The aim of this website is to create an online source of information on the use, quality, efficacy and safety of traditional African medicines in South Africa. The website draws on published resources to provide information, cross referencing and research outputs for use by researchers, community members, traditional healers and a wide range of other global users. The digital pharmacopoeia serves as a national resource mechanism, not only for further research, but also for regulation of the use of traditional medicinal plants and medicine.
The treatment information on the site is linked to the International Classification of Diseases for Medical Purposes (ICD-10) and the WIPO International Patent Classification (IPC) referencing system. Up to date information on the national conservation status of each indigenous plant is provided from the Red List of South African Plants, maintained by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Plant chemical compositions include molecular formulae with relevant links to international databases such as PubChem, CAS, ChemSpider and others.
The website also serves as an archive of published materials relating to early use of traditional medicinal plants in South Africa. These are offered as historical documents for research purposes.
South Africa is considered to be a "hotspot" for biodiversity and more than 22,000 plant species occur within its boundaries. This represents 10% of the world's species, although the land surface of South Africa is less than 1% of the earth.
The country is divided into seven biomes and into 68 vegetation types (Low and Rebelo 1996). The Savanna biome covers 33% of the surface of the country, but it is especially the Flora Capensis that is unique. This, the Cape Floral Kingdom, is the smallest of the world's six Floral Kingdoms. It contains 8,700 species of which 68% are endemic.
Traditional practitioners use a wide variety of treatments ranging from "magic" to biomedical methods such as fasting and dieting, herbal therapies, bathing, massage, and surgical procedures. Migraines, coughs, abscesses, and pleurisy are often cured using the method of "bleed-cupping" after which an herbal ointment is applied with follow-up herbal drugs.
Some cultures rub hot herbal ointment across the patient's eyelids to cure Headaches. Malaria is cured by both drinking and using the steam from an herbal mixture. Fevers are often cured using a steam bath. Also, vomiting is induced, or emetics, to cure some diseases.