Traditional medicines sold by vendors in Merkato, Addis Ababa: Aspects of their utilization, trade, and changes between 1973 and 2014


Abstract Background: Many traditional medicines are sold by vendors in the large Merkato market area in Addis Ababa but little is known about their trade, use, safety and sustainability. Objectives: This study aimed at obtaining information on traditional medicines sold by vendors and purchased by clients in Merkato, including their utilization, trade, and changes between 1973 and 2014. Methods: Forty-four vendors and 47 of their customers were interviewed using two questionnaires and a direct observation guide. Data were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively by applying a χ2 test. Pharmacists in 2 pharmacies in Merkato were interviewed about the sale of taenicides. Results: Forty-five plant species and 4 minerals were found to be sold by the vendors for the treatment and prevention of various infectious and non-infectious diseases and magico-religious illnesses. The most common plant products were from Boswellia spp., Commiphora spp. (etan), Echinops kebericho (kabericho), Ruta chalepensis (tena adem), Rosmarinus abyssinicus (yesega metbesha), Ocimum lamifolium (damakase), and Taverniera abyssinica (dingetegna). Comparison with the 1973 study revealed a decline in the number of vendors and mean number of medicines sold per vendor, particularly taenicides. The major general medicines continued to be widely used. The sale of 13 other medicines was reported only in2014. The sanitation and handling of medicines observed engenders undesirable health effects for clients. The information obtained from vendors and clients on the medicines was similar, indicating persisting cultural practices and reliability of the questionnaires. Conclusion and Recommendations: Further studies are needed in Merkato and other retail outlets to ensure the safety, efficacy and sustainability of traditional medicines and to inform health officials and policy makers of changing health needs and demands for indigenous medicines in the population. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2014;28(2):136-152]