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Medicinal Chemistry

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Medicinal Plants Used for the Management of Rabies in Ethiopia – A Review

Asfaw Meresa*, Sileshi Degu, Ashenif Tadele, Bekesho Geleta, Hiwot Moges, Firehiwot Teka and Netsanet Fekadu

Directorate of Traditional and Modern Medicine Research, Ethiopian Public Health Institute, PO Box 1242, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

*Corresponding Author:
Asfaw Meresa
Directorate of Traditional and Modern Medicine Research
Ethiopian Public Health Institute
PO Box 1242, Addis Ababa
Tel: 0112133499
E-mail: [email protected]

Received date: February 03, 2017; Accepted date: February 17, 2017; Published date: February 27, 2017

Citation: Meresa A, Degu S, Tadele A, Geleta B, Moges H, et al. (2017) Medicinal Plants Used for the Management of Rabies in Ethiopia – A Review. Med Chem (Los Angeles) 7: 795-806. doi: 10.4172/2161-0444.1000431

Copyright: © 2017 Meresa A, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Background: Rabies is a deadly zoonotic viral disease. It is a major public-health problem which presents huge economic and health burdens in most parts of the developing world. The disease is difficult to treat once the clinical manifestations start to develop; the vaccines produced in mammalian neural tissues have the disadvantage of causing severe adverse reactions. This leads to the practice of traditional medicine for the control of rabies in most parts of Ethiopia for many years. Objective: The aim of this review is to give an insight into some of the most commonly used folkloric plants and their method of preparation for the management of rabies. Methods: Data for this review were generated from the published research findings on Ethiopian traditional medicinal plants on indifferent peer reviewed journals and proceedings using search words, Rabies in Ethiopia, medicinal plants, Ethno botanical studies and anti-rabies activity. Descriptive analysis was conducted using excel spreadsheets and the numbers of plants species and families were reported in frequency tables and figures. Results: Results showed that a total of 199 plant species belonging to 47 families were used for the management of rabies. The most commonly used families were ephorbiacea stood first, followed by phytolaceae, cucurbitaceae, acanthracea, fabaceae and solianaceae. Phytolacadodecandra, Justicaschimperiana, Recinuscommunis, Brucea antidysenterica, Croton macrostachyus and Cucumis ficifolius were the most cited medicinal plant species utilized for the management of rabies. The most widely used plant part for the preparations of remedy were roots followed by leaves, used in solution form by using water as a most cited solvent. Conclusions: This review indicated that there are many plants utilized for the management of rabies. Hence further research is recommended for ascertaining the efficacy, safety and quality of the claimed medicinal plants. There is also recommended to strengthen the documentation of the indigenous knowledge which contributes for the drug development used for the management of rabies.


Rabies; Prevalence; Anti-rabies; Medicinal plants; Ethnobotany


Rabies is a deadly zoonotic viral disease which causes encephalitis in all warm-blooded animals and humans [1]. The disease, which is a worldwide occurrence and endemic in most developing countries of African and Asian countries, is transmitted to humans mainly through physical contact (bites and scratches) with both domestic and wild infected animals [2]. Dogs which are the principal sources of the rabies virus significantly contribute to the widespread and transmission of the virus to humans as well as livestock [1,3,4]. Nearly 98% of human rabies occurs in countries with high populations of owned and strayed dogs [5]. Rabies is one of the viral diseases which could not be cured and reversed with existing rabies vaccines once clinical manifestations of the disease begin to surface [6].

Rabies is a major public-health problem which presents huge economic and health burdens in most parts of the developing world [7]. The disease is known to cause large number of deaths in humans and animals each year [3]. Several scientific reports indicate that rabies has accounted for an estimated death of nearly 55,000 people every year globally, with the majority of rabies fatalities estimated to occur in Asia and Africa [5]. People who are at risk of dying due to rabies in these continents are those living in the rural areas. An estimated 10 million people worldwide receive post-exposure treatment after being exposed to animals suspected of rabies [2]. Deaths due to rabies occur despite the availability of effective vaccines which can prevent the development of fatal rabies cases [3]. Besides its health burden, Rabies has greatly contributed to the economic loss of many rabies endemic developing countries of Asia and Africa as result of the high costs of human vaccine and rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) products, huge patient costs related to travel and income loss for post exposure prophylysis (PEP) as well as costs due to cattle loss. Secondly, the disease affects the open market of different countries, particularly those of rabies free countries by hampering the movement of animals between them [5]. An estimated of US $583.5 million (most of which is due to the cost of post exposure prophylysis was annually spent in Africa and Asia due to rabies and the annual cost of livestock losses due to rabies is estimated to be US $ 12.3 million in these continents. An estimated 10 million people worldwide receive post-exposure treatment after being exposed to animals suspected of rabies [2-4].

