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IDENTIFICATION AND USE OF PLANTS IN TREATING INFERTILITY IN HUMAN FEMALES IN FAKO DIVISION, CAMEROON

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A survey was conducted in Fako Division, Cameroon to establish an inventory and identify plants used by traditional medical practitioners (TMPs) in treating female infertility in humans including the cultural practices surrounding such treatments. Information was gathered through interviews and questionnaire with TMPs based on the focus data collection strategy. Forty two plants belonging to 31 families were found to be used by two or more TMPs with Anchomanes difformis (BI.) Engl., Costus afer Ker-Gawl, Kigelia africana (Lam.) Benth. Eremonmastax speciosa (Hotchst.) Cufod, Jateorhiza macrantha (Hook. f.), Trema guineensis (Schum.& Thonn). Ficalho, Musanga cecropoides R. Br. Ex Tedlie, Pipteadeniastrum africanum (Hook.f.) Brenan and Carica papaya Linn. being the most commonly used. The leaves and stem barks were the most commonly used plant parts and plants were used singly or in various combinations along with some non-plant ingredients. Treatment was usually preceded by some form of diagnosis, which could be by use of an oracle, communication through a trance and questions relating to the history of the patient " s menstrual cycle. The average success rate was 66%, representing the proportion of cases that became pregnant following the therapy. Some of the plants found in this study are also used for treating infertility problems elsewhere while others are being reported for the first time. The project reveals the high medicinal value of plants in Fako Division and points to the need for proper estimation of success rate and identification of the active principles in the plants.
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Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. | Volume 2, Issue 11 | November 2013 | 724737
Global Journal of Research on Medicinal Plants & Indigenous Medicine || GJRMI ||
ISSN 2277-4289 | www.gjrmi.com | International, Peer reviewed, Open access, Monthly Online Journal
IDENTIFICATION AND USE OF PLANTS IN TREATING INFERTILITY IN
HUMAN FEMALES IN FAKO DIVISION, CAMEROON
Fongod A G N1*, Veranso M C2, Libalah M N3
1, 2, 3University of Buea, P.O. Box 63, Buea, Cameroon.
*Corresponding Author: tina_fongod@yahoo.com; Phone No: +91 989 483 0514; (237) 77883443; Fax No:
(237) 33432508
Received: 25/09/2013; Revised: 25/10/2013; Accepted: 27/10/2013
ABSTRACT
A survey was conducted in Fako Division, Cameroon to establish an inventory and identify
plants used by traditional medical practitioners (TMPs) in treating female infertility in humans
including the cultural practices surrounding such treatments. Information was gathered through
interviews and questionnaire with TMPs based on the focus data collection strategy. Forty two plants
belonging to 31 families were found to be used by two or more TMPs with Anchomanes difformis
(BI.) Engl., Costus afer Ker-Gawl, Kigelia africana (Lam.) Benth. Eremonmastax speciosa
(Hotchst.) Cufod, Jateorhiza macrantha (Hook. f.), Trema guineensis (Schum.& Thonn). Ficalho,
Musanga cecropoides R. Br. Ex Tedlie, Pipteadeniastrum africanum (Hook.f.) Brenan and Carica
papaya Linn. being the most commonly used. The leaves and stem barks were the most commonly
used plant parts and plants were used singly or in various combinations along with some non-plant
ingredients. Treatment was usually preceded by some form of diagnosis, which could be by use of an
oracle, communication through a trance and questions relating to the history of the patient‟s
menstrual cycle. The average success rate was 66%, representing the proportion of cases that became
pregnant following the therapy. Some of the plants found in this study are also used for treating
infertility problems elsewhere while others are being reported for the first time. The project reveals
the high medicinal value of plants in Fako Division and points to the need for proper estimation of
success rate and identification of the active principles in the plants.
KEY WORDS: Identification, Inventory, Traditional medical practitioners (TMPs), Female
infertility, Cultural practices, Focus data collection strategy.
