You use them to cook, season your food or maybe grow them for decorative purposes, but how much do you know about medicinal plants and their many uses?
One of the perks of living in South Africa is that we’re one of three countries with the most biodiversity. This means that we have a wide variety of “earth life” (plants, animals, vegetation and so on).
Which is where medicinal plants come in. For many ethnic groups, traditional medicine remedies are still passed down through the family, generation by generation, for ailments like colds, menstrual pain and inflammation, and even to ward off insects and cleanse the environment.
Interested in harvesting these benefits? Here are 5 of these helpful plants.
Also known as "bitter aloe", this succulent has thick leaves that may nourish the skin and treat skin-related issues. It’s abundant in amino acids, minerals and vitamins that are crucial for the health of your skin.
Aloe ferox is different from aloe vera. The bitter aloin in "ferox" is usually easily separated from the inner leaf's gel-like substance and is located right beneath the skin. In “vera” the aloin is found throughout the leaf and is extracted in a chemical process.
One of the oldest and most well-known medicinal plants, African wormwood is a versatile helper. This plant is used to treat intestinal worms, coughs, colds, fever, appetite loss, colic, headaches and earaches.
Also known as a horseradish tree, a bee oil tree, or in Afrikaans, a "peperwortelboom”, moringa is regarded as a superfood. The leaves, roots, bark and pods are crushed for their nutritional, tissue-protective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Moringa is packed with necessary amino acids, as well as vitamins and minerals.
Who doesn’t love a good old cup of Rooibos tea? This plant is indigenous to South Africa and is native to the Western Cape mountains. Rooibos is said to provide health benefits and is used to treat stomach pains, skin irritation and nappy rash in babies. The anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimutagenic (prevents mutation) properties of the polyphenols (which are molecules with antioxidant properties) may shield the body from free radicals that cause diseases. The antioxidant properties could also help stabilise blood sugar levels and enhance glucose absorption to treat diabetes. All that and it’s caffeine-free!
The marula fruit tree, which produces marula oil, originates in Southern Africa. The oil is primarily found in the tree's kernels. Antioxidants in marula oil may help slow down the rate at which skin cells deteriorate. L-arginine is one of the amino acids in the oil that helps your body synthesise proteins. Additionally, it helps in maintaining the skin's pH and moisture levels.
Before taking any medicinal plants to treat any conditions, check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure their safety. Some medicinal remedies may interact with current medications.
This article is for informational purposes only. Always check with your doctor or medical practitioner about any health concerns, before embarking on any fitness or nutrition programme, and usage of any medication.