Deribe et al. [8] reported that about 996-14,694 cases of human rabies are estimated to occur in Ethiopia, mostly acquired through dog bites and the number of recorded human rabies cases has shown no apparent reduction for over twenty years in the country [8]. The high population density of dogs with poor management and limited vaccination, particularly in urban centers, greatly contributes to the high prevalence of the disease. Nearly 10, 000 people were estimated to die of rabies each year in Ethiopia. This makes it become one of the worst affected countries in the world [1,4,9]. Although it is difficult to estimate the prevalence and incidence of rabies at national level due to the absence of laboratory diagnosis and recorded data at different health facilities of the Country, a study by Ali et al. [7] uncovered that there was high occurrence of rabies in and around Addis Ababa due to the poor management of owned dogs and the presence of high population of unvaccinated stray dogs [7].

Ethiopia has remained behind in rabies control effort due to various socioeconomic factors and low understanding of the actual trend of the disease despite its effectiveness in rabies prevention than reliance on post exposure human treatments [7]. Rabies vaccines produced in mammalian neural tissues have the disadvantage of causing severe adverse reactions, at a rate estimated as 0.3–0.8 per thousand treated patients [10]. Similarly, the cell culture rabies vaccines are expensive and not readily available to individuals living in developing countries where rabies is endemic in dogs [11]. The high costs of tissue culture vaccine and inertia have been the main barrier to the replacement of Fermi type vaccine [10]. The practice of traditional medicine for the control of rabies in most parts of Ethiopia is based on the use of plant medicines for many years. Several traditional herbs have been formulated by traditional healers to treat human and animal rabies [12].

Materials and Methods

The ethno-botanical information was collected from different ethno botanical publications by graduate students over the past couple of decades, the relevant ethno botanical MSC theses as well as publications; research reports other botanical sources as well as databases were also reviewed. Various on-line sources including Google Scholar were browsed using some important key terms such as Rabies in Ethiopia, medicinal plants, Ethno-botanical studies. The scientific names were checked and confirmed with volumes of the Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Appropriate data collection format was prepared to tabulate scientific, family and local names of species along with plant parts used, diseases treated and preparation of each species. The information was entered in Excel spread. The collected data were analyzed using descriptive statistics to evaluate the percentage and frequency of different aspects such as, diversity of plants, applications, method of preparation and plant parts used. The results were presented with figures and tables.


Diversity plant resources in the study area

A total of 199 species belonging to 47 families were included in this review. This finding is a good indicator for the presence of considerable diversity of plant species for the management of rabies in Ethiopia. In terms of family distribution, Ephorbiacea stood first, followed by phytolaceae, cucurbitaceae, acanthracea, Fabaceae and solianaceae (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Diversity of Plant species for the management of rabies.

Plant species most frequently reported

Phytolacadodecandra, Justicaschimperiana, Recinuscommunis, Brucea antidysenterica, Croton macrostachyus, Cucumis ficifolius, Salix subserrata, Calpurnia aurea and Euphorbia abyssinica were mentioned at 21, 14, 10, 7, 7, 7, 6, 5 and 5 sites, respectively for the treatment of rabies (Table 1).

