Ethnomedicinal plants of the Loita Maasai of Kenya

  • Jedidah Nankaya
  • James Nampushi
  • Shani Petenya
  • Henrik BalslevEmail author


Traditional medicinal plants play a central role in primary health care in most African communities, including that of the Maasai. Unfortunately, the local Maasai knowledge is under enormous pressure from introduction of agriculture, population growth, and climate change—all of which affect availability and regeneration of natural resources and ecosystem services which are accompanied by erosion of traditional knowledge. Loss of medicinal plants and the knowledge related to them would have devastating effects on the Maasai community. Therefore, it is important to document the plants and the traditional knowledge related to their use, and conservation and management. We interviewed 31 informants who were especially knowledgeable about medicinal plants. Based on these interviews, we document 62 plant species that the Loita Maasai use as medicine, and we describe the parts of the plant that are used, the methods of preparation, and how they are used. We rank them according to their importance to the people and discuss the management practices developed for these resources, and we evaluate the conservation status.


Conservation Local knowledge Management Primary health care 



Special gratitude is expressed to all the Loita people who agreed to participate in this study. The first author is grateful for great help from Charles Ole Saitabau, Dominic Kirigwi, and host families. JN sincerely thanks Dr. Patricia Layton, Dr. Karen Hall, and Dr. Betty Baldwin from Clemson University for their guidance, constructive comments, and suggestions during the entire study period. HBs participation was supported by a grant from the Maasai Mara Science and Development Initiative.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics approval

This study obtained Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, Number IRB2013-149 from Clemson University, USA, where it formed part of the first author’s M.Sc. study.

Informed consent

The data collection was done with prior permission, and informed consent was obtained verbally from all participants. Ethical research procedures involving confidentiality, anonymity, and the rights of withdrawal were followed.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jedidah Nankaya
    • 1
  • James Nampushi
    • 1
  • Shani Petenya
    • 1
  • Henrik Balslev
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Tourism and Natural Resources ManagementMaasai Mara UniversityNarokKenya
  2. 2.Bioscience, Ecoinformatics and BiodiversityAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

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