According to Arnold et.al. (2002), the current number of flora of southern Africa used in traditional medicine includes 215 families, 1 240 genera, and 3 689 taxa (species, subspecies and varieties), representing 15% of the regional flora. Of these, 771 taxa are actively traded.
This inventory is a work in progress and currently features 200+ basic medicinal plant profiles (inventory listings) and a handful of more detailed listings (expanded monographs).
There are two types of entries in the monograph library:
Basic Profile: A basic medicinal plant profile (inventory listing), indicating its broad uses in traditional medicine, distribution, and trade status in southern Africa.
Expanded Monograph: More comprehensive traditional medicine use data as well as botanical information.
Current Focus and Progress
We are currently focusing on building an inventory of the Red Listed and traded muthi flora of southern Africa.
Red Listed Taxa: 80% completed
Traded Taxa: 16% completed
Total Inventory: 3% completed
Broad Use Categories
Medicinal and Magical Applications
As Arnold et.al (2002) states, the boundary between medicinal and magical applications is often blurred and consequently difficult to define. Plants may be pharmacologically active and so efficacious, but when their mode of action is unclear, perhaps obscured by preparation and administration rituals, these have been considered magical in character. The subjective definition for ‘magical’ includes charm preparations (e.g. to ensure a good fishing catch, to protect against evil spirits, lightning, thunder, etc.).
Poisonous and Harmful Plants
The terms ‘Poisonous’and “harmful” to people or animals is used in an extremely broad sense, inclusive of cytotoxicity in vitro, toxicity to micro-organisms, rashes caused by physical contact with a plant, and death resulting
from the ingestion of a part of the plant. Plants so flagged may have been reported as harmful only as specific plant parts, at a particular time of year, or stage of growth, or under certain environmental conditions. [Arnold et.al (2002)]
Arnold. T.H., Prentice, C.A., Hawker, L.C., Snyman, E.E., Tomalin, M., Crouch, N.R. and Pottas-Bircher, C. (2002). Medicinal and magical plants of southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 13. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.