Useful Plants Guide
Useful Plants Guide - Herbal Recipes
Useful Plants Guide - Cosmetics
Useful Plants Guide - Aromatherapy
Useful Plants Guide - Medicinal
Useful Plants Guide - Medicinal Herbs
Useful Plants Guide - Medicinal Plants
Useful Plants Guide - De-pollutants
Acacia karroo, Sweet thorn tree (wide-spread)
The sweet thorn has leaves divided into plus-minus 5 pairs of leaflets, each divided into 10-plus small leaflets. The shrub or tree produce ball-shaped yellow flowers.
Medicinal properties: dysentery, diarrhoea, colds, haemorrhage, oral thrush and conjunctivitis.
Parts used: foliage, bark and gum, used in infusions or concoctions.
Acokanthera oppositifolia, Bushman’s poison bush (wide-spread along northern and eastern South Africa)
This shrub or tree is evergreen with fleshy, leathery and glossy dark green leaves with paler undersides. These undersides are often strongly veined and tinged red. It bears scented white flowers and purplish berries that resembles plums.
Medicinal properties: colds, headaches, toothache, stomach pain, anthrax, tapeworm and snake bites.
Parts used: roots (as a paste on snakebites or powdered) and foliage, dried and powdered as a snuff or used in infusions as a nasal spray.
Adansonia digitata Baobab, Kremetart (northern, frost-free regions of South Africa)
A remarkable tree with a large (up to 20-plus metres in circumference) trunk with grey bark. The foliage is large and divided into 5 - 7 leaflets, borne on single stalks. Large oval-shaped fruits, covered with velvety yellow hair, follow the Baobab’s large white flowers that are produced during summer.
Medicinal properties: inflammation, diarrhoea, urinary problems, fevers.
Parts used: the whitish fruit pulp (surrounding the seeds) is made into a drink.
Agapanthus africanus, Blue lily (distributed widely in the eastern parts of South Africa)
These lilies have thick tuberous rhizomes, long strap-like and fleshy leaves of dark green and dense clusters of blue (sometimes white) flowers borne on long slender stalks.
Medicinal properties: postnatal and antenatal uses. Also to relieve difficult labour.
Parts used: roots and rhizomes are taken as decoctions.
Agathosma betulina, Buchu (Western Cape’s mountainous areas)
The broad leaves of this 2m high plant have conspicuous oil glands and the small, star-shaped flowers are white or pale purple.
Medicinal properties: stomach pain, wounds, antibiotic protection, rheumatism and as a treatment of urinary and kidney diseases.
Parts used: leaves (infusions or chewed whole).
Albizia adianthifolia, Flat-crown (found from Northern Province to Eastern Cape)
This tree has a spreading, flattened crown and greyish bark. Its leaves are divided into 4 - 8 which are also divided into 6 - 14 small leaflets. Spring flowers consist of groupings of feathery inflorescences of white, followed by thin oblong pods.
Medicinal properties: headaches, stomach ache, skin diseases, blood cleanser, eye inflammation.
Parts used: powdered bark (as a snuff for headaches), bark infusion (stomach ache) and bark concoction (skin cleanser).
Alepidea amatymbica, Kalmoes (distributed from the grasslands of Eastern Cape to Mpumalanga and Norhtern Province)
The toothed leaved rosettes of this perennial rises from rhizomes and is brilliant green. It bears its dainty white flowers on hollow stalks, up to 2 meters high.
Medicinal properties: chest complaints, asthma, influenza, colds, abdominal cramps.
Parts used: rhizomes and roots (freshly chewed or dried medium is used to make a decoction. Dried powder is used in snuffs and inhalation methods through burning it).
Use, with Cannabis sativa, in an infusion to treat asthma.
Aloe ferox, Bitter aloe (widely distributed)
The aloe has a single stem around which touch succulent leaves are growing from. These fleshy leaves are a greyish-green, edged with dark brown spines and has winter flowers of bright orange or red (rarely seen is the white and yellowish plants). These candle-shaped flower clusters are borne well above the leaf rosettes on strong stalks.
Medicinal properties: skin irritations, burns and bruises, eczema, arthritis, conjunctivitis, stress, hypertension, constipation.
Parts used: the leaf sap is used on skin or dry leaves are powdered into snuffs. Infusions are made of roots and leaves to treat constipation.
Arctopus echinatus, Kaapse platdoring (distributed in the Cape fynbos area, from Port Elizabeth to Nieuwoudville)
Male and female flowers of yellowish-green are produced by different plants of this plant. It has spiny leafed rosettes, growing flatly on the ground and a fleshy, tuberous root. Dry spiky fruit follow the flowers of female plants.
Medicinal properties: venereal diseases, bladder ailments, skin irritations, epilepsy.
Parts used: infusions of the root (for bladder and epilepsy problems or venereal diseases).
Artemisia afra, African wormwood (widely distributed)
This large, multi-stemmed perennial shrub is highly aromatic and has feathery foliage, finely divided and dullish green. Unremarkable flowers of yellow appear along the branch ends.
Medicinal properties: headaches, fevers, colds, coughs, headaches, influenza, earache, malaria, worms.
Parts used: leaf infusions or decoctions.
Asclepias fruticosa, Milkweed (widely distributed)
This shrub is multi-stemmed with slim, opposite leaves and yellowish flower clusters, followed by large inflated seed pods. These pods are covered with wiry hairs and the pods end in a sharp tip. The seeds have attached to them long, soft hairs.
Medicinal properties: aches, headaches.
Parts used: infusion or decoction of roots.
Aspalanthus linearis, Rooibos tea, rooibostee (distributed and grown from Nieuwoudtville to the Cape Peninsula)
This shrub produces spring and summer flowers of pea-shaped and yellow colouring. Its needle-like leaves are bright green at first, turning reddish upon fermentation.
Medicinal properties: heart disease, anti-ageing, colic.
Parts used: teas of leaves and twigs.
Aster bakeranus, Aster (wide distributed)
The Aster is a herbaceous perennial with hairy leaves which have toothed margins. Flowers of mostly mauve and blue are produces, but rarely white too.
Medicinal properties: nasal congestion, headache, stomach problems, snake-bites, intestinal parasites.
Parts used: roots (clean nostrils with powdered root mixed with water), root decoctions (venereal disease, stomach complaints and snake-bites), powdered root snuff (clear nostrils).
Balanites maughamii, Torchwood (eastern South Africa)
A tall tree with a smooth grey bark. It has thorns of uneven forkedness and green colouring and its paired leaflets are smooth when mature, but velvety when young. Edible, summer fruit follows spring flowers of unremarkable yellowish-green.
Medicinal properties: coughs, body tonic.
Parts used: root bark or stem bark.
Ballota africana, Kattekruid (widely distributed in the southern and western parts of South Africa)
This shrub bears its pink or purple flowers, densely clustered, above each aromatic leaf pair which are round in shape.
Medicinal properties: colds, fevers, asthma, bronchitis, heart trouble, insomnia, shock, headaches, piles, arthritis, liver problems, influenza.
Parts used: leaf infusions.
Bersama lucens, Glossy bersama (eastern Sough Africa)
The white spring flowers of this shrub are followed by hairy summer capsules, containing 4 seeds each. Its dense leaf clusters contain 3 0 7 leaflets of glossy green.
Medicinal properties: headaches, strokes, shock, infertility, impotency, menstrual pain.
Parts used: roots and bark - used with caution, due to its poisonous compounds.
