This study aimed to determine the suitability of ethnomedicinal plants as a suitable option for palliative care of cancer in Namibia. To achieve this, key informant interviews were conducted in central and northern parts of Namibia on the use of ethnomedicinal plant products for palliation of cancer. Information from surveys on the medicinal use of plants in Oshikoto and Zambezi regions of Namibia for ailments such as tumors were used to select plants for phytochemical analysis. Plants were collected and extracts were prepared for analysis for phytochemical detection using thin layer chromatography, anti-protease, antioxidant and phytochemical quantification of Colophospermum mopane and Shinziophyton rautanenii plants. Findings from key informant interviews revealed pain management for cancer patients was the primary form of disease management at health care facilities in contrast to an established holistic palliative care system. As a result, patients looked towards alternative treatment from ethnomedicinal plant sources in their bid to palliate cancer and seek hope. Phytochemical analysis of indigenous plants collected, revealed the presence of class compounds such as flavonoids, alkaloids, triterpenes, coumarins and anthraquinones as well as biological activities such as anti-protease, antioxidant properties. In conclusion, phytochemical properties of the six plants were consistent with their ethnomedicinal use, making them a suitable option for treatment of cancer in resource poor settings such as Namibia. Further studies are required to evaluate safety and mode of action.
Key words: Palliative care, Namibia, medicinal plants, anti-cancer.
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