10 Medicinal Plants Only Found in Africa and the Diseases They Treat

Indeed, Africa is blessed with enormous biodiversity resources and it is estimated to contain between 40 and 45,000 species of plant with a potential for development out of which 5,000 species are used medicinally.

This is not surprising since Africa is located within the tropical and subtropical climate and it is a known fact that plants accumulate important secondary metabolites through evolution as a natural means of surviving in a hostile environment

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 80% of the emerging world’s population relies on traditional medicine for therapy. During the past decades, the developed world has also witnessed an ascending trend in the utilization of complementary medicine, particularly herbal remedies.

Medicinal Plants Only Found in Africa and the Diseases They Treat

Below is a list of 10 plants that are found only in Africa in commercially exploitable quantities.

1. Acacia senegal (L.) Willd. (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae)—Gum Arabic

Acacia senegal (L.) Willd. (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae)—Gum Arabic

Acacia senegal, also known as gum arabic, is native to semidesert and drier regions of sub-Saharan Africa, but widespread from Southern to Northern Africa. It is used as a medicinal plant in parts of Northern Nigeria, West Africa, North Africa, and other parts of the world

Gum arabic has been used for at least 4,000 years by local people for the preparation of food, in human and veterinary medicine, in crafts, and as a cosmetic. It has also been used medicinally for centuries, and various parts of the plant are used to treat infections such as bleeding, bronchitis, diarrhea, gonorrhea, leprosy, typhoid fever, and upper respiratory tract infections. African herbalists use gum acacia to bind pills and to stabilize emulsions. It is also used in aromatherapy for applying essential oils

Medicinally, gum arabic is used extensively in pharmaceutical preparations and is a food additive approved as toxicologically safe by the Codex Alimentarius. It has been used as a demulcent, skin protective agent, and pharmaceutical aids such as emulsifier and stabilizer of suspensions and additives for solid formulations. It is sometimes used to treat bacterial and fungal infections of the skin and mouth. It has been reported to soothe the mucous membranes of the intestines and to treat inflamed skin.

2. Aloe ferox Mill. (Xanthorrhoeaceae)—Bitter Aloe or Cape Aloe

Aloe ferox Mill. (Xanthorrhoeaceae)—Bitter Aloe or Cape Aloe

Aloe ferox is native to South Africa and Lesotho and is considered to be the most common Aloe species in South Africa. A. ferox has been used since time immemorial and has a well-documented history of use as an alternative medicine and is one of the few plants depicted in San rock paintings.

The bitter latex, known as Cape aloe, is used as laxative medicine and is considered to have bitter tonic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties.

The use of A. ferox as a multipurpose traditional medicine has been translated into several commercial applications and it is a highly valued plant in the pharmaceutical, natural health, food, and cosmetic industries.

A. ferox gel contains at least 130 medicinal agents with anti-inflammatory, analgesic, calming, antiseptic, germicidal, antiviral, antiparasitic, antitumor, and anticancer effects encompassing all of the traditional uses and scientific studies done on A. ferox and its constituents.

3. Artemisia herba-alba Asso (Med)—Asteraceae—Wormwood

Artemisia herba-alba Asso (Med)—Asteraceae—Wormwood

Artemisia herba-alba is commonly known as wormwood or desert wormwood. It is a greyish strongly aromatic perennial dwarf shrub native to Northern Africa.

In Moroccan folk medicine, it is used to treat arterial hypertension and diabetes and in Tunisia, it is used to treat diabetes, bronchitis, diarrhea, hypertension, and neuralgias. Herbal tea from A. herba-alba has been used as an analgesic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, and hemostatic agent in folk medicines.

Oral administration of 0.39 g/kg body weight of the aqueous extract of the leaves or barks of A. herba-alba has been documented to produce a significant reduction in blood glucose level, while the aqueous extract of roots and methanolic extract of the aerial parts of the plant produce almost no reduction in blood glucose level.