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South African Herbal Science and Medicine Institute - Research Interests and Current Projects

The South African Herbal Science & Medicine Institute at the University of The western cape strives to be a world class research institution, focussed on scientifically and clinically unlocking the value of traditional medicines in the service of humanity.SAHSMI is located at the heart of one of the worlds most biodiverse hotspots an area which is known for its diversity of unique plant species and the historical richness of indigenous knowledge about their use in traditional medicines. 

Prof. Gail D. Hughes

Professor Hughes is the Director of South African Herbal Science and Medicine Institute. Her research training is in epidemiology with practical clinical research/trial expertise from pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. Her research interest is the investigation of phytomedicines (indigenous medicinal plants) for HIV/AIDS and chronic non-communicable diseases.

Current research interests and projects:

  • PURE-TM (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiologic-Traditional Medicine)-Collaboration with UWC’s School of  Public Health. This study investigates prevalence, utilization and dual integration of indigenous plant medicine and conventional medicine for diabetes, hypertension, and stroke.

  • Use of select herbal medicines for palliative care(Collaboration with University of Missouri-Columbia)

  • Role of traditional practitioners in youth violence. (Collaboration with University of Missouri-Kansas City)

  • MUTHI-Multi-University Traditional Herbal Initiative—This is an EU-PF7 funded seven institution grant developing human capacity in phytomedicine  research and training.(Collaborators—University of Oslo, University of Bergen, University of Amsterdam, University of Oxford, University of Free State, University of Makerere and Institute of Bamako)

  • Evaluation and Cost Effectiveness of Traditional Herbal Medicine(s) for non-communicable diseases.(Collaboration with University of Missouri-Kansas City)

  • Investigation of Sutherlandia Frutescens as immune modulator in HIV/AIDS patients.

  • Use of indigenous medicines and adherence to treatment regimens among  PMTCT(HIV/AIDS) clients.


Prof James Syce

His present research activities are focused on Traditional Plant Medicines with main current research project/s on: Clinical Trials of Traditional Phytomedicines, Biopharmaceutics of Herbal Products, and TICIPS Projects: The International Center for Indigenous Phytotherapy Studies: HIV/AIDS, Secondary Infections and Immune Modulation. Previous research program had dealt with pro-drugs for targeted delivery of drugs to the lung, rhinovirus-induced accerbations of asthma and Asthma Plant Medicines.

Prof Wilfred Mabusela

His research interests lie mainly in the field of natural product structural studies, and so, particularly as they occur in indigenous medicinal plants of South Africa. He takes interest in a broad range of common natural products such as flavonoids, alkaloids and terpenoids as well as complex carbohydrates, especially those which are implicated in biological or pharmacological activities. However, in line with the fact that in the traditional context, medicinal plant parts are used wholly, we also seek to characterize as many natural products as practically possible, firstly in order to support parallel studies being undertaken in the other research disciplines, and secondly as a means of providing the requisite chemical description, which may facilitate acceptance of medicinal plant based products on the market if and when that becomes necessary.

 Current Projects

  • Phytochemical studies of medicinal plants from a variety of plant families.

  • Method development for the quantitation and routine analysis of key natural products in commonly used herbal materials.
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