African medicinal flora in the limelight

Makunga, Nokwanda P. (2011-10)

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In the past few years, African medicinal plants have received considerable attention, and it has been lamented that the documentation of the continent’s species that are used in traditional medicine lags behind China and India in terms of ‘internationally recognised phytochemical standards’. This book not only redresses this issue, but is the first to include plants from the south, north, east and west of Africa. In South Africa alone, there are over 3000 species that are used for medicinal purposes, with over 70% of the Black African population relying on medicinal flora as part of their primary health care and 84% of clinic patients confirming their preference for wildcrafted raw herbal medicines in spite of having access to western health care.1 Both traditional and Western healing systems are used – many educated Black people retain traditional practices as they are regarded as an important cultural link to their predecessors. Throughout Africa, plants are viewed as contributors to health; they are also used in religious and cultural ceremonies. The African continent has a rich biodiversity and this is matched by a commensurate proliferation of medicinal plant use. So the trade of medicinal plants in Africa is substantial, but largely informal, and consists of plant collectors as well as traders at herbal markets.

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