Medicinal plant name Number of reports Percent
Phytolaca dodecandra 21 10.6
Justica schimperiana 14 7.0
Ricinus communis 10 5.0
Brucea antidysenterica 7 3.5
Croton macrostachyus 7 3.5
Cucumis ficifolius 7 3.5
Salix subserrata 6 3.0
Calpurnia aurea 5 2.5
Euphorbia abyssinica 5 2.5
Artemisia abyssinica 3 1.5
Clucia lanceolata 3 1.5
Daturastramonium 3 1.5
Dorstenia barnimiana 3 1.5
Dracaena steudneri 3 1.5
Lagenaria siceraria 3 1.5
Momordica foetida 3 1.5
Solanum gigantum 3 1.5
Stephania abyssinica 3 1.5
Total 199 100.0

Table 1: Plant species reported for the management of rabies in Ethiopia.

Conditions of preparation, solvents and additives of herbal remedies

As evident on Figure 2, herbal remedies are prepared using fresh material, dried form and some cases either fresh or dried form of the plant parts are utilized. Some of the remedies are taken with different additives and solvents; the most common solvent used is water is water followed by milk and local alcohol. Commonly used additives to prepare the medicinal plant material include butter, honey, milk, and Citrus juice.


Figure 2: Common solvents and additives used for the administration of medicinal plant parts for the management of rabies in Ethiopia.

Plant parts, method of preparation and applications

Regarding the preparation of medicinal plants for rabies treatment, various methods of preparation were utilized. The plant remedy preparations consisted mostly of solutions, mixture of powders, infusions, powdering, chopping, decoction, and burning. The prepared traditional medicines were applied in a number of methods; orally drinking or taking with food, directly apply on the affected area (either through the fresh leaf, latex, powder or oil); rubbing (with fresh leaf,powder, latex or ash of the burned part), squeezing on the affected area, or painting applied on the affected area from the herbal preparations (Table 2). The most widely used plant part for the preparations of remedy were root followed by leaves, which accounted for 41.51 and 29.25% (Figure 3).

