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Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 5(10), pp. 1836-1842, 18 May, 2011 Available online at ISSN 1996-0875 2011 Academic Journals Full Length Research Paper Medicinal and edible wild fruit plants of Botswana as
emerging new crop opportunities
Daniel M. Motlhanka* and Shimane W. Makhabu
Botswana College of Agriculture, Medicinal Plant Research Laboratories, Basic Sciences Department, Bag 0027, Gaborone, Botswana. Accepted 18 June, 2010 There is a burgeoning need for the promotion of medicinal plants and edible fruit plants as crop in
Botswana because these are re-emerging as health aid. Medicinal plants constitute one of the important
overlooked areas of international development. They represent a form of biodiversity with the potential
to do much good and not just in the healthcare. Indeed, the production and processing of medicinal
plants offers the possibility of fundamentally upgrading the lives and well-being of peoples in rural
regions. Botswana's medicinal plants are over-harvested for use as human and livestock medicines.
There is therefore, a risk of depletion and extinction of the most sought after species. Initiatives should
be put in place to propagate, cultivate and conserve species population through the promotion of
community-based and commercial nurseries. Naturally medicinal yields from the wild are unpredictable
as the supplies are at the mercy of the weather, pests and other uncontrollable variables. Farming will
even out the supply, regularize trade and make available to rural areas new sources of income. In
international market, the opportunities are emerging day by day for the trade of medicinal plants to
fetch foreign exchange for the country. In Botswana, pilot farmer based cultivation trials for selected
number of threatened and indigenous species in home gardens to supply local needs and income
generation are on-going. Hoodia gordonii
(appetite suppressant), Harpagophytum procumbens (anti-
inflammatory) and Artemisia afra
(anti-malaria and antioxidant), Sclerocarya birrea (nutritional and
medicinal) are some of the plants whose domestication offers a lucrative avenue for income generation
as the global demand for plants as sources of drugs and novel foods increases. Initiatives to establish
nurseries and ecological medicinal centres to encourage propagation and to provide species to local
communities will assist in the conservation, sustainable use and offer opportunity for economic
diversification. This paper explores the possibilities of cultivating medicinal and edible wild fruit plants
of Botswana as cash crops.
Key words:
Botswana medicinal plants, edible wild fruits, herbal teas, domestication, economic value.

Plants represent a constant interest as sources of novel 1989). In spite of this large dependence by native people foods and medicines. Plant derived medicines have been of Botswana on plants, these plants have not been part of the traditional health care for many years studied extensively (Motlhanka et al., 2003). Plants also (Cunningham, 1983). Worldwide, developing countries play a vital role as sources of essential nutrients, vitamins rely heavily on the use of traditional medicines as their and minerals necessary for the well functioning of living primary source of health care (Hedberg and Staugard, things. People obtain these when they consume plants as vegetable, fruits or prepared in any food formulation. Plants used as such vary from region to region depending on availability and acceptability by people in *Corresponding author. E-mail:, each region. Many indigenous plants of Botswana play paramount role as sources of food, medicines, firewood Motlhanka and Makhabu 1837 and building materials. Other plants are important Motlhanka et al., 2008; Getachew et al., 2005; Redzic, sources of traditional beverages (including herbal 2007). Indigenous wild fruits remain one of the major indigenous tea plants) and livestock feed. Among these options for coping with hunger and nutritional deficiency many uses of plants, this study will emphasize medicinal in diets and with poverty in Southern Africa. Studies have plants, edible fruits, herbal teas and sustainable shown that harvesting fruits from the wild and also from strategies of plant exploitation. Given this growing global the semi domesticated trees growing in farms can boost demand for plants as sources of novel foods and rural employment and generate substantial income medicines, there is need to document indigenous and (Leakey et al., 1999; Mithöfer and Waibel, 2004) from threatened species of economic value. processing and adding value (Saka, 1994). A host of indigenous fruits of Southern Africa have a potential as food and cash crops. Native edible wild fruits Medicinal plants
