Herbs for Africa

Information Sharing on Herbs, Medicinal Plants & what they can do for Human Lives.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Most Europeans are under the wrong impression on the origins of this wonderful plant. The Gladiolus was first discovered near the end of its range in KwaZulu Natal in the late 1820's. The name G. natalensis was then used for species farmed in Holland. Professor C.G.C. Reinwardt at Leyden distributed plants under this name to growers. No other species of the genus has caused so much taxonomic confusion and misunderstanding. It was given no fewer than 27 synonyms based on plants from tropical Africa and Madagascar, and 14 more based on southern Africa collections.

Gladiolus occurs virtually throughout the grasslands, savannas and woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. It also occurs in Arabia and Madagascar. Across its range there are a number of variants, the most important of which are two exclusively tropical African subspecies. How much of the Gladiolus remarkable wide distribution across Africa is due to deliberate human activity, we may never know.

A strikingly ornamental plant, Gladiolus is widely cultivated. A southern Africa form flowering in late summer is perhaps the best known in horticulture. The species was well established by 1866 in the gardens of Europe. More important, however, than its value as a wild species in gardens is the role of the Gladiolus from southern Africa in the breeding of the modern Gladiolus hybrids. It is one of the species that led to the development of the large-flowered Gladiolus cultivars, which are today among the world's most important cut-flower crops.

Recorded Medicinal uses:
Gladiolus is an African medicinal plant recorded in the human pharmacopoeia. Gladiolus is recorded (under several of its synonyms) as being used in southern Africa in treating a variety of ailments, including diarrhoea and colds. It is a common component of the African herbalist's medicine horn, the "lenaka".

Many African herbalists consider the Gladiolus to be a magical medicinal plant as it is capable of treating dysentery, constipation and diarrhoea simultaneously. Ethno-botanical information has also noted that the gladiolus is widely used throughout sub-Saharan Africa and is one of the best natural human system regulators known to man. Patients feel well when taking Gladiolus, and it is often prescribed as a booster for patients with low energy levels and for hypochondriacs. An added benefit:- regular bowel movements.

In parts of West Africa, Gladiolus is used in preparations to cure both constipation and severe dysentery. At least in West Africa there are records that G. dalenii is cultivated on farms in the forest, where it was introduced from the savannah country to the north.

Corms (bulblike underground stem) of G. dalenii are also used as food in southern Congo (Zaire). The starchy corms are boiled and then leached in water before consumption.

The corm of Gladiolus edulis Burch. is edible. The Tswana eat the corm and small animals are recorded as eating it as well. The baboon being one of the animals that often dig the corm and eat it.

The southern Sotho use Gladiolus Dieterlenii Phillips with other plants as an enema as a remedy for lumbago and headaches. A decoction of the corn of Gladiolus ecklonii Lehm. is taken for the relief of rheumatic pains.

The Zulu make a medicine, to facilitate the birth of the placenta, from the corm of Gladiolus ludwigii Pappe and administer a decoction of the corm as an enema to relieve dysmenorrhoea (painful menstruation). The corm is used in southern Africa as a remedy for impotency.

The Swati use a decoction of the corm of Gladiolus multiflorus Bak. for dysentery.

The cooked corm of Gladiolus saundersii Hook. f. is eaten along with food by the southern Sotho for the relief of diarrhoea. A decoction of the corm of Gladiolus psittacinus Hook. is a remedy for colds and dysentery.

The Shangaan use Gladiolus in conjunction with other medicinal plants and ingredients for a variety of ailments including hemorrhoids.

Note: Gladiolus medicinal properties change according to the environment in which it is found. Climate and soil play an important role in the concentration of its active ingredients and medicinal properties.

Viscum Capense

- Viscaceae - Cape mistle toe (English) - Lidjiestee, voelent (Afrikaans)

An early Cape remedy for diarrhoea. It is also a traditional Cape medicine for asthma, bronchitis and excessive or irregular menstruation.