S No Scientificname  Family name  Local name  Part (s)used Method of preparation Route of administration Treatment for: References 
1.                     Daturastramonium L. Solanaceae Machareqqa [ka] Banjii[O] Leaf Crushed and homogenized leavesdrunk with water Oral  Human [1,13,14]
2.                     Justitia schimperana (Hochst.exNees) T. anders Acanthaceae Gulbanna [ka] Buds Root Roots and leaves are poundedtogether and mixed with water and Salix mucronata leaf and given orally for human and animals in the morning before food Oral  Both  [1,13-27]
Dhumuga (O] Leaf 
3.                     Cucumisficifolius   Yemidrembuay roots Powder of roots eaten with ‘Teffkita/ Crushed fresh root with water fermented for 3 days is taken with honey early morning before breakfast orally until cure Oral  Both [1,18,27-30,58]
4.                     Dorsteniabarnimiana   Work Bemeda Root  Powder of roots taken withskimmed milk or noug orallyin the morning for seven days Oral  Human  [1,30,31]
5.                     Gnidiaglauca   Beto [A] Root  Powder of roots mixed withskimmed milk and taken orallyfor seven days   Human  [1,30]
6.                     Phytolaccadodecandra Phytolaceae Endod, Shibti, Haranje, Handode Root Leaf Powder of roots or leaves mixed with water or domestic alcohol and given orally to humans and animals Oral  Both [1,16,18,21-24,26-28,30,32,41]
7.                     Salix subserrata   Aleltu[O] leaf Leaves from the tree given orallyLeaves are pounded and dried,and then mixed with milk   Human  [1,19,34,42-44]
8.                     Croton macrostachyusDel.  Euphorbiaceae Makkanisa[O] Root Bark Leaf  Pound the fresh root, add water and filter then administered orally for 3 days (dog) and 7 days (other animals) and apply topically ; The Bark of Croton macrostachyus is dried , powdered and mixed with water one coffee cup is given for human and 1 bottle is given to castles and 6 bottles is given to camel once a day for 3 Oral   Both [15,16,28,40,41,46]
9.                     Silenemacroselen   Wegert[O] Root  Root from herbs given orally Oral  Human  [1,12]
10.                  Bruceaantidysentrica Simaroubaceae Qomonyoo [O] FruitLeafRoot Squeezed and baked with teff flour andgiven for 3 days [together with Croton macrostachyus and Rumexnervosus]. Oral  Live stockBoth  [16,18,20,22,27,38]
11.                  Euphorbia abyssinica J. F. Gmel Euphorbiaceae Qulqwal Root LatexLeaf One spoon root powder mixedwith a cup of fresh milk. Give for dog or Powder of roots or leaves mixed with water and taken orally Oral  both [1,17,24,30,32,47]
12.                  Ricinus- communis Euphorbiaceae Qoobboo[O] Leaf root Fresh leaves crushed and mixed with water and taken one cup of tea for 3 consecutive days   Human  [15,18-20, 22,27,36,42,46]
13.                  Calpurnia aurea (Ait.) Benth., Fabaceae, (AE Digita [A] Leaf  Fresh or dried leaf, fruit and seeds crushed, mixed with food and given to dogs Oral  Livestock  [15,17,29,40,48]
Fruit [L]
14.                  Artemisiaabyssinica Sch., Bip. ex A.Rich. Asteraceae Qoddo [O] Chikugn[A] Leaf Leaf is ground in small water and given to the victim every morning for 3 days in small ‘areqe’ glass (Kenneeraa) oral both  [25,28]
15.                  Momordicafoetida Cucurbitaceae Saaroobofaa Root Leaf Pounding the roots, making Solution & drinking one coffee cup at once. Oral, nasal Human  [15,36]
[O] stem
16.                  Zehneriascabra Cuccurbitaceae Korisinbira[O] Hiddareeffaa [o] Root  Pounded roots taken orally Oral  human [1,18]
17.                  Stephaniaabyssinica (Dillon&A.Rich Menispermaceae HiddaHantutaa[O] Yet areg [A]  Root Dry root of Stephaniaabyssinica will be powdered and backed with teff flour and given to cattle. A crushed of leaf and root are soaked in honey for one day, decanted and one cup of juices is taken orally. Oral  Both  [16,24,32,38]
Leaf [L]
18.                  Lagenariasiceraria (Molina) Standl Cucurbitaceae Qel [A] Fruit  The fruit of Lagenariasiceraria and Calpurnaaurea are ground together and backed with powder of Teff given to the cattle as a breakfast for 3 days (given to dogs. Oral  L ivestock [28,49]
19.                  Clucia lance olata Euphorbiaceae Uleefoonii[o] root Fresh leaves hold in teeth  oral Both  [18,22,27]
20.                  Olea Oleaceae Ejersa [o] Leaf  Root crushed and taken with coffee (Rabies) Inhalation  human [18,22]
21.                  Solanumgigantum Jacq. Solanceae Hiddii saree [o] Root  Root crushed and taken with coffee Oral  Human  [22,46]
22.                  Allium sativumL Alliaceae Nechshinkurt [A] Bulb  Eat the part or  Oral  Human  [23,50]
Whole bulb directly
