MEDICINAL PLANTS OF EAST AFRICA

Most of the 136 plants species covered in this book belong to East Africa’s indigenous (or native) flora. Some of the more widely cultivated exotic (introduced) plant species found growing in the region are also included, however, given that their medicinal use has long since been assimilated into the canon of the local herbalist.

In an illustrated book like this, it is of course impossible to describe and depict all of the medicinal plant species, indigenous or exotic, that are routinely used in herbal medicine across East Africa. This book, then, is limited to a selection of only the best known and the best understood medicinal plants and how these plants are used.

All of the East African tribal names for each selected plant species are given wherever possible, in addition to the English or other common names by which a plant is known. In the brief botanical description that follows, all the principal features of the plant (its bark, leaves, flowers and fruit) are summarized, along with key aspects oof each plant’s distribution and ecology. At least three colour photographs are used to illuustrate each of the featured plant species.

Under the heading Usage and Treatment, the contribution that each species has made to traditional medicine and primary health care in the region is summarized, together with details on exactly which parts of the plant are used, how the traditional herbal remedies are prepared, and in what dosages, and how these dosages are administered.

Under Pharmacology and Chemistry, the sum total of existing scientific understanding of the active chemical compounds found in different parts of each of the selected plant species, and of the biological activities these compounnds engender, is summarized. In many cases, it will be seen that modern scientific research and analysis has validated the healing properties traditionally ascribed to a species, but in other cases, the connection is less clear, or (in some cases) has yet to be invetsigated fully.

Wherever possible, detailed referencess are given, acknowledging the many published sources that have been consulted in the course of compiling this book. Also included, though, is a wealth of infoormation gleaned directly from the oral tradition and from the author’s own personal observations and experience, which is here being published for the first time.

As this is intended, above all, to be a handy, practiical guide, the Appendices include a bibliography of reference works for further reading, a key to the abbreviations that are used for the vernacular plant names, a glossary of medical terms referred to in the text, and a checklist of the different plant species that are used in the treatment of each of a number of particular diseases, ailments and health conditions. The fact that the featured species appear in alphabetical order shoulsd – with help of the user-friendly Index at the back of the book (which includes both scientific and the common names of the plants) – facilitate access to information on a specific plant, or medicinal application, of interest.

It must be remembered, finally, that the subject matter of this book comes from, and belongs to, the developing world. Attempts from without to exploit this store of local knowledge for commercial gain, through expropriating under ‘patents’ the intellectual property of the developing world, must be strenuously resisted. The underlying aim of this book is to ensure that as much as possible of this priceless local knowledge can survive, and that in doing so, it will remain freely accessible to all.

Ajuga Remota (Indigenous)

Common name: Ajuga
Local name: Mataliha (Luh.)

Desription and Ecology
Erect, often rhizomatous, hairy herb with lance-shaped, coarsely toothed leaves and small axillary pale blue with white flowers. Leaves taste very bitter. Found in upland grassland and mountanious areas throughout East Africa at altitudes of 1 100- 2 600 m.

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