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Table 4 Plant-based traditional medicines relevant for the treatment and management of diabetes in Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania

From: Traditional medicine practices among community members with diabetes mellitus in Northern Tanzania: an ethnomedical survey

Nomenclature Uses in other African communities Active Compounds and Pharmacology Plant Parts used Potential Side Effects and Toxicities
Scientific Common Name(s) Local Vernacular     
Aloe vera (ferox and secundiflora species)a Cape aloes, Aloe Vera Aloe, Alovera Southern Africa: arthritis, burns/skin conditions, hypertension, purging/laxative, dyspepsia, anti-inflammatory, cosmetics, eye ailments/conjunctivitis, sexually transmitted diseases, infertility, impotence
East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania): malaria, purging/laxative for cleansing purposes, dyspepsia, skin ulcerations/wound healing including burns, HIV/AIDS, cosmetic, infertility, anti-parasitic
Gel: Prostaglandin- and bradykinase-mediated anti-inflammatory activity.
Aloin leaf extracts: increases GI motility and induces emesis
Active compounds: glucomannans, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, bradykinase, anthraquinone glycosides (aloin, barbaloin)
Gel extract
-Volume depletion and electrolyte imbalance
Hyperpigmentation and photosensitivity
-Acute tubular necrosis
-Acute interstitial nephritis
Clausena anisataa Horsewood Mjafari West Africa: bacterial and fungal infections of the skin including boils, ringworm, and eczema
East Africa (Tanzania): oral candidiasis, fungal infections of the skin, and epilepsy
Southern Africa: epilepsy, arthritis, rheumatism and other inflammatory conditions, hypertension, heart failure and other heart ailments, schistosomiasis, taeniasis and other parasitic infections, constipation and dyspepsia; malaria and other febrile conditions, headaches, eye ailments/conjunctivitis, impotence and infertility
Leaf extracts inhibit ACE: may lower blood pressure
Bacteriostatic against gram positive and gram negative bacteria; Fungicidal activity against Aspergilus fumigatus
Antiplasmodial: in-vitro dose-dependent schizonticidal effect of leaf extracts on parasitemia
In vitro activity against leukemic cell lines
Anti-HIV1/2 effects: dose-dependent inhibition of reverse transcriptase and taq polymerase enzymes
Hypoglycemic properties (reduction in basal blood glucose levels); Anti-convulsant; ACE inhibition; Cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 (weak) inhibition
Active compounds:
Clausamine, carbazole alkaloids (girinimbine, murrayamine-A, and ekeberginine), flavonoids, monoterpenes, and coumarins
Leaf, stem, and root extracts -Heavy metal bio-accumulation (Iron, cadmium, manganese)
Cajanus cajana Pigeon pea Majani ya mbaazi Ghana: diabetes, dysentery, hepatitis, measles, dysmenorrhea
Nigeria: wound healing, aphthae, bedsores, and malaria/fever
Antibacterial activity; hypocholesterolemic effects (diet-induced); inhibits CNS voltage-gated Na channels; induces apoptosis in human breast cancer cells via a ROS-mediated mitochondrial pathway; inhibits TNF-α and IL-1β production
Glycemic profile: leaves induce hyperglycemia, seeds induce hypoglycemia
Active compounds:
Cajanuslactone, stilbene, pinostrobin, cajanol
Leaves Seeds -CNS depression
-Heavy metal bio-accumulation (arsenic, copper, aluminum)
Persea Americanaa Avocado Mparachichi, Mwembe, Mafuta West Africa (Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast): anti-diarrheal, diabetes/hyperglycemia, anti-inflammatory, wound healing, antiepileptic, exhaustion, hypertension, gastritis/dyspepsia
East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique): dengue vector control, diarrhea, sore throat, menstrual regulation, hair growth, epilepsy, toothaches, wound healing, tuberculosis, neuralgia)
Anti-inflammatory, limiting lowering (β-Carotene and fatty acids), anticonvulsive (via gabanergic effects) & vasodilatory properties; Inhibits alpha-amylase and enhance glycogenesis; acetogenins inhibit platelet
aggregation; larvicidal to Aedes aegypti
Active Compounds:
Tannins, saporins, alkanols (aliphatic acetogenins), terpenoids, coumarin
-Increased risk of bleeding when
combined with other anti-coagulants
-Hyperkalemia (especially among those with impaired kidney function)
Artemisia afraa African wormwood Fivi, Majani mapana artemisia Southern Africa: coughs, colds, sore throat, gastritis/reflux, hemorrhoids, fevers, malaria, asthma, diabetes Lowers blood glucose, improves glucose tolerance and balance in lipid metabolism; anti-oxidative properties
bactericidal against gram positive and gram negative bacteria
Roots stems leaves - Chronic kidney disease (decline in glomerular filtration rate)
-Acute tubular necrosis
  1. GI gastro-intestinal, ACE angiotensin converting enzyme, TNF tumor necrosis factor, IL interleukin, CNS central nervous system, ROS reactive oxygen species
  2. aReferences are available in Additional file 2