Research article
Cite this article:
Fongod. A. G. N., Veranso. M. C., Libalah. M. N., (2013), Identification and use of plants
in treating infertility in human females in Fako Division, Cameroon,
Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med., Volume 2(11): 724737
Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. | Volume 2, Issue 11 | November 2013 | 724737
Global Journal of Research on Medicinal Plants & Indigenous Medicine || GJRMI ||
INTRODUCTION
Fako Division is one of the divisions in the
South West Region of Cameroon, made up of
six ethnic groups, namely the Bakweri,
Bomboko, Wovea, Mungo, Bimbia (Isuwu or
Isu) and the Balong (Matute, 1990). The
indigenes live together with people of other
origins-Cameroonians and foreigners. Though
heterogeneous, the population is essentially
rural. Cultural values of such rural settlements
see marriage and motherhood as central to
women‟s life and identity. Motherhood gives a
sense of maturity and an opportunity for greater
vitality, fun and humour (Richardson, 1993).
There is no unanimous definition of female
infertility, but NICE guidelines state that: "A
woman of reproductive age, who has not
conceived after one year of unprotected vaginal
sexual intercourse, in the absence of any known
cause of infertility, should be offered further
clinical assessment and investigation along
with her partner."(NICE guideline, 2013),
(Larsen, 2005). It is recommended that a
consultation with a fertility specialist should be
made earlier if the woman is aged 36 years or
over or if there is a known clinical cause of
infertility or a history of predisposing factors
for infertility (NICE Guidelines, 2013).
Infertility, or the temporary inability to
produce children, has become a major problem
for women and men in recent times and is
generally viewed as a painful condition for the
individuals and couples (Fidler and Bernstein
1999). Female infertility can be subdivided into
primary and secondary infertility (Larsen
1999). Primary infertility refers to the situation
where the woman has never had children
before, while secondary infertility occurs when
the woman is unable to conceive after one or
more successful pregnancies. The causes of
infertility are varied and often termed
idiopathic. Despite government policies on
population control in conjunction with family
planning organizations, children still stand out
central in the community set-up. Children are
needed as a means of economic advancement,
to perpetuate the husband‟s descent group and
to increase household productivity (Kottak,
1991). Couples are often pressurized
(especially by extended family members) to
have children, and their absence means the
woman has not fulfilled her part of the
marriage agreement because, from the
traditional view, marriage is seen as a union for
procreation rather than love (Kottak, 1991).
Love in the romantic and exclusive sense is
familiar in most developed countries while in
urban centers it is not demonstrably a universal
need (Hamond, 1978). Couples in the
developing countries are generally more often
and more severely affected by the
consequences of infertility due to protagonist
social norms. (Van and Inhorn, 2002). Owing
to the central role that children have in
traditional marriage bonds, infertility has often
been a primary cause for divorce.
Practitioners of traditional medicine have
variously been referred to indiscriminately as
traditional healer, traditional medical
practitioner, healers, people‟s doctors,
traditional doctors, practitioners of African
traditional medicine, witch-doctors, diviners,
seers, spiritualists or African therapists
(Sofowora, 1993). The term traditional medical
practioner (TMP) was adopted for
Anglophones at the third symposium organized
by the Scientific, Technical and Research
Commission of the Organisation of African
Unity (OAU/STRC) held in Abidjan, Ivory
Coast in September 1979 (OAU, 1979). Thus,
TMP will be used throughout this text. This
includes any person who is recognized by the
community in which he lives as competent to
provide health care by using vegetable, animal
and mineral substances and certain other
methods (Sofowora, 1993). These methods are
based on social, religious and cultural
backgrounds as well as on the knowledge,
attitudes, and beliefs that are prevalent in the
community regarding physical, mental, social
well-being and the causes of disability.
Diagnosis of infertility, like other diseases,
by TMPs is usually getting the medical history
of the concerned and by the divine inspiration.
Health problems originating from cosmic
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agents like the sun, moon, planets (astral
influences), evil thoughts, desires, telepathic
messages (spiritual causes) and diseases
originating from the soul or deeds of individual
in his former life (esotheric causes) can be
handled (Mbenkum and Fisiy, 1992).
Consultation of an oracle about the patient is
another method of diagnosis and sources of
appropriate treatment method (especially in
cases where infertility is thought to be due to
witchcraft). Seeds of plants, bones of animals,
kernel seeds and shells can be used in the
procedure of diagnosis depending on the
culture of the TMP (Sofowora, 1993). The
patterns these display, when thrown on the
floor or mat is interpreted. Thus the cause,
treatment and sacrifices required can be
determined from these patterns.
