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Tanzanian traditional plant treats wounds


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Tanzanian traditional plant treats wounds

gaymaryGaymary George Bakari is a biomedical researcher and AESA-RISE Postdoctoral Fellow based at Sokoine University of Agriculture Tanzania. The AESA-RISE Postdoctoral Fellowship programme builds on the foundation of the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE), which has for a decade prepared PhD and masters level scientists and engineers in Africa through competitively selected, university-based research and teaching networks, to respond to an urgent need to increase the number of researchers in Africa. AESA RISE is implemented through AESA (The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa), a funding, agenda setting and programme management platform of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) in partnership with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD). AESA RISE is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY).


There is increasing evidence of use of medicinal plants for treatment of a variety of skin conditions. Interest in this area has been driven by: increased resistance to several synthetic drugs by microbes causing skin conditions; availability and accessibility; safety issues and costs. Plants have long been the source of traditional treatment of various diseases and wounds in developing countries. Which plants or herbs are used for treatment of wounds and other ailments depends on the traditions and plant species grown in different regions of the world. In recent years, there is renewed global interest in discovering agents from natural resources that can be used as skin care products and also that will promote wound healing to reduce the cost of treatment and prevent complications from synthetic drugs. Commiphora swynnertonii, also known as myrrh, is among the commonly used tropical plants treating different diseases. Previous studies have demonstrated that the extract form C. swynnertonii exhibits various biological mechanism to treat conditions such as arthritis, ulcers of different kinds (peptic, abscesses, cellulites, diabetic and tropical). Previous studies (Bakari et al., 2012, 2013, 2014) have demonstrated that the extract form of C. swynnertonii exhibits biological activity including antimicrobial effects; reducing blood sugar and cholesterol (Bakari et al., 2016 and Maghembe et al., 2017), increasing total white blood cell count and facilitation of fast healing of the wounds regardless of the nature of the wound.

Description of study

This research was performed over ten years to explore the potential of a natural Commiphora swynnertonii resin to formulate and optimize it for treatment. This plant has exhibited effectiveness on wounds and abscesses with fast healing power as compared to some synthetic antibiotic drugs (Bakari et al., 2012-2018). These plants have shown good effect in individuals with several skin conditions, including fungal infections and acute and chronic wounds such as tropical ulcers. Currently, there is an ongoing study by an AESA RISE postdoctoral fellow examining the formulation and validation of C. swynnertonii resin topical and oral products for medical and veterinary uses. Products formulated from the resin of this plant have been tested under different conditions and has been shown to be effective on treatment of all kinds of wounds, fungal infections and other skin conditions.

Different in vitro (research outside a living organism i.e. in a test tube) and in vivo (research in a living organism) studies in animal trials were used to validate the formulated C. swynnertonii product for wound healing.

Outcome of study

  • Diversity of chemical compounds: Findings from different studies conducted in this project have shown that Commiphora swynnertonii resin contains a diversity of chemical compounds in appreciable amounts that are responsible for different therapeutic effects on various ailments. The HPTLC fingerprint profile of Commiphoraswynnertonii resin developed in this study is the result of an important protocol for quality control of the Commiphora swynnertonii resin.
  • Successful formulations of dermatological products can be derived from Commiphora swynnertonii resin for topical administration. The formulated products include wound spray, gel for treatment of fresh wounds, hand sanitizers, dermatological cream, lotion bar soap and mouth wash for cleansing the mouth. All have been given a trade name starting with “Commi“.
  • Novel product with antimicrobial effects: Following assessment on different microbes, Commi products have shown a dose-dependent increase in antimicrobial activity with increasing concentration of resin extract, with strong to moderate antimicrobial activity against both Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria and fungi strains. This makes it a good candidate as a novel product with antimicrobial effects.
  • Effective healing: No adverse effects have been shown in experimental Wister rats with high healing rates on excised rats. The wound products reduced wound size from 10mm in diameter to 0 mm by day 10 of treatment as compared a control group (who were not treated) to none treated who had 6 mm in diameter wound size. Also, the same products have been observed to be effective in wounds which had persisted without healing for years, showing good response within 7 to 10 days of treatment in human subjects. 


  1. Formulation of promising, new, safe natural products based on Commiphora swynnertonii resin (AKA “Commi” wound products in the form of gels, sprays, creams, bar soap, sanitizer and mouth wash) were formulated and validated. Among the preventive conditions tested was COVID -19 infection by producing quality hand sanitizers and disinfectants following WHO standards. These formulations are safe, affordable and effective, with no residual effects on the user. (Typical retail prices ranged between US$1-US$3 for Commi wound gel R of 50gm compared to a synthetic drug 10gm tube US$3; sanitizer US$1 to US$35for 100ml to 1L at the retail sale prices).
  2. New protocols for formulation and validation of medicinal plants products were developed and documented.
  3. Career development and capacity building for researchers, students and health personnel involved in the project.

Lesson learned

  • For sustainable production of products from plants, there is a need to collaborate with different sectors, such as researchers across fields (e.g., chemists,  pharmacists) the pharmaceutical industry, regulatory bodies (National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Tanzania Medicines and Medical Devices Authority (TMDA), Institute for Traditional Medicine (ITM) and the government, in order to reduce cost and fast-track production. Involving the government at an early stage reduces the cost of production through reducing taxes for raw materials and packaging.
  • There is a need to involve the community, to support the propagation and conservation of C. swynnertonii plants to ensure sustainable availability of the resin as raw material but also as source of income for supply of resin.

Project recommendations

  1. Advocacy activity will be launched to educate regulatory bodies, government officials and the public about research findings and their clinical benefits.
  2. The Tanzanian government (specifically the Ministries of Health and Livestock) and policy makers will be advised on the importance of integrating traditional medicine into health care systems and developing comprehensive guidelines for medicinal and herbal products by regulatory bodies.
  3. Recommendations will be made to the government on fostering closer working relationships among various scientists, government and other stakeholders.