Berula erecta, Water parsnip (widely distributed)
This moisture loving herbaceous plant has toothed leaflets and umbels of tiny white flowers. Its stems grow from rhizomes below the ground.
Medicinal properties: toothache.
Parts used: Chew on the rhizomes.
Boophane disticha, Bushman poison bulb (eastern and southern South Africa)
This plant’s large, strap-like leaves emerge in a fan-shape from its partly exposed bulb. Its rounded inflorescence consists of many pink flowers which are positioned at equal distances from the stalk.
Medicinal properties: wounds, bruises, boil.
Parts used: bulb scales (mixed with water and used as a dressing). Caution needs to be taken when working with this plant due to toxicity and internal use should be avoided at all costs.
Bowiea volubilis, Climbing potato (eastern areas of South Africa)
Papery scales cover this plant’s greenish-white, plump tuberous bulb. It produces small and insignificant flowers that are green and yellow.
Medicinal properties: treatment for female infertility, bladder problems, headaches.
Parts used: bulbs and scales. Caution needs to be taken when working with this plant due to high poison levels and internal use is possibly lethal.
Bulbine natalensis, Bulbinella (widely distributed in South Africa’s northern and eastern parts)
The bulbinella plant produces aloe-like, but smooth and fleshy, rosettes of bright yellowish-green foliage. Thin flowering stems carry yellow flowers.
Medicinal properties: burns, wounds, itches, eczema, wounds, rashes, cracked lips, rheumatism, herpes.
Parts used: roots and leaves. Leaf gel (sap) is applied to skin directly or in warm poultice.
Cannabis sativa, Marijuana, Dagga (widely distributed)
Cannabis is an upright annual herb is known for its narcotic properties and is illegal to cultivate. Drooping leaves are divided into leaflets, growing from a similar point. Pale green leaflets have toothed margins and insignificant greenish female- and male flowers are borne on separate plants.
Medicinal properties: glaucoma, asthma, depression, appetite-loss, chemotherapy-caused nausea, poisoning and malaria.
Parts used: the leaves and flowering tops of the female plant is smoked. Resin produced by female flower glands (hashish) are dried and smoked or eaten.
Capparis tomentosa, Woolly caper-bush (South Africa’s very eastern parts)
A scrambling shrub with pinkish or white flowers, which have showy stamens. It also produces round fruits, pinkish or orange that has its seeds surrounded by fleshy grey pulp. Oblong foliage arises from the stem and a pair of hooked thorns.
Medicinal properties: coughs, headaches, chest pains, rheumatism, snake-bites, jaundice, pneumonia.
Parts used: root bark and roots (infusion, taken thrice daily for chest pain and coughs). Take care when using this plant and do not use at random.
Carpobrotus edulis, Sour fig (Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Cape south coast)
This perennial creeper has fat succulent, smooth leaves, triangular and margined red. The large flowers are yellow and fleshy too, turning into aromatic fruit with a slimy, jelly-like pulp. The seeds found in these fruits are used in curries and jams.
Medicinal properties: eczema, burns, wounds, vaginal thrush, mouth- and throat infections, indigestion, tuberculosis, earache, toothache, tuberculosis.
Parts used: pulp (applied to skin for infections, burns or wounds) or sap of leaves (to drink or gargle with).
Cassine transvaalensis, Transvaal saffronwood (widely distributed along South Africa’s north-eastern parts and occurs in Mpumalanga, Northern Province, Gauteng and Natal Coast)
This shrub or small tree has a pale-grey and smooth bark and its leaves grow densely from the ends of stiff side shoots. The oblong leaves’ margins are sometimes toothed and they are firmly textured. The summer flowers are small and insignificant, followed by edible fruits of oblong berry-shape, reddish-orange to yellow.
Medicinal properties: fever, diarrhoea, stomach aches.
Parts used: powdered bark, boiled in water, taken mostly twice daily. Dosage of the toxic bark needs to be controlled.
Catha edulis, Bushman’s tea (distributed between the Eastern Cape to Mpumalanga and Northern province)
The bark of this shrub or small tree is grey when young, becoming dark brown and rough in old age. Its foliage have pale undersides, and are otherwise bright and shiny, with toothed margins. Tiny winter flowers are white and the fruit consist of small dry pods.
Medicinal properties: asthma, coughs, chest complaints, fatigue.
Parts used: fresh leaves (khat) are chewed. Take care when using this plant for it is potentially addictive.
Catharanthus roseus, Periwinkle (widely distributed)
This perennial herb has a woody base and dark green, glossy leaves with white midribs. The flowers vary from white to pink.
Medicinal properties: rheumatism, diabetes.
Parts used: roots and leaves (infusions for treating diabetes - note these infusions are toxic even when diluted).
Centella asiatica, Pennywort (from Cape Peninsula along South Africa’s eastern parts)
This moisture-loving perennial creeper is known for its roundish, kidney-shaped foliage on long, thin stalks. Trio sets of small, insignificant flowers are produced.
Medicinal properties: wounds, leprosy, allergies, fever, cancer, syphilis, acne.
Parts used: leaves - in the form of tinctures and extracts.
Chironia baccifera, Christmas berry (wide spread)
A rounded shrub, densely branched with small, needle-like foliage and pretty pink spring flowers. These are followed by red summer berries.
Medicinal properties: haemorrhoids, diarrhoea, acne, boil sores.
Parts used: the whole plant, through decoctions, infusions and tinctures. Care needs to be taken when working with this plant because due to its levels of toxidity, random use could prove dangerous.
Cichorium intybus, Chicory (wide spread)
The oblong-shaped leaves of this woody perennial herb are large and have irregular dentate margins. The flowers are beautiful and pale blue. Milky latex is given off when plant parts are damaged.
Medicinal properties: water retention, constipation, indigestion, jaundice, liver-, kidney- and blood purifier.
Parts used: roots and leaves (to treat jaundice or to purify blood take 30g of roots, leaves and stems to 1 litre water, boiled 7 minutes together and left to cool. Take thrice daily for 3 days.)
Cinnamomum camphora, Camphor tree (eastern- and southern parts of South Africa)
All parts of this large tree have a strong camphor aroma, hence the common name. Its leaves are yellowish-green to dark green, veined prominently and the insignificant white flowers are followed by small, purple, round berries.
Medicinal properties: inflammation, influenza, colds, fevers, pneumonia, heart conditions, infections, diarrhoea.
Parts used: gum, extracted from the wood. Careful, supervised dosage is essential due to toxic levels.
Cissampelos capensis, Dawidjiewortel (widely distributed in South Africa’s western parts)
A perennial climber with bright green, rounded foliage and small, greenish, fluffy flower clusters, followed by tiny orange berries.
Medicinal properties: syphilis, cholera, colic, diarrhoea, blood purifier, boils, sores and cholera.
Parts used: tinctures, decoctions and infusions of roots, leaves (also in paste form applied to sores and boils) and rhizomes.
Clivia miniata, Bush lily (eastern coastal parts of South Africa, but cultivated widely throughout)
This perennial plant loves shade and has dark-green, strap-like foliage and a tuberous rhizome. The beautiful flowers rise from single points on flowering stalks and are usually orange.
Medicinal properties: pain, snake-bite, fever, childbirth.
Parts used: the whole plant, but take care with the toxic rhizomes.
Cnicus benedictus, Holy thistle (Highveld and Cape)
The leaf rosettes of this annual has prickly, indented foliage and terminal flower heads of yellow flowers, surrounded by circles of prickly bracts.
Medicinal properties: ulcers, wounds, diabetes, arthritis, appetite loss.