Communication through a trance is also used to
identify the cause of the problem. In some
cases the TMP can communicate with spirits in
his trance. The spirit narrates what is wrong, as
well as the sacrifice necessary to appease the
gods through the traditional medical
practitioner.
Plants have been used by TMPs to treat
infertility either exclusively or in combination
with orthodox medical procedures. Thomas et
al., (1989) mentioned some plants used in
solving female infertility problems in the
Korup area. These plants include Alternanthera
sessilis (Linn.) R.Br. ex Roth, Annonidium
mannii (Oliv.) Engl. & Diels, Cola lateritia K.
Schum, Jateorhiza macrantha (Hook. f.)
Brenan., Synphocephalum mannii (Benth.)
Warb, Senna alata (Linn.) Roxb, Emilia
coccinea (Sims) G. Don. People of Kilum
mountain in the North west Province,
Cameroon also use plants such as Coleus spp.
Benth., Impatiencs burtonii Hook. f. and I
sakeriana Hook. f. to treat women‟s fertility
problems and menstrual pains (Thomas and
Fisiy, 1992). There have been reports on the
use of folk medicine from India in the
treatment of gynoecological, fertility and
sexual diseases in India (Jain et al., 2005, Das
et al., 2005, Sugundha and Pandey, 2012,
Koteswara et al., 2012, Dhiman K. et al.,
2012).
Justification and objectives of study
Infertility usually presents an enormous
problem which, for those afflicted, causes great
suffering and pain. In infertility marriages, a
large proportion lays the blame on witchcraft
and often seeks herbal treatment from
traditional healers. The highly advertised and
much debated reproductive technologies are out
of reach for the vast majority of those affected
by infertility today due to inability to pay bills
for orthodox medicine and for cultural reasons.
The proportion of couples visiting traditional
healers for their infertility and other health
problems has increased. This has met with
some success and thus the need for an
investigation into the herbal sources. Although
some plants have been reported to be useful in
treating infertility, the types of plants used
often vary with locality since the healers need
to obtain these from the vicinity. There has
been no documentation of such plants from
Fako Division. The survey of literature
revealed that there are a few studies on
ethnobotany of women‟s diseases, particularly
fertility problems in different parts of
Cameroon. Literature is confined to general
ailments and therefore we were intrigued and
prompted to carry out the present study. This
study therefore sought to identify and establish
an inventory of plants used to treat infertility in
human females with the cultural practices
surrounding the use of these plants as well as
the perceived success rates in solving infertility
problems. The findings form this survey will
hopefully form a baseline for future studies on
the bioactive agents and clinical aspects in
improving on the success rates of traditional
healers; and will also set a basis for any
conservation and/or domestication efforts to
enhance sustainable exploitation.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Location of study site
The study was carried out in Fako Division
which is in the South West Region of
Cameroon, located between latitudes 4‟ and
402 north of the Equator and longitudes 8°7‟
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and 9°25‟ east of the Greenwich meridian. It is
bounded on the west and south by the Biafra,
on the east by the Wouri and Mungo Divisions
of the Littoral Province and on the North by
Meme and Ndian Divisions (Figure 1). It
covers an area of about 2.057 km2 with a
population estimated at 446,170 (Folefac
2005). The population trends reflect those of
the country with 50% living in urban/semi
urban centers. This number is increasing at the
rate of 5% per annum due to rural urban drift.
The estimate terrain elevation above sea level is
2833 m. The population is heterogeneous
because of job opportunities offered by the
numerous plantations (Neba, 1987). This area
has a humid tropical climate with an annual
sunshine between 900 - 12000 hours per
annum, average relative humidity of range 80
85 % (Fraser et al., 1998) and a mean annual
temperature of 280°C. The annual rainfall is
about 2000 mm, most of which is received
between June and September (Peguy et al.,
1999). Soil type here is basically volcanic
(Cable and Cheek, 1998).
Figure 1: Map showing study sites in South West Region, Cameroon.
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Table 1: Distribution of TMPs among the sampling sites in Fako Division
Block
No. of villages sampled
Bakweri
4
Balong
2
Bomboko
4
Bimbia
2
Mongo
3
Wovia
1
Total
15
Population mapping
The division was divided into six blocks
corresponding to the six ethnic groups. A
village was defined as a sampling site. The
number of villages sampled for each ethnic
group depended on the size of the ethnic group
but at least two villages were sampled per
block with the exception of Wovia (Table 1).
