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Research Article Open Access
Introduction: Methods used by Kenyan herbalists to identify plants and preserve herbal drugs are unclear.
Objective: To assess the accuracy of plant identification, microbial and heavy metal contamination in hypoglycemic herbal preparations.
Method: Four herbalists were identified by purposeful sampling and key informant interviews were carried out. Ethnobotanical walks were used to collect herbs and a botanist checked the accuracy of scientific names. Herbalists were asked to submit formulations. Microbial contamination was evaluated using selective and non-selective cultural media. Levels of heavy metals were evaluated by atomic absorption.
Analysis: Content thematic approach was used to analyze key informant interviews. Degree of agreement between the names assigned by the herbalists and botanists was measured using percentage.
Results: Plant identification relied heavily on macroscopic qualities aided by the plant’s geographical location. Both indigenous and botanical names were used. Naming errors using botanical names were recorded. Three formulations were submitted and one of them recorded contamination by Candida albicans, Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Heavy metal contamination was not detected.
Conclusion: Plant identification by herbalists by use of botanical names may be inaccurate. Herbalist should be trained on good manufacturing practices.