Journal of
Medicinal Plants Research

  • Abbreviation: J. Med. Plants Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0875
  • DOI: 10.5897/JMPR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 3749


Woody species from the Mozambican Miombo woodlands: A review on their ethnomedicinal uses and pharmacological potential

Isabel Moura
  • Isabel Moura
  • Plant-Environment Interactions and Biodiversity Lab (Plant Stress and Biodiversity), LEAF- Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food, School of Agriculture (ISA), University of Lisbon (ULisboa), Portugal.
  • Google Scholar
Jossias Alberto Duvane
  • Jossias Alberto Duvane
  • Faculty of Sciences, Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, Mozambique.
  • Google Scholar
Maria José Silva
  • Maria José Silva
  • Plant-Environment Interactions and Biodiversity Lab (Plant Stress and Biodiversity), LEAF- Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food, School of Agriculture (ISA), University of Lisbon (ULisboa), Portugal.
  • Google Scholar
Natasha Ribeiro
  • Natasha Ribeiro
  • Faculty of Agronomy and Forest Engineering, Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, Mozambique.
  • Google Scholar
Isabel Ribeiro-Barros
  • Isabel Ribeiro-Barros
  • Plant-Environment Interactions and Biodiversity Lab (Plant Stress and Biodiversity), LEAF- Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food, School of Agriculture (ISA), University of Lisbon (ULisboa), Portugal.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 13 November 2017
  •  Accepted: 02 January 2018
  •  Published: 10 January 2018


Miombo woodlands cover about two thirds of Mozambique national territory. They provide a wide collection of goods and services to the formal and informal economies. A review on the traditional uses of 15 Miombo tree species in human and animal health, as well as the status of research towards the identification of bioactive compounds is presented. Among the 15 species selected, 12 have been screened for their biological activity and/or pharmacological properties and/or toxicity. The information gathered in this work is a key to further exploit potential new uses and future opportunities for research and valorization of the selected species.

Key words: Ethnobotanical, medicinal plants, Miombo woodlands, non timber forest products.


Miombo is the most widespread deciduous woodland formation in Africa, stretching across southern Africa in a belt from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the west to Mozambique in the east, covering an area of about 2.7 km2 (Campbell, 1996). It is characterized by the dominance of few woody species in the genera Brachystegia (Miombo in local languages), Julbernardia and Isoberlinia (Fabaceae family). However, plant diversity is significant with 8,500 species, half of which are endemic and 4% are trees (Ribeiro, 2007; Dewees et al., 2011).Species composition and structure of Miombo woodlands vary along a rainfall gradient across the Miombo ecoregion (Campbell, 1996). Consequently, Miombo woodlands are divided into dry and wet according to the zone rainfall. Besides the interest of their biodiversity, Miombo woodlands also play an important environmental role in energy, water and carbon balances (Campbell, 1996). Over the last decades, the ecological dynamics of Miombo has been progressively disturbed by a combination of changes in the global climatic pattern, herbivory/grazing and human activities (Ribeiro, 2007).
There is an increased concern that such scenarium may result in a considerable loss of the woodlands, with changes in biodiversity and biomass causing modifications on the pattern of goods and services provided by the ecosystem. In Mozambique, Miombo woodlands occur north of Limpopo River and occupy approximately two-thirds of the country, dry Miombo being the most common type (White, 1983). Dry Miombo has a structure of an "open forest" with two strata: the upper storey composed of woody vegetation and the lower storey composed of grass and herbaceous elements. The vegetation is floristically poorer than the wet Miombo and is dominated by the presence of Brachystegia spiciformis, B. boehmii and Julbernardia globiflora. Canopy height is generally less than 15 m in height (Ribeiro, 2007). According to the National Statistics Institute (INE, 2016) about 70% of Mozambican population live in rural areas relying directly upon a variety of products harvested from the woodlands for their daily subsistence as well as for their economic, spiritual and cultural needs (Bruschi et al., 2014). 
Non-timber forest products (NTFP) have always constituted a large part of the forest economy in developing countries by providing supplementary income to many households. However, the real value of NTFPs, such as wild fruits, honey and medicinal plants is still underestimated and the national Gross Domestic Product does not account for most of them. The raising interest in NTFPs is a result of the search for ways to promote development while at the same time protecting the environment (Kusters and Belcher, 2004). Medicinal plants are an important part of the culture and traditions of African people (Fennell et al., 2004). Particularly in rural areas people are very dependent on plant medicines as a consequence of the lack of formal health care facilities (Clarke et al., 1996). Roots, leaves and barks of many species from Miombo regions are used to treat common ailments and people are generally very knowledgeable about which plants can be used and how to prepare them (Clarke et al., 1996). 
In addition to the importance of medicinal plants for local use, they are important sources of income and some are internationally marketed. In the last decades there has been an increased interest in traditional pharmacopoeias with researchers involved in determining the scientific rationale for the plant’s usage and also in the discovery of novel compounds of pharmaceutical value (Fennell et al., 2004). The purpose of this paper is to gather comprehensive information on the uses of 15 tree species from dry Zambezian Miombo, focusing on their applications in human and animal health in Mozambique and also in other countries where these species occurr. It also intends  to give an overview of the scientific information concerning the  pharmacological potential and safe medicinal use. The information combined in this work will be valuable to further exploit potential new uses and future opportunities for research and valorization of Miombo species as well as to enhance the need for their preservation.


