This work aims to study the potential and importance of wild edible plants (WEPs) as antioxidants in treating different diseases caused by free radicals. A total of 67 species belonging to 50 genera under 36 families and naturally growing in Ethiopia were recorded after assessing all available documents. About 16.2% of the total (413) WEPs were recorded in the country. The plant families with more number of species known to have antioxidants are Amaranthaceae and Moraceae 7 species each. Fruits are the dominant edible parts followed by leaves. Compounds such as tannins, oxalates and phenolic acids are the major contributors to the antioxidant activity of vegetables, fruits and medicinal plants. Plants also have many phytochemicals which are a potential source of natural antioxidants such as phenolic diterpenes, flavonoids, flavonols, alkaloids, iridoids and saponins, High consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a lowered occurrence of cancer, heart disease, inflammation, arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes. Antioxidant components including vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoid, and plant polyphenols appeared to play a key role in reducing the development of such diseases. This review gives a general overview of the antioxidant properties of different parts of WEPs in a single volume and ease selection of the best species for further research. The chemical composition, antioxidant contents and energy values of wild plants consumed by Ethiopians indicated that they provide key nutrients such as carbohydrates minerals and vitamins. The plants will be lost along with their valuable nutrients and indigenous knowledge without proper management and conservation in the right places and habitats.
Keywords: antioxidant, Ethiopia, health benefit, phytochemicals, wild edible plants.
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