Pelargonium sidoides (Umckaloabo)

For hundreds of years the Zulu, Basuto, Xhosa and Mfengi cultures have used Pelargonium sidoides as a curative for coughs, upper respiratory tract irritations and gastrointestinal concerns. Today, with the advantages of modern science and clinical research, we are able to better understand what makes this traditional remedy work so effectively.

Pelargonium sidoides has been successfully used for the treatment of:
Respiratory infections like bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia, tonsillitis and rhinopharyngitis
It is often used as an alternative to antibiotics
Acute and chronic ear, nose and throat infections
Rapid improvement in the symptoms associated with colds and flu
Analgesic (absence of pain) effects
Pelargonium sidoides occurs throughout the eastern Cape, Lesotho, Free State and southern and south-western Gauteng in the Republic of South Africa. Pelargonium sidoides is called by Kalwerbossie or Rabassamin South Africa. However, the name Umckaloabo is most commonly known and originates from the Zulu language "heavy cough". The Englishman Charles Stevens already acknowledged the successful treatment of tuberculosis with umckaloabo in the early 1920’s. Extracts of the root have been available in German pharmacies since 1983 without prescription and have found widespread usage against infections of the sinus, throat and respiratory tract.The traditional use of Pelargonium sidoides for coughs and chest troubles may be explained by the presence of essential oils. It has not yet been established which ingredients contribute to its antibacterial properties. Extracts of Pelargonium sidoides have clear antibacterial characteristics against Streptococci, Staphylococci and Bacillus cereus.Pelargonium sidoides is also rich in phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and amino acids that enhance the body’s functioning and protects it against diseases. Treatment with Pelargonium sidoides rapidly improves the typical symptoms associated with infections such as cough, fever, sore throat, fatigue and weakness.How a Zulu remedy became a best-selling new medicine:With phenomenal growth, it's gone from being an obscure herbal remedy to become one of Germany's top new medicines. In the past two years sales have jumped over 700%--growing faster than any other brand. It's success is attributed to impressive clinical results, high consumer satisfaction and a fascinating history. A

Fascinating Story:
In 1897, an Englishman named Charles Stevens went to South Africa hoping to cure himself of tuberculosis. He consulted with a Basuto tribal healer who gave him a decoction of a local medicinal plant. Fully recovered, Charles Stevens returned to England with his mysterious remedy--which became popular throughout Europe as "Steven's Consumption Cure". In 1920, a former missionary doctor, Adrien Sechehaye, learned of Steven's cure. During the next nine years he treated over 800 patients in Switzerland with a homeopathic preparation of the medicine. In 1929 he published the medical case studies. But with the introduction of synthetic tuberculosis drugs, Steven’s remedy became largely forgotten in Western medicine--until its recent "rediscovery" by European researchers. What the Basuto healer gave Charles Stevens was a traditional remedy made from the roots of Pelargonium sidoides - a species of geranium unique to South Africa. Among the Zulu, the medicine was described as "umKhulkane' (denoting respiratory infection) + 'uHlabo' (roughly meaning chest pain).