Two to five TMPs were sampled for each
village. The villages sampled included
Bakweri, Balong, Bomboko, Bimbia, Mongo
and Wovia (Figure 1).
Traveling to the villages included any
means possible but visit to many of the villages
included public transport in vehicles and
trekking. In each village, there was proper self-
introduction to the TMPs. In some cases, gifts
were presented to the traditional medical
practitioners. Some asked for money because to
them, they are selling their “knowledge” by
responding to the questions. In some villages, a
Field Assistant, whose daily salary was
determined by the chief and elders, was
required to create the necessary contact with
the TMP, as they cooperated in the exercise
readily on seeing a familiar face.
Prior informed consent was taken from the
informants regarding ethno-botanical survey of
the traditional herbal remedies used by the rural
and urban women for fertility problems such as
tubal factors, faulty menstrual cycle associated
with irregular and painful menstruation, scanty,
dirty and at times watery menses with no
evidence of ova, leucorrhoea, faulty uterus and
ovaries that render fertilization difficult. Some
causes and symptoms of infertility are
idiosyncratic to traditional medical
practitioners (TMPs). The clinical symptoms
associated with infertility are largely
recognized in traditional medicine: secretions
form the vagina, faulty menstrual cycle
associated with irregular and painful
menstruation, scanty, dirty and at times watery
menses, leucorrhoea which causes the semen to
run out immediately after intercourse, so that
fertilization cannot occur, inflammation
proceeding from other diseases (such as
chronic gonorrhea and syphilis) or from the
introduction of foreign bodies, or an
inflammation of the vulva and vagina Swelling
of the breasts some days before the monthly
period is seen as a sign of barrenness; the real
cause of this is unknown, presence of some
pernicious worms which prevent pregnancy or
cause abortions and unless these worms are
destroyed or kept at bay, pregnancy is difficult.
The worms are usually associated with witches.
The sampling procedure was preceded by a
preliminary survey, a general review and
familiarization with most plants mentioned in
the literature as having fertility properties.
Reconnaissance visits and surveys were made
to the villages in order to be familiar with the
people where a pre-test of the questionnaire
was carried out to ensure that it provided the
necessary information and data. The present
study is an outcome of an extensive survey
from October 2011 to February 2012. This
period coincided with the dry season when
most of the roads leading to the villages are
passable. Data collection was done by
interview and use of a questionnaire which
consisted of closed-ended questions. The
problems relating to various aspects of
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infertility were presented and described
verbally in the language best understood by the
TMP. Use was made of a translator where
necessary. The first part of the questionnaire
sought to obtain the bio data of the TMPs and
subsequent sections sought information on the
names of the plants used, practices surrounding
their harvest and administration along with
their success rates.
Plants collected were those described
independently by two or more TMPs for the
treatment of infertility. Plants which could not
be found on the spot or in the nearby forest or
whose names were given in the vernacular
language unknown to the translator were later
collected and presented to the TMP for
confirmation. Branches, fruits, flowers and
stem bark of plants were harvested. In the case
of tall trees, use was made of a tree climber or a
long rope was tied to a forked branch and the
forked branch thrown up to bring down part of
the tree‟s branch. In addition to these, fruits of
tall trees were collected using a catapult.
Observation of minute plant parts was done
using a hand lens. Plant parts were measured
using a tape. Photographs of rare plants species
were also taken. Information on the plant
structure and place of collection was recorded
in the field notebook. Some information from
the TPMs was used to complement the
description of parts of plants. Some plants were
pressed immediately in the field while those
that could not be pressed immediately were
collected in a transparent plastic bag. The
pressed plants were then dried, and put in order
for scientific identification.
The dried plants were identified in the
Limbe Botanical Garden, Herbarium (SCA),
Cameroon, by comparing them with other
herbarium specimens and/or using illustrated
floras and keys based on standard taxonomic
principles. The use of illustrated floras was
mandatory and instrumental in cases where the
family name of the unidentified plant was
unknown and herbarium experts and
taxonomists were consulted in cases where a
plant could not be found in the herbarium.