Parts used: Infusions of all plant parts.
Cotyledon orbiculata, Pig’s ear (widely distributed)
This succulent has fleshy, bright green to grey, waxy foliage that have reddish margins. Tubular flowers on long, thin stalks are red or orange.
Medicinal properties: worms, toothache, earache, warts, boils, epilepsy.
Parts used: leaves and leaf juice (warmed and applied directly on affected areas). Internal use may be dangerous due to toxidity of the leaves.
Crinum macowanii, Lily (widely distributed)
Long, strap-like leaves rise from the large bulb of this geophytes. The trumpet-shaped flowers are beautiful and have black anthers.
Medicinal properties: skin irritations, fevers, bladder- and kidney diseases, colds, blood purifier, rheumatism.
Parts used: bulbs and foliage - used together with other ingredients. Ongoing use is not recommended due to high toxic levels.
Croton gratissimus, Lavender croton, Bergboegoe (northern parts of South Africa)
A shrub of small tree with scented foliage of silvery, shiny undersides and dark green surfaces. Brown glands dot the undersides. Insignificant cream flowers are followed by small yellow fruit in autumn.
Medicinal properties: fever, coughs, rheumatism, indigestion, chest problems.
Parts used: bark, leaf (infusions for coughs), berries (fevers).
Curtisia dentate, Assegai (from Northern Province southwards to Cape Peninsula)
This tree has shiny, dark green leaves with hairy undersides, paired oppositely on the twigs, and insignificant creamy and fluffy flowers which are followed by white berries.
Medicinal properties: diarrhoea, stomach problems, blood purifier.
Parts used: bark.
Cyclopia intermedia, Honeybush tea (Fynbos area in the Cape)
The multi-branched, woody shrub of 1m high has golden coloured young twigs clothed in leaves, comprising of three leaflets. Flat, brown seed pods appear after the flowering period of yellow blooms.
Medicinal properties: indigestion, tonic, blood purifier.
Parts used: Leaves, twigs and flowers are used in liquid form.
Datura stramonium, Thornapple (widely distributed)
An annual with large, irregularly toothed leaves of bright green colouring and unpleasant aroma when crushed. Large purplish or white, tubular flowers appear singly on each leaf axle, followed by spiny fruit capsules.
Medicinal properties: pain, toothache, asthma, boils, infections, wounds.
Parts used: foliage (infusions or poultice. Leaves are also smoked for asthma) and fruit (applied for toothache).
Dicoma capensis, Koorsbossie (widely distributed in Sough Africa’s drier interior)
This perennial is a small plant that has greyish-green foliage growing from creeping and spreading branches. The leaves are covered densely with short, white hairs and are, often narrow and/or oblong, variable in shape. Its insignificant flowers are a pale mauve with many bracts.
Medicinal properties: high blood pressure, diarrhoea, fever, stomach complaints.
Parts used: twigs, leaves (used in an infusion for fever and upset stomachs) and roots.
Dioscorea dregeana,Wild yam (distributed mainly in the Northern Province, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal)
This vine has hairy, climbing stems that grow, in spring, from a large underground tuber of up to 30cm in diameter. Its insignificant flowers are followed by winged fruit and the foliage are divided into 3 oval-shaped leaflets with pointed tips.
Medicinal properties: skin ailments, convulsions, hysteria, scabies, and epilepsy.
Parts used: tubers are, for instance, used in infusions for cuts and sores.
Dodonaea angustifolia, Sand olive (excepting for South Africa’s central regions, it is widely distributed)
This small tree or shrub has insignificant yellowish flowers, followed by tiny, winged fruits and its leaves are long and slim, waxy and pale green.
Medicinal properties: colds, sore throats, fever, measles, influenza, stomach complaints, pneumonia, skin irritations.
Parts used: foliage and tips of twigs are used in infusions.
Dombeya rotundifolia, Wild pear (northern regions of South Africa)
The spring flowers are beautiful and cover this small tree densely with white or pale pink, followed in summer by small round capsules. Its foliage is round and leathery, large leaves with pale, hairy undersides and dark green upper sides.
Medicinal properties: diarrhoea, stomach and chest complaints, haemorrhoids, ulcers.
Parts used: bark (decoctions or infusions), roots (inhalations of burnt powdered form) or wood.
Drimia robusta, Brandui (widely distributed over South Africa’s north-eastern parts)
These geophytes have strap-shaped leaves that grow from large, underground bulbs. The thin flower stalks carry whitish, tubular flowers with narrow tubes of stamens.
Medicinal properties: bladder- and uterus complaints, blood purifiers.
Parts used: bulbs and foliage, used in infusions and decoctions. Careful administration is needed when using this plant, due to high toxidity levels.
Ekebergia capensis, Cape ash (widely distributed in South Africa’s eastern parts)
The bark of this tree is grey and flaky. The twigs carry characteristic leaf scars. The foliage consists of 9 or 7widely oblong leaflets and the tiny pinkish or white spring flowers are followed by summer fruits that are reddish and round.
Medicinal properties: heartburn, gastritis, headaches, coughs, skin irritations.
Parts used: bark, foliage or roots. 1 part bark, 1 part roots are used, in a powdered form, in infusions. 2 teaspoons infusions to 1 cup of water are taken before meals to treat gastritis.
Elephantorrhiza elephantine, Elandsbean (widely distributed in South Africa’s grassland areas)
This plant has an enormous, of up to 7 meters long, underground rhizome, from which annual, unbranched stems grow. Its foliage are divided into many tiny, narrow leaflets and the flowers are clustered along bottoms of aerial stems. These blooms are tiny and cream-coloured, followed by large, strongly margined, pods.
Medicinal properties: acne, skin irritations, stomach complaints, haemorrhoids, diarrhoea, peptic ulcers.
Parts used: rhizomes, used in infusions. Infusions may be used as steams for skin diseases.
Elytropappus rhinocerotis, Renosterbos (Eastern-, Western- and Northern Cape)
The renosterbos shrub has tiny, greyish-green foliage, grouped densely on the thin stems and small flower heads of insignificant flowers.
Medicinal properties: dyspepsia, ulcers, indigestion, appetite-loss.
Parts used: young branch tips in tinctures or infusions, taken (small amounts) thrice daily.
Embelia ruminata, Ibhinini (distributed along the KwaZulu-Natal- and Easter Cape coastal parts)
A climbing shrub with glossy, dark green foliage, dotted with see-through glands. The insignificant, greenish-yellow flowers are followed by tiny round fruits.
Medicinal properties: Tapeworm.
Parts used: roots, leaves, bark, fruit. Take care when using this plant because it is potentially toxic.
Eriocephalus africanus, Wild rosemary (distribution is mainly in the Eastern- and Western Cape and Namaqualand)
A small, 1m high shrub with small, silvery and hairy foliage clustered on the many branches. Tufts of seed hairs follow flower heads of pale purple.
Medicinal properties: diuretics, diaphoretics, stomach ache, heart disease.
Parts used: foliage and twigs in tinctures, decoctions and infusions.
Erythrina lysistemon, Coral tree (distributed from the northern to eastern parts of South Africa)
Characteristic to this tree is its stout, thorny branches, covered with bright red flower clusters and its red seeds with black spot. The blooms are followed by black, tubular pods. Its leaves are divided into 3 pointed leaflets.
Medicinal properties: wounds, infections, arthritis, sores, sprains.
Parts used: bark, leaves or roots.
