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Medicinal Plants

Your Medicinal Garden


Peter von Maltitz


My thanks goes to the Phillip Kubukeli  

who introduced me to many of the South African indigenous plants and their uses.  

Since then I have continuously sought

more information and experience with them.

Phillip Kubukeli is a traditional healer

from Cala in the Eastern Cape

who always fostered cooperation among all the healers.  

He was living in the Western Cape in Macasa.

    ©             29 January 2011


The purpose of this booklet was to describe the identification, growth and use of a few medicinal plants, mainly indigenous, that can easily be grown in the Western Cape.  Most are frost resistant. With these in your garden you have remedies for a wide range of conditions at hand. Be aware that there are always individual sensitivities and allergies to any plant material, even to what most other people would call food. Test these plants on yourself individually in small quantities and on a small area of skin well before the need arises for  applying them vigorously.

They are beautiful, a joy to grow and a substitute for the pharmacy. Beside food security we also need medicinal plant security. Even if you do not know the details of treating with then, the fact that you can identify them and have them at hand means you can always phone for help from a herbalist.

Some of them are best used fresh such as the jell from the bulbine on a small bleeding cut or the leaf juice of the sour fig for sore throats.  This is the way you have them in your garden, free of preservatives and without  requiring an use by date.

Table of Contents

Achillea millefolium  –  Yarrow, schaafgarbe (german) 4

Aloe arborescens —      Bos aalwyn, Forest aloe,  Ingcelwane 6

Artemisia afra   —        Wilde als,  African Wormwood, Umshlonyane  

Ballota africana  –        Kattekruid, Cat bush, Isinazi   10

Bulbine frutescens  –     Balsem kopiva,  nierbossie,  bulbinella, Ibucu. 12

Bulbine natalensis or

Bulbine latifolia –         rooiwortel,    Matshetshafike.  14

Carpobrotus edulis   – suurvy,  Sour fig,      ikambhilamabulawo.  16

Dodonaea angustifolia   – sandolien,  Sand olive  18

Geranium incarnum  – vrouetee,  lady’s tea  20

Gunnera perpensa –    rivierpampoen, Wild rhubarb, Tangazana. 22

Helichrysum spp.  –     kooigoed,  Everlastings, Mphephu. 24

Kniphofia  –                vuurpyl,  Red hot poker, Ixonja. 26

Leonotis leonotis  –     klip dagga, Lions ears, Umfincaficane. 28

Lessertia  microphila  – gaansies,  cancerbush/ sutherlandia, Umwele. 30

Melianthus major/ comosus  –  Kruidjie roer my nie, Irhabiya  32

Mentha  longifolia   –     balderjan, Wild mint, Inzinziniba. 34

Pelargonium sidoides  – maagpynbossie, umclealaabo.  35

Ruta graveolens  –    –   wynruit, rue.

Stoebe plumosa or  

Seriphium plumosum    – slangbos. 39

Urtica urens —–          – brandnetel,  small stinging nettle. 40

Withania somnifera –  – wilde apeliefie, Winter cherry, Ubuvumba.

   Achillea millefolium  – Yarrow, shaafgarbe (German)

Description and diagnostic features

This soft, light green, one and a half metre high plant with the bitter finely feathered leaves is common in the Eastern Cape.

Part used

Mainly the flowers are used as tea but an extract made from  leaves in heated oil is also used.


It is especially useful for making tendons supple and generally making the body more youthful. When your bladder cannot stretch any more and you have to get up at night to pee, then you know it is time for the daily cup of Yarrow tea. The leaves are used to stop bleeding and were carried by the European soldiers to treat the wounds of war, hence its name of Achillea from Achilles. And Achilles' weak spot was his heel or rather the big tendon of his heel. It has been used very effectively in treating the tendons in the hand (carpel tunnel syndrome) by extracting the leaves in olive oil and mixing it with Hypericum oil extract. Rub into hands daily for a few weeks until the tendons are renewed.


This is a great plant from the north that is grown in many South African gardens now. It grows anywhere where there is enough moisture. It requires some watering in drier areas. It needs fresh soil, as it migrates through the soil.


The easiest is from rhizomes that keep spreading out from the mother plant. It is frost resistant.

    Aloe arborescens – Bos aalwyn,

Forest aloe,  Ingcelwane

Description and diagnostic features

It is a large (up to two metre) branched aloe with serrated leaves. The long flower heads are carried on one to three pronged branches.