Vouchers specimens for all species encountered
were collected and deposited at the Limbe
Botanical Garden, Herbarium (SCA),
Cameroon. Means and frequency distribution
for various parameters were determined from
the questionnaire.
RESULTS
Response to interviewees
Out of 50 TMPs, 36 (72%) responded to all
the questions and 14 (28%) attempted the
questions partially. Of the 14 who attempted
the questions partially, seven were not involved
in treating infertility problems; four were
unwilling to disclose the plants used and their
methods of treating infertility problems while
three did not use plants in Fako Division for
treating infertility. The respondents were
between the ages of thirty and fifty-five years
and included four women and forty-six men
indicating more interest by men in traditional
medicine. All of them were Christians of
various denominations. The population of
women with fertility problems consisted of
girls and women above twenty three years of
age with different economic and educational
backgrounds.
Forty two plants belonging to 31 families
were identified as being used for treating
infertility problems by at least two or more
TMPs (Table 2). The most predominant family
was Bignoniaceae with three species. The
frequency of uses of each of the species ranged
from 211. The most commonly used species
were Anhcomanes difformis, Costus afer,
Kigelia africana, Eremomastax speciosa,
Jateorhiza macrantha, Trema guinneensis,
Musanga cecropoides, Piptadeniastrum
africanum and Carica papaya, while the least
commonly used were Newbouldia laevis,
Nauclea dederrhichii and Scoparia dulcis.
The plant parts used included stem bark,
leaf, root, flower, fruit and tuber. In the case of
Eleusine indica the whole plant was used. All
parts of a plant were used at least once but the
most commonly used parts were the leaves and
stem bark (Figure 2). Enumeration was done
and tabulated with botanical names and
families of the plant species common names,
frequency of usage and parts used.
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Table 2. Plants and plant part used in treating female fertility.
Plant Species
Common name
(English)
Frequency
Part used
Acanthaceae
Eremomastax speciosa (Hotchst). Cufod
Two-sided leaf
6
Leaf
Apiaceae
Centella asiatica (L.) Urban
Indian Pennywort
4
Leaf
Apocynaceae
Alstonia boonei De Wild
Mild stick
3
Stem bark
Araceae
Anchomanes difformis (BI.)Engl.
11
Roots, tuber
Asteraceae
Ageratum conizoides L.
„Goat weed‟
„King grass‟
3
Leaf
Arecaceae
Elaeis guineenis Jacq.
African oil palm
Palm tree
4
Inner yellow
leaves
Asteraceae
Emilia coccinea (Sims.)
3
Leaf
Asteraceae
Senecio biafrae (Oliv.& Hiern) J. Moore
3
Leaf
Balsaminaceae
Impatiens sp
4
Stem, leaf
Bignoniaceae
Kigelia africana (Lam.) Benth.
Sausage tree
9
Fruit, root, bark
Bignoniaceae
Newbouldia laevis (P.Beauv.) Seem. Ex Bur.
Fertility plant
2
Leaf
Bignoniaceae
Spathodea campanulata Beauv
Flame of the forest
3
Stem bark
Bombacaceae
Ceiba pentandra Gaernt.
Boma tree
3
Stem bark
Capparaceae
Cleome gynandra L.
Cat‟s whiskers
2
Leaves and stems
Caricaceae
Carica papaya Linn.
Paw paw/Papaya
5
Leaf, Root
Cecropiaceae
Musanga cecropoides
R. Br. Ex Tedlie
Umbrella tree
3
Buds
Costaceae
Costus afer Ker-Gawl
Monkey sugarcane
9
Stem, leaf
Cucurbitaeceae
Momordica charantia Linn.
Bitter gourd
3
Flower
Dioscoreaceae
Dioscorea bulbifera Linn.
Bush or aerial yam
5
Tuber
Euphorbiaceae
Ricinus communis L.
Castor oil plant
4
Leaf tops
Fabaceae
Desmodium triflorum (L.)DC
Beggar weed
3
Whole plant
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Lamiaceae
Ocimum gratissimum Linn.
„Masepu‟
„Scent leaf‟
„Masepu‟
4
Leaf
Leeaceae
Leea guineensis G. Don.
4
Leaf
Malvaceae
Hibiscus asper Hook.f.
2
Whole plant
Malvaceae
Corchorus olitorius L.