Erythrophleum lasianthum, Swazi ordeal tree (north-eastern parts of KwaZulu-Natal)
This tree has beautiful bottlebrush-type clusters of small cream or yellowish flowers and its leaves are divided twice into many leaflets which are smooth, glossy and bright green on the surfaces and hairy on the undersides. Large woody pods follow the blooms.
Medicinal properties: migraine, pain, fever, intestinal spasms.
Parts used: bark, pounded or powdered.
Euclea undulata, Common guarri (widely distributed along South African coast lines)
This shrub or small tree has tiny, whitish flowers, followed by round, edible and fleshy, berry-like fruits. The fruits are black at maturity, but start of being reddish. Its leaves are small and marked with wavy margins.
Medicinal properties: headache, toothache, heart disease, inflammation.
Parts used: roots, dried and powdered and used in infusions.
Eucomis autumnalis, Pineapple flower (distributed along South Africa’s eastern parts)
The wide, soft leaves have wavy margins and arise from large bulbs. Growing from it too, is the fleshy flower stalk, carrying many small, yellowish flowers, topped with a rosette of green leaves. Adding to its pineapple appearance.
Medicinal properties: bladder- and stomach complaints, fever, colic, flatulence, syphilis, healing aid for injuries and operations.
Parts used: bulb in the form of decoctions.
Foeniculum vulgare, Fennel (widely distributed)
A perennial herb with umbels of small yellow flowers and small yellowish fruits (often wrongly called seeds) which are divided into double segments. The finely divided, feathery leaves are yellowish-green and needle-like.
Medicinal properties: flatulence, coughs, indigestion.
Parts used: fruits (tinctures and infusions), roots and leaves.
Geranium incanum, Bergtee, Vrouebossie (distributed along the Eastern and Western Cape’s coastal areas)
This sprawling perennial has silvery-green feathery foliage and attractive, pale- or pink, violet- or white flowers, borne on long, thin stalks and followed by the fruit that characteristically resembles a stork’s bill. The blooms and their stalks are covered with flat-lying fine hairs.
Medicinal properties: venereal diseases, menstruation, bladder infections.
Parts used: foliage infusions, taken with water as a tea.
Gethyllis species, Koekoemakranka (distribution along northern and western Cape)
This extraordinary bulbous plant has a distinctive neck of scales above ground level from which long, thin leaves grow coiled or spirally twisted. Its summer flowers are beautiful with slim tubes, extending below ground level and the blooms only appear after the foliage has died off. Winter fruits consist of long, club-shaped berries that have aromatic pulp.
Medicinal properties: indigestion, colic.
Parts used: fruits, made into tinctures or infusions.
Glycyrrhiza glabra, Liquorice root (widely distributed in the Karoo)
The attractive perennial Liquorice has underground rhizomes and upright woody stems. Clusters of white or pale purple flowers grow above the foliage and these leaves are divided into many small, slightly hairy leaflets. The blooms are followed by small brown pods.
Medicinal properties: coughs, ulcers, tuberculosis, appendicitis, indigestion, flatulence, inflammation, insect bites, sunburn, piles.
Parts used: rhizome infusions.
Gnidia kraussiana, Yellow heads (distributed in South African grasslands of the northern and eastern parts)
From the woody base of this shrublet arises hairy stems carrying small, oblong, hairy leaves and densely rounded heads of yellow tubular spring flowers.
Medicinal properties: stomach complaints, snake bites, burns and more.
Parts used: roots and rootstock decoctions but take care when using this toxic plant.
Gunnera perpensa, River pumpkin (distributed widely along moist areas of the northern, eastern and southern parts of South Africa)
A robust perennial herb that loves moisture. The foliage is large, round and pumpkin-like, that, with its thick stalks rises from thick rhizomes underground. Male and female flowers, tiny and reddish, appear in separate parts of the flower clusters. Females are below and males in the upper parts.
Medicinal properties: rheumatic fever, menstrual pain, labour-inducing, stomach trouble, swellings, wounds.
Parts used: rhizomes in decoctions or infusions.
Harpagophytum procumbens, Devil’s claw (distributed in sandy areas of South Africa’s north-western areas)
This spreading perennial plant grows from a tuberous rootstock and has tubular flowers of violet or yellow. Its well-known fruits have many long arms with sharp, hooked thorns and two straight upper thorns. Its foliage are divided irregularly into loves of greyish-green colouring.
Medicinal properties: arthritis, rheumatism, indigestion, appetite-loss, skin irritations.
Parts used: dried secondary roots, used in infusions.
Harpephyllum caffrum, Wild plum (widely distributed in South Africa)
This large evergreen tree has glossy, dark green leaves, divided into asymmetrical leaflets. Its small, yellow or white flowers are male or female and appear on different trees. These blooms are followed by red, plum-like edible fruits.
Medicinal properties: blood purifier, skin cleansers, treatment for eczema and acne, fractures and sprains.
Parts used: stem bark, powdered and boiled in water.
Helichrysum, species Everlastings (widely distributed)
An aromatic perennial herb with continual flower heads and hairy leaves(colour, size and shape depends on the species).
Medicinal properties: colds, coughs, infections, headaches, fevers, menstrual pains and other.
Parts used: twigs, leaves (infusions for coughs and colds) smoked for pain relief or used as a poultice on wounds) and roots.
Heteromorpha arborescens, Parsley tree (widely distributed)
The smooth bark of this shrub or small tree peels off in characteristic horizontal flakes. It has thick, fleshy roots and the leaves vary in shape and size. Insignificant yellow flowers, arranged in umbels, are followed by small fruits, winged doubly on one side and three wings on the other.
Medicinal properties: colic, stomach pains, scrofula, hysteria, headaches, fever, coughs, asthma, infertility, purifying the stomach, blood or kidneys.
Parts used: roots, leaves (infusions and decoctions of the leaves and roots, or smoke inhalation to treat headaches) and bark.
Heteropyxis natalensis, Lavender tree (distributed in the north-eastern parts of South Africa)
This small tree has a branched trunk and aromatic foliage covers its branches densely. These leaves are glossy green but have a red tinge when young. The yellowish-white flowers are insignificant and followed by tiny capsules.
Medicinal properties: colds, bleeding gums and noses, excessive menstrual flow.
Parts used: leaves (medicinal tea) and roots (steam of decoctions to treat bleeding noses and gums).
Hypericum perforatum, St John’s wort (This shrub is widely distributed in the Western Cape)
This 1m high perennial has creeping rhizomes and upright branches with yellow flowers, followed by small seed pods. The opposite leaves are covered with translucent oil glands.
Medicinal properties: for depression, insomnia, gout, rheumatism and diarrhoea, to mention a few.
Parts used: all above-ground parts made into a tea. Care needs to be taken to those exposed to strong sun, due to photosensitivity which may occur.
Hypoxis hemerocallidea, Inkomfe (widely distributed in South Africa’s grassland areas)
These tuberous perennials have star-shaped, yellow flowers and long, strap-shaped leaves.
Medicinal properties: bladder complaints, dizziness, burns, insanity, prostate problems.
Parts used: tuberous rootstock infusions and decoctions.
Jatropha curcas, Purging nut (distribution in northern parts of South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal)
This shrub or small tree has smooth, heart-shaped leaves and small greenish, hairy flowers (male or female). The fruit capsules are egg-shaped and black at maturity. These capsules contain three large black seeds.
Medicinal properties: purgative.
Parts used: seeds, leaves and bark.
