Traditional usage, phytochemistry and pharmacology of the South African medicinal plant Boophone disticha (L.f.) Herb. (Amaryllidaceae)
Ethnopharmacological relevance: Boophone disticha is the most common member of the South African Amaryllidaceae used extensively in traditional medicine of the various indigenous population groups, including the Sotho, Xhosa and Zulu as well as the San. This survey was carried out to identify and highlight areas relevant to the traditional usage of Boophone disticha. Pharmacological aspects were examined with the purpose of reconciling these with the traditional usage of the plant. In relation to phytochemical make-up, particular attention was paid on how its alkaloid constitution might corroborate the various biological effects manifested by the plant. Materials and methods: Information gathering involved the use of four different database platforms, including Google Scholar, ScienceDirect, SciFinders and Scopus. Arrangement and detailing of this information is as reflected in the various sections of the paper. Results: Sixteen categories were identified under which Boophone disticha finds use in traditional medicine. These were shown to include general usage purposes, such as ‘cultural and dietary’, ‘wellbeing’, ‘personal injury’, ‘divinatory purposes’, ‘psychoactive properties’ and ‘veterinary uses’. Furthermore, traditional usage was seen to involve six body systems, including functions pertaining to the circulatory, gastrointestinal, muscular, neurological, respiratory and urinary systems. The four remaining categories relate to use for inflammatory conditions, cancer, malaria and tuberculosis. Overall, three areas were discernible in which Boophone disticha finds most usage, which are (i) ailments pertaining to the CNS, (ii) wounds and infections, and (iii) inflammatory conditions. In addition, several aspects pertaining to the toxic properties of the plant are discussed, including genotoxicity, mutagenicity and neurotoxicity. Conclusion: The widespread ethnic usage of Boophone disticha has justified its standing as a flagship for the Amaryllidaceae and its relevance to South African traditional medicine. Furthermore, its promising pharmacological and phytochemical profiles have stimulated significant interest in the clinical realm, especially in the areas of cancer and motor neuron disease chemotherapy. These collective properties should prove useful in steering the progress of the plant towards a wider audience.