A broad review of commercially important southern African medicinal plants

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224 Citations (Scopus)


Aims of the study: Commercially important indigenous medicinal plants of southern Africa are reviewed in the context of fundamental knowledge about their ethnobotany, phylogeny, genetics, taxonomy, biochemistry, chemical variation, reproductive biology and horticulture. The aim is to explore the rapidly increasing number of scientific publications and to investigate the need for further research. Materials and methods: The Scopus (Elsevier) reference system was used to investigate trends in the number of scientific publications and patents in 38 medicinal plant species. Fifteen species of special commercial interest were chosen for more detailed reviews: Agathosma betulina, Aloe ferox, Artemisia afra, Aspalathus linearis, Cyclopia genistoides, Harpagophytum procumbens, Hoodia gordonii, Hypoxis hemerocallidea, Lippia javanica, Mesembryanthemum tortuosum, Pelargonium sidoides, Siphonochilus aethiopicus, Sutherlandia frutescens, Warburgia salutaris and Xysmalobium undulatum. Results: In recent years there has been an upsurge in research and development of new medicinal products and new medicinal crops, as is shown by a rapid increase in the number of scientific publications and patents. Despite the fact that an estimated 10% of the plant species of the world is found in southern Africa, only a few have been fully commercialized and basic scientific information is often not available. Conclusions: The limited available information indicates that some of the plants display remarkable regional variation in morphological, genetic and chemical characters that should be more thoroughly investigated. Basic biological information is needed to guide the rapidly accelerating commercialization process, especially the selection of superior clones, the development of new cultivars and the standardization of raw materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-355
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2008


  • Biosystematics
  • Chemical variation
  • Commercial development
  • Medicinal plants
  • Southern Africa
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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