Prelude Medicinal Plants Database

Search |  Practical Guide |  Authors |  Disclaimer

Practical Guide

Technical introduction to the data base PRELUDE relating to the use of some plants in traditional veterinary and human medicine in Africa.

It is useful for researchers, doctors, veterinary surgeons and farming instructors to have documentation at their disposal that provides access to condensed information from a variety of sources regarding the use of traditional medicinal plants in different regions of Africa.The aim of this database is to meet this need.

The information stored in the database is gleaned from scientific articles, books, papers given to congresses or directly to the Prelude Sub-Network on "Health, animal productions, environment".

Each plant is the subject of as many cards as there are authors who mention them in one of their communications. Based on this information, a list of subject headings has been encoded. Taken together, these headings make it possible to obtain an integrated and concise view of the results of ethno-botanical studies which the people responsible for managing the database have been able to discover.

Often, the information is very brief; only a limited number of headings have been completed in full. In fact, while it is possible to locate a considerable number of articles mentioning the use of medicinal plants, their authors often only do so in an anecdotal fashion or in response to a specific concern. It is therefore unusual to be able to come up with a comprehensive descriptive file. However, the authors believe that all information should be transmitted, however incomplete it may be.

In the database that we present here, we have assigned a card for each plant under the following headings:

  • name of plant
  • name of genus
  • bibliographical reference (with hyperlinks)
  • country in which the sample was collected
  • vernacular name(s) of the plant

These three headings are dealt with under a single abridged annotation called “disease symbol” under H (X, Y) or V index (X, Y) (with hyperlinks):

  • illness or symptom treated
  • frequency of use
  • type of medicine (human or veterinary)
  • recipes for uses, i.e. the organs used, preparation of the drug, method of administration, the associated plants, any ritual accompanying the taking of the drug.

Meaning of abbreviations in this rubric:

  • Acronym : VO.
    Signification : Orally
  • Acronym : RNS.
    Signification : Recipe not specified by the author
  • Acronym : ONS.
    Signification : Body (or organ, part) of the plant not specified by the author

The various meanings of the codes used in H (X, Y) or V index (X, Y) are as follows:

  • H for concoctions used for humans, V for concoctions used for animals
  • For indices:

    Index Signification
    Vb cattle
    Vcanis dogs
    Vc goats
    Vch camels
    Véq horses
    Vl rabbits
    Vmono monogastrics
    Vo sheep
    Vpc pigs
    Vp fishes
    Vr ruminants
    Vv poultry
    V without specifying the animal species
  • For H (X, Y) or Vindex (X, Y)

    X X indicates the type of symptom or disease.

    The meanings for the symbols H(X, ) and Vindex(X, ) are resumed in a list of abbreviations accessible by hyperlinks

  • For H (X, Y) or V index (X, Y)

    Y indicates the number of times this plant has been collected for this symptom by an individual researcher. We leave a blank where this information is missing. Sometimes we note f for frequent, r for rare. Some studies are done in terms of percentages.

At the current time, the database features some 50000 cards. These cards (one per plant and for each individual author) enable readers to have a summary view for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa and to position their own information in that context. The cards also make it possible to establish useful links between genuses, species and symptoms, both for traditional human medicine and for its veterinary counterpart.

The bibliography features information relating to the works from which the information contained in the database has been taken (accessible by hyperlinks).

We have adopted the lists by J.P. LEBRUN and A.L. STORK, grouped into three volumes in “Enumération des plantes à fleurs d’Afrique tropicale”. Edition des Conservatoires et Jardins botaniques, Geneva (1995) and freely available at: