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Type Journal Article - BMC Nephrology
Title Traditional medicine practices among community members with chronic kidney disease in northern Tanzania: an ethnomedical survey
Volume 16
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers 170
URL https://bmcnephrol.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12882-015-0161-y?site=http://bmcnephrol.biom​edcentral.com
Background: In sub-Saharan Africa, chronic kidney disease (CKD) is being recognized as a non-communicable
disease (NCD) with high morbidity and mortality. In countries like Tanzania, people access many sources, including
traditional medicines, to meet their healthcare needs for NCDs, but little is known about traditional medicine
practices among people with CKD. Therefore, we sought to characterize these practices among community
members with CKD in northern Tanzania.
Methods: Between December 2013 and June 2014, we administered a previously-developed survey to a random
sample of adult community-members from the Kilimanjaro Region; the survey was designed to measure traditional
medicine practices such as types, frequencies, reasons, and modes. Participants were also tested for CKD, diabetes,
hypertension, and HIV as part of the CKD-AFRiKA study. To identify traditional medicines used in the local treatment
of kidney disease, we reviewed the qualitative sessions which had previously been conducted with key informants.
Results: We enrolled 481 adults of whom 57 (11.9 %) had CKD. The prevalence of traditional medicine use among
adults with CKD was 70.3 % (95 % CI 50.0–84.9 %), and among those at risk for CKD (n = 147; 30.6 %), it was 49.0 %
(95 % CI 33.1–65.0 %). Among adults with CKD, the prevalence of concurrent use of traditional medicine and
biomedicine was 33.2 % (11.4–65.6 %). Symptomatic ailments (66.7 %; 95 % CI 17.3–54.3), malaria/febrile illnesses
(64.0 %; 95 % CI 44.1–79.9), and chronic diseases (49.6 %; 95 % CI 28.6–70.6) were the most prevalent uses for
traditional medicines. We identified five plant–based traditional medicines used for the treatment of kidney disease:
Aloe vera, Commifora africana, Cymbopogon citrullus, Persea americana, and Zanthoxylum chalybeum.
Conclusions: The prevalence of traditional medicine use is high among adults with and at risk for CKD in northern
Tanzania where they use them for a variety of conditions including other NCDs. Additionally, many of these same
people access biomedicine and traditional medicines concurrently. The traditional medicines used for the local
treatment of kidney disease have a variety of activities, and people with CKD may be particularly vulnerable to
adverse effects. Recognizing these traditional medicine practices will be important in shaping CKD treatment
programs and public health policies aimed at addressing CKD.

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