The insufficient documents created challenges for proper use and conservation of medicinal plants in Southwest Ethiopia. Therefore, the present study was aimed to identify and document the medicinal plants, and their ethnopharmacological profiling used by traditional herbalists in Sheka zone. For this, the medicinal plants ethobotanical data was analysed from traditional herbalists (n=23) using qualitative and quantitative methods. Accordingly, 78 medicinal plant species belonging to 39 families were documented, of these, Asteraceae (11.7%) followed by Lamiaceae (8.6%) and Cucurbitaceae (6.3%) were most frequently reported. Based on species representation, Lamiaceae was by nine species followed by Asteraceae (eight species), Solanaceae (six species) and Cucurbitaceae (four species). The wild source of collection resulted 69.2% while herbs accounted 52.6% of the plants, and the traditional herbalists used them for 52 human and livestock ailments medication. Among these, the highest informant consensus factor (ICF) was obtained for respiratory disease category (0.92) followed by endoparasite (0.89). 100% fidelity level values were recorded for Acmella caulirhiza, Brucea antidysenterica, Datura stramonium, Dracaena steudneri, Gouania longispicata, Maesa lanceolata, and Withania somnifera. Plant species with highest use values were Brucea antidysenterica (0.75), Croton macrostachyus (0.71), Ocimum lamiifolium (0.67), Phytolacca dodecandra (0.63), and Prunus africana (0.60), and maximum relative frequency citation value for Stellaria mannii (1.00), and 0.96 for each of Rumex abyssinicus and Solanum dasyphyllum. The recorded medicinal plants highest values of use and relative frequency citation could indicate the existence of valuable phytochemical compounds and their frequent exploitations by traditional herbalists in the area. However, there is a need for the phytochemical, pharmacological, microbiological, toxicological, preclinical, and clinical investigation of the documented medicinal plants in order to draw general conclusions on the ethnopharmacological relationships, efficacy and safe use along with their conservation since deforestation, agricultural expansion, overgrazing, and overexploitation are threatening these plant resources and their habitat.
Keywords: Ethnobotanical, Ethnopharmacological, Medicinal plants, Sheka zone, Southwest Ethiopia, Traditional herbalists