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  • Quin Clark

A Traditional Medicine with a Rich History

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

The use of medicinal plants as a fundamental component of the African traditional healthcare system is perhaps the oldest of all therapeutic systems. In many parts of rural Africa, traditional healers prescribing medicinal plants are the most easily accessible and affordable health resource available to the local community. At times, they provide the only therapy available.

Ethnobotanical research into the traditional medicinal uses of Pelargonium sidoides has shown that for hundreds of years the Zulu, Basotho, Xhosa and Mfengi cultures have used this plant as a curative for coughs, upper respiratory tract irritations and gastro-intestinal concerns. Usually prescribed as “muthi” - a southern African term for traditional medicine - by an “inyanga” (traditional healer), the dry, powdered root was consumed as a decoction by the patient.


The vast majority of medicinally valuable plants in South Africa are wild harvested. This informal trade in botanical resources provides much-needed income-generating opportunities for rural communities who have traditionally used medicinal plants as a primary health care system for generations. To ensure the long-term survival of Pelargonium sidoides, while maintaining sustainable economic opportunities for both the phytopharmaceutical industry and the rural communities that harvest and trade in the plant, a new approach is needed: the large-scale commercial cultivation of Pelargonium sidoides.



Although the ever-increasing demand for medicinally beneficial indigenous flora has delivered significant commercial opportunities to the phytopharmaceutical industry at large, these opportunities must be viewed with a long-term vision of ethical commercialisation and ecosystem sustainability at the forefront of any decision-making process.


Afraceuticals recognises that as a primary producer of a product derived from wild-harvested plants, it has an ethical responsibility towards the long-term sustainability and equitable benefit sharing value of this remarkable plant species.


THE AFRACEUTICALS SUSTAINABILITY APPROACH

The Afraceuticals P. sidoides cultivation programme is an ambitious, multi-faceted, flexible and integrated plan which seeks to deliver an effective, high impact commercial Pelargonium sidoides cultivation programme based upon 5 fundamental principles:


1. Long-term commercial and environmental sustainability

  • Consistent supply of high quality, in demand Pelargonium-derived raw materials

  • Through cultivation, reduction of pressure on wild plant populations, allowing for species regeneration


2. Equitable benefit sharing

  • Acknowledgment of traditional use and equitable benefit sharing with traditional users

  • Socio-economic development of partner contract farmers and rural community harvesters


3. Advanced technologies

  • Plant tissue culturing (biotechnology) & block-chain (logistics & authentication)

  • Disruptive technologies driving innovation, productivity and authenticity


4. Collaboration

  • Strategic partnerships with commercial, educational, conservational and traditional use stakeholders

  • Strong programme management, monitoring, reporting and communication strategies


5. Vertical integration

  • End-to-end management of P. sidoides supply chain and primary processing


This Afraceuticals Pelargonium sidoides cultivation initiative is a high impact programme that aims to secure current and future supply of Pelargonium-derived raw materials for Afraceuticals’ commercial partners, while simultaneously making a robust contribution to the regeneration and survival of this remarkable medicinal plant species.


Our belief is that Afraceuticals can lead by example and prove that with understanding, planning and commitment, an equitable balance between commercial, social and environmental interests can be achieved.



1% FOR THE PLANET

Afraceuticals is a proud member of 1% for the Planet, a global movement whose members contribute at least one percent of their annual revenue to environmental causes. We recognise that our business profits from natural resources that are harvested from the environment. We are committed not only to the protection of the African wilderness, but also to the conservation and regeneration of the wildlife we share it with.


Beyond its Pelargonium sustainability project, Afraceuticals has committed to long-term annual funding of 1% of the company's revenue to Silver Hill Lodge’s Bearded Vulture Conservation Project in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.


- Quin Clark, Biodiversity & Sustainability Manager: Afraceuticals, Bright Mountain Oils & Founder: NPO Indlovu Aerial Trust (IAT).


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