Background: Nigeria as a multi-ethnic and multi-regional nation is blessed with a great diversity of traditional approaches to common diseases of mankind. Thus, ethnomedicinal surveys are key in reconciling long existing therapeutic approaches as bedrocks for drug discovery to ailing diseases of man today.
Objective of Study: An ethnomedicinal survey was carried out in Ondo, Ekiti, Ogun, Osun and Oyo States of South-western region of Nigeria where mostly the Yoruba people live; to identify and document medicinal plants used in the management of cancer.
Methods: Herbalists, traditional healers, herb sellers, old men and women who have information regarding the use of herbs either by inheritance or by trainings were questioned with the help of a well-structured questionnaire. A sample size of 200 respondents was randomly chosen with the help of their (community) leaders. Data on the local names, methods of preparation and the plant parts used were collected and analyzed to determine their frequency of citation, species use value and informant consensus factor (ICF).
Results: A total of 126 plant species (belonging to 112 genera and 119 families) used in the treatment of 20 types of cancer were identified. Members of the family Fabaceae (10 species) were the most widely used. It was observed that Bryophyllum pinnatum and Tetrapleura tetraptera were the most frequently cited species for the treatment of cancer. Analysis revealed 14 plant parts used in the treatment of cancer by the practitioners. Result also showed that bone and kidney cancers had highest degree of consensus from informants (0.5 each).
Conclusion: Bioassay guided fractionation is required on the most frequently cited plant species such that adequate information based on ethnomedicinal practice for the treatment of cancer in South-Western Nigeria can be kept for successive generation. New anti-cancer herbal medicines may also be discovered to alleviate the suffering of mankind.