can play a crucial role in combating food insecurity, especially the so-called hidden hunger caused by Medicinal plants constitute one of the important micronutrient vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Dozens of overlooked areas of international development. Botswana tropical fruits are suitable for small scale processing into harbours a large diversity of plants that are sources of jams, juices and dried food combinations (Motlhanka et health remedifying agents (Roodt, 1998a, b; Motlhanka et al., 2008). In Botswana, fruits of Sclerocarya birrea Sond al., 2003; Mojeremane et al., 2005). In Botswana, the are processed into an array of products such as cosmetic most sought after medicinal plants are overharvested and formulations (marula soap, marula oil), marula jam, there is a risk of them getting depleted and getting marula chips and sweets and marula alcohol. Mimosopus extinct. Depletion and extinction rate is likely to be high zeyheri fruits are rich in vitamin C and are processed into for slow growing and or naturally rare plant species than a traditional dried pulp called "sesema" which has a long for fast growing and abundant species. Plant species shelf life and serves as a delicious food during winter used medicinally in Botswana are too many but amongst (Motlhanka et al., 2008). Other fruits of nutritional them include Cassia abbriviata, Hoodia gordonii, importance are those of Vanguera infausta ( processed Harpagophytum procumbens, tomentosa, into a juice rich in Vitamin C), fruits of Adansonia digitata Ziziphus mucronata, Bauhinia petersiana, Dichrostachys (rich in vitamin C), fruits of many Grewia species e.g. Peltophorum africanum, Grewia flava, Grewia flavescens, Grewia bicolor are an transvaalensis, paniculosa, Clerodendrum important source of traditional alcoholic beverages uncinatum, Securidoca longipenduculata, Commiphora (Setshogo and Venter, 2003). Greater use of the glandulosa., Colophospermum mopane, Myrothamnus indigenous wild fruits could do much to combat flabellifolius, Elephantorhriza goetzei. The global market malnutrition, boost food security and contribute to income and community demand for medicinal plants is so great generation. In many African countries, these treasures that there is a great risk that many medicinal plants remain untapped. The cultivation of these plants is today, face either extinction or loss of genetic assortment important for their sustainable use and offers an (Lucy and DaSilva, 1999). opportunity for economic diversification. Although, the value of medicinal plants is widely recognized by both rural and urban dwellers in Africa, research in the strategies that may lead to the efficient Indigenous herbal tea plant species
utilization and management of the medicinal plants used by consumers is sluggish. There is need to intensify Herbal teas have been used for centuries for all sorts of efforts of raising awareness of the importance of health reasons. There are many popular teas and herbal conservation of indigenous medicinal plants. In tea blends coming into the market place due to herbal tea Botswana, pilot farmer based cultivation trials for a benefits. Some of the herbal tea benefits include their selected number of threatened indigenous species in anti-inflammatory home gardens to supply local needs and provide activity and anti-microbial activity. Herbal tea plants and alternative income generation are in progress. plants from which essential oils can be harvested represent some of the potential market opportunities from which the quality of rural lives can be improved. Some Indigenous wild fruit food plants and food security
indigenous herbal tea plants of Botswana that hold immense promise as marketable products include the The use of wild foods, of which wild fruits form a part as a leaves of Lippia javanica, Lippia scaberrima, M. component of local responses to increasing food flabellifolius (Motlhanka et al., 2008), Artemisia afra (Liu insecurity and as one of the major coping mechanisms at et al., 2009) and fruits of Combretum hereroense. times of food shortage and famine is widely documented Economic analysis has shown that herbal tea plants (Abbink, 1993; Bell, 1995; Edwards, 1992; Giunand and can considerably contribute to the economic welfare of Dechassa, 2000; Mojeremane and Tshwenyane, 2004; people by generating reasonable income. The immense 1838 J. Med. Plant. Res. economic potential of these medicinal teas calls for their of domesticating and cultivating them as cash crops is domestication as cash crops. becoming visible. Use and the status of plants
Medicinal plants of economic value
