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Original article

Ethnobotanical survey of herbs used in the management of diabetes mellitus in Southern Katanga Area/DR Congo

Ethnobotanical survey of herbs used in the management of diabetes mellitus in Southern Katanga Area/DR Congo

Bakari Amuri1,2,&, Mwamba Maseho1, Lumbu Simbi3, Pierre Duez2, Kahumba Byanga1


1Laboratoire de Pharmacognosie, Université de Lubumbashi (UNILU), 27 Avenue Kato, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2Unit of Therapeutic Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, Mons (UMONS), Bât 6, Chemin du Champ de Mars 25, 7000 Mons, Belgium, 3Laboratoire de Chimie Organique, Département de Chimie, Faculté des Sciences, Université de Lubumbashi (UNILU), Université de Democratic Republic of Congo



&Corresponding author
Bakari Amuri, Laboratoire de Pharmacognosie, Université de Lubumbashi (UNILU), 27 Avenue Kato, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo




Introduction: diabetes is becoming a public health burden for sub-Saharan countries due to its prevalence which is growing rapidly. Traditional medicine is more and more used to treat diabetes in RD Congo as well as in other African countries. This study was undertaken in order to list plants used in the management of diabetes by traditional healers in four agglomerations of southern area of Katanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Methods: forty-nine traditional healers were randomly met and interviewed about diabetes treatment in traditional medicine. The survey concerned the plant identification, their part used, method of preparation and the route of administration. The inquest concerned also traditional medicine users.


Results: ninety-five plants from 47 families were indicated as antidiabetic. Fabaceae (24.2%), Euphorbiaceae (7.4%), Apocynaceae and Strychnaceae (4.2 each) are the more representative families. This inventory showed that the root is the most used part of the cited plants, the decoction with water as the main preparation method and the oral administration as the principal way to give antidiabetic traditional formulations.


Conclusion: in Lubumbashi region, many plant species are used to treat diabetes either through traditional praticians or by anyone from well-known ancestral knowledge.



Introduction    Down

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic syndrome characterized by chronic high-blood glucose concentrations resulting from defects in insulin secretion, insulin action or both and having consequences on lipids and proteins metabolism [1,2]. According to the International Federation of Diabetes (IDF) there were 415 million people in the world with diabetes in 2015 and this is projected to increase to 642 million by 2040 [3]. In the Democratic Republic of Congo the prevalence of diabetes mellitus is rapidly growing up [4,5]. From 2003 to 2013 the number of diabetic patients has increased alarmingly from 552 thousands to 1.6 million; and the proportion of people with undiagnosed diabetes may reach 75% due to resource-limited health care [6,7]. On one side the limited access to conventional drugs and health care system, the faith on ancestral culture healing practices on the other hand, bring more people to traditional medicine where herbal drugs are widely used. Traditional medicine is still the mainstay of millions Congolese as well as other Africans [8]. In light of that, we decided to collect information about the plants used traditionally in the treatment of diabetes mellitus in southern Katanga area, DRC.



Methods Up    Down

This ethnobotanical survey was realized by interviews conducted with the help of a guide-questionnaire in the town of Lubumbashi, and in the cities of Kasumbalesa, Kipushi and Likasi, in the southern area of Katanga province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo from September 2005 to July 2007, according to principles stated by the Declaration of Helsinki on personal data [9]. To be sure of the information veracity, each traditional healer was met at least three times to answer the same questions at different moments. From the collected sample, the plants pointed out as providing antidiabetic properties had been identified by their scientific name at the herbarium of Kipopo (30km far from Lubumbashi town to the North), by Professor Jean Lejoly of the Free University of Brussels.



