Medicinal Plants Of South Africa

Before the invention of modern medicine, several ancient cultures, like the Khoi San, lived off the land. They used the plants, herbs, and flora around for everything from enhancing the taste of their food to treating all types of illnesses and diseases. 
South Africa has several types of medicinal herbs and plants. Many have healing properties to treat inflammation and indigestion. Several of the plants may be grown in your garden. Here is a brief list of some medicinal plants of South Africa
  • Aloe
  • Moringa
  • Marigold
  • Rooibos

South Africa has an abundance of medicinal plants and herbs. Some have been used in traditional medicine to treat all sorts of ailments. In the following article, you will find a brief guideline for the medicinal plants and herbs of South Africa. You will learn how to grow them at home, their healing properties, and how to use them to treat yourself or family members when ill.
Medicinal Plants Of South Africa
Several plants and herbs in South Africa have medicinal and healing properties. Some may consume the entire plant, while others may use the leaves, flowers, or roots for your ailments.
Here is a short list of some plants with medicinal and healing properties. Some plants are native to South Africa, while others, like the Moringa, have adapted and thrived.
The information given below is for educational and informational purposes only. It is essential to contact your medical professional before you change your regular medical routine.
1.    Aloe Ferox
Aloe Ferox, commonly known as bitter aloe, belongs to the aloe family. It is slightly different from its cousin, the more popular Aloe Vera you find in America. There are approximately 360 aloe species in Africa. However, South Africa is known to produce and utilise more aloe ferox products than other African countries.
Aloe belongs to the family of succulents; they have a thick outer skin that allows the plant to store water during the drier seasons. You can quickly identify aloe ferox by the thick, lance-shaped leaves with tall orange-red flowers that sprout from the center of the plant.
It contains a chemical compound aloin and amino acids, which are higher in aloe ferox than in Aloe vera. It is also easier to extract aloin from aloe ferox than from Aloe Vera, which requires a chemical process for extraction.
Can I Grow This At Home? 

Aloe Forex can easily be grown at home. You can grow them either from seeds or propagate them from a parent plant.
You'll find Aloe Forex growing plentiful across South Africa. So you don't have to worry whether they will grow in your area. They don't require much attention or maintenance.
Medicinal Properties Of Aloe Forex
Several cultures, like the Khoi San or the Xhosa, use aloe for its medicinal and healing properties. Recently cosmetic houses worldwide tout the benefits of the Aloe Forex and Aloe Vera. Every part of the aloe is beneficial, and not much goes to waste.
Manufacturers of aloe products use the inner and outer fleshy layers as bitter aloe sap, aloe fillets, pressed leaf fiber, and aloe juice.
The aloe gel contains vital antioxidants, along with Vitamins A, C, and 12, which are essential for the skin. It treats skin-related infections, like eczema, sunburn, radiation burns, and insect stings.
It also contains an enzyme called bradykinase, which reduces inflammation. Therefore aloe is great for treating arthritis.
You need to be aware the leaves are a mild laxative, so caution is warranted if you decide to ingest any part of the leaves.
How To Use Aloe Forex
It would help if you steeped the leaves in boiling water for approximately 20 minutes. Once the tea has cooled completely, you may enjoy it. If you find the taste bitter, you can add some honey.
The tea is beneficial for arthritis; sinusitis, stress, tension, and relief from stomach aches. It will help if you are aware that the tea may cause mild diarrhea, so some caution is warranted. 
You may also slice the leaves and use the gel to treat sunburn or other mild skin irritations. However, aloe forex gel may heighten skin irritation, so caution is warranted. Conducting a skin test before applying it to your face is best.
2.    Moringa

 The Moringa, also known as drumstick, horseradish, or peperwortelboom, although not native to South Africa, grows across most provinces. Over the last few years, the Moringa has gained popularity as the healing wonder plant. Traditional medical practitioners from the African and Indian cultures claim the Moringa can treat approximately 300 health issues. 
It reaches a height between 5 to 12 m and has a thick trunk with the leaves forming an umbrella over the tree. It produces small white flowers and thin, long green pods hence the name drumsticks. The flowers and the pods are consumed.
Can I Grow This At Home?
Moringa seeds should be sown directly into the ground. There should be sufficient space for the tree to spread its branches. It would help if you remembered the tree grows to a height of 12m, so select a spot away from your home that receives good sunlight.
The young plant is not a fan of frost or cold temperatures.
It can also be propagated from stems. You can plant them directly into the ground or in pots. During the cold weather, you can bring them under shelter.
The Moringa is low maintenance, so there is no need to worry that you may kill this plant if you don't have a green thumb.
Medicinal Properties of Moringa