Edible fruits, plant species used medicinally and as Family name: Apocynaceae herbal tea preparations are harvested from the wild. The Species name: H. gordonii commercialization of such products is likely to reduce the Description: A cactus-like plant which is leafless, spiny, abundance of species used. This is so because as succulent and with smelling flowers. demand increases so does the rate of harvesting. Processing and mode of preparation of the medicinal Harvesting them becomes an open access or common part: Spines from the columnar cactus are removed, then property resource instead of a resource only used by the spineless cucumber shaped body is crushed and sun specialists hence is driven by profit without due care to dried. The dried material is pulverized into powder and the habitat destruction (Cunningham, 1983). Harvesting can be packaged into capsules. of medicinal trees by ring-barking as done for C. Propagation / Cultivation: Vegetative and by seeds abbreviata, O. paniculosa and removal of roots as done (seeds germinate in 3 - 6 days). for H. procumbens can have detrimental effects on Economic and pharmacological value: Has an appetite abundance of such species if done repeatedly. suppressant effect. Commercialization of products from plant species that used to be done traditionally at small scale calls for careful consideration on the management of resources. It Family: Pedaliaceae also raises consideration of alternatives to increase the Species name: H. procumbens supply of plant species such as domestication and Common name: Devil's claw/grapple plant cultivation. The objective of this study was therefore to Tswana name: Sengaparile/lengakapitsi document what is known and is being done concerning Description: A creeper with tendrils that radiate from an domestication and cultivation of plant species used in underground tuber and are about 2 m long. Leaves are Botswana to produce medicinal, food and herbal tea shallow lobed, bluish-green above, but almost silver-grey below. Flowers are pink with a tinge of yellow in the tubular section. The fruit is oval, flattened, about 5 × 8 cm with vicious, hooked protuberances on all sides. METHODOLOGY
Processing and mode of preparation of the medicinal part: The secondary tubers are sliced and sun dried. A survey on inventories of different wild fruit food plants and plants Then they are pulverized and can be packaged into used as medicinal formulations in Eastern Botswana was conducted. The data was collected by means of interviewing capsules or boiled and drank as tea. traditional healers, Village Community Trusts , and old people from Propagation / Cultivation: By seed and vegetative means. Seolwane Village in Eastern Botswana. Some data was also Propagation from tubers still attached to the stem has 90 collected from Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) Forestry and - 100% success rate. Nursery and Veld Products Botanical Garden-Botswana. Economic and pharmacological value: Treat ailments such as intestinal disorders, diseases of the gall-bladder, kidneys, diabetes, atherosclerosis and gallstones. The following medicinal plants have been cultivated Family name: Anacardiaceae either at BCA Green houses or in various local village Species name: O. paniculosa botanical gardens. H. procumbens at BCA medicinal Tswana name: Monokane plant experimental plot. H. gordonii at BCA Green Description: A shrub or small tree up to 6 m in height. Its houses, Moringa olifera at BCA forestry nurseries, S. leaves alternate or are in whorls being hairy on the birrea at Veld products Botswana, A. afra and L. javanica underside while not hairy on their upper side. Has white at Thusanyo Lefatshing-Botswana. A number of flowers and kidney shaped fruit (Coates et al., 1987). indigenous wild fruit food plants are vigorously Processing and mode of preparation of the medicinal undergoing cultivation and propagation by village part: The fresh roots of an adult plant are easily sliced communities and small scale farmers across the country with a knife and sun dried. Then the material is pulverized e.g M. zeyheri, V. infausta and S. birrea and Azanza and can be boiled in beer and drank while still warm. garkeana. Some of these plant species are deliberately Propagation / Cultivation: Seeds left to grow in arable fields and homestead to provide Economic and pharmacological value: The plant is known fruits and shade. As the global demand for plants as to lower blood pressure and is also used by diabetic sources of medicines and food increases, the realization patients. It is also used for menstrual pain and alleviates Motlhanka and Makhabu 1839 general body fatigue. Water extracts of the roots and Family name: Anacardiaceae leaves are rich in antioxidants (Motlhanka, 2008). Species name: S. birrea Tswana name: Morula Description: A deciduous tree up to 15 m in height. A Family name: Celastraceae walnut-sized fruit (3.5 cm) that has an edible, fleshy pulp Species name: C. transvaalensis and a very hard nut with two small kernels inside. Tswana name: Monamane Processing and mode of preparation of the ripen fruits: Description: A small bushy tree of 4 - 5 m in height with Fruits can be processed into jam, sweets. The nut is an pale grey smooth bark. Its