Part used

1. The leaves are used, after being cut and allowed to turn red or blue. Macerated leaves are then extracted in alcohol or the sap is boiled to remove the moisture.

2. The gel of freshly macerated leaves.


1.    for getting the bitterness out.

Being bitter can come from suppressed anger and frustration. Bitterness makes our lives stunted. It drives our friends and opportunities away.

Even our milk can be bitter and our babies do not want to drink from us. One can cover the whole body in fresh macerated leaf gel with all the bitters.

Keep on for the night and wash off in the morning. If once does not help, a second treatment guarantees sweet milk.

I am sure you have tasted burnt food: it is bitter.

The bitters are a wonderful treatment for burns.

Even  radioactive burns are successfully treated with the extract from the variety that turns blue when cut up.

Cancer patients often have suppressed bitterness so that on the surface they are sweet people and no one would guess the hurt that really lives inside.

A strong dose of aloe bitters taken internally will also act as a purgative.

2.  The second use is of the jell.  It is used in the same way as the jell in Bulbine.


It grows very well in slightly protected areas with summer rain. Slightly protected means against a hillside or near trees.


It is easily propagated from seed and from cuttings. Frost sensitive. Many other aloes are frost resistant and have similar properties.

Artemisia afra   –  Wilde als   Umhlonjane  

Description and diagnostic features

This plant grows about a metre to two high and has finely feathered grey-green leaves. It is also bitter. It is covered in small ball flowers from late summer. They are yellow-green.

Part used



To imbue courage. It is the gall of courage. The Xhosa name umhlonyane means courage.  If you are lacking courage it will help you. As an additive to any cold remedy it is excellent to get things going.  

To be active and engaging we need to absorb strength. This plant helps us to absorb and use our foods.  Not only is it a great appetite booster but causes our tissues to absorb the sugars from our blood stream and be ready for action. Because it stimulates sugar absorption from the blood stream it overcomes the fear producing diabetes. Without the sugars oozing from our blood, yeasts like Candida have no food.  Take it as a tea once or twice a day or more often in acute situations.  There is anecdotal evidence in South Africa of the use of “wilde als” for the successful treatment of malaria in people.  The activity of the Artemisia against the malaria plasmodium seems to be its ability to coagulate iron in the vacuole of the plasmodium making it unavailable and thereby inactivating the parasite.

Contra Indications

As the plant seems to have the capacity for coagulating free iron, it would work well with inactivating many parasites, but it would be pointless giving it together with stinging nettle that makes iron available. The ability of certain people to absorb and concentrate Iron removing it from the mouth and eyes and other bodily opening surfaces seem to have played a major role in survival during the black plague. (see Survival of the Sickest.)


It grows wild in most of the Eastern Cape and other mountainous highlands as far as North Africa. It likes well drained soil.


It grows well from cuttings if the cuttings are put in the ground in autumn and kept moist. Remove most of the leaves from the cuttings. Do not use cuttings on which there are flowers or fruit.

Ballota africana  – Kattekruid,

Cat bush, Isinazi


Description and diagnostic features

This herbaceous plant with soft dark green leaves and tiny purple flowers grow up to a metre high and looks very much like the European grey horehound herb and works in the same way. It feels very sticky to the touch and is strong smelling.

Part used



The leaves are used fresh or dried as a tea. The tea is very good to clear up coughing. It also clears the kidneys. A mixture can be made with Artemisia afra for colds and flu especially where coughing is a component.   Dill or fennel seeds can be added to the mix to help break down slime.


It grows in sheltered areas where there is sufficient moisture. It is hardy and can survive drought, growing vigorously again when the rain returns. It is frost resistant. It grows wild in the central Western Cape.


It produces large quantities of seed.  It does not compete well with grass.

Bulbine frutescens

Balsem kopiva,  nierbossie,  bulbinella, Ibucu.

Description and diagnostic features

Succulent perennial growth produces a stolon as the growing tip moves forward. The growing tip forms a rosette of long thin leaves at the end of the stolon. The flowers form on a single long stem that also gets longer and longer as new flowers form at its tip through the summer.

Part used

Leaves are used for their gel. Roots used as tea.


Roots of the young plants are used as tea for the kidneys hence the name nierbossie in Afrikaans.

The leaf gel which is easily expressed from the leaf, after rolling it between the hands, is used as a protective covering for any minor wound or burn or cracked skin. In this way it forms an important first aid remedy around the home. It is interesting that it also stops bleeding.

