Specialization in ethnomedicinal plant knowledge among herbalists in the forest region of Rivercess County, Liberia.
The ethnomedicinal uses of plants reported by 22 herbalists in the Rivercess County of Liberia show a rich knowledge of medicinal plant usage for both common and less common health problems. We set out with the objectives of documenting the ethnomedicinal plant knowledge and assessing gender differences in the use of the plants by male and female herbalists. Through semi-structured interviews conducted with herbalists, a total of 112 species belonging to 52 families in 93 genera were recorded to be in use. Seven plant families were known to account for 43.9% of the total number of species utilized including Annonaceae, Apocynaceae, Costaceae, Rubiaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Fabaceae and Verbenaceae. Traditional herbalists comprising male (64%) and female (36%) possessed extensive knowledge of the use of these plants, with male and female herbalists showing specializations in several categories of health problems based on their knowledge of medicinal plants. Female herbalists possessed a slightly higher knowledge of ethnomedicinal plants than male herbalists. Many ailments were reported with a large number of the plants utilized for malaria, snakebites, ulcer, spiritual/witchcraft, infection and diarrhoea. New and unrecorded ethnomedicinal uses for several plants were documented, including Tetraberlinia tubmaniana J. Léonard, Delpydora gracilis A.Chev., Campylospermum subcordatum (Stapf) Farron, Cyathula prostrata Blume, Heisteria parvifolia Sm., Keetia rufivillosa (Robyns ex Hutch. & Dalz.) Bridson, Pavetta sonjae W.D.Hawth., Chrysophyllum pentagonocarpum Engl. & K.Krause, Placodiscus pseudostipularis Radlk, and the naturalized plant, Caladium bicolor (Aiton) Vent. Further documentation of this knowledge is recommended, with the goal of assessing gender differences in the use of medicinal plants in Liberia.