Family Aizoaceae Rudolphi 1830 nom conserv the Fig marigold Family

Physical description: The family Aizoaceae consists of about 2500 species and about 12 genera of succulent herbs, sometimes cactus-like, or less often shrubs or subshrubs known to abound with triterpenoid saponins and oxalic acid. The leaves are opposite, alternate, and without stipules. The inflorescences are solitary or cymose. The flowers are perfect, and comprise of 3-8 sepals, and numerous petals in 1-6 whorls. The andrecium consists of 1-many stamens originating in a centrifugal sequence. The gynecium consists of 2-5 carpels united in a compound ovary. The fruits are loculicidal capsules.

Pharmaceutical interest: Many species of Aizoaceae are decorative and are cultivated as such. Some, notably from the genus Mesembryanthemum, have become naturalized in many parts of Europe. Examples of medicinal Aizoaceae are Galenia africana and Sceletium tortuosum, which are used in African indigenous medicine as a counter-irritant in the treatment of toothache. The counter-irritant property is due to crystals of oxalic acid which penetrate mucosa and skin. Oxalic acid is toxic. In the body, it combines with calcium ions to form calcium oxalate which precipitates in the kidneys. Mesembryanthemum crystalinum (ice plant) was considered a sure treatment for venereal diseases by the early cowboys of western North America. Kanna or Sceletium expansum and Sceletium tortuosum, have been used by South African shamans from prehistoric times to "enhance animal spirits, sparkle the eyes, and to stimulate gaiety". The active constituent of kanna is a serotonine-like alkaloid called mesembrine which is a potent serotonine uptake inhibitor. Hence, it has some potential for the treatment of anxiety and depression, but careful clinical trials must be performed. In the Asia-Pacific, Tetragonia tetragonoides (Pallas) O. Ktze. and Trianthema portulacastrum L. are of medicinal value.

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