African plants have long been the source of important products with nutritional and therapeutical value. Coffee originates from Ethiopia, Strophanthus species are strong arrow poisons and supply cardenolides for use against cardiac insufficiency, the Catharanthus roseus alkaloids are well-known antileukaemic agents - just to mention a few examples. Research is continuing on the vegetable material from this continent in an endeavour to find new compounds of therapeutic interest. An outline is presented here covering the results obtained by the Institute of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry of the University of Lausanne during 15 years work on African plants. The strategy employed for the study of these plants is outlined, covering all aspects from the selection of plant material to the isolation of pure natural products. Different bioactivities have been investigated: the search for new antifungal, molluscicidal and larvicidal agents has been the most important axis. Results are also included for antibacterial, cytotoxicity, anti-inflammatory testing.
Institut de Pharmacognosie et Phytochimie, Universite de Lausanne, BEP, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.