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Asparagus sekukuniensis (Oberm.) Fellingham & N.L.Mey.: A threatened medicinal plant species used by Vhavenḓa in the Soutpansberg Region, Vhembe Biosphere Reserve, Limpopo province, South Africa

Luambo Jeffrey Ramarumo, Alfred Maroyi, Milingoni Peter Tshisikhawe.

Asparagus sekukuniensis is at risk of extinction in South Africa due to over-collection as herbal medicine. However, there is a scant of literature on the diseases cured by the species, parts used, dosage and how it is administered. Therefore, this study was aimed at documenting ethnomedicinal uses of A. sekukuniensis, in the Soutpansberg Region, Vhembe Biosphere Reserve, Limpopo province, South Africa. Data on ethnomedicinal uses of A. sekukuniensis were gathered with an aid of semi-structured dialogues, observations and guided field walk by 125 participants between May and December 2018. Among the participants, were laypeople (35.2%) and subsistence farmers (14.4%). Specialist herbal healers include child health-care healers (29.6%), wound healers (11.2%) and general healers (9.6%). The recorded uses of A. sekukuniensis include, enhancement of fontanelle closure in an infant (24.8%), convulsions in an infant (22.4%), vaccinating epilepsy in an infant (17.6%), unhealed or cancer related wounds (15.2%), genital wounds (12.0%) and boils (8.0%). Asparagus sekukuniensis appeared to be an important herbal medicine against infant ailments, wounds, infections and infestations. These findings, therefore, call for an evaluation of the phytochemical and pharmacological properties of this species.

Key words: Asparagus sekukuniensis, ethnomedicinal uses, Soutpansberg Region, threatened plant species, Vhavenḓa people, Vhembe Biosphere Reserve

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