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J Ethnopharmacol. 1994 Jul 8;43(2):67-72.

The magical and medicinal usage of Stangeria eriopus in South Africa.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Natal, Durban, South Africa.


The underground caudex of the cycad Stangeria eriopus is used extensively by several ethnic groups in South Africa, mainly as an ingredient in magical potions but also as an emetic. An assessment of two main outlets showed that 3410 plants were sold in the month of July 1992; continued usage of this material now threatens the remaining plant populations. A proximate analysis of the caudex material gives high carbohydrate content with only small percentages of fat, protein, fibre and ash. An unusually high content of sodium sulphate may explain the efficacy of Stangeria-containing preparations as an emetic. The phytosterols sitosterol and stigmasterol are present in a 4:1 ratio while the fatty acid component comprises palmitic, oleic, stearic and arachidic acids. Twelve amino acids were identified in the material, including the non-protein amino acids beta-alanine, gamma-aminobutyric acid and pyroglutamic acid. The candidate neurotoxin beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine could not be detected but cycasin is present at the levels of 0.17% and 0.21% in fresh and dry caudex material, respectively and appears to be accompanied by the related toxin, macrozamin.

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