Ethnobotanical assessment of medicinal plants used traditionally for treating diabetes in Vhembe district, Limpopo Province, South Africa

T. E. Mudau, J. O. Olowoyo, S. O. Amoo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Diabetes mellitus (subsequently referred to as diabetes), a non-communicable and chronic metabolic disorder, remains a global epidemic with a high burden of morbidity. Traditional healers in Vhembe district, Limpopo Province of South Africa traditionally use medicinal plants in treating diabetes. The aim of this study was to document medicinal plants used by traditional healers in this district to treat diabetes. Sixty traditional healers made up of fifteen traditional healers from each of the four local municipalities (Thulamela, Makhado, Musina and Collins Chabane) in the Vhembe district were interviewed, using a semi-structured questionnaire. Ethnobotanical data including the local names of the plants, plant parts used, method of preparation, and dosages of the remedies were documented. Sixty-three medicinal plant species from 37 families were documented for treating diabetes. The top cited medicinal plants include Elephantorrhiza elephantina (Burch.) Skeels, Elaeodendron trasvaalense (Burtt Davy) R.H.Archer, Brackenridgea zanguebarica Oliv., Moringa oleifera Lam., Securidaca longipedunculata Fresen, Cassia abbreviata Oliv., Tabernaemontana elegans Stapf., Capparis tomentosa Lam., Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight and Arn, and Anthocleista grandiflora Gilg. Twenty-six species were recorded for the first time in the folkloric treatment of diabetes, including the two species (Aloe grandidentata Salm-Dyck. and Grewia retinervis Burret.) with no prior record of being used as a traditional remedy for any specific ailment. Many of the plants are used in combinations. The most frequently used plant parts were roots (47%), followed by stems (23%), and leaves (17%). Majority of the plant materials (62%) were sourced from the wild. Decoctions (68%) and infusions (25%) were the leading methods of preparation. The documentation of these plants highlights the value of further ethnobotanical studies to curb the erosion of important traditional knowledge systems for the benefit of both the present and future generations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-324
Number of pages21
JournalSouth African Journal of Botany
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Ethnobotany
  • Herbal medicine
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Traditional healers
  • Traditional medicine


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