Works Differently:While most other cough, cold and sinus medications simply mask outward symptoms, the mechanisms and actions of Pelargonium sidoides actually support faster recovery.
Shortens Duration and Reduces Severity:Clinical trials show that Pelargonium sidoides shortens the duration and reduces the severity of upper respiratory irritations.
High Satisfaction:In a physician assessment of adults and children suffering from common cold, chest and throat irritations, was rated effective in nearly 90% of cases!Its success is attributed to impressive clinical results, high consumer satisfaction and a fascinating history that has its roots in South African heritage and culture.
Chemistry & Pharmacology:The bioactive ingredients in P.sidoides are the tri- and tetra-oxygenated coumarins, gallic acid and gallic acid methyl ester (polyphenols), various flavonoids, as well as significant levels of calcium and silica. P.sidoides contains two distinct coumarins: umckalin and its 7-O-methyl ester, together with four other methoxycoumarins and three unique coumarin sulphates. Scopoletin and 6,7,8-trihydroxycoumarin are also found. Most of the coumarins contain a methoxy function at the C7 position and an OH group at either the C6 or C8 positions; functionality that is responsible for their antibacterial activity.Gallic acid and its methyl ester are present in large amounts. These were identified as the prominent immunomodulatory principle for this herbal medicine. Macrophage activation was confirmed by an in vitro study based on Leishmania parasites (Phytother Res 2001 Mar; 15(2): 122-6). The same authors, Kayser, O. and Kolodziej, H. (Planta Medica 63, 508-510) also studied the antibacterial performance of the various coumarins and gallic acid compounds found in Pelargonium sidoides and found that with the exception of the ineffective (+)-catechin, all the potentially active compounds exhibited antibacterial activities with minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of 200-1000 micrograms/ml. These results provide for a rational basis of the traditional use of umckaloabo.
Studies:Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on patients with acute bronchitis confirmed that extracts of p.sidoides were effective in treating this ailment. Similar studies have also shown the effectiveness of p.sidoides extracts for treating tonsillopharyngitis in children in the age group 6-10 years (Phytopharmaka VII, October 2001). Encouraging results have also been achieved with children, especially those who have not responded well to repeated treatment with antibiotics.
The alcoholic extract of the root has been shown to have a three-way effect:

1.) Anti-bacterial: The p.sidoides extract prevents bacteria from attaching to cells in the mucous membranes.
2.) Antiviral effect: Similarly, p.sidoides prevents viruses from attaching to the mucous membrane cells and stimulates the body’s immune system in such a way that both bacteria and viruses are prevented from multiplying.
3.) Expectorant: the extract acts as an expectorant, allowing the body to expel contaminated mucous making conditions less suitable for the multiplication of the bacteria and viruses.

The three-way effect attacks the acute infection at its root, the stabilization of the immune system prevents a re-infection and the vicious circle of infection, short recovery phase and new infection is broken. Due to its bacteriostatic and immune-modulating characteristics p.sidoides appears to be a good alternative to the conventional therapy of treating respiratory illnesses with antibiotics.

Efficacy of extract of Pelargonium sidoides in children with acute non-group A beta-haemolytic streptococcus tonsillopharyngitis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.Bereznoy VV, Riley DS, Wassmer G, Heger M.Paediatric Department II, Academy for Continuing Medical Education, Kiev, Ukraine.Background: Clinical trial data suggest that antibiotics are not indicated for the treatment of acute non-group A beta haemolytic strep (non-GABHS) tonsillopharyngitis. Nevertheless patients are symptomatic and effective alternatives for its treatment are needed that have been evaluated in clinical trials. Objective: To confirm that treatment with an extract of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630) is superior to placebo for the treatment of non-GABHS tonsillopharyngitis in children. Design: Randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Setting: Six study sites in 4 paediatric and ENT primary care outpatient clinics. Patients: One hundred forty-three children aged 6-10 years with non-GABHS tonsillopharyngitis present < or =" 48"> or = 8 points, and informed consent. Intervention: EPs 7630 or placebo (20 drops tid) for 6 days. Measurement: The primary outcome criterion was the decrease of the TSS from baseline (day 0) to day 4. RESULTS: The decrease of the TSS from baseline (day 0) to day 4 was 7.1 +/- 2.1 points under EPs 7630 (n = 73), and 2.5 +/- 3.6 points under placebo (n = 70). The covariate adjusted decrease was 7.0 +/- 2.4 points under EPs 7630, and 2.9 +/- 2.4 points under placebo. The 95% RCI for the difference between the groups was [2.7; 4.9] demonstrating a significant difference in efficacy of EPs 7630 compared to placebo (P <>

Glycyrrhiza Glabra

- Fabaceae - Liquorice Root (English) - Soethoutwortel (Afrikaans) - mlomo-mnandi (Zulu)

Since ancient times extracts have been used to treat ulcers and coughs. The crude drug is still popular in modern medicine and is used in preparations to treat the symptoms of digestive ailments.

