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Genus: Hoodia (Ghaap)

Ghaap, !khobab [Khoi]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Asterids > Euasterid I > Order: Gentianales > Family: Apocynaceae > Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae

Thirteen species, native to Africa, nearly all of which (12) are native to southern Africa. Hoodia plants are eaten by Khoisan people as appetite-suppressants. The substance causing the reduction in appetite has been extracted and been coded P57.

The 13 species of Hoodia are native to Africa, nearly all of which (12) occur in southern Africa. They fall in the stapeliad group of genera in the subfamily Ascelepiadoideae of the family Apocynaceae. The asclepiads were once a family in their own right. The term 'ghaap' is usually used to refer to Hoodia species but some other members of the stapeliad group of genera are also referred to by this name. 

Hoodia are leafless succulents with fleshy stems that branch at ground level. The flowers smell of decaying meat and attract flies, which pollinate them. Some members of the genus Hoodia were once included under the genus Trichocaulon but the latter genus has since been synonymised with Hoodia. Species once falling under Trichocaulon are loosely referred to as ghaap whereas those species that fell under Hoodia in the strict sense are referred to as bobbejaanghaap (i.e. baboon ghaap). The Trichocaulon group of species have smaller, less thorny stems and usually smaller flowers, and have more edible species than the Hoodia group of species. 

In order to eaten Hoodia, one breaks off a stem, scrape off the spines with a stone, and then eat it fresh, like a cucumber. Stems swell after rain and it is at this time that they are best eaten. They are also sometimes soaked in water to make them swell before being eaten.  

Species native to southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI) and Flora of Zimbabwe.

Hoodia alstonii

 

Hoodia currorii (Ghaap)

Eaten as food and also used as an appetite-suppressant, and for treating indigestion, hypertension, diabetes and stomach ache. See Flora of Zimbabwe.

Hoodia sp.

Hoodia dregei

 

Hoodia flava (Yellow-flowered Ghaap)

Eaten as food and also used as an appetite and thirst suppressant.

 

Hoodia gordonii (Bitter Ghaap)

Bitterghaap [Afrikaans]

Eaten as food and used (puzzlingly) as both an appetite suppressant and an appetite stimulant. Also eaten to cure abdominal pain, possibly caused by peptic ulcers. 

 

Hoodia juttae

 

Hoodia officinalis

Has been used to treat pulmonary tuberculosis and evidently at one time was imported into the USA as a remedy for haemorrhoids.

 

Hoodia parviflora

 

Hoodia pedicellata

 

Hoodia pilifera

Eaten as food and also used as an appetite and thirst suppressant.

 

Hoodia ruschii

 

Hoodia triebneri

 

Publications

  • Bruyns, P.V. 1993. A revision of Hoodia and Lavrania (Asclepiadaceae - Stapelieae). Botanische Jahrbücher 115: 145-270.

  • van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's plants. A guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.

 

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