Cracked skin can also form internally in the gut. Taken mixed with water before meals it forms a thin seal between the gut cells and prevents undigested food from getting into the blood stream. Leaky gut syndrome is thought to be an important contributor to the development of allergies by developing a reaction to many foods. This is a old well known African treatment for allergies. The internal treatment is more important though the outer one gives more immediate relief. In its worst form food allergies lead to colitis.

Mixed with the leaf juice of Carpobrotus, the sour fig, it makes the best treatment for herpes. (also Urtica urens internally)

It not only protects the gut but it makes it smooth. It is the only non-irritating treatment I know of for constipation thereby making it safe in the long term. The psychological treatment is making decisions. Ever noticed what happens when you stop procrastinating and jump to do something? Suddenly you have to go to the loo.


It occurs over all but the driest areas.


When transplanting the shoots which take easily, cut out the flower stalks otherwise they steal all the nutrients.

Bulbine natalensis or Bulbine latifolia –  Rooiwortel,    Matshetshafike.

Description and diagnostic features

It is similar in growth to Bulbine frutescens but the leaves are wide at the base so they look more like a little aloe. The leaves are just as succulent. The stolon left behind the growing tip looks like a fat sausage (boerewors) and is bright red inside, hence the name red root or Rooiwortel. It is not the roots that form this red stem.

Part used

Leaves and especially the fat red stolon.


The leaves with their gel can be used the same way as the other Bulbine species.

The red stolon has many special qualities. It is a mild antispasmodic. As such it makes for good sleep and relaxation. It also flushes the arteries. The general blood circulation improves rapidly. It is great for old men. It has been found to remove the cholesterol from arteries.  It is not clear if the reduction in cholesterol is due to the anti-stress or an actual flush. Reducing stress automatically reduces the cholesterol in the blood.


It grows well where there is some protection from frost and sufficient moisture as mist.  The mist allows it to catch moisture and hold it, while everything else dries out and dies like the grass.


It grows from pieces of stolon or growing tips. When grown in rich soil and watered it grows vigorously and makes many branches that can be used for subdivision. Too much watering in a soil that is not well drained, causes rotting of the stolon.


As the growing tip is so strong and vigorous there is no reason why it could not be cut off and replanted when you harvest the stolon. This way you always ensure for more.

Carpobrotus edulis   – Suurvy,  Sour fig,      ikambhilamabulawo.

Description and diagnostic features

This is a large succulent groundcover. It is perennial. The leaves are like fat three sided fingers with red edges.

Part used

The sap from the leaves.


The sap from the leaf is very astringent and antiseptic. There is nothing more effective against sore throat. It also is very effective against stings such as from insects and blue bottles at the sea and burns. It also works well for conjunctivitis. In combination with fresh Bulbine leaf gel it is a winner against herpes.


It grows very well where there is mist and drought so that there is no competition from grass.

Propagation: Take leafy strands of stem and lay them on the loosened soil.

Dodonaea angustifolia    Sandolien,  Sand olive

Description and diagnostic features Shrub or small tree with long thin waxy green leaves that are very aromatic. After a fire it grows up from the roots again. It can handle severe pruning to give strong fresh new growth.

Part used

Fresh leaves.


The very aromatic fresh leaves are a strong anti allergic agent. There is nothing more effective against hay fever. Chew one leaf and the hay fever is gone for three hours. After use for a month the hay fever seems to go permanently. It is also used for hay fever, and colds and flu where there is streaming of the eyes and nose.  Put fresh leaves in a bowl with boiling water and hold the head over the bowl with towel covering the lot.

Breathing in this steam relieves all the air passages. It could help with asthma.


Widely distributed in the low lying areas of SA


Grows well from seed.

Geranium incanum  –  vrouetee,  lady’s tea

Description and diagnostic features

This geranium has fine threadlike leaves. It is very delicate. It is low growing and wild en masse on the sandy areas around Sedgefield. It has beautiful dark magenta or violet flowers.

Part used

Flowers and leaves.


The tea has a regulating effect on the female hormone cycle. It establishes a rhythm during times of crisis such as at puberty when the menstrual cycles have to establish. Again it is of use during menopause when the cycles have to calm down and not produce hot flushes.

The rhythmical alternating growth and flowering of this plant continues through the whole summer season, reminding one of the other great rhythmical plants  Chelidonium which is used to restore the rhythm to the liver.


