Medicinal plants used by Burundian traditional healers for the treatment of microbial diseases

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Infectious diseases represent a serious and worldwide public health problem. They lead to high mortality, especially in non-developed countries. In Burundi, the most frequent infectious diseases are skin and respiratory (mainly in children) infections, diarrhea, added to malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Local population used mostly traditional herbal medicines, sometimes animal and mineral substances, to fight against these plagues. To survey in different markets and herbal shops in Bujumbura city, medicinal plants sold to treat microbial infections, with particular emphasis on the different practices of traditional healers (THs) regarding plant parts used, methods of preparation and administration, dosage and treatment duration. The ethnobotanical survey was conducted by interviewing, using a pre-set questionnaire, sixty representative healers, belonging to different associations of THs approved and recognised by the Ministry of Health. Each interviewed herbalist also participated in the collection of samples and the determination of the common names of plants. The plausibility of recorded uses has been verified through an extensive literature search.  Our informants enabled us to collect 155 different plant species, distributed in 51 families and 139 genera. The most represented families were Asteraceae (20 genera and 25 species), Fabaceae (14 genera and 16 species), Lamiaceae (12 genera and 15 species), Rubiaceae (9 genera and 9 species), Solanaceae (6 genera and 6 species) and Euphorbiaceae (5 genera and 6 families). These plants have been cited to treat 25 different alleged symptoms of microbial diseases through 271 multi-herbal recipes (MUHRs) and 60 mono-herbal recipes (MOHRs). Platostoma rotundifolium (Briq.) A. J. Paton (Lamiaceae), the most cited species, has been reported in the composition of 41 MUHRs, followed by Virectaria major (Schum.) Verdc (Rubiaceae, 39 recipes), Kalanchoe crenata (Andrews) Haw. (Crassulaceae, 37 recipes), Stomatanthes africanus (Oliv. & Hiern) R. M. King & H. Rob. (35 recipes), and Helichrysum congolanum Schltr. & O. Hoffm. (Asteraceae, 33 recipes). Regarding MOHRs, Pentas longiflora Oliv. (Rubiaceae) is the most important species with 19 recipes, followed by Kalanchoe crenata (Andrews) Haw. (Crassulaceae, 10 recipes), Gymnosporia senegalensis (Lam.) Loes. (Celastraceae, 9 recipes), Tetradenia riparia (Hochst.) Codd (Lamiaceae, 8 recipes) and Cardiospermum halicacabum L. (Sapindaceae, 6 recipes). Concerning the preparation and administration of recipes, our informants state to be able to adjust the doses based on the patient's age (child or adult) and/or his/her physiology (e.g. pregnancy). This study indicates that medicinal plants are still widely used for the treatment of microbial diseases in Bujumbura city. However, there is much to do in this area, especially in the assessment and monitoring of the quality, effectiveness and safety of the different recipes preconised by Burundian traditional healers.