An extensive literature retrieval from scientific journals, books, reports, theses and conference papers was used to obtain the required information. Key words included plant species and recognized author names. Personal contacts were made with Miombo researchers for less accessible literature. Data collected included ethnomedicinal uses and research on biological and pharmacological activities of the selected tree species. Scientific names were validated via The Plant List (
Selection of tree species
Fifteen tree species from dry Miombo woodlands were selected for this review (Table 1). Across Miombo woodlands these species are used for multiple purposes, such as timber, charcoal and firewood, food, honey collection and raw materials for different activities (Bruschi et al., 2014). The selected species were also identified as the most ecologically important by Ribeiro (2007) in one of the most pristine Miombo areas in Africa, the Niassa National Reserve, located in Northern Mozambique. The area is classified as “dry Zambezian Miombo woodland” with intrusions of East African coastal elements (White, 1983). Additionally, according to Timberlake et al. (2004) the Miombo woodlands in Niassa National Reserve are representative of the woodlands in the ecoregion in terms of vegetation structure and composition.


Overview on ethnobotanical and biocompound research
Ethnomedicine and pharmacology
The 15 plants selected tree species are used in traditional medicine practices (Table 2) in Mozambique (Ribeiro et al., 2010) and other Southern Africa countries such as Tanzania (Amri and Kisangu, 2012), Namibia (Cheikhyoussef et al., 2011), or Zambia (Chinsembu, 2016). Roots, including root barks, are the plant part mostly referred for medicinal purposes (32% - considering the references cited in this review) followed by leaves and juvenile twigs (30%), stems and stem bark (28%). The use of fruits (2%) and sap (2%) is also referred (Table 2 and Figure 1). Depending on the purpose and the region and/or ethnic group, all plant parts are used, from juvenile twigs to roots. Most of the selected tree species are used to treat, prevent or alleviate complaints caused by the four main groups of diseases in Africa, which include diarrhea, malaria, sexually transmitted diseases and respiratory ilnesses (including hypertension) (Bandeira et al., 2001). Other applications include the treatment of other frequent illnesses such as mental diseases, rheumatism/arthritis, malnutrition/anemia and parasitic infections (Bandeira et al., 2001) as well as wounds and disorders caused by different poisons (Bester, 2006; Ruijter, 2008). Some of the selected plants have been screened for their biological and pharmacological activity (ies) using appropriate in vitro and, sometimes, in vivo tests (Table 3). Of the 15 plants selected for this study, 12 (80%) have proven biological and pharmacological activities (Table 3). In some cases, isolation of the active compounds and pharmacological tests provided scientific validation.
Annona senegalensis: A. senegalensis is known by its great medicinal value in Mozambique and other African countries. Different parts of the plant, from leaves to stem bark and roots are used in the management of a wide range of ailments ranging from gastrointestinal disturbances and respiratory system disorders to sexually transmitted diseases (Table 2). Antidiarrheal and antibacterial properties of A. senegalensis stem bark, namely against Escherichia coli and two species of Salmonella responsibles for serious gastrointestinal disorders have been reported (Suleiman et al., 2008; Awa et al., 2012) (Table 3). Root bark also revealed high antibacterial activity (Okoye et al., 2012b) and anticonvulsant properties with pronounced hypnotic and muscle relaxant effects in mice (Okoye et al., 2010). Kaureonic acid (a diterpenoid) was identified as the possible phytoconstituent responsible for antibacterial effects and also for anticonvulsant properties (epilepsy and febrile seizures) of the root bark (Konate et al., 2012; Okoye et al., 2012b, 2013), whose extracts proved to be safe at lower doses tested (Okoye et al., 2012a).
