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      Traditional medicine practices among community members with diabetes mellitus in Northern Tanzania: an ethnomedical survey

      , 1 , 1 , 2 , 2 , 1 , 3 , 1 , 4 , 1 , 5 , 6 , for the Comprehensive Kidney Disease Assessment For Risk factors, epidemiology, Knowledge, and Attitudes (CKD AFRiKA) Study

      BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine

      BioMed Central

      Biomedicine, Traditional medicine, Sub-Saharan Africa, Low- and middle-income countries, Non-communicable diseases

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          Diabetes is a growing burden in sub-Saharan Africa where traditional medicines (TMs) remain a primary form of healthcare in many settings. In Tanzania, TMs are frequently used to treat non-communicable diseases, yet little is known about TM practices for non-communicable diseases like diabetes.


          Between December 2013 and June 2014, we assessed TM practices, including types, frequencies, reasons, and modes, among randomly selected community members. To further characterize TMs relevant for the local treatment of diabetes, we also conducted focus groups and semi-structured interviews with key informants.


          We enrolled 481 adults of whom 45 (9.4 %) had diabetes. The prevalence of TM use among individuals with diabetes was 77.1 % (95 % CI 58.5–89.0 %), and the prevalence of using TMs and biomedicines concurrently was 37.6 % (95 % CI 20.5–58.4 %). Many were using TMs specifically to treat diabetes (40.3 %; 95 % CI 20.5–63.9), and individuals with diabetes reported seeking healthcare from traditional healers, elders, family, friends, and herbal vendors. We identified several plant-based TMs used toward diabetes care: Moringa oleifera, Cymbopogon citrullus, Hagenia abyssinica, Aloe vera, Clausena anisata, Cajanus cajan, Artimisia afra, and Persea americana.


          TMs were commonly used for diabetes care in northern Tanzania. Individuals with diabetes sought healthcare advice from many sources, and several individuals used TMs and biomedicines together. The TMs commonly used by individuals with diabetes in northern Tanzania have a wide range of effects, and understanding them will more effectively shape biomedical practitices and public health policies that are patient-centered and sensitive to TM preferences.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12906-016-1262-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 23

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          Diabetes in Sub Saharan Africa 1999-2011: Epidemiology and public health implications. a systematic review

          Background Diabetes prevalence is increasing globally, and Sub-Saharan Africa is no exception. With diverse health challenges, health authorities in Sub-Saharan Africa and international donors need robust data on the epidemiology and impact of diabetes in order to plan and prioritise their health programmes. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date review of the epidemiological trends and public health implications of diabetes in Sub-Saharan Africa. Methods We conducted a systematic literature review of papers published on diabetes in Sub-Saharan Africa 1999-March 2011, providing data on diabetes prevalence, outcomes (chronic complications, infections, and mortality), access to diagnosis and care and economic impact. Results Type 2 diabetes accounts for well over 90% of diabetes in Sub-Saharan Africa, and population prevalence proportions ranged from 1% in rural Uganda to 12% in urban Kenya. Reported type 1 diabetes prevalence was low and ranged from 4 per 100,000 in Mozambique to 12 per 100,000 in Zambia. Gestational diabetes prevalence varied from 0% in Tanzania to 9% in Ethiopia. Proportions of patients with diabetic complications ranged from 7-63% for retinopathy, 27-66% for neuropathy, and 10-83% for microalbuminuria. Diabetes is likely to increase the risk of several important infections in the region, including tuberculosis, pneumonia and sepsis. Meanwhile, antiviral treatment for HIV increases the risk of obesity and insulin resistance. Five-year mortality proportions of patients with diabetes varied from 4-57%. Screening studies identified high proportions (> 40%) with previously undiagnosed diabetes, and low levels of adequate glucose control among previously diagnosed diabetics. Barriers to accessing diagnosis and treatment included a lack of diagnostic tools and glucose monitoring equipment and high cost of diabetes treatment. The total annual cost of diabetes in the region was estimated at US$67.03 billion, or US$8836 per diabetic patient. Conclusion Diabetes exerts a significant burden in the region, and this is expected to increase. Many diabetic patients face significant challenges accessing diagnosis and treatment, which contributes to the high mortality and prevalence of complications observed. The significant interactions between diabetes and important infectious diseases highlight the need and opportunity for health planners to develop integrated responses to communicable and non-communicable diseases.
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            Aloe vera: a systematic review of its clinical effectiveness.

