Tribal Remedy Plundered

L1news Daily Express, Micro Edition 12 November 2000


ONE of Africa’s oldest tribes who discovered “Nature’s Prozac” thousands of years ago is set to lose out on a multi-million pound deal to market the remedy worldwide.

Sceletium, a rare creeper which grows only in the Cape region of South Africa and is known locally as Kanna, has been used by the Khoisan tribe since prehistoric times.

Scientists have spent years unlocking the plant’s secrets. The patent rights to develop it as a natural alternative to the anti-depressant drug Prozac are now on the market.

Kanna is described as ideal “for use in the treatment of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug dependence, bulimia and compulsive disorders”.

A doctor at Pharma Natura, the Johannesburg-based drugs company which is selling the patent rights, predicted: “It will one day be like aspirin -everyone will take it.” Tribal leaders are resentful that they will not profit from the commercial development of their ancestors’ discovery.

Solomon Mahlaba, chairman of a traditional healers’ committee set up to advise the South African government on the use of indigenous plants, said: “We have passed on our knowledge, but we receive nothing in return. It is another example of the way indigenous people continue to be exploited.” Although legislation is being considered that will give tribes the right to reimbursement in exchange for their expertise, any sharing of profits is discretionary.

Further Kanna Reading