Glycyrrhiza Glabra

- Fabaceae - Liquorice Root (English) - Soethoutwortel (Afrikaans) - mlomo-mnandi (Zulu)

Since ancient times extracts have been used to treat ulcers and coughs. The crude drug is still popular in modern medicine and is used in preparations to treat the symptoms of digestive ailments.

Sceletium Tortuosum - (Kougoed)

The earliest written records of the use of Sceletium tortuosum date back to 1662 and 1685. The Dutch, upon their arrival in South Africa, called it ‘Kougoed’ which literally means, ‘chew(able) things/goodies ‘ or ‘something to chew’.For hundreds of years the Hottentots used Sceletium expansum and tortuosum as a sacramental sedative and mood enhancer.This mood-enhancing plant is known in it's homeland as "canna”, “channa” or “kanna” (not Cannabis). It was so esteemed among native pastoralists and hunter-gatherers that they'd travel hundreds of miles to collect plants in the wild.
The family Mesembryanthemaceae contains many pharmacologically active species. The genus Mesembryanthemum is a popular groundcover. One of the most utilized by native peoples in South Africa was the genus Sceletium, for which whole tribes would travel hundreds of miles to pick a years supply. Recorded Medicinal history:Kanna has been used by the Hottentots and Bushmen tribes of South Africa as a mood-altering substance since prehistoric times. Although primarily chewed, there are reports of it being taken as a tea (Jacobsen 1960). Traditionally, the dried plant material is also smoked, or powdered and inhaled as a snuff on its own or with the addition of other herbs.Sceletium elevates mood and decreases anxiety, stress and tension, and shepherds walking long distances in arid areas have also used it as an appetite suppressant. Higher doses can cause euphoria, initially with stimulation and later with sedation. It has been suggested by some that Kanna can potentate the effects of alcohol and cannabis. No addiction or severe adverse side effects have been associated or documented with Kanna. Sceletium is used as a mood-enhancing substance and is far more effective and rapidly acting than the well-known European plant Hypericum (St John's Wort). Rural folk and farmers also use Sceletium as a sedative in the form of teas, decoctions or tinctures. In intoxicating doses it can cause euphoria, initially with stimulation and later with sedation.
The plant is not hallucinogenic.

Pharmacology:The mood-elevating action of Sceletium is due to a number of alkaloids including mesembrine, mesembrenol and tortuosamine. The alkaloid concentration in the dry material ranges from 0.05 to 2.3%. Preliminary research suggests these alkaloids may interact with the brain’s dopamine and serotonin receptors.Mesembrine is usually the major alkaloid present, and has been demonstrated in laboratory studies (sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States, and conducted by the company NovaScreen) to be a very potent serotonin-uptake inhibitor. This receptor-specific activity, and some receptor activities found on nicotinic, dopamine and nor-adrenaline sites certainly validate the traditional uses, and suggest additional therapeutic potential. In clinical practices, tablets and capsules of Sceletium are being used successfully by a number of psychiatrists, psychologists and doctors with excellent results for anxiety and depression; and they can also be used by the lay public to elevate mood and for stress and tension. Carefully selected plant material has been successfully cultivated on a limited commercial scale as an essential prerequisite to ongoing research and development.Sceletium has significant mood-elevating and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties. In doses as low as 50 mg users report improvements in mood, decreased anxiety, relaxation and a sense of well-being. At higher dosages near 100 mg, Sceletium acts as a calming euphoriant and empathogen. Users report increased personal insight, interpersonal ease and a meditative, grounded feeling without any perceptual dulling. In fact some note enhanced tactile and sexual response. Some reports also note significant potentiation of alcohol and cannabis. High doses produce distinct inebriation and stimulation often followed by sedation.The National Institute of Mental Health in the United States have found Memembrine the principle alkaloid responsible for psychoactivity in Sceletium Tortuosum to be a serotonin-uptake inhibitor, keeping more serotonin in circulation, like Prozac. Since Prozac/SSRI's are contraindicated with MAOI, this would also go for Mesembrine. Also the results of taking it on top of other SSRI's are unpredictable, and it is known that alcohol can also cause side effects combined with many SSRI's. Headaches in conjunction with alcohol have been noted with Sceletium use.Do not combine with SSRI’s, MAO inhibitors or any other psychiatric medications or cardiac medications.

