Available ethnobotanical information on Pteronia onobromoides (first recorded in 1685) indicates that the plant was once of considerable cultural and commercial importance and that it was powdered, mixed with fat, and applied to the skin for cosmetic and/or medicinal purposes. Sâb, as well as Son or San, are considered to be the original Nama names for this aromatic bush and also the origin of various names for San people, such as Sonqua and Bushman. A study of the leaf
anatomy showed that essential oil is produced in globose oil glands situated below some of the vascular bundles in the spongy parenchyma, adjacent to the palisade parenchyma. The oil is relatively complex but contains a combination of myrcene, limonene, 1,8-cineole and p-cymene as main compounds, with smaller amounts of sabinene, trans-linalooloxide, linalool, terpinen-4-ol, - terpineol, eugenol, thymol and -phellandrene. Dichloromethane extracts exhibited antibacterial
activity (especially against Staphylococcus epidermidis) with MIC values as low as 0.83 mg/ml. Other solvent extracts and the essential oil itself were less active. The results show that the traditional method of mixing powdered leaves with fat and applying it to the skin may have had deodorant, disinfectant and medicinal benefits.