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University of KwaZulu-Natal (2002)

Bark in traditional healthcare in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa : usage, authentication and sustainability

Grace, Olwen Megan.

Titre : Bark in traditional healthcare in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa : usage, authentication and sustainability

Auteur : Grace, Olwen Megan.

Université de soutenance : University of KwaZulu-Natal

Grade : Master of Science 2002

Résumé partiel
Healthcare in South Africa is polarised between western and traditional African systems of therapy. The latter is consulted by the majority of the population and therefore plays an integral role in the delivery of healthcare to South Africans. Traditional medicines are primarily plant products with long storage lives, among which the dominance of bark is typical of southern African traditional healthcare systems. Expansion of the traditional healthcare sector during the twentieth century, in response to rising consumer demands, stimulated a lucrative trade in medicinal plants that is centred in KwaZulu-Natal. Since herbal medicines are sourced almost exclusively from indigenous vegetation, harvesting pressures exerted on the indigenous flora to meet demands for traditional medicines have rendered such resources non-sustainable. Although trees comprise a small fraction of South African medicinal plant species, bark from them constitutes a substantial proportion of the plant products used medicinally. Trees are among the most threatened medicinal plants in South African due to their limited abundance, the ecological sensitivity of the vegetation in which they occur, and destructive methods of commercial bark harvesting that frequently take place within protected areas. In KwaZulu-Natal, bark is harvested primarily from forests that occupy an extent of only 0.1 % in the province. Conservation of economically valuable tree species is particularly problematic since data necessary for the establishment of sustainable usage systems are absent or inaccessible. Alternatives to in situ conservation for renewable bark resources include propagation, multi-use timber systems and reintroduction of locally extinct species. To facilitate appropriate management of bark resources, there is a need for specialist publications and consolidated data with which sustainable usage levels may be determined. The importance of bark in South African traditional healthcare is poorly reflected by the ethno botanical literature. In this study, 180 bark species used in traditional healthcare in KwaZulu-Natal were inventoried from thorough literature surveys, but this number is anticipated to be a conservative reflection of actual statistics. Where trade data were recorded in the literature, they indicated intensive exploitation of bark resources in KwaZulu-Natal and throughout South Africa, but conservation and management data were lacking for 72 % of the species inventoried.

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