Cytotoxicity against some human tumor cell lines was detected in essential oils from leaves (Ahmed et al., 2010). These oils also presented cytotoxicity in brine shrimp lethality (Ahmed et al., 2010). Leaf and stem bark extracts showed great potential against trypanosomiasis (Ogbadoyi et al., 2007; Ugwu et al. 2011). Fractions of leaf methanolic extract neutralized lethal toxicity induced by the viper Echis ocellatus venom (Emmanuel et al., 2014). Leaves and stem bark showed some anthelmintic properties that may support the use of this plant by local farmers in traditional animal healthcare (Alawa et al., 2003). Promising ovicidal, larvicidal and pupicidal activity against malarial and filarial mosquito vectors was detected in fractions of leaf extracts by Lame et al. (2015).
Diplorhynchus condylocarpon: D. condylocarpon is used in traditional medicine to treat ailments such as diarrhea, cough and tuberculosis and headache (Table 2). Scientific studies revealed the presence of alcaloids in both stem and root bark and aqueous root extracts were reported as sympatholytic (Ruijter, 2008).
Species of the Combretaceae family are amongst the most widely used plants for traditional medicinal purposes in southern Africa (Cock and Van Vuuren, 2015). Many species of Combretum and Terminalia genera are used for their antibacterial, antifungal, antiprotozoal, antiviral, antidiarrheal, analgesic, antimalarial, antioxidant, anti‑inflammatory and anticancer activities (Cock, 2015).
Combretum spp.: African traditional healers use leaves, stem bark and roots of C. hereroense to treat a number of ailments (Table 2). Indications are often related to treat infections. Leaf extracts of the C. hereroense and C. zeyheri inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecallis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and E. coli isolates (Cock and Van Vuuren, 2015). Antibacterial activity against Mycobacterium fortuitum and S. aureus was also detected in stem-bark extracts of C. hereroense (Fyhrquist et al., 2004). Leaves, stem bark and fruits of both species presented antifungal activity against different Candida spp. (Cock and Van Vuuren, 2015; Fyhrquist et al., 2004; Mangoyi et al., 2015; Masoko et al., 2007; Mutasa et al., 2015; Runyoro et al., 2013). Anti-inflammatory activities (inhibition of hematopoietic prostaglandin D2 synthase) were detected in leaves of both species (Chimponda and Mukanganyama, 2015; Eloff et al., 2001; McGaw et al., 2001).
Leaf extracts of C. hereroense were also referred as anthelmintic (McGaw et al., 2001). Potential anticancer activity in C. hereroense leaf extracts (McGaw et al., 2001) and cytotoxicity against a human cancer cell line in C. zeyheri stem bark extracts (Nibret et al., 2010) were reported. Antiproliferative activity of bloodstream form of Trypanosoma brucei was also reported for stem bark extracts of C. zeyheri (Madamombe-Manduna et al., 2015). Leaf extracts of this species also revealed strong antioxidant activity (Chirisa and Mukanganyama, 2016). Toxicity tests were negative for C. hereroense leaf extracts (Cock and Van Vuuren, 2015). These scientific studies partially validate the usage of Combretaceae in traditional systems and many therapeutic properties of the Combretaceae may be attributable to their antimicrobial activity.
Terminalia spp.: Terminalia is a genus comprising 200 to 250 species widely used in traditional medicine systems (Table 2). The last decade has seen a large increase in the number of studies into the use of Terminalia species as therapeutic agents. Several species used in Ayurvedic medicine, such as T. arjuna, T. bellerica, T. catappa and T. chebula, have received much recent attention (Cock, 2015). Terminalia species are used for their antibacterial, antifungal, antiprotozoal, antiviral, antidiarrheal, analgesic, antimalarial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities. Wound healing and cardiovascular effects have also been credited to some species (Cock, 2015). T. stenostachya was found to exhibit antimicrobial activity against S. aureus, S. epidermidis, Baccillus subtilis and Enterobacter aerogenes (Fyhrquist et al., 2002). Root, stem bark and leaf extracts showed considerable activity against a wide range of microorganisms (Mbwambo et al., 2011).