„Kreng Kreng‟
7
Leaves
Malvaceae
Hibiscus sabdarifa L.
Folere
8
Leaves
Meliaceae
Entandrophragma angolensis (Welw.) C.DC
Mahogany
4
Stem bark
Meliaceae
Milicia excelsa (Welw.) CC.Berg.
Iroko
3
Stem bark
Menispermaceae
Jateorhiza macrantha (Hook.f.) Exell &
Medonça
Flat hand of
monkey
5
Leaf, stem
Mimosaceae
Piptadeniastrum africanum (Hook.f.) Brenan
Small leaf
Dabema
5
Stem bark
Musaceae
Musa pardisisca L.
Plantain
4
Flower (tassel)
Myristicaceae
Pycnanthus angolensis (Welw.) Warb.
False nutmeg
Man caraboar
3
Stem bark
Poaceae
Eleusine indica Gaertn.
Bahama or Wire
grass
3
Whole plant
Poaceae
Zea mays Linn.
Maize plant
3
Flower (silk)
Apiaceae
Petroselinum crispum (Mill) Fuss.
Parsley
5
Leaves
Rubiaceae
Nauclea dederrhichii (De Wild. &Th.
Dur.) Merril
Bilinga
3
Stem bark
Rutaceae
Citrus auranolia Linn.
Lime
4
Fruit
Scophulariaceae
Scoparia dulcis Linn.
Sweet broom weed
2
Leaf
Smilacaceae
Smilax kraussiana Meisn.
Wild sarsaparilla
3
Root, tuber
Ulmaceae
Trema guineensis (Schum.& Thonn). Ficalho
Pigeon wood
Charcoal tree
5
Stem bark
Urticaceae
Fluerya ovalifolia
(Schum. & Thonn) Dany
Burning grass” or
Tropical
Stinging nettle
4
Leaf
Zingiberaceae
Aframomum melegueta (Rosc.) K. Schum.
Sweet alligator
pepper
4
Fruit
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Treatment methods
All the plants were harvested in the
morning, some were however harvested in the
evening but none was harvested specifically in
the afternoon. Harvesting of any plant part was
preceded in some cases by incantations, which
often serve as a means for request of power
from the ancestors and other divinities. In six
cases, animals such as fowls, fowl eggs and
goats are sacrificed prior to collection.
Some of the plant species were used singly
while others were used in various
combinations. Plants used singly Leea
guineenisis, Anchomanes difformis (BI.) Engl.,
Costus afer, Jateorhiza macrantha, Fluerya
ovalifolia, Piptadeniastrum africanum, Alstonia
boonei.
Combinations involving three plant species
were the most frequently used (Table 3). The
following plants (Leea huineensis, Anchomanes
difforis, Costus afer, Jateorhiza macrantha,
Fluerya ovalifolia and Piptadeniastrum
africanum) were used singly as well as in
combinations.
Table 3: Plant species combinations used in the treatment of female infertility in Fako Division.
Two species
Dioscorea bulbifera
Eleusine indica
Kigelia africana
Anchomanes difformis
Carica papaya
Zea mays
Entandrophragma angolens
Citrus aurantifolia
Piptadeniastrum africanum,
Pycnanthus angolensis
Pycnanthus angolensis
Musanga cecropoides
Nauclea dederrhichii
Emilia coccinea
Alstonia boonei
Milicia excelsa
Three
Species
Kigelia africana,
Spathodea campanulata,
Anchomanes difformis
Kigelia africana,
Costus afer,
Elaeis guineensis
Jateorhiza macrantha,
Costus afer,
Leea guineensis
Trema guineenisis,
Pycnanthus angolensis,
Milicia excelsa
Newbouldia laevis,
Spathodea campanulata,
Carica papaya
Piptadeniastrum africanum,
Milicia excelsa
Musanga cecropoides
Elaeis guineensis,
Kigelia africana,
Smilax kraussiana
Eleusine indica,
Zea mays,
Ocimum gratissimum
Entandrophragma angolens
Zea mays
Musa sapientum
Scoparia dulcis
Emilia coccinea,
Ageratum conyzoides
Eremomastax speciosa,
Ageratum conyzoides
Emilia coccinea
Four
species
Musanga cecropoides,
Ocimum gratissimum,
Kigelia africana,
Aframomum
melegueta
Momordica charantia
Newbouldia laevis,
Citrus
aurantifolia
Eleusine indica
Entandrophragma
angiogenesis,
Kigelia africana,
Elaeis guineensis
Musa sapientum,
Elaeis guineensis,
Carica papaya,
Zea mays
Ocimum
gratssimum
Kigelia africana,
Musa sapientum,
Ceiba pentandra
Citrus aurantifolia
Fluerya avalifolia
Carica papaya,
Citrus
aurantifolia,
Musa sapientum
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Non-plant ingredients were also used in
combination with the plant material. These
included animal products (honey), mineral
products like red and white limestone
(„akangwa’) and plant derived products such as
palm kernel oil and palm oil. Preparation of
plants and ingredients for medicinal use was by
boiling or infusions. Eleven TMPS
administered the medication in the form of
drink, 7 as enema and 14 as both. Where both
are used, the same infusion is administered as
enema and drink. In some cases the medication
is administered to both wife and husband.