leaves are apple-green to dull important source of oil. Fruit juice can be fermented into grey green and are clustered at the end of rigid short side an intoxicating beverage (Motlhanka et al., 2008). shoots. Flowers are greenish-white while its fruits are Propagation / Cultivation: Seeds. elongate and berry-like. Economic value: Fruits are edible and are used to make Processing and mode of preparation of the medicinal beer and jam. Nut from the kernels is also edible and a part: The fresh roots of an adult plant are tough and rich source of oil. Its wood is used to make useful items require strong mechanical grinding. Fresh root bark ooze such as mortar and utensils, and canoes. Fresh leaves a red sticky sap. Ground plant material is sun dried. Then and yellow fruit skins are liked by livestock. The stem the material is pulverized and can be boiled in beer and bark is used to treat malaria. drank while still warm. Pulverised dry material mixed with Ozoroa paniculosa roots is used to alleviate menstrual pains and reduce high blood pressure (Motlhanka et al., Family name: Malvaceae Species name: Azanza garckeana Propagation / Cultivation: Seeds Tswana name: Morojwa Economic and pharmacological value: Treat ailments Description: Semi-deciduous shrub/tree 3 – 7 m in height such as stomach-ache and fevers. Its wood is used to with brown rough bark. Leaves are simple, alternate and make crafts such as wooden utensils. Root extracts are lobed (3 - 5). Flowers are yellow ageing to orange-red rich in free radical scavenging compounds (Motlhanka et while the fruits are almost spherical, woody capsule and yellowish to brownish-green when mature. Propagation / Cultivation: Germinates readily without Economic wild edible fruit plants
Economic value: Fruits are edible (Braam and Piet, Family name: Rubiaceae Species name: V. infausta Tswana name: Mmilo Family name: Rhamnaceae Description: Small tree, 3 – 7 m in height, elliptic to ovate Species name: Berchemia discolor leaves. Fruits almost spherical, 2.5 - 3.5 m in diameter, Tswana name: Motsintsila yellowish to brown when mature and edible. Description: A single stemmed tree up to 20 m in height. Propagation / Cultivation: Seeds. Its leaves are simple, alternate, shiny dark green above Economic value: Fruits are edible (Motlhanka et al., and much paler green below. Flowers are greenish- 2008). Fruit juice prepared from brown ripe fruits is both yellow while the fruits are ovoid and yellow to light orange thirst-quenching and relaxing. The fruits are known to be when mature (Coates Palgrave et al., 1987). rich in Vitamin C. Processing and mode of preparation of the ripen fruits: Ripen brown sweet fruits can be eaten fresh. Fruits can also be sun dried to avoid development of moulds and Family name: Sapotaceae increase shelf life. Species name: M. zeyheri Propagation / Cultivation: Germinates readily without Tswana name: Mompudu treatment but soaking with boiling water for 24 h can give Description: Small to medium sized tree up to 15 m in better results (Roodt, 1998a). height. Its leaves are thickly leathery being shiny dark Economic value: Fruits are edible and is of great green above and paler green below. Flowers are creamy- nutritional value to animals and people. Its wood is used white and fruits ovoid, fleshy and yellow when mature. for building purposes, furniture and handles for various Processing and mode of preparation of the ripen fruits: tools (Roodt, 1998b). Yellow to pinkish fruits can be eaten fresh. Fruits contain reducing monosaccharides. Fruit pulp can be prepared into a dry pulp called "sesema" (Motlhanka et al., 2008). Economic herbal tea plants
Propagation / Cultivation: Seeds. Economic value: Fruits are edible. Local communities sell Family name: Verbenaceae both freshly cooked and preserved fruits in urban areas. Species name: L. javanica 1840 J. Med. Plant. Res. Tswana name: Musukudu Tswana name: Mokabi Description: A multi-stemmed woody erect shrub up to 2 Description: Usually a multi-stemmed shrub-like tree m in height. Leaves are hairy and give off a strong lemon- which on average grows up to 5 m in height but in rare like smell when crushed. Flowers are small cream and cases can grow up to 15 m. Leaves are dark green to arranged in dense, rounded flower heads. Fruits are grey-green above and densely covered with brown, rather inconspicuous, small and dry. velvety hairs. Its flowers are very small white to creamy- Processing and mode of preparation of the medicinal tea: yellow. Its fruits have four wings being rich russet-brown Fresh leaves can be boiled in water (the preparation in colour (Roodt, 1998a). yields an aromatic scent). Leaves can also be sun dried Processing and mode of preparation of the medicinal tea: and later boiled in water and drunk as tea. The ripened dry russet-brown fruits are boiled in water to Propagation / Cultivation: Cuttings. produce strong