Economic Botany

, 63:29 | Cite as

Four Footed Pharmacists: Indications of Self-Medicating Livestock in Karamoja, Uganda

  • J. T. GradéEmail author
  • John R. S. Tabuti
  • Patrick Van Damme


Four Footed Pharmacists: Indications of Self-Medicating Livestock in Karamoja, Uganda.Following observations of goats’ possible self-medication browsing the anti-parasitic plant, Albizia anthelmintica, an ethnobotanical survey was undertaken to examine whether livestock engage in other self-medicating behaviors, and if people also use the same medications. Information was gathered over a five-month period from 147 Karamojong pastoralists and healers using a checklist of questions. There were 124 observations for 50 proposed self-medicating behaviors, primarily eating plants, to treat a total of 35 disease conditions. Of the plant species, 72% were also prepared by informants to treat human or veterinary diseases. Species importance was estimated by four factors: >3 user citations, informant consensus factor >0.4, fidelity level >40% and presence in the local pharmacopoeia. Eight species fulfilled all of these factors, and 12 had at least three. These results provide support for the hypothesis that animals graze specific plants when ill and suggest that people have developed some of their knowledge through animal observation.

Key Words

Animal self-medication albizia anthelmintica ethnoveterinary knowledge pastoralists zoopharmacognosy ethnobotany pharmacopoeia 



Many thanks to the registered healers of Bokora and Pian and to the staff of KACHEP for sharing your wisdom and welcoming us into your hearts. The traditional healers and pastoralists of Karamoja are the owners of the information presented in this paper and any benefits that may arise from the use of this information will belong to them. Gratitude to the editing assistance of friends and reviewers. For identification of plant specimens, we thank Olivia Wanyana Maganyi and Protase Rwaburindore of Makerere University for their expertise. We are also grateful to the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology for permission to work in Karamoja. Funding has been through Christian Veterinary Mission, Seattle, USA.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. T. Gradé
    • 1
    Email author
  • John R. S. Tabuti
    • 2
  • Patrick Van Damme
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Tropical and Subtropical Agronomy and EthnobotanyGhent UniversityGentBelgium
  2. 2.Institute of Environment and Natural ResourcesMakerere UniversityKampalaUganda

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