Sceletium--a review update

J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Oct 28;119(3):653-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2008.07.043. Epub 2008 Aug 8.


It is probable that plants of the genus Sceletium (Mesembryanthemaceae) have been used as masticatories and for the relief of thirst and hunger, to combat fatigue, as medicines, and for social and spiritual purposes by San hunter-gatherers (historically referred to as Bushmen) and Khoi pastoralists (historically referred to as Hottentots) for millennia before the earliest written reports of the uses of these plants by European explorers and settlers. The oral-tradition knowledge of the uses of Sceletium by indigenous peoples has largely been eroded over the last three centuries due to conflicts with settlers, genocidal raids against the San, loss of land, the ravages of introduced diseases, and acculturation. Wild resources of Sceletium have also been severely diminished by over-harvesting, poor veld-management, and possibly also by plant diseases. Sceletium was reviewed almost a decade ago and new results have emerged substantiating some of the traditional uses of one of South Africa's most coveted botanical assets, and suggesting dietary supplement, phytomedicine and new drug applications. This review aims to collate the fragmented information on past and present uses, the alkaloid chemistry and pharmacological evidence generated on Sceletium.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aizoaceae / chemistry*
  • Aizoaceae / classification
  • Alkaloids / chemistry
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Ethnobotany
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Medicine, African Traditional
  • Phytotherapy / adverse effects
  • Phytotherapy / history


  • Alkaloids