The visible hidden medicinal paradise at USIU- Africa

By Jeanne D’Arc Uwineza

Have you ever stopped to appreciate the abundance of trees at USIU-Africa? Most USIU-Africa students always notice how green our campus is. They assume that these plants are there for aesthetic purposes only. For the third year Bachelor of Pharmacy students, our perspective shifted when we enrolled in the BOT 3352, the Plant Anatomy and Physiology class, which is a captivating course taught by Professor Muniafu and assisted by Ms. Lucy Wambui, the lab technician.

The Bachelor of Pharmacy program not only focuses on conventional drugs that are developed by pharmaceutical companies, but also introduces the students to medicines derived from plants. This is partially accomplished through Botany as well as Pharmacognosy classes. This semester, the third-year students were introduced to medicinal plants through the BOT 3352 class. During our first walk around on campus, each student was tasked with identifying at least 20 plants by their common name and scientific names as well as its uses. Among the many plants, we were particularly drawn to the Warburgia ugandensis (East African Greenheart) tree planted behind the Science Center. We learned that the leaves of this tree are a remedy for the common cold. Most of us had never tried herbal medicine, and therefore we were doubtful. Since the exercise took place during the rainy season, and some of us had been dealing with recurrent bouts of common colds, Prof. Muniafu encouraged us to chew three leaves as a trial. To our surprise, the next day, the cold was gone.

Recently, the class took a trip to the USIU-Africa botanical garden (located next to the Kasarani River at the end of the campus), which proved to be an exciting and educational experience for us. As we explored the garden, we learned about the medicinal properties of various plants, deepening our understanding of their roles in wellness and healthcare. Among our biggest takeaways was discovering the potential of Carrisa edulis and Tithonia diversifolia (Mexican sunflower), which are used in the management of HIV and prostate cancer, respectively. Not only are these trees medicinally beneficial, but they are also surprisingly easy to grow. This visit reinforced the connection between nature and good health.

The visit to the botanical garden as well as the walk around campus were not just about gaining knowledge; it made us appreciate the green haven that is our campus. These trips, along with the insights from the course, completely changed how we see the plants around us. Taking this course truly opened our eyes to the medicinal value hidden within the plants surrounding us!

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