Tribal Remedy Plundered
a Natural Anti-Depressant
Daily Express, Micro Edition
12 November 2000
Tribal remedy plundered
FROM JANE FLANAGAN IN BONGOLETHU, SOUTH AFRICA
ONE of Africa's oldest tribes who discovered "Nature's Prozac"
thousands of years ago is set to lose out on a multi-million pound
deal to market the remedy worldwide.
Sceletium, a rare creeper which grows only in the Cape region of
South Africa and is known locally as Kanna, has been used by the
Khoisan tribe since prehistoric times.
Scientists have spent years unlocking the plant's secrets. The
patent rights to develop it as a natural alternative to the
anti-depressant drug Prozac are now on the market.
Kanna is described as ideal "for use in the treatment of depression,
anxiety, alcohol and drug dependence, bulimia and compulsive
A doctor at Pharma
Natura, the Johannesburg-based drugs company which is selling the
patent rights, predicted: "It will one day be like aspirin -everyone
will take it." Tribal leaders are resentful that they will not
profit from the commercial development of their ancestors'
Solomon Mahlaba, chairman of a traditional healers' committee set up
to advise the South African government on the use of indigenous
plants, said: "We have passed on our knowledge, but we receive
nothing in return. It is another example of the way indigenous
people continue to be exploited." Although legislation is being
considered that will give tribes the right to reimbursement in
exchange for their expertise, any sharing of profits is