These days, indigenous plants are growing in popularity because they are natural to our region, which means they are suited to the climate and don't need as much water, food or pampering as exotic plants that come from other areas of the world.
Many common indigenous plants have medicinal properties, and they have been used by healers to treat many different health problems for centuries.
It is very important to note that incorrect use of medicinal plants can be dangerous, and can even lead to death. Herbal medicines should be taken only under direction of an experienced practitioner.
Remember, also, that plants growing in the wild are protected by law and it's illegal to pick them without an official permit. But the good news is that most of them are very easy to grow!
Some healing plants and their uses
ARTEMESIA AFRA (wild wormwood, Lengana, Umhlonyane, wilde als, Mhlanyane)
Where it grows – In rocky mountainous areas of South Africa.
Uses – This is one of the most popular medicinal plants in southern Africa. For colds, colic, heartburn, flatulence, croup and gout, drink a tea made of 5g of fresh leaves steeped in boiling water for five minutes and strained. To make a bath lotion, add 30-40g of fresh leaves to 2 litres of boiling water. Leave for an hour or two, strain and bottle. Use in bath water to ease haemorrhoids, measles, fever, sores and wounds, rashes, bites and stings.
Growing tips – It is hardy and easy to grow. Plant it in a sunny position in well-drained, well-composted soil. Cut back severely in July or August. Roots easily from cuttings.
BULBINE FRUTESCENS (snake flower/burn jelly plant, khomo-ya-ntsukammele, intelezi, balsam kopiena, geel katstert)
Where it grows – Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Cape Province
Uses – Bulbine is a popular rockery plant. It is also one of nature's finest medicinal plants. The fresh leaves produce a soothing jelly-like juice that is good for burns, rashes, blisters, insect bites, sunburn, cracked lips and skin, cold sores, acne and mouth ulcers.
Growing tips – This is an excellent drought, heat and frost-resistant plant that spreads quickly. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil containing compost. It can be grown from seed or division of the clump during spring.
COTYLEDON ORBICULATA (pig's ear, seredile, imphewula, intelezi, plakkie)
Where it grows – In between rocks and scrub in grassland in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, W and E Cape, Swaziland and Lesotho.
Uses – The fleshy part of the leaf is used to soften and remove hard corns and warts. In the Willowmore district in the Eastern Cape the heated leaf is used as a poultice for boils and other surface inflammations, as well as earache.
Growing tips – This is an ideal plant for rockeries as it needs a sunny position. Do not water often. The Cape Province species must be watered well in winter and little during summer. It is reproduced easily by planting pieces of the stem in the ground.
This is a good time to build a compost heap.
Plant lots of onions, leeks and garlic, as well as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and soup celery.
You can also plant root crops like carrots, turnips and beetroot, as well as:
spinach, lettuce and peas.
*Published by Jet Club Magazine.