23.                  Acokantheraschimperi (DC) Benth Apocynaceae Merenze[A] Root  The root of Acokantheraschimperiwith the root of Cucumisficifolius pounded together mixed with water and 1 litter is given to cattle once a day for 3 days. Oral  Live [28,49]
24.                  Dregeaschimperi(Decne.) Bullock Asclepiadaceae Shanqoq Leaf Fruit Crush and drink the fluid Crushed And to be drunk Oral  Both  [50,51]
25.                  Dracaena steudneri Engl. Dracaenacea Atsu [O] Bark Leaves taken orally   Both  [1,15,27,32]
26.                  Euphorbia tirucalli L.,  Euphorbiaceae Kinchib[A] Tsedo (M) Latex  Latex mixed with bean powder and given to eat after food Oral  Both  [16,52]
Root []
27.                  Euphorbia ampliphylla Euphorbiaceae Qulquale Sap/latex  The drop of latex is collected, mixed with “teff” powdered and backed and then eaten 1/3 of it Oral  Human  [35,40]
28.                  Eucleanatalensis L Ebenaceae Kuliaw   Not stated    Both  [53,54]
29.                  RumexnervoususVahl.:   Dhangaggo o [o] Root   The root of Rumexnervosus together with that of Phytolaccadodecandra, Bruceaantidysenterica, Croton macrostachyus will be pounded together 1 teaspoon will be drunk with coffee Oral Human  [16]
30.                  Scandoxusmultiflorus (Martyn) Raf.: Amaryllidace ae QulubiWarabesa Bulb  Bulb of Scandoxusmultiflorus will be pounded with bark of Croton macrostachyus and put in cold water for 1- night then by filtering one cup given to human oral Human  [16]
31.                  CappariscartilagineaDecne.: Capparidaceae Goraa [o] Root   Root of Cappariscartilaginea together with that of Phytolaccadodecandra, Bruceaantidysenterica and Croton macrostachyus will be pounded and given to cattle Oral  Livestock  [16]
32.                  HypericumrevolutumVahl :  Guttifera Hinedhe [o] Root  The root and leaf of Hypericumrevolutum together with roots of Rumexnervosus and Phytolaccadodecandra, Bruceaantidysenterica, leaf and bark of Croton macrostachyus will be pounded together mixed with water and given to cattle. Oral  Livestock [16]
Leaf  [L]
33.                  Mikaniacapensis DC.: Asteraceae HiddaReeffa [o] Root  The root of Mikaniacapensis and Cucumisficifolius will be powdered together mixed with water given to cattle. Oral  Livestock [16]
34.                  Maytenussenegalensis (Lam.) Exell,  Celastraceae, GeramAtat [A] Leaf Fresh young leaf is crushed and applied topically Topical  Human  [17]
35.                  Rhynchosiaelegans A. Rich.  Fabaceae,  TeroAreg [A] Leaf   Fresh or dried leaf paste or powder mixed with little water is given orally to human and livestock Oral  Both   
36.                  Salix mucronataThunb., Salicaceae,  Achaya [A] Leaf  Fresh leaf mixed with Justiciaschimperiana leaf and squeezed juice is given orally before food to human and livestock Oral  Both   
37.                  Carissa edulisVahl. Apocynaceae Agamsa (O) Root  The root is powdered and mixed with food. oral Human   
38.                  Carissa spinarum   Agamsa[O] Root ,bark     Human  [29]
L. Apocynaceae
39.                  Lagenariaabyssinica (hook.f.) C.Jeffre Cucurbitaceae Buqesetena (O) Root  Powdered root is mixed with food. Oral  Human  [19]
40.                  AntiaristoxicariaLesch. Moraceae Dimbicho [O] Bark  Dry/fresh stem bark is pounded and powdered then mixed with milk and given orally   Human  [39]
41.                  Combretumcollinum Combretaceae Abalo [A] Seeds  The seed of Combretumcollinum with seed of Solanumdasyphyllum are crushed together powdered, mixed with “tella” and drunk for 3 days Oral  Human  [35]
42.                  Otostegiaintegrifolia Lamiaceae Tungut Leaf  The leaf of Otostegiaintegrifolia is pounded mixed with milk and drunk Oral  Human  [35]
43.                  Ficus sp. Moraceae Warka Stem bark, latex + Phytolaccadodecandra Oral  Human  [40]
44.                  Jatropha curcas L Euphorbiaceae Yesudan-gulo [A] Seed Not specified Oral  Human  [40]
45.                  CissampelosmucronataA.Rich. Menispermaceae Balari (M Root  Not specified Oral  Livestock  [52]
46.                  Clausenaanisata (Wild.) Benth Rutaceae Ulmaayii Bark  Bark of Clausenaanisata, leaves of Sidarhombifolia, root of Cucumisficifolius, bark root of Bruceaantidysentrica powdered together and mixed in milk then drunk a cup of tea for three days in order to get cured from Rabies disease Oral  Human  [46]
47.                  Crotalaria spinosaHochst. ex. Benth. Fabaceae Shumburaagugee [o] Root  Root crushed, mixed with water and drunk Oral    [46]
48.                  Argemonemexicana L. Papaveraceae Yahyaeshoh[A] Root  Crush then give with water Not stated Both  [24]
49.                  DiplolophiumafricanumTurcz Apiaceae Zegerawta Root  Pound and give with water   Both  [24]
  Not stated
50.                  DipsacuspinnatifidusSteud. ex A. Rich. Dipsacaceae Ferezeng/kelem Leaf  Pound and give with water [b] Not stated Both  [24]
