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J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Jan 15;159:224-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.11.011. Epub 2014 Nov 18.

Medicinal plants used by traditional healers for the treatment of malaria in the Chipinge district in Zimbabwe.

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Department of Chemistry, Walter Sisulu University, NMD campus, P.O. Bag X1, Mthatha 5117, South Africa; Department of Chemistry, University of the Free State, P.O. Box 339, Bloemfontein 9300, South Africa.
Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam (UvA), P.O. Box 15718, 1001 NE Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Directorate: Research Development, University of the Free State, P.O. Box 339, Bloemfontein 9300, South Africa. Electronic address:



Because about 50% of the Zimbabwean population is at risk of contracting malaria each year, the majority of people, especially in rural areas, use traditional plant-based medicines to combat malaria. This explorative ethnobotanical survey was undertaken to document how malaria is conceptualized and diagnosed by traditional healers, and to record the medicinal plants used in the prevention and treatment of malaria, their mode of preparation and administration.


The research was conducted in three villages in Headman Muzite׳s area and in Chiriga village. These villages are located in the Chipinge district in the Manicaland Province in Zimbabwe.Traditional healers were selected with the assistance of the headman of the Muzite area and a representative of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 traditional healers from four villages in the Chipinge district in Zimbabwe.


In total, 28 plants from 16 plant families are used by the healers who manage malaria with medicinal plants. The most cited plant is Cassia abbreviata Oliv. (Leguminosae) followed by Aristolochia albida Duch (Aristolociaceae) and Toddalia asiatica (L.) Lam. (Rutaceae). Roots (55.3%) are the most common part used. Most of the plant parts used to treat malaria are stored as dried powders in closed bottles. The powders are soaked in hot or cold water and the water extract is taken as the active medicine. The healers consider their medicinal knowledge as a spiritual family heritage. Only 25% of the healers refer the malaria patients that do not respond to their treatment to hospital - they believe evil spirits cause their remedies to failure and they would rather try a different plant or perform a cleansing ceremony.


Local knowledge of medicinal plants in the treatment of malaria still exists in all four villages surveyed and traditional healers appear to play an important role in primary health care services in this remote rural area in Zimbabwe. This explorative survey underscores the need to preserve and document traditional healing for managing malaria and for more future scientific research on the plants to determine their efficacy and their safety. This could improve their traditional anti-malarial recipes and might contribute to a better integration of Zimbabwean traditional medicine into the national health system in the future.


Chipinge district; Malaria; Medicinal plants; Traditional medicine; Zimbabwe

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