Background: In Africa, traditional medicine knowledge, skills and practices have often been passed verbally from the older generation to the younger generation. However, the current traditional medicine practitioners (TMPs) are rapidly aging, while the younger generation is not taking up the practice. This is likely to cause permanent loss of valuable ethnomedical knowledge and practices. Therefore, this study aimed at documenting the therapeutic uses of stingless bee honey among TMPs in Baringo County.
Methods: The study was a cross-sectional study, in which 91 TMPs were conveniently sampled and interviewed using an interviewer-administered questionnaire specifically designed to capture socio-demographic data, duration of practice, source of traditional medicine knowledge and skills, traditional therapeutic uses of stingless bee honey, duration of therapy and associated side effects. In addition, data on-demand, sources, availability and packaging of the medicinal stingless bee honey was also collected.
Results: All the 91 TMPs knew about stingless bee honey and used it as a traditional medicinal product to treat various health-related disorders. Respiratory disorders, stomach disorders, oral thrush, wounds, measles and poisoning, were the five top-most common disorders that were commonly treated using stingless bee honey by the TMPs. Other notable conditions that were treated with stingless bee honey included cancer, allergies and pain as well as some animal diseases. The majority of the TMPs (72.34%) reported that the honey was not associated with side effects and all of them said that it was a highly effective form of traditional therapy. Duration of therapy ranged from 1-5 days (39.77%), 6-10 days (11.36%), 11-15 days (9.09%), >15 days (3.41%) until when the health condition improved. The main sources of stingless bee honey were local market vendors, harvesting from wild nests and wild honey gatherers. However, the supply from these sources was reportedly not sufficient to meet the demand for the majority (64.8%) of TMPs.
Conclusion: Stingless bee honey is widely used as a traditional medicine to treat various disorders, resulting in high demand, which cannot be met by the limited supply from wild occurring sources Baringo County, which highlights the need for the development of sustainable modern meliponiculture. There is also need for future pharmacological studies on the stingless bee honey from the study area to validate the therapeutic benefits mentioned by TMPS.
Keywords: stingless bee honey, therapeutic uses, therapy duration, respiratory disorders, gastrointestinal disorders