The current status of knowledge of herbal medicine and medicinal plants in Fiche, Ethiopia

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Wohlmuth, H, Asfaw, Z & Awas, T 2014, 'The current status of knowledge of herbal medicine and medicinal plants in Fiche, Ethiopia', Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, vol. 10, no. 1.

Article available on Open Access

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Background: A majority of Ethiopians rely on traditional medicine as their primary form of health care, yet they are in danger of losing both their knowledge and the plants they have used as medicines for millennia. This study, conducted in the rural town of Fiche in Ethiopia, was undertaken with the support of Southern Cross University (SCU) Australia, Addis Ababa University (AAU) Ethiopia, and the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity (EIB), Ethiopia. The aim of this study, which included an ethnobotanical survey, was to explore the maintenance of tradition in the passing on of knowledge, the current level of knowledge about medicinal herbs and whether there is awareness and concern about the potential loss of both herbal knowledge and access to traditional medicinal plants. Methods: This study was conducted using an oral history framework with focus groups, unstructured and semi-structured interviews, field-walk/discussion sessions, and a market survey. Fifteen people were selected via purposeful and snowball sampling. Analysis was undertaken using a grounded theory methodology. Results: Fourteen lay community members and one professional herbalist provided information about 73 medicinal plants used locally. An ethnobotanical survey was performed and voucher specimens of 53 of the plants, representing 33 families, were collected and deposited at the EIB Herbarium. The community members are knowledgeable about recognition of medicinal plants and their usage to treat common ailments, and they continue to use herbs to treat sickness as they have in the past. A willingness to share knowledge was demonstrated by both the professional herbalist and lay informants. Participants are aware of the threat to the continued existence of the plants and the knowledge about their use, and showed willingness to take steps to address the situation. Conclusion: There is urgent need to document the valuable knowledge of medicinal herbs in Ethiopia. Ethnobotanical studies are imperative, and concomitant sustainable programmes that support the sustainability of herbal medicine traditions may be considered as a way to collect and disseminate information thereby supporting communities in their efforts to maintain their heritage. This study contributes to the documentation of the status of current traditional herbal knowledge in Ethiopia.

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