Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used in the management of cancer in Uganda

John Baptist Asiimwe, Prakash B. Nagendrappa, Esther C. Atukunda, Ivan Kahwa, Lina S.Mathew Alonga, Clement O. Ajayi, Casim U. Tolo, Patrick E. Ogwang, Maud M. Kamatenesi

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Introduction: Patients with cancer in Africa embrace the use of herbal medicine more than anywhere else in the world. This study identified and documented medicinal plant species used to manage cancer in ten (10) districts of Uganda. Methods: An ethnobotanical survey was conducted between October 2021 and January 2022. In total, 18 (out of 55) traditional medicine practitioners (TMPs) having more than 10 years of experience in managing patients with cancer were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics. The Relative frequency of citation (RFC) and Family importance value (FIV) indices were also computed. Results: We identified 121 plant species, belonging to 55 families, with the most common families being the Fabaceae (20 species, FIV = 0.119), Asteraceae (13 species, FIV = 0.131), and Euphorbiaceae (eight species, FIV = 0.079). The plant parts most commonly used were leaves (39.3%) and roots (12.9%). The most frequently cited plants were: Hoslundia opposita Vahl (RFC = 0.44), followed by Aspilia africana (Pers.) C.D. Adams (RFC = 0.33), Spathodea nilotica Seem (RFC = 0.33), Annona muricata L. (RFC = 0.33, Prunus africana (Hook.f.) Kalkman (RFC = 0.28), Acacia hockii De Wild (RFC = 0.28), Bidens pilosa L. (RFC = 0.28), and Carica papaya L (RFC = 0.22). The most common method of plant preparation and administration was the decoction (69.2%) and oral (86.7%) route, respectively. Conclusions: Although most plants used by TMPs have the potential to generate leads for chemo-preventive cancer medicines, they remain unexplored. This study provides a lead to explore the potential of traditionally used plants for the management of cancer through pre-clinical and clinical research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100808
JournalJournal of Herbal Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Cancer
  • Herbal medicine
  • Medicinal plants
  • Oncology
  • Traditional medicine practitioners


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