Africa is endowed with a huge treasure of cultural and genetic resources, which is manifest in the varied use of plants for food and medicine. The peculiar geography of the continent has produced enormous biodiversity in its tropical forests, savannahs, the veldts, and the unique environments of sub-Sahara. It has no marginal oceanic trenches and subduction zones, so it lacks the extensive mountain ranges found in the Americas but much of the southern half of the continent rests on a high plateau close to 1000 m above sea level, which is broken only by the southern extension of the Great Rift Valley and the slightly lower basin of the Congo River. It has been suggested that it is the great latitudinal range that gives it an enormous variety of climates, and that it is this variability that is responsible for the continent’s extreme diversity of ecosystems and biodiversity.1 The continent is considered the cradle of human civilization with the oldest history of known human habitation. The ancient kingdoms and empires of Africa, such as Kmt (Egypt), Nubia, Ethiopia, Songhai, Bini, Oyo, Zimbabwe, Dogon, and Mende, as well as Nupe, Borno, Igbo-Ukwu, Mandingo, Jukun, Nri, and Somali, had extensively codied healing recipes. The history of healing arts in Africa can be traced back to ca. 3200 bc, during the reign of Menes, the rst Pharaoh of ancient Egypt. Athothis, the son of Menes, was credited with the knowledge of many therapeutic preparations.2 The honor of the rst African physician, in a scientic sense, is accorded to the great Imhotep (c. 2650-2600 bc) who served in the Third Dynasty under King Djoser (Zhosa) as chancellor to the pharaoh and high priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis. Imhotep (Immutef, Im-hotep, or Li-em-Hotep, as his name has been written at various times; or Imuthes by the Greeks) was an accomplished architect, and the step pyramid at Saqqarah is among his numerous works. He was indeed a great ancient African polymath, whose ofcial titles include

Chancellor of the King of Egypt Doctor First in Line after the King of Upper Egypt Administrator of the Great Palace Hereditary Nobleman High Priest of Heliopolis Builder, Chief Carpenter Chief Sculptor, Maker of Vases in Chief Great Poet

Imhotep was best known in history as a great architect and a renowned healer, who by 525 bc had become deied as the god of medicine. Another ancient African physician is the scholar and scribe Hesy-Re, who lived also about 2600 bc. According to the writer

Ghalioungui, Hesy-Re was the chief of dentists and physicians during the Third Dynasty, a period in African history usually associated with the building of the pyramids. During the same period in history, there was also the great healer Meri-Ptah.