Kigelia africana, Sausage tree (distributed in South Africa’s north-eastern and northern parts)
A large rounded tree with a thick grey trunk and large, dark maroon and very attractive (but foul smelling) flowers that are carried on pendulous stalks. These blooms are followed by sausage-shaped fruits, greyish-brown, that are up to a meter long!
Medicinal properties: sores, syphilis, ulcers, rheumatism.
Parts used: dried fruit, powdered and used as a dressing.
Knowltonia vesicatoria, Brandblare (widely distributed in the southern-, but mainly western Cape)
A shade-loving perennial herb with fleshy roots and a rhizome from which the purplish-red leaf stalks arise. The foliage is divided into 3 leaflets and its winter flowers are yellowish or white, very dainty and small. Small black fruits follow these blooms.
Medicinal properties: rheumatism, influenza, colds, headaches, toothaches and other.
Parts used: leaves (sniffed for headaches) and roots (decoctions).
Lannea edulis, Wild grape (wide distribution in grasslands of summer rainfall areas)
This shrub grows its short branches from a huge woody underground rootstock and small purplish-black berries follow upright clusters of yellow flowers. Its hairy leaves are divided into leaflets that have great contrasts between the lower and upper surfaces.
Medicinal properties: diarrhoea, boils, sore eyes.
Parts used: bark of underground rootstock in infusions or leaves as poultices.
Leonotis leonurus, Wild dagga (wide distribution)
An ornamental shrub with rounded groups of bright orange tubular flowers on the branch ends that are most popular with birds. The branches grow from a woody base and its long, slim leaves are carried opposite each other, toothed in the upper half and slightly hairy. All parts are most aromatic.
Medicinal properties: bites and stings, eczema, skin irritations and diseases, epilepsy, muscle cramps, colds, coughs, asthma, influenza, headaches, high blood pressure.
Parts used: leaves (infusions for asthma), stems and roots used in decoctions internally and externally.
Lippia javanica, Fever tea (widely distributed)
The fever tea is an upright woody shrub with prominently veined, hairy leaves, smelling strongly of lemon, and dense clusters of whitish flowers.
Medicinal properties: fever, coughs, colds, bronchitis, influenza, stomach problems, headaches, measles, malaria, lice and scabies.
Parts used: twigs, leaves (infusions) and roots.
Lobostemon fruticosus, Agdaegeneesbossie (It is distributed in the fynbos regions of South Africa)
This small, multi-branched shrub is about 1m high with silvery-green, hairy leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers vary in colour of blue- and pink shades.
Medicinal properties: treat internal problems and to purify the blood. It has wound-healing properties and treats skin diseases.
Parts used: leaves and twigs (paste of fresh foliage and branch tips, applied to wounds. Leaves are taken as a tea).
Melianthus comosus, Kruidjie-roer-my-nie (wide distribution)
This shrub is known for its foul aroma that is set off when any of its parts are bruised or even just touched. Leaflets are oblong-shaped with toothed margins and the small green flowers have bright red petals. These flower clusters are followed by four-winged pods.
Medicinal properties: sores, septic wounds, bruises, rheumatism, snake bite, ringworm, backache.
Parts used: leaves (poultices and decoctions) or roots (decoctions for ringworm).
Mentha longifolia, Wild mint (The distribution is wide in South Africa, mainly in moist areas of good rainfall)
This highly aromatic perennial herb has creeping rhizomes and small white or pale purple flower clusters on the stem tips of almost 1m high. Opposite leaves are square in cross-section.
Medicinal properties: respiratory ailments like coughs, colds and asthma, to treat headaches, fevers, flatulence, indigestion, hysteria and more
Parts used: Leaves (infusions or decoctions), stems and rhizomes.
Myrothamnus flabellifolius, Resurrection plant (distributed in South Africa’s northern parts)
A small, stiff, woody shrub with fan-shaped leaves, toothed on the upper ends and folded lengthwise. Insignificant summer flowers of male or female are borne on separate plants.
Medicinal properties: respiratory problems, asthma, colds, pain, wounds, haemorrhoids, menstruation pain, kidney problems.
Parts used: leaves (infusions, decoctions or smoked), twigs and roots.
Ocotea bullata, Black stinkwood (wide distribution in forest areas, from Cape Peninsula east towards Eastern- and Southern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga)
This large, evergreen tree’s timber is very popular with furniture makers and it has large, shiny green leaves with swollen pits in the main veins’ axils. The summer flowers are small and greenish and are followed by acorn-type fruits.
Medicinal properties: urinary disorders, stomach trouble, headaches, nervous disorders, diarrhoea.
Parts used: stem bark as a snuff (headaches) or infusion.
Olea europaea, Wild olive (wide distribution)
A medium-sized tree with white spotted branches and small creamy-white flowers. These blooms are followed by egg-shaped fruits that are black when ripe. Its dark, shiny, narrow leaves are a faded yellowish colouring underneath and they are positioned in opposite pairs.
Medicinal properties: high blood pressure, colic, diarrhoea, sore throats and more.
Parts used: infusions and decoctions of dried foliage, roots and stem bark.
Osmitopsis asteriscoides, Belskruie (Western Cape distribution only)
An upright shrub with its aromatic, camphor-smelling leaves crowding the bare stems’ ends. The oblong leaves share their space with large, attractive daisy-like, white flower heads.
Medicinal properties: coughs, influenza, pains, cuts, inflammations, swellings, colic. Parts used: leave tinctures or poultices.
Pelargonium, luridum Ishaqa (distributed over large parts of Southern Africa’s interior)
The plant is a herbaceous perennial with a tuberous rootstock from rosettes of divided leaves and pink, white or greenish-yellow flowers on tall stalks emerges.
Medicinal properties: dysentery, diarrhoea.
Parts used: rootstock infusions, decoctions or chewed.
Pellaea calomelanos, Hard fern (wide distribution)
This fern has bluish-green foliage, composing of many firm leaflets of triangular shape. The edges are lined distinctly with brown sori (spore-producing bodies).
Medicinal properties: asthma, colds, chest colds, abscesses, intestinal parasites, boils.
Parts used: foliage (smoked for asthma, colds and chest colds) and rhizomes (decoctions to treat boils, abscesses and parasites).
Pentanisia prunelloides, Wild verbena (distributed in grasslands of the eastern parts of South Africa)
This pretty perennial herb has a thick tuberous root. Its flowers are pale purple, very dainty and are densely grouped on the branch ends. Its leaves are hairy, oblong-shaped and borne in pairs.
Medicinal properties: rheumatism, swellings, burns, fever, heartburn, chest pain, toothache, haemorrhoids, vomiting, snake bite and other.
Parts used: tuberous root (infusions and decoctions, chewed or poultices) and leaves (poultices).
Peucedanum galbanum, Blister bush (distribution restricted to Western Cape’s fynbos area)
This strong, upright shrub has a pungent, resinous aroma and its leaves (which may cause blistering when in contact with skin, followed by sunlight) are divided into many diamond-shaped, serrated-edged leaflets. Its yellow flowers are small and arranged in umbels, followed by flat, winged fruit.
Medicinal properties: bladder- and kidney complaints, rheumatism, glandular swelling, high blood pressure, water retention, obesity.
Parts used: leave infusions. Careful administration is needed due to high toxic levels.
Pittosporum viridiflorum, Cheesewood (natural distributions over eastern and southern parts of South Africa)
This shrub or tree has its bark dotted with white and produces small, scented, greenish summer flowers, followed by small brown pods. Its foliage is shiny and dark green, usually slimmer towards the ends.
