Dr Ramavhale Tuwani Tryphina graduated with PhD in botany from the University of Limpopo’s Faculty of Science and Agriculture on Saturday 20 April. Photo supplied.

Dr Tryphina explores how indigenous plants can help cure “u wela”.

News - Date: 15 June 2024


A 32-year-old academic from Biaba in Nzhelele is making inroads into treating sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among men by using traditional medicine, such as indigenous plants.

Dr Ramavhale Tuwani Tryphina graduated with a PhD in botany from the University of Limpopo’s Faculty of Science and Agriculture on Saturday, 20 April. She based her research on finding a cure for a problematic STI called “u wela” in the Tshivenda language.

“U wela” is a sexually transmitted disease that mainly affects males. “This traditionally understood STI has claimed many lives, and I felt compelled to contribute to finding a potential cure. The opportunity to collaborate with traditional health practitioners, who hold valuable knowledge about medicinal plants, further fuelled my passion for this project,” explained Dr Tryphina. She said Western medicine currently lacked a definitive cure for “u wela.”

“My research explored the potential of indigenous plant-based treatments using a scientific approach. This could offer a new avenue for treatment alongside, or potentially as an alternative to, future biomedical options. The scientific findings confirmed the traditional use of the selected plants to treat ‘u wela’. One surprising finding was the high yield of extractable material with methanol compared to other solvents. This suggests the presence of a wider range of potentially bioactive compounds in these plant materials. Further research is needed to explore this avenue,” she added.

As part of her study, she tried to identify the most promising plant species from the university’s ethnomedicinal database. “More importantly, these plant species could lead to the discovery of novel drugs that will be used to combat ‘u wela,’“ she added.

“In the database, the traditional health practitioners identified some of the plant species that are used in the Vhembe District to combat STDs,” she said. The antimicrobial compounds were isolated, and these showed strong antimicrobial activity against sexually transmitted pathogens, namely Candida albicans and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. “More importantly, the compounds and the plant extracts were not toxic,” she added.


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Maanda Bele

Maanda  Bele, born and raised in Nzhelele Siloam, studied journalism at the Tshwane University of Technology.

He is passionate about current news and international affairs.

He worked as part of the Zoutnet team as an intern in 2017.

He is currently a freelance journalist specialising in news from the Vhembe district.

Email: [email protected]