It grows well in sandy soil along the southern coast of South Africa.


From seed.

Gunnera perpensaRivierpampoen, Wild rhubarb, Tangazana.

Description and diagnostic features

It is found near rivers and bogs where the large round leaves on long stalks (looking like pumpkin leaves) protrude from the undergrowth. Following the stem down we find a fleshy yellow green rhizome growing on and in the ground and into the stream. They grow thick as a thumb. When cut through it displays red discoloured areas.

Part used

The rhizomes. They can be sliced lengthways and dried and powdered.


Ever heard someone say you should pull yourself together?

It causes toning and lymph drainage. The toning also happens in the uterus and in the blood vessels. It works well in people with migraines that respond to the contracting medicines based on ergotomine produced in the ergots produced by Claviseps purpurea. It is used for any condition that is accompanied with poor lymph drainage like colds, cancer. It is also used for toning the uterus. Small quantities are used with other herbs to prepare the uterus for receiving a child. Once the term has run its course, and the pregnancy is overdue, a dose of one level teaspoon dried powder tightens up the uterus and start contractions. Sometimes the contraction will start only 36 hrs later so do not be hasty and do not take another dose within 48 hrs. Be sure to have the advice from a professional as to the overdue status. Once the birth has occurred a second dose can be taken to help contract the uterus and help expel the afterbirth.

There is also a condition that some times has a rapid onset in pregnant mothers called eclampsia. The pregnant mother will start accumulating liquids, and ankles and legs start swelling up before there is a swelling in the nervous tissues that lead to serious convulsions and death. This condition can be recognised from the swelling combined with protein appearing in the urine. Beside bed rest and low salt diet, the use of Gunnera is very useful.


One level teaspoon at a time max. Add hot or boiling water to a cup with the dosage. Do not use this dosage more than once in 48 hrs.  A dosage of an eighth teaspoon per day can also be given in chronic cases of swelling.


Do not overdose and do not give to pregnant mothers except under controlled conditions and intentionally. It could be a threat to people with narrowed blood vessels. Generally in the case blood vessel blockage one can antidote with three cups of strong Leonotis tea.


It likes very moist and sunny conditions. It grows best at the edge of a stream.


It can be easily grown from pieces of rhizome in an organically rich moist environment.

Helichrysum spp.  Kooigoed,  Everlastings, Mphephu.

Description and diagnostic features

These are usually low growing grey hairy bushes that are sprawling and keep on spreading and invading the space around them. Helichrysum petiolare is the common one in the Knysna forest. Some smaller leaved ones, from further west and from the Eastern Cape, are more aromatic and smoulder well when burnt.

Part used

Leafy shoots.


The first use I learned about was for rheumatic fever. I heard that when one has rheumatic fever there is an infection of the blood with streptococci bacteria. These bacteria cause a corrosion of the tendons holding the heart valves in place. This causes ineffective pumping of the blood which can also be heard as a heart murmur. Children suffering from this have difficulty getting up in the mornings. They tend to crawl or walk on their knees for the first few hours of the day. A cup of tea made from Helichrysum petiolare taken daily over a few months will clear up the problem.

I have repeatedly seen its effectiveness in clearing up blood infections. The most remarkable effect for me has been its use in controlling tick bite fever. That would indicate that it acts against riketsia as well. Two cups of strong tea brings down a fever, gets the bowls to move and the splitting headache disappears within half an hour. One cup of tea per day for at least a week will see all swollen glands slowly subside.

As a herb to burn it clears the atmosphere of undesirable smells. Thus it is called the little breeze; mphephu.


Do not use more than two cups of tea a day as it relaxes the pelvic girdle and the lack of toning there causes lower back pain.


Because of the sprawling nature make sure to plant them where there is enough space. They need a fair amount of moisture and most of all mist. If they are cut back into the leafless stems they may die back.


Best obtained as potted plant.

Kniphofia  Vuurpyl,  Red hot poker, Ixonja.

Description and diagnostic features

The red hot poker is a well known garden plant that occurs in the wild is SA. There are two well recognised large ones: The one flowers in summer and the other in early winter. It forms a cluster of spiked green leaves. The bright red and yellow flower clusters push up from among the leaves on long unbranched stems.

Part used

The root is used. The flower sap has also been used in cosmetics.


It is a great cleanser. It is used to clean up pimples and also it cleanses the uterus of any impurities. This is a popular medicine to prepare a woman for pregnancy.


