Indigenous South African Medicinal Plants

  • Sahir Petkar
  • Alvaro Viljoen


Botany: Mentha longifolia (Lamiaceae), also known as wild mint, is widely distributed throughout southern Africa, occurring in most parts of South Africa, as well as in parts of Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, three different subspecies of Mentha longifolia are recognised; M longifolia subsp wissii (Launert) Codd (Cape velvet mint) is known from only two localities, Brandberg (Namibia) and near Garies in Namaqualand. Mentha longifolia subsp capensis (Thunb) Briq is the most widespread taxon in South Africa and usually has a strong peppermint scent. Mentha longifolia subsp polyadena Briq (spearmint) has a disjunct distribution occurring in Gauteng, Swaziland, northern KwaZulu-Natal, eastern Free State and northern Lesotho and the southern Cape. It is also found between Humansdorp and the Swartberg. This summary is restricted to the latter species. The plant is a perennial herb common in wet places, with creeping rhizomes below the ground and erect flowering stems of up to 0.8 m in height. All parts are highly aromatic with a typical mint smell. The leaves appear opposite each other in pairs along the stems, which are square in cross-section. Small white or pale purple flowers are borne in elongated clusters on the tips of the stems.1

Author Biographies

Sahir Petkar
Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, University of the Witwatersrand
Alvaro Viljoen
(PhD), Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology
Medicinal Plants