In today’s world, there are countless streams of information at our fingertips informing you on the newest miracle cream to avoid ageing, new fads, wonder diets and opinions on how to live a healthier, longer life. It’s pretty overwhelming. I will admit I have occasionally succumbed to the pressure and have been “influenced” by an overpriced cream or step-by-step diet guide in my own search for anti-ageing solutions.
I realised some time ago, that I’ve had it all wrong.
Living in nature has reminded me of the wonders that surround me, and it is nature I have turned to for guidance in my quest to live a healthy, balanced life. I’ve learnt to spend time away from technology, stroll through the Leadwood forest, and appreciate every sunrise and sunset, and in doing so, I have learnt more about the wilderness and her flora and fauna, which has held many of the answers I have been searching for this whole time.
Nature does not only help our mental health but it can also be medicinal. Studies show that navigating your way through nature can help stimulate your brain in such a way that it can even help reduce the chances of mental disease. I decided instead of trying to come up with methods to fight ageing, or following crazy meal plans, I would rather come up with methods of living a healthier and better life with and in nature.
I have learnt a great amount from the Londolozi community about how mother nature can heal you inside and out – like boiling a specific plant, mixing different leaves or using nature’s fruits – are some of the many examples that are still used today in many African cultures. I am incredibly grateful to have learnt so much about the healing power of plants (and I’ve even adopted some methods into my own way of life!)
Here are some of the superpowers of the plants found here at Londolozi:
Fever tea/ Wild mint (Lippia javanica)
This is a wild plant often found along the banks of the Sand River and resembles that of a mint plant except that grows up to 2m tall. It is believed to be one of the most aromatic of the indigenous shrubs we get in Africa. The leaves of the fever tea bush can be boiled and consumed as a tea to help fight against colds and flu. This herb is called “fever tea” as it is said to help fight against fever, especially in the cases of malaria, influenza, and measles, and it also acts against lung infections. During the global pandemic, my friend and tracker, Advice Ngwenya, and I went out to collect some wild mint leaves. This was being used by many local Africans at the time. We then placed the leaves into boiling water and inhaled the steam to open up our lungs, hoping it would prevent us both from getting sick. It certainly did feel like it opened up my airways and cleared our chests. And for the record, we stayed clear of COVID during the entire time we were steaming with fever tea! Apparently, the smoke from the smouldering herb is also known to be effective, if inhaled, against asthma and chronic coughs.
The Sausage Tree (Kigelia africana) Fruit:
The sausage tree is a magnificent large tree that we also find along the Sand River. Growing tall with amazing large branches and deep green leaves. The fruit of the sausage tree cannot be eaten raw but when it is cooked and extracted into a powder form, it can have many medicinal uses, especially for your skin. It is used in many beauty products due to its powers to purify, soothe, and rejuvenate your skin by reducing any signs of damaged or ageing skin.
Some have even used it to help skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It contains amino acids and many other essential nutrients to support skin health. A combination of compounds that the fruit contains can fight bacteria as well as acne yet be sensitive enough to soothe distressed skin. Many cultures use this fruit in a paste form to heal skin infections and protect their skin from the sun.
Marula Tree (Sclerocarya birrea) Fruit:
The iconic marula trees decorate all of the large crests at Londolozi. The perfect tree to see a leopard in, and a tree that has juicy fruit that elephants love to eat in the peak of summer. Apart from being rich in vitamin C and a pretty tasty treat, the fruit contains a hard seed or pip in the middle. Once the flesh of the fruit has been eaten or removed, one is able to open the two caps to reveal two elongated nuts that resemble long thin pine nuts. These are also rather tasty and when cold-pressed, oil can be extracted. This is used to help reduce wrinkles and brighten the skin, as well as it has the amazing ability to help reduce scarring.
A herbalist who I know personally told me of a story once, one of his friends had cut her foot open on a sharp piece of metal in the garden, the cut was deep and required stitches, leaving a substantial scar once all had healed. A month or two later the herbalist was shocked to see that his friend’s scar had almost completely disappeared. Her secret ingredient to the healing process was in fact, marula oil!!
At the end of all my discoveries learning and working with nature, I have noticed that I have started to take a more positive look at what it truly means to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Living close to nature has truly taught me about how profound your connection with nature can be if you let it. I had been looking at life in the wrong way and actually, if you live with the plants or live like the plants one begins to truly glow from within.
Throughout the years, trees gain “wrinkles” on their bark, each wrinkle signifies another year of successfully surviving. I think there is a very powerful message in that. As we grow older we only get stronger, wiser, and lead a life filled with memories. With years passing, a tree canopy’s leaves get fuller and its trunk gets stronger, it’s herbs can only grow flowers with time and ageing. These flowers and plants then attract butterflies and other insects. To me, this is a perfect metaphor for a happy, healthy life. I read somewhere that we should not chase butterflies because we will never catch them, instead, we should attract them. Perhaps we should stop chasing the unattainable and allow the butterflies to find us? I hope you too can begin your own journey of self-love, growth and balance by looking to nature for guidance – she is the best teacher.