51.                  Millettiaferruginea     Young stem Heat the right side of cattle with stick of Millettiaerrugineay and Bruceaantidysenterica for about seven days Dermal  Live [24]
52.                  Cyphostemmaadenocaula (A.Rich.) (Vitacea Vitaceae Asserkush Root  Root boiled with milk, filtered and filtrate taken in empty stomach  oral Human  [55]
[A] Full of a coffee cup daily for 3 consecutive days
53.                  JasminumabyssinicumHochst Oleaceae Tembelel [A] Seed Not specified  Not stated Human   
Leaf  [48]
54.                  Ximeniaamericana L. Olacaceae Enkuay[A] Bark  Soaking bark in water and the water is taken orally Oral  Human  [31]
55.                  Rhoicissus tridentate Vitaceae Lalo Lalo[A] Root The root and leaf of this plant is ground together, mixed with water then 1-2 water glasses is drunk for human and 1litter is given to cattle for 3day   Both   
Leaf  Oral  [28]
56.                  Ajuga alba (Gurke) Robyni Lamiaceae Anamuro Leaf Pounded, mixed with water Oral  Human [44]
[O] Fresh or dried 
57.                  Flueggeavirosa(Roxb. ex Willd.) Royle [Euphorbiaceae Harmazo Root  Not specified  Not specified Human [41]
58.                  AnthemistigreensisJ.Gay ex A.Rich. Asteraceae Sifay Root  Concocted, crushed, mixed with water Oral  Human [44,58]
Fresh  Or Boil and drink the decoction when cool
59.                  Asparagus setassus (Kunth) Jessap Asparagaceae Zeriti Root  Concocted, crushed, mixed with water Oral  Human  [44]
60.                  Convolvulus kilimandschari Engl. Convolvulaceae AserkushTebetebkush [A] Root  Concocted, pounded, mixed with water, shaked, filtered Oral  Human [44]
61.                  Zingiberofficinale Zingebiraceae Jinjibila [O] Root  Root concoction is drunk (Rabies) Oral  Human   
62.                  Asparagus leptocladodiusChiov.  Asparagaceae Seriti[O] Root  Not specified   human [29]
63.                  Cucumisdipsaceus Cucurbitaceae Kurera Fruit  Not specified   human [29]
Ehrenb.  [O]
ex Spach  
64.                  Garcinia livingstonei Clusiaceae Abuqurto Root  Not specified   human [29]
T. Anders [O]
65.                  Senna petersiana(Bolle) Fabaceae Sanaa maki [O] Leaf  Squeezed and given with food to cattle Oral  Human  
Lock Squeezed and 1/2 coffee cup is given for [20]
  2-3 days  
66.                  Solanumdasyphyllum Solanaceae Hidi Leaf Squeezed and 1/2 coffee cup is given to the animal Oral  Human  [20]
Schumach. waraabesaa[O] Seed
67.                  PennisetumthunbergiiKunth Poaceae Marga Leaf  Crushed, dried, powdered, mixed with Oral  Human  [20]
abaaboo[O] Seed  milk ('Aguat') 2 spoon is given
68.                  MaesalanceolataForssk #NAME? Abayi[O]   Crushed, squeezed and taken Oral Human   [20]
69.                  Ozoroa insignis Del  Anacardiaceae Gerri [O] Bark Dried bark and root of the plant is pounded then 2 teaspoonful powder added to 1cup of water, administered orally for 20 days, 2 days interval  Oral  Human  [45]
70.                  Rhustenuinervis     Root  The bark of the root is crushed and mixed water and the decoction of the root is drunk after one hour. Oral  human [56]
71.                  Afrocarpusalcatus (Thunb.) C. N.        Not stated    Rabies [42]
72.                  Rumex nervosas vani Senna didymeboteryRicinuscommunis     Leaves  Fresh leaves are pounded and juice is prepared and taken Oral  both [21]
73.                  Cucumisdipsaleus[ Cucurbitaceae Haragoge Fruit  The fresh fruit sare crushed and mixed with the leaf of cucumisdipsaleus then creamed on the bitten body and drenching  Dermal and Orally Livestock [57]
74.                  Ekebergiacapensissparm Meliaceae Mukaraso [AM] Root  The fresh root are decoction and mixed with sheep/goat milk then rubbed on bitten body  Oral and dermal Livestock   
75.                  Apodytesdimidiata E. Mey. ex Arn Icacinaceae YetemenjaInchet/ Stem bark Not specified  Oral  Livestock [59]
76.                  Plantagolanceolata L. Plantaginaceae  Wushamilastinishu Root  Not specified Oral  live stock [59]
77.                  PlantagopalmataHook.f. Plantaginaceae Wushamilastiliku Root  Not specified Oral  live stock [59]
78.                  Plectranthus lactiflorus (Vatke) Agnew Lamiaceae Ayderkush[AM] Leaf  Fresh or dried leaves of Plectranthus lactiflorus, drink the decoction. Oral  human [58,59]
79.                  SolanummarginatumL.f. Solanaceae Imbuay Root  Crush, heat/ burn or boil the part and inhale its smoke or steam Oral  Human  [58]
80.                  Cayluseaabyssinica (fresen.) Fisch. &Mey Recedaceae Giesilla [M]   Root chopped and mixed with cold water and Oral  Both  [60]
Drenched. (effective even when
clinical signs are present

