Phytochemical and analytical studies on two indigenous medicinal plants found in KwaZulu-Natal : Carissa macrocarpa and Harpephyllum caffrum.
Vulnerable communities and rural households usually turn to natural resources for their nutritional and healthcare needs. However, very little is known about the nutritional and medicinal value of many plant species utilized by these communities despite widespread scientific research on medicinal plants. This is mainly due to the huge numbers of medicinal plants that are in use. This study aimed at investigating two plants species that are indigenous to KwaZulu-Natal and contain edible fruits namely Carissa macrocarpa and Harpephyllum caffrum, as a source of secondary metabolites and essential dietary elements, because of their claimed medicinal value and nutritional potential. The analytical results indicate that the fruits are a good source of essentiary dietary elements and can contribute to the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for most nutrients. Phytochemical analysis shows that the fruits of C. macrocarpa are rich in the pharmacologically active pentacyclic triterpenoids whose immune boosting properties are well-known. The fruits can therefore be consumed to boost the immune system in areas where immune boosting supplements are out of reach. The fruits of H. caffrum were found to be rich in the flavan- 3-ol antioxidant, (+)-catechin. The fruits can therefore be used as a substitute for antioxidant supplements taken in Western and European countries. This study lends scientific credence and validity to the ethnomedicinal use of these plants and reveals the nutritional and medicinal benefits of consuming the indigenous edible fruits. It also adds to the growing body of research on indigenous medicinal plants.