Treatment usually lasted for more than two
months until the woman in question became
pregnant.
Forms of diagnosis of infertility identified
included use of oracle and communication
through a trance. Questions about the regularity
of the menstrual cycle were also used as clues.
Where treatment was unsuccessful, the gravity
of the case was confirmed by reference to
practitioners of orthodox medicine or by
examination of the menses by the TMPs. In a
particular case, small red ants were used to test
for female infertility.
Perceived success rates
Out of the 36 TMPs who responded to the
questions, only 11 attempted to estimate their
success rates, measured as the proportion of
treated women who conceived. The perceived
success rate ranged from about 28.5100%
with a mean of 63.7% (Table 4).
Table 4: Perceived success rates of infertility treatment by 11 traditional medical practitioners
in Fako Division.
No of cases handled
No of cases conceived (x)
Success %
2
2
100
3
3
100
3
2
66.6
3
1
33.3
5
3
60
6
3
50
7
2
28.5
9
6
66.6
9
4
44.4
10
5
50
11
6
54.5
Total/Mean 58
37
63.7
DISCUSSION
In the present investigation, an attempt was
made to enumerate the different plant species
employed by TMPs in treating female
infertility in Fako division, Cameroon. The
study has resulted in the identification of 42
species spread over 31 families. Analysis of the
life forms showed that there were 23 herbs, 16
trees, one shrub, and two climbers. The
following plants identified in this study have
been reported elsewhere in treating fertility
problems: Costus afer, Emilia coccinea,
Jateorhiza macrantha, Dioscorea bulbifera,
Piptadeniastrum africanum, Entandrophragma
angolens and Kigelia africana (Lambo, 1979;
Thomas et al., 1989). Senecio biafrae was one
of the plants employed for treatment of fertility
problems which corroborate the findings of
Landry et al., (2012) where they noted the
extensive use of this plant by traditional healers
in the western region of Cameroon for the
treatment of female infertility. Foeniculum
vulgare an Apiaceae has been used in India for
Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. | Volume 2, Issue 11 | November 2013 | 724737
Global Journal of Research on Medicinal Plants & Indigenous Medicine || GJRMI ||
fertility problems (Sugundha et al., 2012). A
close species, Petroselinum crispum was
identified as one of the species used for treating
fertility problems in the study. Deka and Kalita
(2013) reported the use of species of Costus
and Desmodium in used in fertility treatment in
Kamrup district.
A proportion of species in the forest,
fallows and farms of Fako Division have
medicinal uses ranging from the common
“folk” uses which are widely known, to the
highly specialized use of complex
combinations and powerful specialized species
by TMPs. For example, the use of Costus after
der-Gawl for cough, the bark of Alstonia
boonei De Wild for malaria, leaves of Senna
alata (Linn.) Roxb for ringworm, Euphorbia
hirta L. for abdominal problems, amongst
many others are well known by the local
population. Some of the plants in this survey
are being reported for the first time as having
medicinal value against infertility; though some
have been used in the treatment of ailments
other than infertility. Citrus aurantifolia has
anti-inflammatory, antihistamine and diuretic
properties and Ocimum gratissimum is used as
an antihelmintic, mouth wash, spice and for
treating diarrhea because it contains thymol, an
antiseptic active against bacteria and fungi
(Sofowora, 1993). Leea guineensis is used to
treat abdominal problems and for detecting
pregnancy (Lambo, 1979). Eremomastax
speciosa is used as a remedy for anaemia and
other blood disease probably because of its
high iron content. Others like Musa sapientum,
Zea mays, Dioscorea bulbifera and Elaeis
guineensis are common food plants while some
of the species like Milicia excelsa,
Entandrophragma angolens and Pycnanthus
angolensis have been exploited for timber.
