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J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Jan 11;177:61-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.11.029. Epub 2015 Nov 30.

A comparative ethnopharmacological analysis of traditional medicine used against respiratory tract diseases in Mauritius.

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Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, 230 Réduit, Mauritius.
Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, 230 Réduit, Mauritius. Electronic address:



Despite laudable advances in conventional medicine, respiratory tract diseases (RTD) induced morbidity and mortality continue to inflict a substantial burden on healthcare systems worldwide. Similarly, in the tropical island of Mauritius, 13,320 hospital admissions and 8.2% mortality rates were attributed to RTD solely in the year 2013. Consequently, the therapeutic benefits and relief experienced with traditional medicine (TM) against RTD by the local inhabitants cannot be underestimated. The present study aims to report and quantitatively determine the extent of utilization of plant based therapies and other miscellaneous TM preparations concocted against RTD over the island. Additionally, a similarity index was generated which is indicative of the extent of harmonisation of individual plant species against RTD when the uses mentioned in the study are compared to previous ethnobotanical studies.


Data was compiled using a semi-structured questionnaire via face-to-face interviews with TM users and practitioners (n=384). Three quantitative ethnopharmacological indices (the use value (UV), informant consensus factor (ICF), and ethnobotanicity index (EI)) were calculated. We also calculated the similarity ratio, similarity percentage, new uses for each plant species and percentage of new use against RTD to compare primary data collected in the present study.


Fifty five plants were documented to be in use against 18 RTD. The most used plant species belonged to the following taxa; Lamiaceae (9%), Fabaceae (7%) and Rutaceae (7%). Thirty two plants recorded in this study have been reported to be used against RTD in previous ethnobotanical studies, of which 22 of these plants have been attributed new uses against RTD based on the results of the present study. The remaining 23 plants species have been recorded for the first time to be used traditionally against RTD. Altogether, 81 different recipes were concocted from the medicinal plants and the most common route of administration was oral intake. Common methods of obtaining medicinal plants were from the wild, cultivation and as imported herbal products. Cough was the most common RTD managed by plant species. The largest proportion of plants were employed against cold. The preference ranking both for UV placed Curcuma longa L., Zingiber officinale Roscoe, Citrus×limonia Osbeck and Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf as the most useful plant species. Only a small proportion of the indigenous plants (7.73%) proved to be useful in TM.


This study provides empirical primary ethnopharmacological data on the use of TM to manage and/or treat RTD and can contribute in preserving indigenous knowledge in Mauritius. It is anticipated that these primary data will open new avenues to identify novel drugs that can help to alleviate sufferings.


Mauritius; Respiratory tract disorders; Traditional medicine

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