It grows best where there is sufficient water. It grows well near streams in the wild.


It is most easily established from rhizome divisions. Plant them directly where the plant needs to be established.

Leonotis leonotis  –  Klip dagga, Lions ears, Umfincaficane.

Description and diagnostic features

This plant and its relatives are beautiful erect herbs with clusters of tubular mostly orange flowers arranged in whorls along the stem. It attracts the sunbirds who come to eat the nectar so be sure to plant it near a window where you can sit and watch. The klip dagga has large heart shaped leaves and is an annual in areas where it frosts. The wilde dagga, Leonotis leonorus, is a perennial plant but struggles with the frost as it just starts to flower when the frost comes. It has smaller clusters of flowers and more woody stems.

Part used



What catnip is to cats this is to lions. Just imagine what this plant looks like after a lion has rubbed himself in it. This is a plant of strength. It makes the heart strong and the arteries strong. It opens up the arteries and lets the strength pour through. It has been indicated for a wide range of conditions. Just think of strength, identity and the heart. There is no place for the fear of diabetes, the withdrawal of stroke, high blood pressure of stress, self doubt of colds and flu.


It is found wherever bigheartedness is required.


It grows easily from seed and the small plants transplant easily. Do not let them get too big before transplanting.

Lessertia  microphila  – gaansies,  cancerbush/ sutherlandia, Umwele.

Description and diagnostic features

This two to three metre high bush is sparse. It has very small leaves and is basically biannual. The bright red flowers are spectacular. The fruits are small long balloon shaped white paper like structures with small black seeds.

Part used

Mostly the leaves, but the fresh peeled root is highly prized.


It is used to make the body hot. A tea made from half a teaspoon of dried leaves is not too bitter and has the body hot within ten minutes. Ideal for use in combating colds and flu at that time when you feel cold and no amount of clothing or blankets can warm you because they are only isolation and your internal fire has gone out. This kick starts the internal fire quickly and can abort a developing cold. Once you have passed this stage and are simply suffering it is time for the ubuvumba. Sutherlandia products that do not induce a rise in body temperature have lost their function as far as I am concerned.

Another condition that can make you feel cold to the bones is cancer. In this case a tea can be useful in warming one but taking roots is even better. The fresh roots are peeled of their bark, dried and then the white wood is pounded to produces a fine white snuff that starts a fire in your lungs when snuffed.   This fire burns out the cancer. Experienced by Jan van der Westhuizen, San healer from Askham. (Personal communication)

A popular tea for cancer is Sutherlandia and Holy thistle (Cnicus benedictus). The second herb gives one a healthy appetite which one tends to lose when the cancer takes hold.

One of the best uses of another plant material that helps in cancer and is also warming seems to be Camphor. The camphor is dissolved in oil like caster oil and massaged into the affected area. This is especially useful for dissolving lumps that are accessible.


Although it needs ample moisture to get established, once established, it likes hot dry conditions. It grows well during the ice cold winter in the western Karoo where in needs the winter rain. It can be seen on the western slopes of the mountains in the cape peninsula.


It needs to be replanted regularly from seed which take at least 10 days to germinate, needing to keep them moist for the duration.

Melianthus major/ comosus  –  Kruidjie roer my nie, Irhabiya

Description and diagnostic features

Melianthus major grows up to four metres high and M. comosus mostly gets to one metre high. They have divided serrated leaves They have stiff stems. M. major has a long spike of red flowers sticking up above the leaves. M. comosus has its flowers below the growing rosette of leaves.

Part used



The leaves are a strong stimulant that needs careful application. Some people have tried to discourage its use in the past because it can be so toxic if wrongly used. Its external use is however safe and can be a lifesaver.  Many people have told me how they survived serious dog bites by using a plaster made of the crushed leaves on the wound. It draws out the infection and sterilises the wound. Without this there would have been many more fatalities from tetanus.

It also works for inflammatory conditions. It is wonderful for the external treatment of stings eczema and insect bites. Asthma patients also get great relief from the allergic condition by taking a bath in a tea from this plant.

Stroke and bipolar victims tend to be too sensitive and are a bit like the name of the plant indicates: “don’t touch me” plant. A bath in Melianthus works wonders.

Snake bite, that is the bite of a snake that paralyses the nervous system can cause death through the fact that heart beat and breathing stops. The old usage was to take a piece of the plant stem and put in a cheek. Slowly sucking on this keeps the nerves sufficiently stimulated to survive the crisis caused by the snake bite.