Table 2: List of anti-rabies medicinal plants.


Figure 3: Use of different plant parts for the treatment of rabies in Ethiopia.

Generally, there are many medicinal plants that are claimed to be used for the management of rabies. As shown in different sources of references (Table 2), however, the same plant species have been utilized in most areas of the country although there are slight variations in their ethno botanical application.


Ethno botanical investigations have been found to offer important clues in the identification and development of traditionally used medicinal plants in to modern drugs. Phytolaccadodecandra L, Justicaschimperiana, Ricinuscommunis, Croton macrostachyus Hochst. Ex, Cucumisficifolius, Brucea antidysenterica, Euphorbia abyssinica J. F. Gmel, Salix subserrata are the top five medicinal plants being utilized for the management of rabies by the Ethiopian traditional health care system.

This folk medicinal claim is also further supported with against anti-rabies activity; among the listed medicinal plants, the anti-rabies activity of only three medicinal plants had been scientifically evaluated in Ethiopia. These plants include PhytolaccadodecandraL, Salix substrata and Silene macroselen. A study conducted on mice to evaluate the anti-rabies activity of the hydroethanolic extract of roots and leaves of Phytolacca dodecandra revealed that 80% ethanol macerated extract of both plant parts at the doses of 300, 600 mg/kg failed to display an increase in survival period of mice challenged with the rabies virus (CVS-11) compared with negative control. However, the leaf extract at 1000 mg/kg significantly (P>0.05) increased the survival period of mice compared to negative controls.

Deressa et al. [12] also conducted a study on the evaluation of the efficacy of the crude extracts of Salix subserrata and Silene macroselen for the treatment of rabies in Ethiopia. The result demonstrated that the chloroform and methanol 80% extracts of the leaf of Salix subserrata and the chloroform and aqueous extract of the root of the same plant were found to increase the survival time of mice significantly [10]. These efficacy studies support the traditional use of the medicinal plants. However, deeper scientific investigations on the active ingredients, efficacy as well as safety profiles are necessary not only on these plants but also on the other medicinal plants which are not studied scientifically. These are the phytochemistry, efficacy and toxicity studies of commonly used Ethiopian medicinal plants for treatment of rabies virus.

Salix subserrata

Family: Salicaceae

Local name: Aleltu (Amharic) Wonzadmik/akaya

Traditional uses: Traditional tooth brush, live fence [62]. Roots are used in medicines that help cure stomach pains, fever, and headaches [64].

Anti-rabies activity or efficacy data: The chloroform, methanol 80% and aqueous leaf extracts of Salix Subserrata were prepared using maceration technique. Salix subserrata Chloroform crude extract on 1 day and 3 days treatment groups with the chloroform extract are significantly associated with the survival time [12].

Phytochemistry: Flavonoids such as rutin, luteolin-7-glucoside, quercetrin, and quercetin have been isolated from S. subserrata [65].

