Ethnobotanical Survey of Medicinal Plants Used in Breast Cancer Treatment by Traditional Health Practitioners in Central Uganda


The study aimed to document the existing knowledge and practices related to breast cancer recognition and treatment using medicinal plants by traditional health practitioners in Central Uganda.


This cross-sectional exploratory survey, conducted between February and August 2020, applied a mixed methods research approach. A semi-structured questionnaire was administered to 119 traditional health practitioners (THPs) in Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono. Content analysis of qualitative data was done. Quantitative ethnobotanical survey indices, namely user reports (Nur), percentage of respondents with knowledge (PRK), informant consensus factor (Fic), fidelity level (FL), preference ranks (PR) and direct matrix ranking (DMR) were determined.


Most THPs recognized breast cancer by breast swelling (n=74, 62.2%) and breast pain (n=29, 24.4%). They cited 30 plants from 30 genera in 23 families (Fic 0.75 on breast cancer). Asteraceae, Apocynaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae and Rutaceae were the predominant families. The ten most cited plants were Annona muricata L. (Nur=24), Rhoicissus tridentata (L.f.) Wild & R.B.Drumm (Nur =19), Erythrococca bongensis Pax (Nur=11), Ficus sp. (Nur=10), Cannabis sativa L. (Nur=8), Ipomoea wightii (Wall.) Choisy (Nur=7), Erythrina abyssinica DC. (Nur=5), Leucas martinicensis (Jacq.) R.Br. (Nur=4), Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench (Nur=4) and Zanthoxylum chalybeum Engl. (Nur=3). Annona muricata L. was highly preferred by THPs (PR 1), Ficus sp. had highest fidelity level (FL=77%) and Zanthoxylum chalybeum Engl. ranked as the highest multipurpose plant (DMR 1). Herbs (n=14, 47%) were the most commonly used life forms besides trees (n=11, 37%) and shrubs (n=5, 16%). THPs mostly used leaves (46%), prepared decoctions (82%) and applied residues on the breast.


THPs in Central Uganda recognized breast cancer by symptoms. Medicinal plants applied in its folk treatment have been documented and the claims of cure by THPs merit further investigation.


breast tumors; ethnomedicine; herbal medicine; indigenous knowledge.

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