Ancient Africans were often called fetish and primitive because of their incomprehensible ways to the West, especially when it was health related. That notwithstanding, native medicinal therapy has been one of the practices colonizers were not completely able to scrap from the African way of life.
Just name the symptom and there is sure to be a plant part for relief. Till date, these plants are being used and are being processed in laboratories for mass production of pharmaceuticals.
Here are some native African plants still doing the magic in parts of the continent and beyond.
Also known as pennywort, this plant is on record as being used as far back as 1887. It is grown all over Africa and is known as the most widely used medicinal plant in ancient Africa. It is used to treat ailments such as rheumatism, asthma, epilepsy and other skin, eye and memory disorders. It can also be eaten as a vegetable or used as a spice for food and potions.
This type of Aloe Vera plant is native to South Africa. This bitter plant is used as a laxative medicine and has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It is believed that if the plant is eaten or applied to an affected area, it fights against arthritis, sinusitis and conjunctivitis. Also, the liquid obtained from the leaves of the plant are used to treat burns. It detoxifies the area and speeds up the healing process.
Still in South Africa, the rooibos leaves are used for natural antioxidant caffeine-free tea. It was first known to relieve babies of chronic restlessness, vomiting and stomach upsets until other uses were later discovered. Till date, it is mixed with milk for sick babies and used to alleviate the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.
Another one from the Motherland, this leaf is combined with dried fruit and the rooibos leaf to prepare a health drink or tea. It is used as an expectorant for catarrh and other respiratory infections.
Wormwood is widely used among North Africans. It is a grey dwarf shrub with a very strong aroma. It is used by Tunisians and Moroccans for hypertension, diabetes and bronchitis. People of the Bedouin regions ingest it to alleviate stomach disorders. In Algeria, it is brewed as a cleansing tea with anti-bacterial benefits.
This plant also known as devil’s claws. It is native to the Southern region of Africa. It is used for all things allergy related and also used to treat skin irritations like boils and rashes. It has also been used for gastrointestinal disorders of all kinds.
This plant can be found throughout Africa. When boiled, it can be taken as a tea called Cerasse tea. The pulp and other parts like the skin and fibre can be juiced and used to treat diabetes-related issues. It is sometimes known as bitter melon.
You guessed wrong if you thought this plant is native to Senegal. Senegalia Senegal also known as Acacia Senegal or Gum Arabia is a plant found in the Sudan region of Africa. It is a tiny deciduous tree which has been used for pharmaceuticals, inks and adhesives for many years. It is used to treat, burns, fungal infections, rashes and even leprosy. Diarrhoea, bronchitis and bleeding can also be treated with this plant. It is also commonly used as an emulsifier to bind various pills and sweets and in drinks as a thickening agent.
African Potato Plant
All issues related to the immune system have been linked to this plant. It is one of the most researched plants. Currently, it is being researched for the cure of cancer, tuberculosis and more recently HIV.
This plant is known to have anti-cancer alkaloids. It is associated with the treatment of skin disorders, venereal disorders and rheumatism. It also has a significant impact on glucose and blood sugar levels. It cannot be synthesized in laboratories. Because of this, it cannot be processed in large quantities. Users have to get the fresh leaves organically and process them accordingly.