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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

Compassion improves psychological well-being and reduces emotional distress
2017-09-27

Description: TEDxUFS   Tags: TEDxUFS

Participants in the Kindness Project sharing a
Random Act of Kindness with the cleaning staff,
Mathabiso Sehlabaka and Madineo Mokoena.
Photo: Thabo Kessah

Various studies have reported that the cultivation and practice of compassion may result in improved self-esteem, a decrease in depression and anxiety, increase in subjective well-being, and overall improvement in physical and psychological health. This is according to Counselling Psychologist, Tobias van den Bergh, during the Kindness Project (KP) on the Qwaqwa Campus.

“Students that are involved in this project have shown statistically significant improvements in overall well-being and compassion towards themselves and others,” said Van den Bergh, the project leader and Head of Department: Student Counselling and Development, Qwaqwa Campus.

“In addition, student participants of the compassion-based intervention showed a decrease in their experience of debilitating emotions and depressive symptoms, as well as a significant increase in measurements of positive affect (an indication of life vitality), self-compassion, and well-being. Humans appear to be genetically programmed to be kind. Studies have shown that the same brain structures that are activated when we procreate (i.e. have sex) or eat chocolates, are activated when we are kind. Thus, it means showing an instinctive predisposition towards compassion for our kin and others. Kindness also appears to be contagious. Whenever we observe kindness or experience kindness ourselves, we are much more likely to be compassionate towards our fellow human beings,” he said.

The KP is based on the Science of Compassion, with participants completing a four-week compassion-based intervention where they learned about and practised self-compassion and compassion towards others. In the last week of the programme, participants completed various Random Acts of Kindness off and on the campus.

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