Ancient groups of hunter gatherers living in south west Africa depended on native plants for food and medicine. One of the most important functional food plants of the San people was the stamina-building Sceletium tortuosum (L.) N.E. Br. (Fam. Mesembryanthemaceae).
Khoi-san, the unique African tribal people
connected to our first ancestors, they are originators and proprietors of the traditional nutritional use of Sceletium tortuosum. Pictured above is a typical appearance of a Khoi-san pastoralist, inhabitant of Namaqualand. (Smith et al.,1996; and Gericke and Viljoen, 2008)
The San and Khoikhoi people
Based on National Geographic’s Genographic Project, summarized in the book, The Journey of Man by Spencer Wells, it is believed that the direct ancestors of modern humans lived in southern Africa about 60,000 years ago. These earliest groups of modern humans have their present-day descendants among the San and Khoikhoi people (Khoi-san) inhabiting the south- western portion of Africa known as Namaqualand.
The San are the archetypical hunters and gatherers who lived harsh and demanding lives. Their intimate knowledge of nature enabled them to secure all their food, medicine and material needs from the wild, and to thrive for tens of thousands of years in the most challenging environments. One of the most important functional food plants of the San people was the stamina-building Sceletium tortuosum (L.) N.E. Br. (Fam. Mesembryan- themaceae). This plant is native to Namaqualand an arid region of Namibia and South Africa, extending along the west (Atlantic) coast over 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) Namaqualand, southwest South Africa and covering a total area of 440,000 square kilometres (170,000 sq mi). The botanical name of the plant has been derived from the Latin sceletus meaning “skeleton,” which refers to the prominent vein markings visible in the leaves.