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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

Kovsie bounces back from heart surgery and raises the bar
2017-07-10

Description: Kovsie bounces back from heart surgery and raises the bar Tags: Gymnastics, Charissa Worthmann, University of the Free State, Biokinetics, Department of Zoology and Entomology 

Charissa Worthmann, a gymnast and postgraduate Biokinetics
student at the UFS, overcame heart surgery earlier this year
and excelled at her sport. Photo: Supplied



“Life is too short to abandon what sets you on fire. Find your passion, work hard at it and be great. You will never look back and wish otherwise.” These are the words that postgraduate student Charissa Worthmann lives by, and which have encouraged her to pursue her dream of being a gymnast.

Humble beginnings
After undergoing heart surgery earlier this year, Charissa bounced back stronger than ever. She went on to win five regional gold medals at the Free State Gymnastics Championships in February 2017 and was also crowned Free State Victrix Ludorum. In October 2016 she won a gold medal for her apparatus routine at the South African GymnasticsChampionships.

Charissa, who is currently doing her honours in Biokinetics at the University of the Free State (UFS), said coming from a small town was not always an advantage. “I come from a small town in KwaZulu-Natal where there are not many opportunities. Therefore there was no gymnastics. I found my natural talent, but never had the opportunity to develop it before coming to the UFS.”

Inspired by lecturer
Charissa’s inspiration is Prof Liesl van As, Associate Professor from the Department of Zoology and Entomology. She is also completing her undergraduate Zoology modules to later complete her postgraduate studies in Zoology. “As a student, our lecturers don’t often realise it, but they shape us to aim higher in life.”

According to Charissa, Prof van As is a woman of pure brilliance who has aspects that every woman should aspire to: Beauty, intelligence and a drive to succeed. “I owe a vast majority of my success to her, because even though she may not realise it, her motivational attitude and success in life drove me to succeed in areas of my life.”

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