Medicinal properties: abdominal pain, upset stomachs, pain and other.
Parts used: decoctions and infusions of stem bark.
Plumbago auriculata, Syselbos (wide distribution)
The sticky, glandular, pale blue or white flowers of this scrambling shrub appear in short clusters and the branch ends. Its oblong leaves and positioned of leave stalks which seem to clasp the stems with a winded base.
Medicinal properties: fractures, headaches.
Parts used: powdered roots and leaves as a poultice or snuff.
Polygala fruticosa, Ithethe (distribution along the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern- and Western Cape)
This attractive shrublet grows its upright branches from a woody rootstock and its pale green leaves appear opposite each other on the stems. The pretty, purple summer flowers have a tufted outgrowth near the bottom petal’s tip.
Medicinal properties: poor circulation, blood purifying, tuberculosis, intestinal sores, sinusitis, gonorrhoea.
Parts used: whole plant in infusions and snuffs.
Protea repens Suikerbos, Sugarbush (widely distributed in the Western Cape)
This erect shrub grows in large, dense stands, stands up to 3m high and has smooth, narrow leaves and flowers of pink, red or cream.
Medicinal properties: coughs, chest disorders.
Parts used: Syrup of the nectar.
Prunus africana, Red stinkwood (distributed in the forests along South Africa’s mist belt areas)
The tall tree often has buttress roots and shiny, dark green leaves, minutely serrated and smell of almonds when crushed. Its elongated clusters of small white flowers are followed by reddish berries.
Medicinal properties: chest pains.
Parts used: bark decoctions.
Psidium guajava, Guava (widely distributed in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Northern Province)
This shrub or small tree has a flaky bark with a smooth trunk underneath. Its large, prominently veined leaves are paired opposite each other and the summer flowers are small and white with many stamens. These dainty blooms are followed by pear-shaped to round fruits of yellow colouring.
Medicinal properties: diarrhoea, diabetes, coughs, ulcers, fever, wounds, boils, malaria and other.
Parts used: foliage (infusions), bark, roots and unripe fruits.
Ptaeroxylon obliquum, Sneezewood (distributed naturally along northern Province and the eastern coastal parts of South Africa)
A shrub or tree with male- and female flowers, occurring on different trees. These are small and pale yellow, borne densely in clusters. Fruits of oblong capsules contain two-winged seeds. Its leaves consist of many asymmetrical leaflets.
Medicinal properties: rheumatism, arthritis, headaches, heart disease.
Parts used: wood (infusions of powdered wood, taken for heart disease and rheumatism) or bark infusions of powdered bark).
Punica granatum, Pomegranate (widely distributed)
This thorny, deciduous shrub or small tree has shiny bright green and smooth leaves. The beautiful orange-red flowers, appearing on the branches’ tips, are followed by large fruit containing bright ed seeds. They are popular for their juice edible flesh surrounding these seeds.
Medicinal properties: diarrhoea, stomach ache, tapeworm.
Parts used: fruit rind (dried and taken for stomach ache and diarrhoea) and decoctions of the root bark is taken for tapeworm.
Rapanea melanophloeos, Cape beech tree (distribution along the east coast and the afromontane regions of South Africa)
This tree has a grey bark, large oblong leaves that are purplish when young and small greenish flowers. These dense flower clusters are followed by small, round purple berries.
Medicinal properties: muscle pain, heart problems, stomach disorders.
Parts used: bark decoctions or infusions.
Rauvolfia caffra, Quinine tree (distributed in South Africa’s eastern parts)
A large tree with a spreading crown and has a greyish, soft and corky bark, splitting into rectangular blocks. Its leaves are oblong, glossy green, smooth and have a prominent main vein. Rounded, bright green berries follow the flowers of white and waxy.
Medicinal properties: fever, insomnia, hysteria, malaria, measles, rashes.
Parts used: root bark or bark latex (to treat rashes and those caused by measles), sometimes the leaves. Decoctions of the bark.
Rhoicissus tridentate, Wild grape (widely distributed)
This creeping shrub has a thick woody base and shiny dark green leaves with wedge-shaped trio’s of leaflets. Insignificant greenish flowers are followed by small reddish berries.
Medicinal properties: bladder- and kidney complaints, stomach problems, infertility, pain, childbirth facilitator.
Parts used: root infusions and decoctions.
Rhus undulata, Kuni-bush (wide distribution along the Cape west coast and elsewhere)
A large whrub with variable leaves of trio leaflets growing from a slim winged leaf stalk. Leaflets are variable in shape and size, has wavy margin and pointed tip. Insignificant greenish flowers are followed by small reddish or green berries.
Medicinal properties: chest colds, infections, gastro.
Parts used: chewing leaves for chest colds, leaf decoctions, bark and roots.
Ricinus communis, Castor oil plant (wide distribution)
A large shrub or small tree with long leaf stalks and large, fan-shaped leaves. Near the tips of the branches appear the flower clusters, female flowers above the male flowers. The three-lobed capsules have spine-like projections on their surfaces, containing three seeds, mottled with black, silver and brown. Hard, white, fleshy arils appear at the seed tips.
Medicinal properties: stomach ache, wounds, boils, sores and other.
Parts used: oil extracted from the seeds and less frequently the fruits and leaves.
Rumex lanceolatus, Common dock (widely distributed along rivers, dams and moist places)
This herbaceous perennial produces long, narrow flower clusters of yellowish colour and small size. Brown winged fruits, containing dark brown seeds, follow these blooms. Its leaves are smooth ad bright green with wavy margins and borne on short stalks.
Medicinal properties: tapeworm, round worm, vascular diseases, internal bleeding, boils and abscesses.
Parts used: roots or leaves (infusions or poultice).
Ruta graveolens, Rue (widely distributed)
A woody perennial shrub with irregularly divided leaves consisting of several leaflets, variable in shape and size, smooth and pale green, covered with many translucent glands. The four petal’ed flowers are yellow and borne around the branches’ tips. Following these are four-lobed pods, covered with glands and containing black wedge-shaped seeds.
Medicinal properties: fever, fits, hysteria, epilepsy, respiratory complaints, heart diseases, ear- and toothaches, rheumatism.
Parts used: tinctures, infusions and decoctions of leaves (or bruised for ear- and toothache) and twigs.
p Salix mucronata, Wild willow (wide distribution)
This drooping tree has slim leaves that are dark green on the surface and paler underneath. Its flowers, male or female, appear on separate trees and are small and yellowish, but insignificant. The small brown capsules contain white, fury seeds.
Medicinal properties: fever, rheumatism and other.
Parts used: infusions or decoctions of leaves, branch tips and less frequently the bark.
Sansevieria hyacinthoides, Piles root (distributed naturally in the northern and eastern parts of South Africa’s shaded areas)
A perennial herb with a horizontal, fleshy rootstock from which the succulent, fibrous, long strap-shaped leaves grow. Its elongated flower clusters are beautiful and borne in summer. Small, yellow berry-like fruits follow these tiny white blooms.
Medicinal properties: earache, ear infection, toothache, haemorrhoids, intestinal worms, diarrhoea, ulcers, stomach disorders.
Parts used: infusions or decoctions of rhizomes (freshly chewed or boiled for its juice to treat parasites, ulcers and haemorrhoids) or leaves (heated and juice extracted for ear problems and toothaches).
Scabiosa columbaria, Wild scabious (widely distributed)
This perennial herb has fleshy roots from which the annual branches grow. The hairy leaf rosettes carry basal leaves with serrated margins and those higher are deeply lobed. The daisy-like flowers are charming and white.
