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ANYTHING BUT CANNABISPhoto Credit: Annie SplattGiving Other Medicinal Plants Their Time in the SunSean ErasmusIn today's day and age, when you hear the words "Medicinal Plants", most people immediately think of Cannabis, but believe it or not, there's much more to it than that. "The African continent is magnificently endowed with different plant diversity, mainly due of the prevailing climatic conditions and this advantage has supported the richness of secondary metabolites in the plants for surviving under harsh environmental conditions"
An extract from a report, the African Herbal Medicines: Adverse Effects and Cytotoxic Potentials with Different Therapeutic Applications written by Kunle Okaiyeto and Oluwafemi O. Oguntibeju. South Africa has for the longest time always had the honour of being the third most biodiverse country in the world along with some of the most interesting and medically beneficial plants. There are over 3,400 plant species in Southern Africa that are being used for medicinal purposes. And only 2,062 of which are being used and traded in South Africa.
And its people have for centuries employed the help of the indigenous medicinal plants within South Africa for medicinal purposes. Wild African Ginger (Siphonochilus aethiopicus)Wild African Ginger One of these plants for example is the Wild African Ginger that grows in Mpumalanga and the Northern Province, but due to over-harvesting, was wiped out in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Ginger needs well-composted soil and can be propagated by dividing the rhizome in winter.
African Ginger Oil makes for an excellent anti-inflammatory and can also be used as an antibacterial, anti-fungal, pain-relieving and anti-tumor effect. The Swati people employ this to treat malaria, and it can help prevent horse sickness in horses. In addition, the Cornell University Medical College has found that an active ingredient in ginger (gingerol) inhibits an enzyme that causes cells to clot, which can prevent strokes.
Ginger oil is commonly used in the treatment of fractures, rheumatism, arthritis, digestive problems, nausea and hangovers. Skin conditions such as skin sores and bruises are usually treated with African Ginger Oil. Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)Devil's Claw Behold the Devil's Claw! As deceptive as the name and the appearance is, the Devil's Claw has been used for its medicinal properties by Khoisan and Bantu speakers for centuries, treating anything from indigestion to blood diseases or even fevers. Back then it was applied as a tea or even eaten as a powdered root.
Nowadays it is available in the form of capsules, teas, tinctures and even creams. In these products, it's used as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and natural pain relief for arthritis - it works like cortisone but without the side effects. African Wild Potato (Hypoxis hemerocallidea)Photo Credit: Paul VenterAfrican Wild Potato The next one on the list, which is probably my personal favourite mainly because it is a potato. That is indeed correct, Po-ta-toes, dice 'em, mash' em and stick 'em in a stew.
Not related to the common household potato, the African Wild Potato has been used by traditional healers as a muthi to treat delirium, 'bad blood' (in diabetes) and grows in the summer rainfall regions of South Africa.
Conventional uses also include the application of a deep penetrating ointment to symptoms that are associated with arthritis, psoriasis and fibromyalgia. It also helps against skin conditions like eczema, acne, scars, burns, rashes, bedsores, warts, stretch marks, sunburn, insect bites and dry skin.
The active ingredient, hypoxoside, is extracted from the tuberous rootstock. It has a high sterol and sterolin content which may possess potent anti-inflammatory and immune-strengthening properties. As the action is similar to cortisone it may reverse tissue damage and soothe muscular aches.
It also acts as a powerful antioxidant that may have an anti-ageing effect. Theories have also suggested the African potato to be beneficial in the treatment of HIV/Aids, prostate cancer and Tuberculosis. "What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow." - A.A. Milne Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus sp.)Photo Credit: Vie StudioEucalyptus Everybody has heard of Eucalyptus being used in medicinal practices. Eucalyptus was originally used by Aboriginal Australians for its antiseptic properties, healing wounds, fungal infections and also to break fevers.
The leaves are harvested from specially planted gardens and plantations across South Africa. The three main oil-producing eucalyptus species grown in SA are the Eucalyptus Smithii, Eucalyptus Dives and Eucalyptus Australiana. The trees are grown in the KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga provinces, with the main production facility being in the town of Richmond, in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
Eucalyptus oil also happens to be antiviral, antibacterial and can relieve cold and flu symptoms, it is also used in cleaning products. It helps to decongest the sinuses and is used in saunas for muscles aches and due to its antimicrobial properties.
Eucalyptus oil can also be an excellent insect repellent. One very important benefit of Eucalyptus oil is its ability to address mental exhaustion by creating a cooling and refreshing effect. As a stimulant, it helps eradicate exhaustion and mental sluggishness, it rejuvenates the spirit and has been used in classrooms as a form of aromatherapy. We can all clearly see that despite the recent uproar, CBD based medicines weren't the first in South Africa nor is it the only one that offers a wide variety of medicinal benefits. So with plants like these and many more like it native to South Africa, we can truly say that we live in a country with various unique plant life. "When we do plant medicine, and we see love, we realize right then and there that it was never apart from us, that in fact it was a part of us." - Gerard Armond Powell