Low mood
Hot flushes and irritability in menopause
Smoking cessation support
Alcohol rehabilitation support as part of a formal program
Post-traumatic stress disorder support
Attention deficit
Study aid

Contra indications: Patients with a hypersensitivity to any of the plant species or ingredients. Not to be taken during pregnancy or anyone under the age of 18. The active constituents of Sceletium tortuosum are mesembrine, mesembrenone, mesembrenol and tortuosamine. Mesembrine, the major alkaloid present, is a serotonin-uptake inhibitor (SSRI), like the anti-depressant Prozac. Sceletium must never be combined with an SSRI, MAOI, or other psychiatric medications, cardiac medications or any other medications.

Gethyllis Species

- Amaryllidaceae <
- Kukumakranka (English) - koekemakranka (Khoi, Afrikaans)

One of the early remedies for colic and indigestion.

Hoodia Gordonii

Hoodia Gordonii was discovered and used by the San tribe from the Kalahari, South Africa, since prehistoric times. They chewed the bitter Hoodia plant twice a day to suppress hunger and thirst during long hunting trips. This plant contains the miracle molecule p57 that was recently translated into a obesity cure.

Benefits of using Hoodia Gordoniii as a weight loss Aid

It has been established that the P57 molecule found in pure Kalahari Hoodia Gordonii works by mimicking the effect that glucose has on nerve cells in the brain in effect fooling the body into thinking it is full, even when it is not, thus curbing the appetite.
Independent tests conducted in Leicester, England on obese individuals from all walks of life have proved that over a 15-day period, food intake was reduced by 1000 calories a day.
With-in one hour after taking 2 capsules, Hoodia will suppress your appetite for around 4-8 hours.
Hoodia enhances your mood therefore you will not become irritable or weak while you are on the program. The San Tribe could go without food for 24 hours after eating Hoodia, and in the same process hunt for food in the harsh Kalahari desert. It is therefore also known to maintain a high energy level.
Hoodia Gordonii is a plant - a leafless succulent. (Not a Cactus nor a Herb).
In South Africa Hoodia Gordonii is classified as a foodstuff, which is testimony to how safe the product really is.
Hoodia was eaten as a fresh food by the San tribe for thousands of years with ZERO side effects.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Salvia africana-lutea

Family: Lamiaceae
Common names: Beach salvia, Dune salvia, Golden salvia, Bruin- of sandsalie, Geelblomsalie(A)

The distribution of S. africana-lutea extends from the coast of Namaqualand to the Cape Peninsula and eastwards from there to Port Alfred. In its natural state, it grows not far from the sea and is often a common constituent of the vegetation on coastal sand dunes.
A number of the blue and bronze groups of butterflies use salvias as larval host plants. Salvias' method of pollination is quite crafty: hidden in the hood of the flower is a clever lever mechanism of the stamens; when an insect crawls in at the mouth of the flower, looking for nectar in the flower base, its head pushes against a sterile part of the stamen, which pushes the anther downwards and rubs some of the pollen off onto the insect's back. When the stigma is mature, it bends down and blocks the way of the insect visiting the flower. If some pollen of another flower is already on the insect's back, it rubs off against the stigma and results in cross-pollination.
Apart from attracting wildlife, brown sage makes an excellent tea for coughs, colds, bronchitis and female ailments (pour 1 cup of boiling water over a short (7 cm) sprig of leaves, stand for 5 minutes then strain and drink sweetened with honey. The leaves are lovely for use in potpourri as they retain their shape, colour and much of their fragrance, and mix well with other ingredients.