The antibacterial activity exhibited by the extracts specifically against some Mycobacterium spp., indicate that these extracts could be effective against M. tuberculosis (Mbwambo et al., 2011). Leaves and fruit extracts exhibited activity against M. smegmatis (Fyhrquist et al., 2014) and stem bark and leaf extracts showed activity against three species of Candida (Fyhrquist et al., 2004). According to Mbwambo et al. (2011) the whole antiprotozoal, antifungal and antimicrobial activity shown by the extracts of T. stenostachya corroborate well with the traditional uses for treatment of HIV/AIDS-associated secondary infections, like tuberculosis, malaria, stomach ulcers and candidiasis. Stem bark extracts exhibited cytotoxic activity against human cancer cell lines (Fyhrquist et al., 2006). The brine shrimp test results have shown that stem bark, root and leaf extracts had mild and/or no toxicity (Mbwambo et al., 2011).
Monotes engleri: Few authors refer the use of M. engleri in traditional medicine (Table 2). However, some studies were carried out concerning the potential medicinal properties of this species. Meragelman et al. (2001) isolated flavonoids exhibiting HIV-inhibitory activity from leaf extracts of M. engleri and antifungal activity against Candida albicans was reported by Kenez et al. (2008).
Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Brachystegia spp.: Brachystegia boehmii and B.spiciformis are referred in the literature as being used in traditional medicine (Table 2). Extracts from B. boehmii leaves exhibited bacteriostatic activity against S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, E. coli, Bacillus cereus and B. subtilis (Chitemerere and Mukanganyama, 2011) and significant anti-inflammatory activity (Chirisa and Mukanganyama, 2016). However, the potential of these species for medicinal use is poorly exploited.
Burkea africana: B. africana is used in traditional African medicine for the management of different health conditions (Table 2). B. africana is known to be rich in antioxidant sources and high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants have been reported in stem bark extracts (Cordier at al., 2013). Mathisen et al. (2002) investigated the bark of B. africana for antioxidant and radical scavenging activity. Hydroethanol bark extract showed excellent antioxidant, radical scavenging and 15-lipoxygenase inhibitor activity. The active constituents were identified as proanthocyanidins and the effects, to a large extent, were attributed to the presence of profisetinidin-type proanthocyanidins (Mathisen et al., 2002). However, some cytotoxicity was observed, requiring further isolation and purification of polyphenolic-rich fractions aiming to identify and to eliminate cytotoxic elements (Cordier et al., 2013). Such refinement could increase the potential of the polyphenolic-rich fraction of stem bark to be used as an antioxidant supplement for oxidative stress-related disorders (Cordier et al., 2013). According to Tanko et al. (2011), B. africana stem bark extracts possess pharmacological activity against diarrhea.
Root bark methanol extracts revealed the presence of saponins, flavonoids, aglycones, tannins, antraquinones, cardiac glycosides, unsaturated steroids and triterpenes (Yaro et al., 2015) and showed anticonvulsant properties (Yaro et al., 2010, 2015). Roots also revealed antibacterial activity against Salmonella typhi (Mbatchou et al., 2011) and root bark against S. aureus and E. coli (Tor-Anyiin and Anyam, 2013). Danjuma et al. (2011) showed that methanol leaf extracts of B. africana contained phytochemical constituents with analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities, and had the potential to be used in the management of pain and inflammatory conditions. Dzoyem and Eloff (2015) confirmed the anti-inflammatory, anticholinesterase and antioxidant activity of B. africana leaf extracts. According to these authors, the results obtained validated the use of leaf extracts of this plant in South African traditional medicine against inflammation and might be of value in the management of various diseases emerging from oxidative stress and related degenerative disorders.