M. comosus grows mostly in the drier cape interior where it is located in the dry river beds. M. major is found in the cape coastal areas mostly along streams.


It grows well from seed but the seed must be very fresh.

Mentha  longifolia   – Balderjan, Wild mint, Inzinziniba.

Description and diagnostic features

This is a wild mint that occurs along the water courses in most of South Africa. It has long pointed leaves. There are many mints to choose from. Test them and find you’re favourite mint.

Part used



It helps to start food absorption and stops excess acid production in the stomach. It has a relieving effect on heartburn. That is where the after dinner mints come from.


Loves wet places like the edges of streams. It needs the moving water to wash away its mint. If it does not get new soil to grow in or water to wash away its products it becomes stifled by its own products.


It grows easily from divided stolons.

Pelargonium sidoides  – maagpynbossie, umclealaabo.

Description and diagnostic features

This is a low growing Pelargonium with round leaves. It makes long stems with dark red almost black flowers with a strong sweet smell. There are enormous long red tubular roots in the ground.

Part used

Swollen roots.


The bright red thick roots are no doubt the way this plant survives the drought. The red sap can handle any hardships, from wounds, stomach pain, stings and bites to cold and flu. It is quite an extraordinary extract. One of the stories goes that an English soldier that was wounded during the Anglo-Boer war was treated for his wounds on a Free State farm with this root. He recovered so rapidly that he took a plant to the British Gardens in London where it was propagated. Later it was taken to Germany and there turned into a popular Flu remedy.

The extract also works well for stings and helps to take away the burning sting within minutes.


It likes a heavy well drained soil and grows well on south facing slopes. It is found in grasslands from the Free State down to the hills of the Eastern Cape.


It grows well from seed and root stumps that have a bit of stem on.

Ruta graveolens  – Wynruit, Rue, herb of grace

Description and diagnostic features

It is a woody perennial herb. The smooth leaves are divided into little round lobes. It is very aromatic. Clusters of small flowers are born at the end of the shoots. The little yellow flowers are yellow with four petals each.

Part used

Leaves and shoot tips.


Its main use is to improve circulation and relax tendons especially where they attach to the bones. It is good for recovering from strain, sprained ankles, strained eyes. It relieves high blood pressure caused by stress and contracted arteries. It is mostly prepared as an infusion (tea). It is used as a poultice or cream on sprained joints. A tea made from it can be applied with a cloth on bedsores of bedridden people. They clear up rapidly as the circulation improves.


Because it allows all tendons to relax it allows the cervix in pregnant women to open and they can abort. It can be used on purpose to open the cervix when childbirth is being hindered by this process being delayed.


It grows in gardens all over the country as it is a imported herb from Europe that has remained popular.


It grows easily from seed and little plants are found next to the older plants.

Stoebe plumosa or  Seriphium plumosum    – slangbos.

Description and diagnostic features

It appears to be made up of a woody branched perennial shrub that can grow up to three metres high. The leaves are tiny scales on the stalks. It makes plumes of flowers that look more granular on the stalks than the leaves. The variant growing in the southern cape has darker green leaves than the greyer kind further west.

Part used

shoot tips.


I have found it the most extraordinary effective plant to use as a tea in the use against diarrhoea. Diarrhoea comes from fear. First stage is pee in the pants then finally shit scared. Talk about standing up to it! This plant takes a stand.

It effectively eliminates toxins from the body, so effectively that it reduces adder toxins that cause tissue breakdown. This is for the adder snakes, melianthus for the cobra bite.

Counter indication

Do not use with other medication as it will eliminate them.


It grows from near the coast right up into the edges of the Karoo. It is quite drought tolerant.


It germinates from seed.

Urtica urens brandnetel,  small stinging nettle.

Description and diagnostic features: This is the small indigenous stinging nettle.  It has a serious sting. It is one of those things one would rather not have to weed out by hand while growing vegetables. The leaves are dark green, hairy and fairly round.

Part used: Leaves and stems.


It is the most incredible blood detoxifier in the body when used as a tea, extract of just plain dried powder. Fresh it can be washed and used in salads. It makes potent spinach. Being rich in Iron it is a natural organic iron supplement. It gives your liver a rest by detoxing and coagulating the toxins in the blood.  Once the toxins are coagulated the kidneys can get rid of them. It stimulates urine production too. It is a wonderful treatment for both arthritic poisoning and the ravages of Herpes zoster.

