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J S Afr Vet Assoc. 2000 Jun;71(2):87-91.

Use of herbal remedies by small-scale farmers to treat livestock diseases in Central Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.

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  • 1Livestock and Pasture Science and ARDRI, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa.


The use of herbal remedies by African farmers in the treatment of livestock diseases was investigated using a range of methods, including group interviews, structured interviews, semi-structured interviews and participant observation. The study was concerned mainly with the 'why' and 'how' of herbal remedy use among African livestock holders farming on communally-owned land in central Eastern Cape Province. We found that the use of herbal remedies was still widespread because these remedies were cheap, locally available and convenient to administer. Farmers also used herbal remedies because they did not have knowledge of conventional remedies or found these too expensive and therefore used herbal remedies as a last resort. Most of the farmers interviewed (73%) had used some form of herbal remedy. A small number of farmers did not use herbal remedies at all. They rejected them because they had bad experiences in the past or because they considered the practice outdated and socially inferior. Often farmers used herbal remedies in combination with conventional ones, but a substantial number relied on herbal remedies only. Farmers obtained herbal remedies principally by preparing their own or by purchasing from herbalists. Different plant parts were used to prepare herbal remedies in the form of infusions, decoctions, powders, pastes, and juices from fresh plant material. Preparations were made from a single plant or from a range of plants. Application of a remedy was by different routes and methods, depending on the perceived cause of the disease condition. Topical applications were used for skin conditions, powders were rubbed into incisions, drenches were common in the treatment of systemic conditions, and drops to treat ears and eyes. We identified several aspects of herbal remedy utilisation that could be subject to improvement, which included the absence of standard dose regimes, the potential toxicity of certain compounds present in plants used, over-exploitation of the plant resource and a lack of interest by the youth to learn the art.

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