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Natures Pharmacy – Medicinal plants of the Lowveld

Natures Pharmacy – Medicinal plants of the Lowveld

Natures Pharmacy – Medicinal plants of the Lowveld

Natures Pharmacy – Medicinal plants of the Lowveld

Did you know that the Lowveld is filled with natural remedies? In fact, you can often very easily find remedies for common ailments by just walking down your neighborhood street.

The rich biodiversity of the Lowveld region presents us with a unique opportunity to harness the healing power of nature. The knowledge of traditional healing has been carefully handed down from one generation to another. Ancient wisdom and cultural practices have allowed communities to identify and make use of the medicinal properties of indigenous plants and this valuable knowledge remains a vital part of our cultural heritage.

Although it is always better to consult a healthcare professional, Sociably has put together a quick and easy field guide below to help you identify the wonderful medicinal Lowveld plants and trees that are packed with antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria Capensis):

  • The Sotho & Xhosa have used the dried bark in a tea to bring down fever, relieve pain and aid in sleeplessness.
  • Bark tea can also be used for chest ailments like bronchitis and pneumonia, diarrhea and stomach pain.
  • Dried bark can be rubbed into bleeding gums.

Coral Tree (Erythrina Lysistemon)

  • Leaves are crushed and applied to sores and suppurating wounds.
  • Open wounds can be disinfected and treated with the ash of burnt bark.
  • The Tswana and Zulu make a tea (1 cup leaves to 2 cups boiling water – boil for 30min, cool & strain) and use the warm liquid as an earache remedy. A little is dropped into the ear and then a cloth is put in the remaining liquid, wrung out and placed behind the ear.
  • The root can be boiled in the same way and used as a lotion or poultice over sprains and bruises or sore aching feet.
  • Crushed leaves places in shoes are also said to relieve aching feet and cracked heels.

Ginger Bush (Tetradenia Riparia):

  • The leaves made into a tea (2 big leaves to 1 cup boiling water – cool & strain) is used to treat coughs, colds, chest and respiratory ailments. Can also be taken for colic, stomach upsets, stomach aches, flatulence, diarrhea and nausea.
  • Has been used as a malaria remedy and has been said to show remarkable results.

Knobwood (Zanthoxylum Capense):

  • Chewed fruit is an old folk remedy for treating colic, flatulence, stomach aches, pains & cramps. (Ripe berries often dried and stored for this purpose).
  • A tea can be made from the leaves (¼ cup crushed leaves to 1 cup boiling water – stand to cool & strain) to aid with stomach cramps, diarrhea & intestinal worms. Can also be used for colds, flu, fever & coughs.
  • The bark, scraped, pounded and chewed can be used as a tonic for blood conditions, acne and skin conditions. A tea can also made with ¼ cup pounded bark with 2 cups boiling water.
  • Esteemed ancient snakebite remedy – while the victim is held still, a piece of bark is chewed and swallowed every 15 minutes until the swelling subsides. Crushed and pounded bark is also applied to the bite.
  • Fresh bark and knobs have painkilling properties.

Lavender Tree (Heteropyxis Natalensis):

  • A fragrant tea is made (1 cup leaves and stems to 6 cups boiling water – cool and strain) to aid in colic, heartburn and flatulence.
  • Believed to be a tonic for regained strength and often given to old people or mothers after prolonged labor.
  • The Venda and Shangaan drink the tea to aid in digestive problems and colds.
  • Crushed leaves can be added to Vaseline to and applied to cracked heels or dry skin on legs, feet and hands.
  • Leaved and twigs boiled in water make a good inhalant to clear the nose and chest.
  • Tea can be used as a mouthwash for gum infections and toothache.

Marula (Sclerocarya Birrea Caffra):

  • Zulu women boil the pulp of the seeds in water until an oily residue is formed. This is used as a beauty treatment for cracked skin on the hands, feet and lips.
  • A fragrant tea is made from the bark (1 cup of bark pieces boiled in 3 liters of water for 3 hours – left to cool, strained and bottled) and used in small doses to treat diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, gonorrhea, or taken as an enema for stomach upsets.
  • The inner bark is astringent and is boiled and applied as a poultice to ulcers, skin eruptions and smallpox pustules.

Sausage Tree (Kigelia Africana):

  • Dried pulp of the fruit is powdered and used by the Zulu as a dressing for ulcers. Other tribes use the powdered fruit as a disinfectant, dusting it over slow healing sores of humans and cattle.
  • Slices of unripe fruit can be used as dressing over sores, infected bites, syphilis and sores of the genitalia, and bound over painful rheumatic joints.

Sickle Bush (Dichrostachys Cinerea Africana):

  • A lotion made of the leaves and bark is a wound cleanser and healer.
  • Dried powdered bark is sprinkled onto wounds to promote healing. It is also used as direct application to skin eruptions, blisters and abscesses for man and animal.
  • In Zimbabwe, dried leaves and roots are smoked for pulmonary tuberculosis and chest ailments.
  • The leaf can be chewed to ease colic and heartburn and made into a tea (4 leaves to 1 cup boiling water, cool and strain) it can be used for stomach ailments and diarrhea.
  • The leaf and bark can be chewed and applied to snake bites, scorpion stings and insect stings.
  • Taken as a tea, it has also been used to treat catarrh, elephantitis, circumcision wounds, bronchitis, pneumonia, epilepsy, internal abscesses, dysentery and kidney ailments.

Wild Dagga (Leonotus Leonurus):

  • Early colonists made an infusion of twigs, leaves and flowers to treat skin eruptions, including leprosy.
  • Added to the batch, the twigs may relieve aches and pains, itchy skin and eczema.
  • Zulu & Xhosa make a strong brew of the leaves in boiled water to apply to snake bites (cloth soaked in brew and tied around the area).
  • A tea can be made of the flowers (¼ cup fresh flowers to 1 cup boiling water – cool & strain) to use as a cough and cold remedy. Same tea has been used to effectively treat jaundice, cardiac asthma, hemorrhoids, headaches, chest ailments, bronchitis and epilepsy.

Wild Pear (Dombeya Rotundifolia):

  • The bark is boiled into a tea (1 cup bark to 8 cups boiling water – cool & strain) for delayed menstruation or induced labor, internal ulcers, stomach ailments and excessive diarrhea.
  • Another form of tea (1 cup of twigs and leaves to 4 cups boiling water – boil 30min, cool and strain) can be used as treatment for hemorrhoids, diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting. The same brew can also be used as a lotion applied externally to hemorrhoids and varicose veins.
  • The root boiled in water is an ancient colic remedy.
  • Chewing the root and swallowing the saliva, spitting the chewed root out, has been done to relieve gripes, stomach aches and cramps.

The Lowveld sure is a fortunate region where nature’s healing potential is abundantly evident. With these wonderful trees and plants often growing on the sidewalks of residential areas, it could be quite effortless for us to relieve anything from an aching head straight down to aching feet. By acknowledging and preserving these healing traditions, we ensure the availability of natural remedies for the future generations as well.

We love the natural wonders of the Lowveld ♥


  • Indigenous Healing Plant – Margaret Roberts
  • A Field Guide to Wild Flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region – Elsa Pooley
  • Sappi Tree Spotting Lowveld – Jacana

Disclaimer: Sociably does not take responsibility for any poisoning caused by misidentification of any of the Indigenous plants mentioned here.

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