Medicinal properties: heartburn, wounds, colic.
Parts used: leaves or roots are chewed fresh or in a decoction.
Scadoxus puniceus, Red paintbrush (distribution fall in South Africa’s summer rainfall areas)
A shade-loving bulbous plant with long, strap-shaped and upright leaves, margined wavy and with purple spotting on the leaf stalks. The orange-red flowers are attractive and borne in dense clusters on thick stalks.
Medicinal properties: coughs, asthma, sores, bruises, sprains, ulcers, gastro.
Parts used: decoctions of bulbs and roots, poultice of leaves.
p Schotia brachypetala, Weeping boer-bean (distributed widely in the north-eastern parts)
A tree with a spreading crown. Its attractive red flowers literally drip with nectar and are borne in large clusters on old wood. The leaves consist of small pairs of shiny green leaflets. Large woody pods follow the flowers.
Medicinal properties: diarrhoea, heart burn and other.
Parts used: bark decoctions.
Scilla natalensis, Blouberglelie (distributed from the Northern Cape Province through KwaZulu-Natal to the Eastern Province)
This plant has wide, tapering foliage arising from its huge bulbs. Long slender flower stalks carry pretty purplish-blue flowers.
Medicinal properties: female infertility, boils, sores, sprains, fractures.
Parts used: decoctions of the bulb. Take care to only use this plant externally.
p Sclerocarya birrea, Marula (distributed in northern parts of South Africa)
This single-stemmed tree has its leaves divided into many leaflets, sharply pointed with a paler underside. Its oblong clusters of small flowers are male or female and have yellow petals and red sepals, followed by large round fruits that are popularly used to flavour liqueur and to produce jellies.
Medicinal properties: dysentery, diabetes, indigestion, diarrhoea, stomach problems, fever.
Parts used: decoctions of the bark or roots or leaves (infusions).
Securidaca longipedunculata, Violet tree (distribution in South Africa’s Northern provinces and North-West)
A distinctive small tree with smooth, oblong leaves and attractive pinkish clusters of summer flowers. Its fruits are nuts with single curved wings.
Medicinal properties: rheumatism, head- and toothache, coughs, chest complaints and other.
Parts used: decoctions of roots (chewed for toothache, or a warm poultice for rheumatism), stem bark and leaves.
Senecio serratuloides, Two day plant (wide distribution in South Africa’s rainfall areas)
Growing from this herbaceous perennial’s woody rootstock is tall stems with serrated leaves and small yellow flowers.
Medicinal properties: burns, sores, cuts, swellings, chest pains, blood purifiers and others.
Parts used: leaves (infusions for blood purifying or applied externally to skin ailments), stems and less frequently roots.
Siphonochilus aethiopicus, Wild ginger (restricted distribution in the Northern Province and Mpumalanga)
This deciduous plant grows its smooth foliage from a small rhizome and both these smell similar to real ginger. Its gorgeous summer flowers are borne at ground level and are widely funnel-shaped, white and pink, with a tiny yellow blotch in the centre.
The female plants have smaller flowers than the bisexual plants. Small berry-like fruits are produced above or below the ground.
Medicinal properties: colds, influenza, coughs, hysteria, pain and other.
Parts used: chewing fresh rhizomes and roots.
Stangeria eriopus, Stangeria (distributed from the coast of eastern Cape to Kwa Zulu Natal)
A fern-like, perennial, herbal cycad with a thick tuberous stem from which large fern-like foliage grows. Female- and male cones appear on separate plant. The female cone is broader with stalked scales and containing large red seeds. The male is more slender with overlapping scales in spiral fashion.
Medicinal properties: poisoning, congestion, high blood pressure, headaches, flatulence, arthritis and other.
Parts used: infusions of the tuberous stem and seeds.
Strychnos henningsii, Red bitterberry (distributed from South Africa’s north-eastern parts and along the east coast)
This shrub or tree has shiny bright green leaves with three prominent main veins, arising from the base. Its spring flowers are small and yellow, followed by the orange, shiny fruits.
Medicinal properties: stomach complaints, nausea, colic, rheumatic fever, purgative, dysmenorrhoea.
Parts used: bark (infusions of chewed), roots (boiled) or green fruits.
Sutherlandia frutescens, Cancer bush (wide distribution)
This small, attractive shrub has hairy, silvery leaves, divided into many small leaflets, and large red flowers. Bladder-like pods follow these blooms. Medicinal properties: colds, stomach problems, influenza, chicken-pox, varicose veins, piles, diabetes, inflammation, backache, rheumatism, liver complaints, wounds and other.
Parts used: leaf decoctions and tinctures.
Synaptolepis kirkii, Uvuma-omhlope (restricted distribution to northern Kwa Zulu Natal)
This scandent shrub carries its bluish-green foliage on almost black stems, arising from a large underground tuberous root. The almost stalk-less leaves are oppositely paired. Tubular white flowers are produced and orange, berry-like fruit are enclosed in the persistent basal parts of the flowers.
Medicinal properties: epilepsy, constipation, emetic.
Parts used: decoctions or infusions of the root.
Syzygium cordatum, Water berry (wide distribution in the north-eastern and eastern parts)
A tree of medium size with broad, round, bluish-green leaves, paired oppositely near the branches’ ends. Pinkish to cream-coloured flowers are clustered on the branches’ tips and the egg-shaped, edible berries are dark purple to red.
Medicinal properties: tuberculosis, respiratory problems, diarrhoea, stomach complaints, emetic.
Parts used: decoctions of the bark, leaves and roots.
Tarchonanthus camphorates, Wild camphor bush (wide distribution)
This shrub or small tree has a greyish appearance, it’s leaves’ undersides pale grey and velvety. These oblong leaves are dark green on the surface and strongly veined and its white flowers are small, followed by fury fruits.
Medicinal properties: stomach problems, tooth- and headaches, abdominal pain, bronchitis, asthma, inflammation, rheumatism.
Parts used: infusions and tinctures, a poultice or smoking leaves and twigs.
Terminalia sericea, Silver cluster-leaf (distributed in sandy savannah areas of northern South Africa)
This tree has a wide spreading crown and silvery-haired leaves crowding the branch’s tips. The cream-coloured flowers have a foul smell and the fruits have two papery wings.
Medicinal properties: stomach problems, diarrhoea, pneumonia, eye infections, diabetes, wounds.
Parts used: infusions and decoctions, internally or externally, of roots, and stem bark (ground bark is eaten).
Tetradenia riparia, Ginger bush (distributed along eastern South Africa’s dry rocky areas or stream banks) This shrub or small tree has slightly succulent, hairy leaves and stems of which the foliage is round and large and glandular both sides. Male flower spikes have fewer flowers and the female ones have narrower tubs, appearing on different plants in colour varieties of white to mauve.
Medicinal properties: sore throats, coughs, colds, mouth ulcers, diarrhoea, influenza, stomach aches, fever, malaria, headaches.
Parts used: leaf infusions, decoctions or fumes of crushed leaf.
Thesium hystrix, Kleinswartstorm (distributed in the central interior)
This parasitic shrub-let grows on other plant’s roots. Its tapering stems from sharp thorns and seem almost leafless. The tiny leaves are triangular and smooth. Egg-shaped, berry-like fruit follows insignificant white flowers.
Medicinal properties: coughs, chest colds, tuberculosis, blood purifier.
Parts used: decoctions of the roots.
