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Medicinal, aromatic and toxic plants in Arab countries

H. M. El-Hennawy, Plant Production Expert



Many Arab countries are principally made up of desert land except the savannah belt in the Sudan, and other areas that have a Mediterranean climate. The variety of flora depends on the amount, distribution and fluctuations in rainfall. In vast areas, rainfall is erratic, insufficient and less than l00 mm. However, some areas are suitable for rainfed agriculture. The wide variation in rainfall has resulted in diverse ecological habitats, ranging from barren deserts to moist habitats, including temperate forests in the North to tropical forests in the South as well as semi-arid and savannah habitats.

Medicinal, aromatic and toxic plants play a significant role in the life of people and are present in innumerable forms. These plants are used as raw materials for medicines, cosmetics, perfumery, insecticides and in the food industry. The most common species of aromatic plants in the region are roses, lemon grass, peppermint and eucalyptus. A number of medicinal plants also produce essential oils as well as being used for perfumery e.g. Petroselinum sativum, Daucus carota, Anerthum graveolens and Pimpinella anisum, etc.

Desert encroachment, urban expansion and excessive grazing has resulted in the depletion of plant resources of the region. The Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD) carried out two studies on the medicinal, aromatic and toxic plants in Arab countries. Of 814 recorded species, 23 are used in pharmaceutical preparation, 55 in cosmetics and perfumery, 34 in food industries and 10 as insecticides.



Family: Umbelifera
Petroselinum sativum, Apium graveolen, Anethum graveolens, Daucus carota, Cuminum cyminum, Carum carvi, Pimpinella anisum, Foeniculum vulgare, Coriandrum sativum. Volatile oils from seeds and fruits of some of the aforementioned plants are used for stomach disorders, flatulence and against kidney stones. Ammi majus is used for skin ailments, and also for cosmetics.

Family: Legunimosae
Cassia aculifolia (laxative);Glycyrhiza glabra (laxative, stomach ulcers);Tamarindus indica (cool drink, laxative, malaria); Trigonella foenugraecum (tonic, pepesia); Acacia spp. (dye, gum, perfumes); Cyamopsis tetragonolooba (anti-diabetic).

Family : Compositae
Artemisia absinthum; Matricaria chamomillia (tonic, stimulant and cosmetics); Silybum marianum (skin ailments, hepatoprotective).

Family : Solanaceae
Atropa belladona (anti–inflammatory, bronchial asthma); Datura stirmonium (prophylaxis); Hyoscyamus muticus (anaesthetic); Capsicum annuum (anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, spices).

Family : Gamine
Agropyron repens (laxative); Arando donax; Cymbopogon citratus (perfumes, anti-worm).

Family : Rosaceae
Rosa damoscana (perfumes, cosmetics).

Family : Liliaceae
Collchicum autumnate (sedative, anti-inflammatory); Urginea maritima (cardiac ailments); Aloe vera (healing of wounds, cosmetics).

Family : Rutaceae
Citrus sp. (cosmetics, perfumes, pectin)

Family : Labiatae
Mentha pulegium (perfumes); Origanum vulare (anti-flatulant, anti-rheumatic and healing of wounds); Rosmarinus officinals (tonic, kidney diseases, food industry, cosmetics); Ocimum basilicum (cold diseases, prophyloxis, tooth diseases, perfumes, cosmetics).

Family : Curciferae
Brassica alba (lumbago, rheumatoid arthritis).

Family : Euphorbiacea
Ricinus communis (laxative); Croton tiglium (laxative).

Family : Oleaceae
Olea europea (bronchial diseases); Jasminum grandflorum (cosmetics, perfumes, flavors).

Family : Malvacea
Hibiscus sabdariffa (hypotensive, flavors, drinks).

Family : Scrophulariaceae
Digitalis purpurea (cardiac drugs).

Family : Punicaceae
Punica granatum (anti-diarrheic, dye).

Family : Rhamnaceae
Rhamnus purshianus(laxative).

Family : Zygophyllaceae
Guaiacum officinale (laxative and stimulant); Peganum hanala (headache).

Family : Ranunculaceae
Nigella staiva (chest diseases, diuretic).

Family : Iridaceae
Crocus sativus (food industry , against colds, hypnotic).

Family : Taxaceae
Taxus baccata (sedative, tranquiliser, cancer diseases).

Family : Apocynaceae
Vinca rosa (cancer diseases, particularly leukemia).

Family : Cucurbitaceae
Citrullus colocynthis (laxative, skin diseases of cattle and domestic animals).

Family : Balanitaceae
Ballnites egyptia (laxative, food oils, soap).

Family : Salvadoraceae
Salvadora persica (anti-inflammatory, dental cleaning).







  1. Development of strategies for collecting , surveying and identification of medicinal and aromatic plants in the region, their habitats and field studies for their regeneration.
  2. Development of a regional research center for medicinal and aromatic plants.
  3. Encouragement to small industries to supply the local markets with medicinal and aromatic commodities.
  4. Introduction and cultivation of some non-native (exotic) medicinal plants under the different climatic and edaphic conditions of the region.
  5. Encouragement and financing of research programs on regeneration and management of important and aromatic plants in the region.



A.O.A.D (1988) . Medicinal, Aromatic and Toxic Plants in Arab countries. Part I.

A.O.A.D (1988) . Medicinal, Aromatic and Toxic Plants in Arab countries. Part II.

A.O.A.D (1989). Medicinal Plants in Arab Countries Symposium. Development strategies Kater.

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