Invasive alien plants used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS-related symptoms by traditional healers of Vhembe Municipality, Limpopo Province, South Africa
Background: Invasive alien plants have been known to play an important role in the lives of rural communities with regard to food security, ornamental purposes, as well as primary healthcare. The study presents the results of data collected through a survey on the use of invasive alien plants in the treatment of HIV/AIDS related symptoms.
Materials and Methods: Twenty-one traditional healers were interviewed using semi structured questionnaires. Parameters recorded during the interviews were local names, symptoms treated, plant parts used, life form and availability estimates of the plant species.
Results: A total of 38 invasive alien plant species belonging to 23 families were recorded to be used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS related symptoms. The largest proportion of recorded invasive alien plants belonged to the family Asteraceae with 16%. Roots were the most frequently used parts constituting 35% followed closely by leaves with 34%. Wounds were the main symptoms treated with a proportion of 56% followed by gonorrhoea (20%).
Conclusion: From the study, invasive alien plant species played a vital role in traditional primary healthcare. Despite their medicinal potential, it is recommended that traditional healers and community members be educated on the impact of invasive alien plants on biodiversity.
Keywords: Invasive alien plants, HIV/AIDS, Traditional healers, Vhembe District Municipality