Pelargonium betulinum

Pelargonium betulinum (L.) L'Herit
Common Names: Kanferblaar, Camphor-scented pelargonium, Maagpynbossie, Suurbos, Birch-leaved pelargonium

Pelargonium betulinum is confined to the coastal areas of the winter rainfall region of South Africa, from Yzerfontein on the west coast to Knysna on the east coast of the Western Cape, where it grows on sandy dunes and flat areas. The genus Pelargonium gets is name from the resemblance of the shape of the fruit to the beak of a stork, pelargos in Greek, while the species name betulinum is derived from the resemblance of the leaves of this plant to those of European birches, Betula species. The Afrikaans common name kanferblaar, camphor leaf or camphor-scented pelargonium in English, is derived from the camphor-like scent released when the leaves are crushed. Its other name, maagpynbossie (direct translation: stomach-pain little bush or more sensibly: little bush for stomach pain), is also applied to Myrica quercifolia and refers to the use of these plants to relieve flatulence and pain in the stomach. It is also known by the name suurbos (sour bush) which most likely refers to the taste of the leaves.The leaves of Pelargonium betulinum contain essential oils and are used medicinally for coughs and other chest troubles, where fresh leaves are placed in boiled water and the vapour from the steamed leaves is inhaled. The leaves are also known to be used in wound healing ointments. Since it also has the common name maagpynbossie, it would appear that it is also used in some regions to relieve stomach pain.

Mentha longifolia

Family: Lamiaceae Common names: wild mint (Eng.); kruisement, balderjan (Afr.); Koena-ya-thaba (Southern Sotho?); inixina, inzinziniba (Xhosa); ufuthana lomhlanga (Zulu)

Two mint species are indigenous to South Africa, Mentha longifolia and M. aquatica (wild water mint). Both are quite commonly found in marshes and along streams, from the Cape through Africa and Europe. M. longifolia (longifolia meaning long leaves) is identified by its stalkless leaves and white to mauve flowers that are grouped in a long spike. The leaves of M. aquatica (aquatica meaning living in water) are broader and more egg-shaped, whereas the flowerheads are roundish whorls (approximately 25 mm in diameter), pink or mauve flower clusters formed one above the other.Two mint species are indigenous to South Africa, Mentha longifolia and M. aquatica (wild water mint). Both are quite commonly found in marshes and along streams, from the Cape through Africa and Europe. M. longifolia (longifolia meaning long leaves) is identified by its stalkless leaves and white to mauve flowers that are grouped in a long spike. The leaves of M. aquatica (aquatica meaning living in water) are broader and more egg-shaped, whereas the flowerheads are roundish whorls (approximately 25 mm in diameter), pink or mauve flower clusters formed one above the other.Found in most parts of the country and easy to harvest, wild mint is a popular traditional medicine. It is mainly used for respiratory ailments but many other uses have also been recorded. It is mostly the leaves that are used, usually to make a tea that is drunk for coughs, colds, stomach cramps, asthma, flatulence, indigestion and headaches. Externally, wild mint has been used to treat wounds and swollen glands. In her book Traditional healing herbs, Margaret Roberts mentions the different uses of Mentha longifolia and M. aquatica, which are delicious in salads and vegetable dishes. She also mentions that M. longifolia subsp. capensis, with its strong smell rubbed onto the body and bedding, is used to keep mosquitoes away.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Traditional Healers in SA