Dalbergia nitidula: The genus Dalbergia has been shown to possess various pharmacological activities including analgesic, antipyretic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiarrheal, antiulcerogenic, antigiardial, antiplasmodial, antifertility, cancer chemopreventive as well as larvicidal and mosquito repellent properties (Mutai et al., 2013). The occurrence of isoflavones, isoflavanones (including the rare flavonoid 3-hydroxiso-flavanone), neoflavones, sterols, anthraquinones, cinnamyl esters and triterpenes in this genus have been reported (Mutai et al., 2013; Vasudeva et al., 2009). So far, few species have been screened for their biological activity (Vasudeva et al., 2009). Leaves and roots of D. nitidula were reported to be used in traditional medicine in east and southern Africa (Table 2). Leaf extracts of D. nitidula showed a low cytotoxicity and high antimicrobial and antioxidant activity, representing a promising candidate for pharmaceutical industry (Dzoyem et al., 2014).
Julbernardia globiflora: Although roots, barks and leaves of J. globiflora have been recorded to be toxic, various plant parts are used in traditional African medicine, mainly externally (Table 2). To our knowledge no pharmacological studies were carried out to validate ethnomedicinal uses of this species.
Pterocarpus angolensis: Traditionally, all parts of the Pterocarpus angolensis are used for medicinal purposes (Table 2). The bark with its blood-red, gummy, resinous exudate is used as a powerful astringent, e.g. to treat diarrhea, heavy menstruation, nose bleeding, headache, stomach-ache, parasitic worms, sores and skin problems (Takawira-Nyenya, 2005). Pharmacological studies on P. angolensis revealed antibacterial activity of seeds (Steenkamp et al., 2004), stem bark, roots and leaf extracts (Luseba et al., 2007; Mulaudzi et al., 2011; Samie et al., 2009) and antifungal activity of leaf and bark extracts (Mulaudzi et al., 2011). The latter also showed HIV-1 reverse transcriptase inhibitory activity (Mulaudzi et al., 2011) as well as anthelmintic effects (McGaw et al., 2007; Molgaard et al., 2001). Anti-inflammatory activity was also detected in stem bark extracts (Mulaudzi et al., 2013). Samie et al. (2009) demonstrated the presence of epichatechin and derivatives (with strong antibacterial activities but generally weak activities against Entamoeba histolytica) in stem barks.
Bersama abyssinica: Bark, leaf and root decoctions of B. abyssinica are widely taken to treat a range of health disorders including intestinal worms (Table 3). However, all plant parts are poisonous; therefore dosage is critical for internal use (Bosch, 2008). Ethanol extracts of leaves and twigs revealed antiproliferative activity against Hep-G2 carcinoma cell lines (Tauchen et al., 2015). Methanol extract of the root bark exhibited potent inhibition of HIV-1 replication (Asres et al., 2001). Root and root bark extracts showed antibacterial and antifungal activities (Bolou et al., 2011; Geyid et al., 2005; Lulekal et al., 2014).
Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia: Stem bark, roots and leaves of P. maprouneifolia are used to treat pulmonary and abdominal disorders (Augustino et al., 2011; Schmelzer, 2008). Other medicinal uses include venereal diseases, dizziness, wounds and snakebites (Augustino et al., 2011; Schmelzer, 2008). Many important medicinal uses against different infectious ailments have been reported for P. maprouneifolia. However, to our knowledge, much remains to exploit in order to understand the medical potentialities of this species.
Catunaregam spinosa: C. spinosa (also known as Randia dumetorum) is used in African an Asian traditional medicinal practices (Table 2). It is considered as a usual drug of choice for Ayurvedic physicians as a result of the different therapeutic properties like emetic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, antiallergic, anthelminthic, immunomodulatory, analgesic and, wound healing mention a few (Prakash, 2015). C. spinosa extracts mainly contains glycosides, triterpenoid glycoside and saponins (Prakash, 2015). Triterpenoid saponins were isolated from stem bark extracts (Gao et al., 2010, 2011) and two of the compounds isolated (catunaregin and epicatunaregin) exhibited moderate inhibition against the mammary cancer F10 cell line (Gao et al., 2010). Leaf extracts showed antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, human cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 inhibitory effects and a prominent protection of DNA (Shailasree et al., 2014). Antifeedant activity against the pest Plutella xylostella was detected in components (triterpenoid saponins) of the stem bark (Gao et al., 2011). C. spinosa use should be treated with caution, as studies have shown that it can cause damage to genetic material (Fennell et al., 2004).



