Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used in the Maseru district of Lesotho

Lerato Seleteng Kose, Annah Moteetee, Sandy Van Vuuren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract Ethnopharmacological relevance Ethnobotanical knowledge in Lesotho is passed on orally from one generation to another. As a result it has not been well documented. Existing publications have relied on previous literature and are limited either in terms of scope or coverage. Furthermore, some of them are out of print. Therefore, there are gaps in the documentation of medicinal plants used in Lesotho. Aim of the study The purpose of the current study is to investigate common ailments in Lesotho's traditional medicine and document plants that are used in treating such ailments. Materials and Methods Interviews were conducted in five urban and four rural areas of the capital town of Maseru, by means of questionnaires to elicit information on medicinal plant use to cure common ailments. The informants were 20 males and seven females comprising 15 traditional healers, 11 herbalists and one pharmacist. Results Reproductive ailments were found to be the most commonly treated, followed by respiratory, degenerative and digestive problems. A list of the 80 plants used for treating the common ailments is given. A total of 44 families is represented, with Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Asphodelaceae and Poaceae families having the highest number of species used for medicinal purposes. The most frequently mentioned medicinal plants in interviews include; Elephantorrhiza elephantina, Pentanisia prunelloides, Hypoxis hermerocallidea, Eriocephalus sp., Salvia runcinata, Scabiosa columbaria, Dicoma anomala, Morella serrata, Xysmalobium undulatum, and Leobordea lanceolata. Due to the high demand of medicinal plants, some species such as L. lanceolata, Tephrosia capensis, E. elephantina, D. anomala and P. prunelloides were reported as over-harvested. In some cases animal products are added to the medicinal plants to enhance their curative abilities. Conclusions A total of 80 plants were recorded in the study as treating 38 common ailments in the Maseru district of Lesotho. Records of eight medicinal plants and 146 new medicinal uses of 34 plants that were not recorded elsewhere in literature are reported in the current study for the first time. The new records of medicinal plants used in traditional healing practices in Lesotho clearly show the need to document these practices, and the wealth of new knowledge gained with the current study reinforces the importance of extending the study to other parts of Lesotho.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9490
Pages (from-to)184-200
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2015


  • Ethnobotany
  • Herbalists
  • Lesotho
  • Medicinal plants
  • Traditional healers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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