In many parts of Sudan, indigenous knowledge on usage of medicinal plants as folk remedies has been lost.

Ethnobotanical studies are often useful in revealing plants used in herbal medicine by locals in remote rural areas in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of the world’s people depend on traditional medicine as an  important component of their health care system, and more than 50,000 of the world’s flowering plants are used for medicinal purposes. In Sudan, the majority of the  tribal people are nomads. They have simple and effective remedies to treat common diseases. The main source of  their traditional remedies is generally plants. It is usually undertaken by knowledgeable members of the community who transmit the use of medicinal plants and their properties orally to their younger generations.

Very few ethnobotanical surveys have been carried out in Sudan. In many parts of the country, indigenous knowledge on usage of medicinal plants as folk remedies has been lost owing to migration from rural to urban areas and changes in lifestyle, and rapid loss of natural habitats. In view of the rapid social, urban and industrial progress that took place in the last 50 years and will take place in the coming years, documentation of the traditional uses of medicinal plants is an urgent matter and an important task to undertake in order to preserve unwritten cultural knowledge. In addition to the documentation of medicinal plants by their scientific names, the documented traditional knowledge will provide baseline data and guidelines for future pharmacological and phytochemical studies. To preserve this valuable knowledge, the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Research Institute (MAPRI) has taken the initiative to document valuable ethnobotanical data and traditional knowledge. MAPRI has published several studies on the ethnomedicine of different places in Sudan. These documentations cover Erkowit, Nuba Mountains, White Nile Province, Kordofan, Khartoum State, and Ingassana Areas (1986-2003).

A team of scientists (Ikram Madani, Yahia Fadl from the University of Khartoum and Saada Nour from Bahri University) documented the medicinal plants used by local people in Gaab El Lagia Oasis, West Dongola in northern Sudan. The area has witnessed many population movements. The most recent inhabitants are the El Kababish tribe who moved from northern Kordufan and settled in this area after 1700 AD. There are about 200 houses, one school and one health center. El Kababish were nomads (1). Recently most of them turned to agriculture and they increasingly clear land for this purpose. The ethnobotanical surveys were carried out during three different visits: May, June and September 2014 using semi-structured questionnaires. Conversations were held at informants’ homes with the assistance of some known local people. Thirty-three informants including 22 males and 11 females from about 1800 total inhabitants were interviewed (Governmental Records from Management Unit of Dongola locality). Three of the informants were female local healers. The informants’ ages ranged from 60 to 80 years with a mean age of 65 years. Informants were selected randomly and no appointment was made prior to the visits. They were asked about the plants and the harvested parts they use to cure the respective diseases, methods of preparing the herbal remedy, dosage rates and administrative details in addition to other local uses of plants products. A total of 32 medicinal plants that belong to 18 families were recorded for the area.

The most commonly used species are Acacia ehrenbergiana (Salam) tree. The  stem of this plant is burnt and the  fume  is used to treat rheumatic pain. Alhagi maurorum (Agool ) herb. The decoction of the whole  plant is orally used for abdominal pain. Pergularia tomentosa (Galga) herb. A latex poultice is externally used for toothache, skin diseases and scorpion sting. Citrullus colocyntheis  (2), (Hanzal) herb. Fruits of this plant are burnt and used externally for skin diseases, piles and rheumatic pain, Leaf Paste is used for skin diseases, and the seeds are used orally to treat intestine worms. Salvadora persica (Arak) tree. Root and stem used as tooth washing antiseptic, and Trigonella foenum-graecum (3) (Hilba) herb. Fruit maceration is orally used for abdominal pain, fruit pastes are externally used to treat wounds and abscesses and the raw fruit  is used to treat dysentery, giardiasis and diarrhea. All of the medicinal plants grow naturally in Ga’ab El Lagia Oasis except for Foeniculum vulgare, Coriandrum sativum (4), Lawsonia inermis, and Trigonella foenum-graecum.

Most of the informants agreed upon using Citrullus colocyntheis for skin disease, Pulicaria undulata, for renal pathology, Alhagi maurorum for digestive pathology, Trigonellafoenum-graecum for dysentery, Tamarix aphylla as anti-rheumatism, Pergularia tomentosa as anti-venom, Hyphaene thebaica (5) for hypertension, Phoenix dactylifera (6) for anemia,  Azadirachta indica  as anti-malaria, Acacia nilotica for respiratory system injuries and wounds, Calotropis procera (7) for toothache, and Ocimum basilicum  for eye infection.

Another plant products used by this tribe is the ‘Gotran’ which is made from Citrullus colocyntheis seeds. They burn seeds in a special mud oven (8) to extract oils, used for treatment of skin diseases for animals, mainly Camels. They also use the Hyphaene thebaica leaves and stems (9) for roofing; the leaves make baskets and mats.

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