The Moringa is easily cultivated, making it great for treating malnutrition across Africa. Every part of the plant treats various illnesses ranging from nutritional deficiencies to reducing inflammation and antioxidant properties. It is known as a "superfood ."
The moringa leaves contain more beta-carotene than carrots and are an excellent source of calcium. The plant is rich in vitamins potassium, C, E, iron, and zinc. It is also an abundant essential amino acid source, which makes it a complete protein. 
Moringa powder, made from flowers and leaves, treats anemia. Moringa powder contains more iron than beef steak. It has 28 mg of iron compared to a beef steak with about 2 mg of iron.
How To Use Moringa
Moringa powder is readily available at all health stores and pharmacies. However, try these remedies for pain relief or general well-being if you have a plant at home.
You can steep the leaves and flowers in a mug of boiling water. When cool, you may add a teaspoon of honey to counter the leaves' bitterness.
You can also cook the leaves and flowers as a vegetable. But also remember the bitter taste, so pair it with a food that complements it or add a dash of lemon juice or crushed peanuts to offset the bitter taste.
3.    Marigold
The humble marigold is not indigenous to South Africa, but these ball-shaped flowers grace many gardens and add more than a touch of colour to our gardens. We can find two varieties of marigolds, the French marigold (tagetes patula) and the African marigold.
You will find various types of marigolds growing throughout South Africa. There are the dwarf ones and ones that grow tall, single flowers, or double varieties. You will also find them in a range of colours. Besides the typical orange, we all know you have them in red-orange tipped, yellow, gold, or white.
Marigolds are annuals that add abundant colour to our gardens over the hot summer months.
Can I Grow This At Home?
Marigolds are easily grown by sowing seeds. It takes approximately eight weeks for marigold seeds to sprout.
They can be grown along pathways, along borders, or edging on flowerbeds. Several nurseries also have marigold seedlings for those gardeners who are impatient for the plant to flower.
You may use marigolds to deter pests in your veggie garden, which makes them ideal for companion planting.
Marigolds are low maintenance and will provide bursts of colour for years to come. You must remember to remove the heads of dry flowers to accommodate fresh flowers.
Medicinal Properties Of Marigold
The simple marigold has several health and beauty benefits. Several ancient cultures used flowers and leaves in their tinctures and potions.
Culinary experts call marigolds the poor man's saffron because, once dried; they resemble that expensive rare spice saffron.
It can be used to treat burns and as an anti-inflammatory to treat swollen and painful joints. Some traditional medical practitioners use marigolds to treat skin-related illnesses like eczema, allergies, and dermatitis.
In a world where food is chemically altered to improve the colour and taste, some poultry farmers add marigold flowers to their regular feed to enhance the egg's yolk colour. So marigolds are safe for animal consumption as well.
How To Use Marigold?
The cosmetic industry utilizes marigolds in products ranging from creams and lotions to perfumes. Clothing designers use flowers as fabric dye. But if you are looking for ways to use them at home.
Marigolds are used to treat skin irritations. You may steep the flowers and leaves in a bowl of boiling water. When completely cool, dip a cotton wool ball into the tea and dab it over the reddened skin. The tea cools down the inflamed skin, relieving pain and discomfort.
When a person experiences digestive issues, they can consume marigold tea, as prepared above. The tea relieves issues related to acid reflux, gastritis, and menstrual cramps.
4.    Rooibos Rooibos or known by its scientific name Asphalatus linearis, is native to the Western Cape. It was first used by the Khoi San in their traditional medicine before the Anglo-Boers recognized the health and healing properties of the plant.
Rooibos translates to Redbush and, sometimes called "Bush tea," is a green, leafy shrub indigenous to the Western Cape Mountains. It grows to a height of 1,5m and has thin spiny leaves. It flowers over the spring and summer months and produces yellow flowers.
Can I Grow This At Home?
The rooibos plant can be grown from seeds in your home. However, many gardeners outside and in some parts of South Africa failed to grow the plant because it requires precise weather and climate conditions that only the Western Cape offers.
The seeds can be germinated in greenhouses and planted into the ground over the autumn season. The plant prefers acidic sandy soil, so you may need a fertilizer with a higher acid ratio.
Rooibos is a drought-resistant plant and therefore does not require much water. It would help if you cut back your watering of this precious plant to perhaps once a week.
Medicinal Properties Of Rooibos
Our humble rooibos has come a long way! Since its discovery in the early 19th Century, Rooibos has been known to possess several health and beauty benefits. Several international cosmetic houses are adding rooibos into their cosmetic products.
The Khoi San used rooibos to settle upset tummies, ease coughs, or calm skin irritations. These remedies are passed down through the ages.
Rooibos is low in tannin and caffeine free. Therefore, consuming it is safe for those with hypertension or stress-related illnesses.
A scientific study found that consuming rooibos tea also lowers blood cholesterol levels. It is also rich in antioxidants, which are essential for heart health—another bonus to keeping your heart healthy.
How To Use Rooibos
 Rooibos tea is highly beneficial for relieving coughs, colic, digestive issues, and allergies and is safe for babies and children. You can prepare tea using dried leaves or a commercially prepared teabag.
If you are lucky enough to have a rooibos plant at home, you can prepare tea from the fresh leaves. Place the leaves into your cup or mug, then pour over boiling water. You should allow the leaves to steep for approximately 20 minutes for the full flavor to release. Wash and clean the leaves to ensure no dust particles or bugs.
With the fresh leaves, you can pour boiling water over them as you consume the tea. The flavour of the leaves remains for a long while.
Several plants and herbs in South Africa have medicinal or healing properties. You can have them fresh, as tea, or used in a tincture or potion. The choice is yours. However, verifying with your local gardener or gardening society is always best before using a random plant you found in the garden.
You must always check with your medical or health professional whether the plant is safe to consume. Some plants may counter or exhibit side effects with regular medications like those for hypertension or diabetes.

About the Author

Nirvana Parmanand, passionate about gardening, plants, animals and saving our environment through sustainable living. "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow," Audrey Hepburn