Thus, although these plants are being reported
for treating infertility for the first time, they are
well known and used by the local population
for treating other ailments, as food or for timber
production.
A few of the plants are more widely used
by the TMPs than others. For example,
Anchomanes difformis was used by 11 TMPS
while Nauclea dederrhichii was used by just
two TMPs. A less frequently used plant can
still be as effective as a frequently used one for
treating infertility. The low frequency of use
might be due to the fact that the TMPs do not
know about the plants as a remedy for
infertility but they could be using them for
treating other ailments. Another reason may
probably be due to the fact that knowledge of
traditional medicine is usually acquired from
ancestral spirits and apprentice-ship (Makhubu,
1978), and the TMPs will only use plants that
his ancestors used for a particular ailment.
Furthermore, availability of a plant will also
influence its frequency of use. Plants not
commonly found around the locality will be
replaced by those that are readily available.
Most of the plants used in treating infertility are
used in combinations (Table 3) distinct from
other areas where most plants are used singly
(Thomas et al., 1989). The role of each plant in
the combination was not clear although they
may be acting as synergists to increase the
potency of the preparation. Some species in the
combinations could actually be there to prevent
the adverse effects of other major constituents,
but all of these need to be confirmed in a
separate study.
Eleusine indica, Aframomum melegueta
and Scoparia dulcis are thought to have medico
magical effects. In addition to treating
infertility for example, Eleusine. indica was
used to tie the plants before placing them in the
collecting bag to prevent them from the action
of witches who can “spoil” them or make less
effective. Non-plant ingredients were also used
in combination with the plant material. These
included animal products (honey), mineral
products like red and white limestone
(„akangwa’) and plant derived products such as
palm kernel oil and palm oil. It is believed that
these ingredients make these medications
effective. In modern system of medicine this
effectiveness requires further testing
phytochemically and pharmacologically for
better use in future. Preparation of plants and
ingredients for medicinal use was by boiling or
infusions and administration by enema and
oral.
Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. | Volume 2, Issue 11 | November 2013 | 724737
Global Journal of Research on Medicinal Plants & Indigenous Medicine || GJRMI ||
Out of the 36 TMPs who responded to the
questions, only 11 attempted to estimate their
success rates, measured as the proportion of
treated women who conceived. The perceived
success rate ranged from about 28.5% 100%
with a mean of 63.7% (Table 4). The chances
of success in the treatment of infertility
problems vary with the cause, and with
different individuals receiving treatment. With
traditional medicine, the rate of success has
been estimated at 70% (Lambo, 1979). A few
of the TMPs were unwilling to share their
traditional knowledge with other people. The
existing knowledge on traditional uses of plants
is fast abating especially as the youths show
poor interest in acquiring this wealth of
knowledge from the TMPs.
CONCLUSION
It is very necessary to collect and document
such valuable data and precious knowledge and
increase awareness among rural communities
for conservation and sustainable use of plant
wealth. There is need for evaluation of the
plants and investigation of their biological
activity as well as isolation of active
constituents by pharmaceutical industries and
other laboratories to give lead to development
of new herbal drug molecules.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The authors are grateful to all the traditional
medical practioners (TMPs) for sharing their
valuable information on herbal medicines as
well as to the rural community for their
cooperation. Authors are also thankful to the
staff of Limbe Botanic Garrden (SA) for their
invaluable support in providing the necessary
facilities for plant identification and
documentation.
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Source of Support: Nil
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
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Report on the treatment of dysmenorrhea by the tribes of Nalbari district, Assam
  • Devi Das Nikhil Jyoti
  • Goswani Kamala
  • Satya Rajan
Das Nikhil Jyoti, Devi Kamala and Goswani Satya Rajan (2005) Report on the treatment of dysmenorrhea by the tribes of Nalbari district, Assam. Indian Journal of Traditional knowledge, 4(1) 72–74