There are an estimated 200 000 indigenous traditional healers in South Africa, and up to 60% of South Africans consult these healers, usually in addition to using modem biomedical services. Traditional healers in South Africa are most commonly known as "inyanga" and "isangoma" (Zulu; plural: "izinyanga" and "izangoma"), "ixwele" "amaquira" (Xhosa), "nqaka" (Sotho), "bossiedokter" and "kruiedokter" (Western and Northern Cape). The terms "inyanga" and "sangoma" used to refer exclusively to herbalist and diviner respectively, but in modem times the distinction has become blurred, with some healers practising both arts. In addition to the herbalists and diviners who are believed to be spiritually empowered, there are traditional birth attendants, prophets, spiritual healers (Zulu: "abathandazi"), spirit mediums, intuitives and dreamers. Most elderly folk in rural areas have a knowledge of herbal lore, and function as first-aid healers with a family repertoire of herbal remedies or "kruierate".
THE FUTURE. Indigenous systems of medicine are dynamic and adaptive, although firmly rooted in the traditions of the past. This can be seen in the incorporation of introduced medicinal herbs such as liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra; Zulu: "mlomo mnandi") and calamus root (Acarus calamus; Zulu: "ikalamuzi") into the materia medica, the use of modem medicines by some indigenous healers, and the keen interest in modern Primary Health Care training programmes expressed by modern traditional healers' associations. This dynamism suggests that with appropriate official support and recognition, traditional medicine will survive well into the next century, strengthened by modern science, not subsumed by it.

Sutherlandia frutescens

Sutherlandia frutescens - Cancer bush

Sutherlandia frutescens has many common names. The name cancer bush, kankerbos, comes from its reputation as a cure for cancer. The names balloon-pea, blaasbossie or blaas-ertjie (meaning bladder-bush or bladder-pea) all refer to the inflated, bladder-like fruits. The name klapper (meaning rattle) is a name applied to many species whose seeds rattle about in the mature, dry pods. The name hoenderbelletjie is in reference to the bright red flowers that are suggestive of the wattles (belletjies) of a fowl (hoender). The names eendjies and gansiekeurtjie are in reference to the inflated fruits which float on water and which are used by children as toy ducks (eendjies) and toy geese (gansies). Keurtjie is an old name applied mainly to species of Podalyria and occasionally to Sutherlandia and used as far back as 1680, derived from the Dutch keur meaning 'the pick of' or 'choice' in reference to their showy flowers. The Zulu name unwele means 'hair' - alluding to the fact that the plant stops people 'pulling out their hair' with distress.

This plant is one of the most talked about in the ethnobotanical world because it has a strong reputation as a cure for cancer and now increasingly as an immune booster in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Research on its properties is ongoing. It has long been known, used and respected as a medicinal plant in southern Africa. The original inhabitants of the Cape, the Khoi San and Nama people, used it mainly as a decoction for the washing of wounds and took it internally to bring down fevers.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Aspalathus Linearis

ASPALATHUS LINEARIS - Fabaceae - Rooibos tea (English) - Rooibostee (Afrikaans)
Grown only in the Cedarberg area of South Africa's Western Cape Province, Aspalathus linearis, a woody legume, is cultivated for the production of rooibos. The needle-like leaves and stems are used to manufacture rooibos tea which has been used as herbal beverage and to a lesser extent, as herbal medicine, in South Africa since the 1800’s. The indigenous Khoi people were the first to use rooibos as an herbal beverage. The popularity of this herbal tea can be ascribed to the low tannin content and absence of caffeine. It is harvested during the hot summer months. The plant cuttings are bound, milled, wetted and bruised by rollers to stimulate chemical oxidations/"fermentation", during which the distinctive colour, aroma and flavour develop. It is considered to have significant antispasmodic activity.
Link 1 & Link 2

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Caclopia Intermedia

Cyclopia genistoids Fabaceae - Honeybush tea (English) - Heuningbostee (Afrikaans)

This is a unique South African (Cape) herbal drink and has been used since early times for its direct positive effects on the urinary system and is valued as a stomach aid and for weak digestion.The phenolic constituents of rooibos and honeybush teas differ from each other as well as from that of green and black teas (Camellia sinensis). The absence of caffeine in rooibos and honeybush teas and the low tannin content contributes to their popularity as health beverages. Several health-promoting properties have been associated with the consumption of rooibos tea and to a lesser extent honey-bush tea, e.g. as treatment for colic infants, as aid for allergies, sleep and digestive disorders etc. It has been suggested from these health issues that rooibos tea is a more suitable beverage for infants as opposed to soft drinks containing high levels of caffeine. However, no formal scientific research has been conducted to substantiate the health claims to confirm this.