The celebration of African Traditional Medicine Day recognises the work done by traditional healers for centuries. This holistic medicinal practice incorporates natural herbs, ingredients and African spirituality to bring physical, mental and spiritual healing to individuals.
By Taryn Wilson
In South Africa, there are a number of people who make use of traditional healing as a form of health care. And for some, it is the only health care available, which makes this practice a large part of South African culture and well-being.
Today marks the end of African Traditional Medicine Week, which the World Health Organization Africa Region (WHO AFRO) have established to spend the time commemorating and appreciating traditional healing, and dedicating research to honour this healing system and its ingredients.
Have a look at some of our favourite herbal ingredients and their incredible medicinal properties:
Aloe is well-known for its incredible healing abilities, which have allowed it to become the focus of many cosmetic products (in addition to being used in traditional healing). The leaf pulp (or sap) is the most sought-after due to its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties and can be used to treat ailments such as arthritis and sinusitis. You might be more familiar with aloe for its usage in skincare products though because it is known for treating burns, cuts, rashes and for hydrating the body.
We love adding some aloe water to lemonade or iced tea to give some extra flavour.
While mostly consumed as a healthy hot beverage or used for flavouring in cooking, rooibos is actually a powerful ingredient filled with antioxidants. It was discovered that an infusion of rooibos helped subside the symptoms of colic in babies, and has since been used as a nurturing agent. This, along with the fact that it’s caffeine-free, makes it a popular choice for many South Africans over green tea.
Try it: Lemon iced rooibos
For years, the Khoi and the San have made use of this herb for body anointing, and to alleviate stomach cramps by chewing the leaves. As a natural anti-inflammatory, this plant has been used to relieve body pain and an upset gut, and to clean wounds (when infused with vinegar). Today, you can find buchu essential oil in the cosmetic industry, where it is used as a herbal treatment and a relaxing agent.
Add a few teaspoons of loose buchu to savoury baked goods, like rolls or muffins, to give them fresh herbal flavour.
Besides keeping the bugs at bay in your garden, crushing the leaves and rubbing them on your skin can chase away insects in your home (perfect for mozzie season) and help to relieve a sinus headache. The bulbs are popularly used for getting rid of coughs and colds. In addition to its antiviral and antibacterial properties, certain African tribes have continued to use this plant as a spice, as well as an aphrodisiac and snake repellent.