Warning There is just one little thing to watch out for. If you are suffering from arthritis or gout or any of those toxic conditions, then creating too much sludge at a time can block up your kidneys. So start slowly. Burnett the famous Mr Nettle established many years ago that not more than five drops of a nettle tincture every two hours is ideal for getting rid of the initial flood of toxins.


Always found where there is an over abundance of Iron in the soil. In iron poor areas it is to be found under the iron scrap metal pile on the farm.


Grows well from seed in iron rich soil. Scrape out soil from where a roll of wire has been lying rusting away. Add any other rusting iron nails etc to your panting area.

Withania somniferaWilde apeliefie, Winter cherry, Ubuvumba.

Description and diagnostic features

This bush grows up to two metres high. It makes furry leaves. The most characteristic feature are the little red berries in a white cape. Just like the cape gooseberry but miniature. The little birds love the berries and can be seen feasting in the late afternoons.

Part used

The leaves and roots.


The leaves are used as a poultice to put on wounds as it helps rapid recovery.  The roots have a yellow orange colour and have a strong smell. They have an adaptogenic effect. In other words it causes the body to use its resources in stead of thinking it is running out of food and going into starvation mode. This gets the body out of crisis and into action. It is great for colds and flue that have to do with self doubt. Your body realizes it has reserves and activates them. This means that it can work longer, harder and leaner. Great for reducing the panic appetite and reducing weight. As a stimulant it is a good idea to take in the morning when you want to be awake.


It is widely distributed in southern Africa and into India where it is known as ashwaganda and considered an adaptogenic. Because it is frost sensitive you will always see it growing higher up on hills among the big rocky outcrops where the heat given off by the rocks prevent freezing temperatures.


It grows easily from seed in frost protected areas. In some parts of S Africa it was considered a weed until heavy use reduced its numbers drastically.

Some indicated plants

Acid: Mentha (Pentanisia prunelloides)

Asthma: Melianthus bath.

Bipolar: Melianthus bath

Burns: Aloe gel, Bulbine leaf gel,

Cancer: Sutherlandia, camphor

Candida: Artemisia afra

Colds and flu: Artemisia afra, Ballota, fennel,  Pelargonium sidoides, Sand olive. Sutherlandia, Withania, Leonotis

Colitis: Bulbine gel internally and Melianthus bath.

Constipation: Bulbine

Dog bite: Melianthus poultice

Diabetes: Artemisia afra, Leonotis leonotis.

Diarrhoea: Slangbos.

Fertility: Female: Gunnera, Red hot poker.

                 Male: Bulbine natalensis, Leonotis.

Hay fever: Sand olive.

Headache: Gunnera

Herpes: Urtica urens internal, Carpobrotus, Bulbine – external.

High blood pressure: Leonotis. (Olive leaves.)

Insect bites and stings: Carpobrotus, Pelargonium sidoides, Melianthus.

Kidney: Ballota.

Rheumatic fever: Helichrysum

Rheumatism: Urtica urens

Snake bite: cobra - Melianthus,

              adder: Stoebe plumosa,  Ballota

Stroke: Melianthus bath, Leonotis tea

Sore throat: Sour fig leaves (Carpobrotus)

Tick bite fever: Helichrysum

Thrush Artemisia afra

Wounds: Withania leaves, Pelargonium sidoides roots.

Other commonly used well known imported plants


Dill, Fennel – dissolve phlegm


Caster oil – rub oil onto skin growths twice a day and see them crumble away.

Useful poisonous weeds

Datura stramonium - use steamed leaves as poultice on abscess.


There are several plants that can really help in childbirth.

If the child is lying in the wrong position and the mother is cold then a cup of Sutherlandia tea in the evening will help the child move during the relaxing stage of the mother.

If the child is definitely overdue, not more than one level teaspoon of dried Gunnera perpensa rhizome can be put into a cup of boiling water, allowed to draw and drunk. Do not repeat until after birth.  The first cup will help start the contractions even a day later by helping to tone the uterus. Once the contractions are working but the cervix is not dilating then one or two leaflets of Rue on the tongue will help the tendons to expand and the baby is easily released. After birth, a second cup of Gunnera will help shrink the uterus, expel the afterbirth and stop bleeding because the contraction will shrink the blood vessels of the uterus.

For more plants see

Kirstenbosch walks