            The use of aloe vera is being promoted for a large variety of conditions. Often general practitioners seem to know less than their patients about its alleged benefits. To define the clinical effectiveness of aloe vera, a popular herbal remedy in the United Kingdom. Four independent literature searches were conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, Biosis, and the Cochrane Library. Only controlled clinical trials (on any indication) were included. There were no restrictions on the language of publication. All trials were read by both authors and data were extracted in a standardized, pre-defined manner. Ten studies were located. They suggest that oral administration of aloe vera might be a useful adjunct for lowering blood glucose in diabetic patients as well as for reducing blood lipid levels in patients with hyperlipidaemia. Topical application of aloe vera is not an effective preventative for radiation-induced injuries. It might be effective for genital herpes and psoriasis. Whether it promotes wound healing is unclear. There are major caveats associated with all of these statements. Even though there are some promising results, clinical effectiveness of oral or topical aloe vera is not sufficiently defined at present.
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              The Epidemiology of Chronic Kidney Disease in Northern Tanzania: A Population-Based Survey

              Background In sub-Saharan Africa, kidney failure has a high morbidity and mortality. Despite this, population-based estimates of prevalence, potential etiologies, and awareness are not available. Methods Between January and June 2014, we conducted a household survey of randomly-selected adults in Northern Tanzania. To estimate prevalence we screened for CKD, which was defined as an estimated glomerular filtration rate ≤ 60 ml/min/1.73m2 and/or persistent albuminuria. We also screened for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and lifestyle practices including alcohol, tobacco, and traditional medicine use. Awareness was defined as a self-reported disease history and subsequently testing positive. We used population-based age- and gender-weights in estimating prevalence, and we used generalized linear models to explore potential risk factors associated with CKD, including living in an urban environment. Results We enrolled 481 adults from 346 households with a median age of 45 years. The community-based prevalence of CKD was 7.0% (95% CI 3.8-12.3), and awareness was low at 10.5% (4.7-22.0). The urban prevalence of CKD was 15.2% (9.6-23.3) while the rural prevalence was 2.0% (0.5-6.9). Half of the cases of CKD (49.1%) were not associated with any of the measured risk factors of hypertension, diabetes, or HIV. Living in an urban environment had the strongest crude (5.40; 95% CI 2.05-14.2) and adjusted prevalence risk ratio (4.80; 1.70-13.6) for CKD, and the majority (79%) of this increased risk was not explained by demographics, traditional medicine use, socioeconomic status, or co-morbid non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Conclusions We observed a high burden of CKD in Northern Tanzania that was associated with low awareness. Although demographic, lifestyle practices including traditional medicine use, socioeconomic factors, and NCDs accounted for some of the excess CKD risk observed with urban residence, much of the increased urban prevalence remained unexplained and will further study as demographic shifts reshape sub-Saharan Africa.

                Author and article information

                BMC Complement Altern Med
                BMC Complement Altern Med
                BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
                BioMed Central (London )
                11 August 2016
                11 August 2016
                : 16
                [1 ]Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University, 310 Trent Drive, Durham, NC 27705 USA
                [2 ]Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College, Moshi, Tanzania
                [3 ]National Institute for Medical Research, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
                [4 ]Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics, Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, NC USA
                [5 ]Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC USA
                [6 ]Duke Clinical Research Institute, Duke University, Durham, NC USA
                © The Author(s). 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef, Fogarty International Center;
                Award ID: R25 TW009337
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                © The Author(s) 2016


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