Miombo woodlands are very important to informal and formal economies in Mozambique and other southern Africa countries, providing valuable sources of wood; edible plant products and mushrooms; fiber and related products; insect products (honey and bee wax, edible insects); medicinal plants, among others. The important wood products obtained from Miombo woodland include timber, firewood, charcoal, materials for fencing and making farm tools, household and handicraft items (Clarke et al., 1996). The high collection of woody resources leads to their over-exploitation, negatively impacting plant diversity and conservation of the Miombo ecosystem. Charcoal production is a very important forestry activity in Africa and one of the major factors responsible for high rates of deforestation. The charcoal market is the largest among the forestry products in Mozambique, rural communities depending exclusively on firewood for cooking, while in suburban areas charcoal is the major source of energy for cooking (Salomão and Matose, 2008).
However, Miombo woodland provide a wide range of other products that appear in smaller quantities, including medicines and wild foods, which provide a living for several families (Clarke et al., 1996). There is a growing interest on how non-wood forest products can contribute to livelihood security and to generate income. Miombo ecosystem remains an untapped source of natural bioactive molecules, such as pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmetics or agrochemicals. Nowadays there are new and niche emerging markets for forest products as a result of consumer demand for “green” and “fair trade” products (Dewees et al., 2011) and the commercialization of products derived from indigenous plants may provide additional income to rural communities. Research on ethnobotany can bring value to local knowledge and contribute to put natural resources at the service of those communities. Interest in medicinal plants has been expanding globally due to their importance to basic healthcare, local markets and industry.
There has been an increasing effort to isolate and characterize new active ingredients from plants, as many conventional drugs fail due to the development of resistance. For major diseases such as cancer, some good examples of efficient remedies obtained from plants are already available. An impressive number of modern drugs have been isolated from plants, often based on their ethnomedical use. The inclusion of plants with pharmacological potential in the human diet may also contribute to diminish the need for medicines (WHO, 2003). Miombo tree species, namely Caesalpinoideae (Fabaceae) and Combretaceae, are often rich in phenolic compounds. A diet rich in antioxidants is associated with a decreased incidence of chronic diseases. High antioxidant levels have also been shown to act as a preventive measure against the development of degenerative disease such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, neural degeneration, diabetes and obesity (Cock, 2015). Some of the species already described can be highlighted for their therapeutical interest: A. senegalensis, C. hereroense, C. zeyheri, B. africana, P. angolensis and B. abyssinica. A considerable number of studies concerning chemical composition, pharmacological action and toxicity have been conducted with promising results against important ailments, such as parasitic, bacterial and fungal infections, as anticonvulsants, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories (Table 3).
T. stenostachya is also a species with potential for the pharmaceutical industry as it has shown a wide range of antibacterial activity, specifically against mycobacteria, indicating that it may be a good source of antimicrobial compounds and is worth further development (Mbwambo et al., 2011). It is also important to highlight less studied species such as J. globiflora, P. maprouneifolia and D. condylocarpon which are widely used in traditional medicine and need detailed phytochemical and pharmacological studies. Particular attention should be given to species with strong potential to treat major diseases, e.g. M. engleri, B. abyssinica and P. angolensis (anti-viral) (Asres et al., 2001; Meragelman et al., 2001; Mulaudzi et al., 2013); A. senegalensis, C. zeyheri, T. stenostachya and C. spinosa (anti-tumoral) (Ahmed et al, 2010; Fyhrquist et al., 2006; Gao et al., 2010; Nibret et al., 2010); Burkea africana (glaucoma) (Dzoyem and Eloff, 2015). Attention should also be given to potentially new eco-friendly pesticides providers such as Annona senegalensis (Lame et al., 2015) and Catunaregam spinosa (Gao et al., 2011). The safety and efficacy of traditional medicine has been demonstrated by its long historical use.
