Traditional medicine practices among community members with chronic kidney disease in northern Tanzania: an ethnomedical survey.


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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Publication Info

Stanifer, John W, Joseph Lunyera, David Boyd, Francis Karia, Venance Maro, Justin Omolo and Uptal D Patel (2015). Traditional medicine practices among community members with chronic kidney disease in northern Tanzania: an ethnomedical survey. BMC Nephrol, 16. p. 170. 10.1186/s12882-015-0161-y Retrieved from

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David Lorenzo Boyd

Hymowitz Family Professor of the Practice Emeritus in Global Health

Uptal Dinesh Patel

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine

Uptal Patel, MD is an Adjunct Professor interested in population health with a broad range of clinical and research experience. As an adult and pediatric nephrologist with training in health services and epidemiology, his work seeks to improve population health for patients with  kidney diseases through improvements in prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Prior efforts focused on four inter-related areas that are essential to improving kidney health: i) reducing the progression of chronic kidney disease by improving its detection and management, particularly by leveraging technology to facilitate engagement and self-management; ii) elucidating the inter-relationships between kidney disease and cardiovascular disease, which together amplify the risk of death; iii) improving the evidence in nephrology through comparative effectiveness research, including clinical trials, observational studies, and meta-analyses; and iv) promoting more optimal clinical health policy for all patients with kidney disease. These inter-disciplinary projects have been funded by a variety of public and private sources including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Veterans Affairs, National Institutes of Health, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Renal Physicians Association, and the American Society of Nephrology. 

Current efforts seek to advance novel therapies for kidney diseases through early clinical development that he leads at AstraZeneca.

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