Traditional Medicinal Plants of the Dusun Tobilung of Kampong Toburon, Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia

Article excerpt


A documentation of the traditional medicinal plant knowledge and knowledge of their uses by the Dusun Tobilung was conducted in 1999 in Kampong Toburon, Kota Belud, Sabah. Based on interviews with seventeen informants within the study site, information on the traditional medicinal plants was classified according to their vernacular and Malay names, scientific and family names, parts of plants used and uses. A total of forty-nine species of plants from thirty-three families are hereby reported. All of the plants were collected within the study site. Interestingly only four out of thirty-four plants were cultivated by the villagers while the rest were found growing as garden weed or in the forest.


Arthur (1954) pioneered research into ethnic Materia Medica in Sabah. Ensuing studies on the uses of plants in traditional Dusun medicine included that on the Dusun uses of ceremonial plants (Wati 1978), Dusun/Kadazan of Tambunan (Guntavid 1983, 1992), Dusun/Kadazan in Sabah (Ahmad 1993), Dusun in Kampong Sayap (Ahmad 1995), Kadazan/Dusun of Tambunan (Kulip 1996), Kadazan/Dusun of Kuala Penyu (Kulip 1999) and Kadazandustm Tatana ofKuala Penyu (Hj. Ibrahim et al. 2002).

The Dusun Tobilung community in Kampong Taburon was chosen as the site for the present study as it is the ethnic community of one of us (G. Pasok). Kampong Toburon (6[degrees]30'N 116[degrees]30'E) is situated approximately 48 km away from Kota Belud town (Tangah and Wong 1995). It is surrounded by the Crocker and Sir James Brooke Ranges. The main mode of transportation is by pick-up truck. The joumey takes approximately one and one-half hours.

Kampong Toburon is divided into Kampong Toburon Damang, headed by village headman Mr. Anggun Ripou, and Kampong Toburon Tembulawan, headed by Mr. Madsikoh Sombion. The study site is dominated by Dusun Tobilung, the majority of whom are paddy farmers and live in bamboo houses built on stilts.

Objective of Study

The objective of the study was to document knowledge of traditional medicinal plants and their uses by the Dusun Tobilung of Kampong Toburon, Kota Belud.


Information was compiled by the direct interview as well as rapid appraisal method using questionnaires. Plant specimens collected were preserved in ethanol prior to drying in the laboratory. Specimens were identified using keys and cross referencing with other herbaria.

Results and Discussion

Information on the traditional medicinal plants of the Dusun Tobilung, their scientific, vernacular and Malay names, uses, parts of plants used, distribution status, informants and voucher numbers are listed in Table 1.

Nearly all the informants were in the 45 and above age group and six of them were women. Only two of them were known healers or bobolians while the rest have knowledge of traditional medicinal plants but were not bobolians. All the informants had acquired knowledge of traditional medicinal plants from a family member. In every village only one to two people were well-versed with the use(s) of the plants in traditional medicine. On the average, youths demonstrated a lack of knowledge or experience compared to the more senior members of the community on the uses of traditional medicinal plants. Nearly all members of the community approached who were below the age of 45 years preferred visiting the Government hospital in Kota Marudu and using Western medicine versus traditional medicinal plants in treating even non-life threatening ailments because Western medicine took effect quickly and was easier to use.


The documentation of traditional knowledge is inherently important as it provides necessary reference for effective policymaking for the preservation of the natural environment and national heritage. Its importance as cultural evidence can no longer be denied in light of diminishing knowledge. …