However, much remains to be studied. Besides the quality of the natural products there must be safety guarantees concerning toxicity and knowledge about e.g. secondary effects, interactions, counter-indications, mutagenicity and also the existence of pharmacological studies and clinical experimentation proving their efficacy (Fennell et al., 2004). Attention must also be given to the collection of medicinal plants and other non-timber forest products, as wide-spread harvesting puts pressure on natural populations. Little research has been done on sustainable harvesting rates for non-wood products (Shackleton and Clarke, 2011). Impacts from fruit removal, provided no damage is done to the trees, seem small (Shackleton and Clarke, 2011). However, according to Bruschi et al. (2014), reproductive ability of the species, including seed production and seed dispersal, can be of critical importance in population dynamics, and should be taken into consideration in the context of sustainable harvesting of useful plants. For example, Brachystegia, Julbernardia, and other Caesalpinioideae such as P. angolensis show an extremely low capacity for seed dispersal and produce short-lived seeds thus reducing the community resilience.
P. angolensis is included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, in the category lower risk/near threatened (World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1998). Harvesting of the bark for different uses such as medicines, rope fiber or for making beehives can be highly destructive for the trees. The growing interest in medicinal plants from both international industry and local markets requires management of tree bark harvesting from natural forests in order to prevent inappropriate exploitation of target species (Delvaux et al., 2009). A number of methods for reducing the negative impact of bark harvesting have been proposed and tested, these include: the use of leaves to obtain medicinal products rather than bark; obtaining bark from woody material that has already been cut; improved harvesting methods that prevent ring barking and reduce fungal infection (Shackleton and Clarke, 2011). Bark regrowth response of a selected number of medicinal tree species as a basis for the development of optimal bark harvesting method is also being studied (Delvaux et al., 2009).


The 15 tree species selected for this review are used in traditional medicine practices in Mozambique and other countries from the ecoregion. Twelve species have proven biological and pharmacological activities. In most cases, isolation of the active compounds and/or pharmacological tests provided scientific validation. Most of the species are rich in anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, which are known to prevent several chronical and degenerative diseases. Besides that many are described as promising sources of therapeuticaal agents against important ailments, such as parasitic, bacterial and fungal infections and six revealed potential anti cancer activity. The information gathered in this paper reflects the richness of the natural and cultural heritage from the Miombo woodlands. Local Knowledge Systems (LKS) have an immeasurable value in community health, nutrition, education, cultural heritage and conservation, and when integrated with scientific knowledge constitute one of the pillars of bio-based socio-economic development. However, much is still to be investigated to unravel the potential of these tree species for multipurpose uses. In parallel, the development of adequate conservation strategies and ex-situ tree propagation methods will be of utmost importance to ensure the sustainable use of those resources.


The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests.


The authors thank the Portuguese Cooperation through Camões, Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua, Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia through the contribution to IRRI/CGIAR and to Research unit LEAF (UID/AGR/04129/2013).


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