Department of Botany
Professor Helene de Wet is an associate professor at UNIZULU. She started her career as senior laboratory assistant in the Department of Botany in 1990 after which she was appointed as a lecturer in the same department in 1995. She registered for a PhD part-time in 2001 and graduated in 2006 from the University of Johannesburg. Her doctoral research covered a variety of fields such as ethnobotany, taxonomy and the chemical analysis of secondary plant products of the South African species of the family Menispermaceae. After her PhD she established herself as an expert in the field of ethnobotany.
She is the first ethnobotanist to concentrate on Zulu lay people’s medicinal plant knowledge in a region not previously explored by any other ethnobotanist, namely northern Maputaland. She concentrates mostly on the plants that are grown in and on the periphery of people’s homesteads. Many new plants and vernacular names used for a variety of infections and other ailments have been documented for the first time. She also tested antimicrobial activities for many plants species that has never been done before and documented plant combinations to treat infections. Her ethnobotanical surveys also included medicinal plants used among people of Khoi-San and Cape Dutch descent in the eastern parts of the Karoo. Concurrent with her ethnobotanical research, she is busy writing taxonomic revisions for the seven southern African Menispermaceae genera.