal preparations offered for sale are made by infusion, decoction, tincture, macerations, poultices, concoction, powder and pastes. Treatment recipes for some of the common ailments which affect people in the cosmopolitan Lagos are presented below:
(a) Leaves of Persea americana are made into shreds, dried and taken as infusion.
(b) Leaves of Senecio biafrae added to fermented seeds of Parkia biglobosa are used to prepare soup which is eaten. Leaves of Talinum triangulare or Basella alba may also be used.
(c) Kola nuts mistletoe mixed with honey is also effective.
(a) Decoction of the leaves of Grewia flavescence is made and drunk.
(b) Leaves of Parquentina nigrescens, Jatropha gossypifolia, Pergularia daemia, Ocimum gratissimum and Momordica charantia are all powdered together and taken with cold pap, or as decoction.
3. LOW SPERM COUNT AND WEAK ERECTION
(a) Powdered Piper guineensis and extract from 10 big onions are poured into honey and boiled between 5-10 minutes. A cup to be taken in the morning and at night.
(b) Manihot esculenta root, Dioscorea sp. tuber, Garcinia cola seed, Cola nitida cotyledon, dried Zea mays, Cnetis ferruginea, seeds of Mucuna sloanei, unripe Musa parasidiaca and Piper guineensis are all ground together with sugar, and taken with water or cold pap.
(c) The same plants as the foregoing in addition with Klainedoxa gabonenesis, sugar and pure bee-honey are mixed together. A spoonful to be taken like that or with cold pap.
4. COATED TONGUE
(a) Bark of Khaya ivorensis, bark of Pycnanthus angolensis, bark of Hymenocardia acida, bark of Bridelia ferruginea, bark and root of Rauvolfia vomitoria, bark of Alstonia boonei, twigs of Citrus medica, bark of Enantia chlorantha, bark of Melicia excelsa are all cooked and the decoction to be taken.
(b) Costus afer, bark of Khaya grandifoliola, bark of Bridelia, ferruginea, fruit of Alchornea cordifolia, bark of Bridelia micrantha, bark of Pycnanthus angolensis, sulphur, and lime water all poured into a container. One tablespoon of the extract to be taken before breakfast.
12 seeds of Croton penduliflorus and 7 cubes of sugar are ground and poured into bottle containing kernel oil (30cl), then left for 7 days, after which the first dose of two tablespoonfuls will be taken. Later, one spoonful every morning is to be taken before breakfast. The drug is to be taken at four days interval.
6. MENSTRUAL DISORDER
Water or alcohol extract of the leaves of Dalbergiella welwitschii mixed with potash is to be taken for 3 days, morning and evening.
7. LEUCORRHOEA (VAGINAL DISCHARGE)
(a) Root of Glyphea brevis, root and leaves of Senna podocarpa, Senna alata, Allium ascalonicum and potash are put together into a container, and hot water poured on the mixture. The recipe is left till the next day. One glass cup to be taken every morning before breakfast for 3 days. The preparation is also suitable for seminal discharge in men.
(b) Root of Croton zambesicus, 3 seeds of Garcinia cola, Acacia nilotica leaves, 3 seeds of Aframomum melegueta, leaves of Mimosa pudica and small quantity of potash are ground together, and taken with cold pap.
A decoction of the root of Sphenocentrum jollyanum, Zingiber officinale, bark of Khaya grandifoliola, root and bark of Rauvolfia vomitoria, bark of Alstomia congensis, root and bark of Senna sceptabilis, root of Zanthoxylum xanthoxyloides, leaves of Ocimum basilicum and sp is taken for fever.
KEY: Y = Yoruba language, H = Hausa, I = Igbo. Source: Local markets in Lagos state, TMPs and traditional medicine users in Lagos.
DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
It is apparent that the use of herbal medicine in Lagos State is on the increase. The ubiquitous presence of herb and herbal products marketing both in the conventional and unconventional way of selling drugs as well as the sexes and number of people that are involved in the trade is a confirmation of this assertion. Not only this, year of expertise, standard of living and material achievements pointed to the fact that the trade is lucrative in Lagos. Moreover, patronage and usage of traditional medicine cut across the social strata of Lagosians. Daily health issues of Lagos state dwellers are taken care of by traditional medicine. It is well used in Lagos as an alternative method of health care delivery. It is opted for as a result of its cost effectiveness, easy access and potency. Recipes for the treatment of common ailments which are reported almost on daily basis in Lagos included hypertension, dysentery, low sperm count and weak erection, coated tongue, pile, menstrual disorder, leucorrhoea and fevers; these recipes reported in the study are reproducible. The TMPs remain in the business because of cheap source of raw materials, ease of preparation, overwhelming patronage, government recognition of their practices, drug effectiveness report from users and due to the fact that it is the practitioners main source of livelihood. However, a more serious government intervention is required to uplift the quality status of the traditional medicine practice in the country. The frantic efforts of Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency and Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board should be praised in ensuring safe delivery of medicinal preparation in the country. It was extremely difficult to obtain information from the practitioners; to combat this, the patent rights of TMPs and herb sellers should be protected by government. Conservation of these plants is paramount in order to avoid extinction through education, establishment of medicinal plant farms, sustainable harvesting approaches and setting aside of thick forest in the local communities as special forest.
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