tea. Economic and pharmacological value: Its leaves are used Propagation / Cultivation: Its seeds germinate easily traditionally and commercially in Botswana to make tea. when removed from the exocarp and soaked in water for Also used medicinally for treatment of coughs, colds and a few hours before planting (Roodt, 1998a). bronchial problems (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962). Economic and pharmacological value: Its dried leaves or fruits are used to make tea. Medicinally its roots decotion can be used to treat stomach disorders. Family name: Verbenaceae Species name: L. scaberrima Tswana name: Musukujane Family name: Myrothamnaceae Description: An erect woody shrub, up to 0.5 m in height, Species name: M. flabellifolius with many stems arising from ground level. Has large Tswana name: Galalatshwene bracts below the flowers. Description: Small rigid woody shrub of up to 0.4 m in Processing and mode of preparation of the medicinal tea: height with tough branches. English name is resurrection Fresh leaves can be boiled in water (the preparation plant (its ability to cause seemingly dead, dormant leaves yields an aromatic scent). Leaves can also be sun dried to unfold and turn bright green when placed in water). and drank as tea (Ben-Erik et al., 1997). Processing and mode of preparation of the medicinal tea: Propagation / Cultivation: Cuttings. Decoctions and infusions of leaves and twigs can be Economic and pharmacological value: Its leaves are used prepared in beer or water. traditionally and commercially in Botswana to make tea. Propagation / Cultivation: Vegetative. The tea is known to possess anti-oxidative properties Economic and pharmacological value: The powdered (Ben-Erik et al., 1997). plant material is used as medicine for hypertension, diabetes mellitus and stroke (Motlhanka et al., 2008). Family name: Asteraceae Species name: A. afra DISCUSSION
Tswana name: Lengana Description: A thick bushy woody shrub of up to 2 m in Sustainable use and conservation strategies
height. Its leaves are soft, finely divided and almost fern- like being dark green above and while below it has small Medicinal, edible wild fruit and herbal tea plants of white hairs. It has small yellow flowers that crowd at the Botswana represent an untapped source of therapeutic tips of the branches. and nutritional tools. Their over exploitation and over- Processing and mode of preparation of the medicinal tea: harvesting can however, contribute to the loss of habitat Fresh leaves can be boiled in water and drank as tea. and depletion of natural resources. A balanced view is Leaves can also be sun dried and drank as tea. needed of the value of medicinal and food plants for their Propagation / Cultivation: Easy to grow plant using environmental role and the value of products derived seeds. Needs full sun and heavy pruning in winter to from them. There is need to come up with rapid and easy encourage development of new shoots in spring. to adopt cultivation and propagation techniques for these Economic and pharmacological value: Used for brewing treasure troves. Tissue culture approach and other easy traditional tea. Also used medicinally to treat ailments to transfer technologies should be exploited so that the such as coughs, colds, fever, loss of appetite and domestication and cultivation of these plants by small headache. Contains volatile oils with anti-oxidative scale farmers can be achieved. Domestication through properties (Hutchings and Van Staden, 1994; Liu et al., propagation and good management practices may be one of the means of achieving natural resource propagating and promoting community based gardens is Family name: Combretaceae an important conservation strategy for these hidden Species name: C. hereroense treasure troves. The vulnerability of medicinal herbs to Motlhanka and Makhabu 1841 over exploitation and extinction need to be dealt with will do well in xerophytic habitat without any special care pragmatically. The concerns and issues relating to the or maintenance. As the global demand for food and conservation of the plants could be addressed through a pharmaceutical drugs ever increases, medicinal and variety of activities involving government and non- edible wild fruit plants represent new opportunities as governmental organizations. Cultivation of medicinal and edible wild fruit plants
The most common problem in attempting to domesticate The authors would like to thank the people of Seolwane wild medicinal and fruit plants is the lack of understanding village and the traditional healers for providing of the best method to adopt. The most commonly used information on the traditional uses of the plants. method of propagation in Botswana is from seeds. However, some plant species are entirely removed from their native habitats (e.g., Hoodia and Harpagophytum REFERENCES
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