The bio-guided study of the chemical constituents of the bark and leaves of Salix subserrata (Salicaceae) has resulted in the isolation and characterization of eight compounds. These six compounds were identified as (+) catechin (1), 1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid, bis (2-ethylhexyl) ester (2), saligenin (3), methyl 1-hydroxy-6- oxocyclohex-2-enecarboxylate (4), catechol (5), propyl acetate (6), β- sitosterol (7), and β-sitosterol glucopyranoside (8), were isolated for the first time from Salix subserrata. The above compounds were individually identified by spectroscopic analyses and comparisons with reported data [63] (Figure 4).


Figure 4: Compounds isolated from S. subserrata.

Silene macroselen

Family: Caryophyllaceae

Local name: Wogert

Traditional uses: Besides used for rabies management, in Ethiopia, the aqueous infusion of the stem and bark of this medicinal plant is used to treat hypertension, common cold, measles, abdominal pain, and chancroid as well as evil spirits as smoke [66]. Root decoction is also given orally three times a day to treat common cold, headache and fever. Smoke inside the house to drive back snake [67].

Anti-rabies activity [efficacy data]: Another study by Deressa et al. [12] also revealed chloroform and 80% methanolic root extracts of Silene macroselen were found to increase the survival time of mice significantly [12].

Phytochemistry: No phytochemical screening studies had ever been carried out on the various parts of this medicinal plant.

Safety data: There were no scientific reported data regarding the safety study of this medicinal plant.

Phytolaca decandra

Family: Phytolaccaceae

Local name: Endod(Amharic)

Traditional uses: Common medicinal uses of berries of this plant include treatment of skin itching (ringworm), malaria, sore throat, rheumatic pain abortion, jaundice gonorrhea, leeches, intestinal worms, anthrax and rabies and for preparation of soaps and detergents [68,69].

Anti-rabies activity [efficacy data]: A study conducted on mice to evaluate the anti-rabies activity of hydro-ethanolic extract of roots and leaves of Phytolacca dodecandra revealed that 80% ethanol macerated extract both plant parts at the doses of 300, 600 mg/kg failed to display an increase in survival period of mice challenged with the rabies virus (CVS-11) compared with negative control. However, the leaf extract at 1000 mg/kg significantly (P>0.05) increased the survival period of mice compared to negative controls [61].

Phytochemistry: The Phytochemical screening test carried out on the aqueous indicated the presence of alkaloids, tannins, phenols, steroids, triterpenoids, free amino acids and reducing sugars [61]. Oleanolic acid (OA) is one of bioactive compounds isolated from from ethanolic extract of Phytolacca decandra and has been reported to have anticancer effects [71].


Oleanolic acid (OA)

Lemma toxin is one of the molluscicidal saponin components isolated from the fruit of Phytolacca dodecandra (endod), a derivative of oleanolic acid substituted in the 3 position with a branched trisaccharide containing two glucose units and one galactose unit [72].


Lemma toxin

Safety data: A toxicity evaluation study of Phytolacca dodecandra extract for its toxicity effectiveness against aquatic macroinvertebrates clearly indicated that the LC50 and LC90 values for berries crude extract of Phytolacca dodecandra against Baetidae were 181.94 and 525.78 mg/l and lethal doses (LC50 and LC90) required for Hydropsychidae were 1060.69 and 4120.4 mg/l respectively. This laboratory evaluation demonstrated that Baetidae was more susceptible than Hydropsychidae, even at shorter exposure period of 2 h [70].

An acute toxicity study revealed that female rats that received the aqueous leaf extract of P. dodecandra at the dose of 2048 mg/kg displayed a reduced appetite, sleepiness and excessive urination and shivering [61].


In this review study, some of the ethno-botanical claims were confirmed through the in vivo anti-rabies activity studies. This indicates the necessity of documenting ethno botanical indigenous knowledge which contributes for the drug development such as identification of the biologically active compounds, further bioactivity tests, for standardization and formulation development and commercialization and conservation following the indigenous knowledge. Therefore, further research is needed for the evaluation of the safety, efficacy and quality of those medicinal plants utilized for the treatments of rabies in Ethiopia.


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