Health& Living

With shortage of drugs in hospitals, high costs in clinics and pharmacies, and drug resistance which often leads to treatment failure, many Ugandans have resorted to the use of herbal medicines to cure various ailments.

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 80% of people still rely on herbal remedies for their healthcare worldwide. According to the National Council of Traditional Healers and Herbalists Association of Uganda (NACOTHA), one herbalist serves about 10 people, and the association estimates that there are currently more than 50,000 herbalists in Uganda.

“The biggest challenge Ugandans are facing in producing drugs on a large scale is the lack of indigenous knowledge, because many are ignorant of the benefits of these herbs,” says Dr Karim Musaasizi, NACOTHA secretary general.

In order to address this challenge, Musaasizi says NACOTHA has established an Indigenous Knowledge institute where local people are trained in medicinal use of various herbs that Ugandans grow. According to Dr Saddam Lukwago, a herbalist, many of the herbs grown in Uganda are used to detoxify the body and build its immunity.

Some herbs and what they cure


It is a perennial herb that grows about five to 19cm, with an aromatic smell when crushed. It cures: stomachache (chew few leaves at different times of the day); peptic ulcers (pound its leaves together with the leaves of bidenspilosa [black jack/ssere/enyabarasane] and polysciasfulva [omugantara], mix in water, strain and take one glass three times a day). It also cures ear pain, conjunctivitis/red eyes and itching in the throat.

Kitonto/Crassocephalum Vitellinum

It grows up to one metre high and grows mostly in grasslands and along swamp edges. Its leaves and flowers are used in curing ailments such as high blood pressure (boil leaves and drink the extract) and stomachache (mix leaves with the bill of a fish, boil for 10 minutes and take one teaspoon three or four times a day). It also stops vomiting and controls excessive menstruation.

Eppaapaali/Carica Papaya

Unripe fruits and seeds, flowers and leaves of the herb are mostly used in curing ailments. It is used for, among others, controlling worms, curing light cases of malaria (make leaf concoction and take about a litre a day), cough (take one cup thrice a day), jaundice, yellow fever and asthma attacks. (Smoke young, dried pawpaw leaves in a pipe or wrapped in a paper in the form of cigarettes or burn leaves next to the bed and inhale.)

Aloe Vera/Ekigaji

This is a single stem that grows up to three metres high. It has long triangular fleshy leaves, spiked at the edges.

Parts used:
Bitter aloes: it is a yellow juice with a bitter taste that flows out of a cut leaf.
Aloe gel: is a transparent sticky sap with no flavour that has anti-allergic, antibiotic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and healing properties.

The herb cures skin problems like acne and athletes foot (apply aloe gel onto the affected area), hair loss (mix one tablespoon of aloe gel with egg yolk and rub into hair every evening); convulsions (boil quarter leaf in a half litre of water and take a quarter litre for three days); and infected gums (rub aloe gel on infected gums).

Resurrection plant/EkIyondo

It cures boils (squeeze leaves onto the boil), prevents food poisoning (heat leaves for one minute, squeeze juice into one cup of water and drink a third of a glass for three times a day) and malnutrition (give two tablespoons infusion three times a day).

Lemon grass/ chai ssubi/ Kalifuwa

Its leaves and roots are usually used in the treatment of:

Haemorrhage: Boil a handful of old mango leaves and eucalyptus leaves into two litres of water for 15 minutes. Add two handfuls of lemon grass and boil for two minutes. Cover for 15 minutes. Filter, add water and take as tea. Sinusitis and colds: drink one glass five times a day and take a steam bath

Bad breath: Chew a fresh washed leaf for two to three times a day or boil some leaves with coffee seeds and chew.
It also stimulates meat eating: Use one tea spoon of dry roots powder and mix with 250mls of meat soup.

East African satinwood /Muyenye

The trunk of this herb has woody prickles with creamy white flowers.
Parts used: stem bark and root bark.

Constipation: Prepare a root bark concoction and take four tablespoons three times for one day)
Toothache: Boil one handful of bark root and leaf in a half litre of water for 10 minutes. Add salt and use as mouth wash for three times a day.
Tuberculosis: Prepare root and bark concoction and take one cup. Add one teaspoon of castor oil and take three tablespoons three times a day for a long time.

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