Medicinal plants of the Kamiesberg, Namaqualand, South Africa

J. M. Nortje, B. E. Van Wyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Ethnopharmacological relevance Qualitative and quantitative data is presented that gives a new perspective on the traditional medicinal plants of the Khoisan (Khoe-San), one of the most ancient of human cultures. The data is not only of considerable historical and cultural value, but allows for fascinating comparative studies relating to new species records, novel use records and the spatial distribution of traditional plant use knowledge within the Cape Floristic Region. Aim of the study A detailed documentation and quantitative analysis of medicinal plants of the Kamiesberg area (an important Khoisan and Nama cultural centre) and their traditional uses, which have hitherto remained unrecorded. Materials and methods During four study visits to the Kamiesberg, semi-structured and structured interviews were conducted with 24 local inhabitants of the Kamiesberg, mostly of Khoisan decent. In addition to standard methodology, a newly developed Matrix Method was used to quantity medicinal plant knowledge. Results The Kamiesberg is an important center of extant Nama ethnomedicinal information but the knowledge is rapidly disappearing. Of a total of 101 medicinal plants and 1375 anecdotes, 21 species were recorded for the first time as having traditional medicinal uses and at least 284 medicinal use records were new. The relative importance, popularity and uses of the plants were quantified. The 97 newly documented vernacular names include 23 Nama (Khoekhoegowab) names and an additional 55 new variations of known names. The calculated Ethnobotanical Knowledge Index (EKI) and other indices accurately quantified the level of knowledge and will allow for future local, regional and even global comparisons. Conclusion The results showed that the Kamiesberg is an important focal point of Khoisan (Nama) traditional knowledge but that the medicinal plants have not yet been systematically recorded in the scientific literature. There are numerous new use records and new species records that are in need of scientific study. Comparative data is now available for broader comparisons of the pattern of Khoisan plants use in southern Africa and the study represents another step towards a complete synthesis of Cape Herbal Medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-222
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2015


  • Khoisan
  • Medicinal plants
  • Nama
  • Namaqualand
  • Quantitative ethnobotany
  • Traditional knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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