Trichilia emetica, Natal mahogany (distribution occurs from South Africa’s eastern border narrowly down to Durban)
An evergreen tree with a rounded crown and smooth, greyish bark. Its leaves are large, divided into dark shiny leaflets with hairy undersides. The summer flowers are yellowish-green, followed by round, greenish-brown fruits containing black seeds. These seeds are covered almost entirely by fleshy red arils.
Medicinal properties: dysentery, kidney problems, stomach- and intestinal complaints, indigestion, fever, as purgatives, bruises, rheumatism, eczema, parasites.
Parts used: infusions of the bark, less frequently leaves, roots or seed oil.
Tulbaghia violacea, Wild garlic (distributed in southern Kwa Zulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and cultivated in many gardens)
This pretty bulbous plant has long, slim, smooth leaves, growing from white, fleshy bases. The beautiful pale purple flowers are grouped at the tips of slender stalks. All plant parts have a strong garlic smell.
Medicinal properties: colds, fever, asthma, stomach problems, tuberculosis, oesophagus, fits, rheumatism, as a purgative, paralysis.
Parts used: decoctions of the bulbs or leaves as eaten as leaf vegetables.
Typha capensis, Bulrush (wide distribution in wet areas)
This strong-growing perennial reed-like plant grows its erect stems from creeping thick rhizomes. It has smooth strap-shaped leaves and its flowers, male and female, are tiny and grouped densely towards the tips of the flower stalks. The female flowers are positioned just beneath the male ones which soon fall off, leaving the fruiting part of the plant.
Medicinal properties: venereal diseases, diarrhoea, dysentery, infertility, circulation and other.
Parts used: decoctions of rhizomes.
Valerian capensis, Cape valerian (distributed widely in South Africa)
These perennial herbs have numerous long and thin rhizomes from which erect, hollow stems develop. Unequally divided leaves consist of a large, top leaflet and smaller leaflets lower down. Clusters of inconspicuous white, pink, lilac or mauve flowers are clustered on the branch ends.
Medicinal properties: asthma, bronchitis, epilepsy, insomnia, hysteria and heart trouble.
Parts used: roots and rhizomes, dried or extracts are used.
Vernonia oligocephala, Groenamara (widespread in South African grassland areas)
A herbaceous perennial with its upright flowering branches growing from woody rootstock. The elliptic, dark green and smooth leaves are almost twice as long as wide, pointed sharply and have short stalks. Their undersides are hairy and silvery. Flowers, borne in large groups at the branch tips are violet.
Medicinal properties: abdominal pain, colic, rheumatism, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, dysentery.
Parts used: (infusions of) leaves, the twigs and roots.
Viscum capense, Cape mistletoe (widespread but mainly in Easter- and Western Cape)
A parasitic plant, growing on others. Yellowish-green stems seem leafless and carry tiny white flowers, followed by tiny white see-through berries. The leaves are very small and scaly.
Medicinal properties: diarrhoea, bronchitis, asthma, menstruation problems, bleeding.
Parts used: infusions, taken internally or externally, of the whole plant.
Warburgia salutaris, Pepper-bark tree (rarely found in north-eastern South Africa)
A tree popular for its bark, rough and mottled, but reddish on the inside. Its oblong leaves are shiny green and long, but with a paler underside. Between the foliage are greenish-yellow flowers, followed by round green fruits.
Medicinal properties: colds, chest complaints, coughs, influenza, malaria, rheumatism, venereal diseases, tooth- and headaches, gastric ulcers.
Parts used: bark is smoked or infusions of the powdered bark.
Withania somnifera, Winter cherry (widespread)
An erect perennial shrublet with velvety stems and foliage. The oblong leaves are pale green and hairy and the small flowers are white to yellowish, borne in short clusters. Small round reddish berries, enclosed in paper structures, follow these.
Medicinal properties: wounds, abscesses, inflammation, rheumatism, syphilis, haemorrhoids, asthma, sedative, tonic.
Parts used: leaf poultices (wound healing), decoctions, tinctures or infusions of leaves, roots or the whole plant.
Xerophyta retinervis, Monkey’s tail (wide distribution in South African’s grasslands)
An unusual plant with long strap-shaped leaves at the tip of erect stems, covered with blackish remains of leaf bases. The beautiful flowers are grouped on slender stalks, usually pale blue or mauve, sometimes white. Its fibrous leaf bases protects it from veldfires.
Medicinal properties: pain, inflammation, nose bleeding, postpartum haemorrhage.
Parts used: the roots (sometimes smoked), stem bark or whole plant.
Xysmalobium undulatum, Uzara, Bitterwortel (widespread in South Africa’s grassland regions)
This perennial herb has strong, upright flowering stems, growing form a fleshy root system. Large hairy pods containing fluffy seeds follow round groups of small, yellowish, bell-shaped flowers. The leaves are large, arranged oppositely and exude milky latex when crushed.
Medicinal properties: afterbirth cramps, dysentery, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, colic, oedema, headaches, indigestion, dysmennorhoea, sores, wounds.
Parts used: root infusions, snuff or poultices.
Zantedeschia aethiopica, Arum lily, Varkoor (widespread)
The arum lily needs no introduction. It is an evergreen plant wit large fleshy leaves growing from a tuberous rhizome. These leaves are smooth, shiny and dark green. The tiny cream-coloured or yellow flowers are grouped densely on a spadix (finger-shaped column) and are surrounded by a large, white spathe (leaflike structure). Small fleshy berry-like fruits are produced en masse at the base of the spadix.
Medicinal properties: sores, boils, wounds, gout, rheumatism, bronchitis, heartburn, sore throat, asthma.
Parts used: leaves (poultice) or rhizomes (boiled). Note: never eat plant parts freshly.
Zanthoxylum capense, Small knobwood (widespread in northern and eastern South Africa)
This small tree has thick thorns growing from its grey bark and stems. The foliage, divided into leaflets, has oil glands on the edges and the greenish flowers are insignificant. Tiny, orange, round fruit clusters appear after the flowers.
Medicinal properties: fever, stomach ache, flatulence, epilepsy, toothache and other.
Parts used: infusions of decoctions of the leaves or fruits, root or bark.
Zingiber officinale, Ginger (widespread)
A herbaceous perennial with large leaves growing from a branched rhizome. The elongated flower stalk, carrying insignificant yellowish flowers, consists of many overlapping scales. The blooms have a purplish lip and three yellowish petals.
Medicinal properties: flatulence, nausea, indigestion, influenza, colds, and other.
Parts used: dried or fresh rhizomes, (in tinctures, for instance).
Ziziphus mucronata, Buffalo-thorn (widespread)
A medium-sized tree with a broad spreading crown and thorny twigs. These thorn pairs consist of one curved, and one straight thorn. Tiny yellowish flowers are carried above glossy green leaves that have paler undersides. They also have three main veins starting from the base and their upper halves’ margins are toothed. Its reddish-brown fruits are small, round and berry-like.
Medicinal properties: emetics, expectorants, chest- and cough complaints, dysentery, diarrhoea, glandular swellings, pain relief, sores, boils.
Parts used: decoctions or infusions of roots, leaves or bark.
Read more on useful plants...
This website contains general information about medicinal plants and their uses. It is intended as a general overview and not as a medical handbook for self-treatment. Many of the medicinal plants described are highly toxic and may cause severe allergic reactions or serious poisoning. We cannot be held responsible for claims arising from the mistaken identity of plants or their inappropriate use. Do not attempt self-diagnosis or self-treatment. Always consult a medical professional or qualified practitioner.
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Useful Plants Guide