Results Up    Down

About fifty traditional healers were visited and interviewed on their knowledge and on diabetes treatment after their assent. The data obtained from different traditional healers on their knowledge and on vegetable species used in the management of diabetes are given in Table 1 and Annex 1. Table 1 gives information about traditional practitioners (tribe, age, sex and how he or she became healer). Annex 1 gives information about plant species: local name, plant parts used, methods of preparation, administration and different diseases treated. Scientific names were given after botanical identification of harvested samples and listed in the table in alphabetical order. As indicated in the Table 1, 49 traditional healers allotted between twelve tribes, whose 16 women (32.65 %) and 33 men (67.34 %) were interviewed. Without accurate sociological information on these different tribes, it is not easy to explain clearly why there are more men traditional healers than women. However, we think that three reasons would explain that: (i) the will of advertising (use of poster, streamer, cartoon) that is more remarkable to men than to women; (ii) the fact that during the inquest time, more women than men are absent for field work would explain why there are more men traditional healers known than women; and (iii) it is possible that the practice of traditional medecine is guided by socio-cultural characteristics such as kinship system (patriarchy or matriarchy) as observed in the Mafa tribe of Cameroun [10]. As it can be observed the main source of traditional medicine knowledge remains the ancestral transmission way from old people to young ones (39/49). This may be explained by the fact that, traditional medicine is a cultural component which spread through generations from ascendants to descendants and based on oral transmission in Africa [8,11,12]. We notify that the Luba and Bemba tribes are the most representative tribes among the traditional practitioners respectively with 28.57% and 16.32%, only because they are the most numerous in the areas of inquiry [13] Annex 1. The information about the plants used in managing diabetes collected from different traditional medical practitioners is gathered in the following table. In this study, the data show that, 95 plants from 47 families were indicated as traditionally used to treat diabetes. Fabaceae (24.2%), Euphorbiaceae (7.4%), Apocynaceae and Loganiaceae (4.2 each) are the most representative botanical families. The ethnobotanical survey revealed that the root (41.3% of citation) is the most used organ of plant followed by the leaves (28.6%) and the stem bark (20.6%). The decoction found to be the main way to prepare recipes (62.2%) and the oral administration (92%) as the principal way to give antidiabetic traditional formulations. The present study showed that, apart from diabetes, the 95 plants mentioned by traditional healers are also used in the treatment of others several diseases or symptoms (more than forty) such as diarrhea, rheumatism, infections and abdominal pain. Each of the 95 plants cited was mentioned at least by one respond. Some species such as: Albizia adianthifolia (Schum.) WF Wight, Antidesma venosum Meyer, Cassia occidentalis L, Jatropha curcas L and Strychnos spinosa Lam, were known as antidiabetic by two or more traditional healers (Annex 1).



Discussion Up    Down

This is a first report of an ethnobotanical survey of species used as antidiabetic in the study area. The predominance of Fabaceae, Euphorbiaceae as major botanical families comprising more species used in traditional medicine was also mentioned in a similar study in the same area [14,15]. This study has shown that the root is the most widely used organ for the preparation of recipes. Cheikhyoussef et al [16] as well as Tabuti et al [17], found also in their studies that root and leaves have been more used than other plant organ. The large use of decoction and oral administration respectively as the main preparation mode and the principal route to give traditional herbal drugs are a generally observed in other African communities. The use of the different plants in the management of diabetes and other ailments demonstrates the importance of traditional medicine that is known to be a component of everyday life in many areas of the world and particularly in Africa [8,18]. When comparing this study with others, some resemblance can be pointed out: among 306 vegetables species cited as antidiabetic plants used in the treatment of diabetes in Mexico [19], 11 plants are identified in our study: Allium cepa L, Aloe vera L, Ananas comosus L, Arachis hypogeal L, Bidens pilosa L, Carica papaya L, Catharanthus roseus L, Persea Americana Mill, Psidium guajava L, Ricinus cominus L, Senna occidentalis L as used by traditional healers in the magament of diabetes. In the ethnobotanical investigation conducted by Abo, Fred-Jaiyesimi and Jaiyesimin in the South Western Nigeria area [20], 31 plants had been reported to be used traditionally as antidiabetic agents and Carica papaya cited in our study is revealed in that study. Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Bidens pilosa, Catharanthus roseus, Lantana camara, Musa sapientum and Psidium guajava identified in this investigation are documented as antidiabetic used traditionnaly in other studies [21,22]. The antidiabetic properties of some species identified in this investigation have been experimentally demonstrated in the in vivo and in vitro diabetic models: Allium cepa, Allium sativum [23], Aloe vera, Bidens pilosa [19,24]; Catharanthus roseus [25-27], Lantana camara [23,28], Musa sapientum [29,30]. Compared to another ethnobotanical survey of plants used as antidiabetic in Kisangani, Eastern province of DRC, 10 species cited in this study are also mentioned by Katemo et al [31].



Conclusion Up    Down

In this study tradipraticians cited both medicinal herbs already known for their antidiabetic effect (34 plants, 35.8% of citations) and so far uncited herbs that must be evaluated for hypoglycemic and antihyperglycemic and other diabetic related symptoms; so that they may possibly be used in the management of diabetes.

What is known about this topic

  • For this topic, it is known that the population of Lubumbashi and its surroundings uses traditional medicine to treat various diseases. It is also known that in most cases, this traditional medicine exploits plant resources as a source of medicines. Some of these plants are used in the treatment of diabetes.

What this study adds

  • The novelty of this study is summarized in that: (i) this study lists for the first time the plants used against diabetes in Lubumbashi and its surroundings; (ii) Among the inventoried species, some have not yet been studied in this field and are probably a particularity of Congolese traditional medicine; (iii) For the first time, the profile of providers of traditional diabetes care in Lubumbashi is given.



Competing interests Up    Down

The authors declare no competing interests.



Authors’ contributions Up    Down

All the authors have read and agreed to the final manuscript.



Table  Up    Down

Table 1: information about the 49 traditional healers’ identity and source of knowledge



Annex  Up    Down

Annex 1: plants used traditionally in the management of diabetes at Kasumbalesa, Kipushi, Likasi and Lubumbashi



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