Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Invasive alien plants and weeds in South Africa: a review of their applications in traditional medicine and potential pharmaceutical properties.

Abstract

Ethnopharmacological relevance: Traditional pharmacopoeias are constantly evolving and adapting, hence the assimilation of alien plants and weeds into traditional systems of healing. Invasive plants are detrimental to the ecosystem, however they are also potential sources of secondary metabolites with useful biological activities. Aim of the review: The aim of this review was to investigate published reports of traditional use and biological activity of declared invasive alien plants and other weeds in South Africa. Materials and methods: Information was retrieved from scientific databases including Scopus, Web of Science, ScienceDirect, Google Scholar, PubMed, Chemical Abstracts Services and books, theses, dissertations and technical reports. Keywords used for the search engines were "South Africa" or "southern Africa" in conjunction with "(native weeds OR alien invasive)" AND "medicinal". Separate searches were conducted on the individual invasive plant species recorded as having been used in ethnobotanical surveys to determine their known biological activities and chemical components. Results: A total of 89 plant species regarded as invasive species or weeds in South Africa were identified as being used in traditional medicine. The most commonly mentioned plant family was the Asteraceae with a total of 15 species followed by the Fabaceae and Solanaceae with 6 species each. Of the 89 species recorded, 68% were reported to have traditional usage with both phytochemical and biological data available. A history of traditional usage coupled with biological data was available for 12% of species. Records of traditional usage alone were linked to 11% of species. Invasive alien species comprised 61% of recorded species, while native and non-invasive alien weeds formed the remaining 39%. Conclusions: The exploration of alternative uses for weeds and particularly invasive plants, whether native or alien, as medicines for possible commercialisation may lead to innovative mechanisms for putting such species to good use.