Traditional Plant Use in Burkina Faso, with a Focus on Traditional Medicine


Traditional plant use in Burkina Faso (West Africa): a national-scale analysis with focus on traditional medicine

Zizka A, Thiombiano A, Dressler S, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Feb 19;11:9
PubMed Central: PMC4429461

Investigators from the University of Gothenburg, Senckenberg Research Institute, Université de Ouagadougou, Goethe University Frankfurt, and Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre conducted a comprehensive, national-scale analysis of traditional plant use in Burkina Faso.

The authors note that while Burkina Faso has a rich heritage in traditional plant knowledge, this legacy is endangered on multiple fronts, particularly climate change:

“Large parts of the population of [Burkina Faso] live in rural communities and strongly depend on traditional plant products for their daily life. Some of the plant species traditionally used in [Burkina Faso] are of regional and global economic importance (e.g. Adansonia digitata, Parkia biglobosa, Sclerocarya birrea, Tamarindus indica, Vitellaria paradoxa)….

“Burkina Faso is located in a region especially susceptible to climate change and is likely to face severe environmental and socio-economic changes in the 21st century. Expected population growth together with the influence of climate change on flora and vegetation creates a challenging situation for environmental conservation. The combination of environmental change and increasing exploitation pressure is especially critical for the conservation of useful plants. Detailed knowledge of use patterns, actual usefulness and especially pharmacological effectiveness are the base for effective conservation. Furthermore, the presence of useful plants can be an important argument to local communities for conservation areas. The inclusion of local communities into the conservation efforts has been shown to be crucial for sustainable conservation.”

Combining information from a recently published national plant checklist with information from ethnobotanical literature, the team documented 1,033 plants with a traditional out of a total of 2,067 known plant species. The chief use was traditional medicine, followed by human nutrition and animal fodder.

Tamarindus indica
Tamarindus indica (Photo: B. navez, Wikimedia Commons)

Khaya senegalensis, A. digitata, and Diospyros mespiliformis were ranked the top useful plants, and T. indica, V. paradoxa and A. digitata the most important medicinal plants. Infections/infestations, digestive system disorders, and genitourinary disorders were the health problems most commonly addressed with medicinal plants.

In their conclusion, the authors note potential applicability of the research to conservation and drug development:

“The evaluation of usefulness of each plant species using the relative importance index has provided a robust hit list of the “top useful” species in the country and will be an important tool in focussing future conservation effort and possibly pharmacological screening. Our results are of interest for applied research, as a detailed knowledge of traditional plant use can a) help to communicate conservation needs and b) facilitate future research on drug screening.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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