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The therapeutic use of medicinal plants in Africa dates back to the earliest times. The Ebers papyrus (1500 BC), one of the oldest surviving medical texts, includes over 870 prescriptions and formulas, 700 medical herbs-including gentian (Gentiana lutea)-and covers conditions ranging from chest complaints to crocodile bite. 
 
The medicinal parts put forward in this and other Egyptian texts formed the intellectual foundation of classical medical practice in Greece, Rome and the Arabic world.
 
In Berber culture, possession by a djinn (spirit) is a major cause of sickness, and herbs with "magical" properties were given to restore health. If the patient fails to recover,  it was likely to be attributed to a curse or to the "evil eye". 
 
The herbs in Africa are still being identified for their medicinal values. Among them the benefits of pygeum (Pygeum africanum) have been conclusively established in treating urinary problems. Of the other plants currently under investigation, two shrubs, Bridelia ferruginous (found in eastern and western grasslands) and Indigofera arrecta (found in tropical areas), show promise in the treatment of diabetes.

 

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