UTILIZATION AND CONSERVATION OF TRADITIONAL MEDICINAL PLANTS IN KEIYO SOUTH, ELGEYO-MARAKWET COUNTY, KENYA
Medicinal plants are an important source of healthcare and livelihood for many people in developing countries, particularly in Africa where 80 percent of the population still relies on them for primary health care. Despite this, literature reached indicated that medicinal plants globally are under threat from over utilization and loss of habitats. This is a concern as the demand for plant based medicine for human health is being sought globally due to the belief that they have less harmful effects on human health. This study investigated the utilization and conservation of traditional medicinal plants, threats and the measures to conserve them in Keiyo South Sub-County in Kenya. The study was guided by Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons theory. Primary data was collected using a semi-structured interview schedule, observations and photography. Secondary data was collected from books, journals and theses. A total of 171 respondents comprising 120 household heads, 33 traditional herbalists, 15 herb vendors, and 3 Kenya Forest Service staff were interviewed. Data was coded and analyzed using frequencies and percentages. The results showed that medicinal plants were widely used by the Keiyo people for prevention and treatment of ailments like cold and chest pain in the highlands; malaria in the lowlands; and reproductive health and abdominal problems in all the zones. Medicinal plants obtained from Kerio valley and the escarpment included Albizia anthelmintica for de-worming and cleaning the digestive system, Acacia seyal (red acacia) and Maertia subcordita for abdominal pain, Zanthoxylum gilletii (large-leaved knob wood) and Withania somnifera (poison gooseberry)for throat infections; and Ficus thonigii (Black-cloth fig) for malaria. Traditional conservation measures adopted included restricted gathering by mature people and herbalists guided by social controls and taboos. Threats identified by the respondents were increased farming (81%), increased human settlements (76%) leading to habitat destruction and lack of knowledge on use of medicinal plants (45%). Measures adopted by the respondents to conserve medicinal plants include planting (63.7%) and protecting medicinal plants growing in farms and protecting existing sacred sites (32.7%). The study concluded that knowledge and use of traditional medicinal plants for primary health care by the Keiyo people is widespread. The study recommends that the community and government should protect traditional sacred sites and establish a research institute in the County. Areas for further study include documentation of other medicinal plants at county level and chemical analysis of the medicinal plants.
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