In my previous blog, I wrote about the healing power of a few plants that I have learned about during my time at Londolozi. This is only a tiny percentage of the plants that have medicinal or cosmetic properties and we could end up writing hundreds of blogs on this extensive list. But in keeping it short I have narrowed it down to just a few more plants that can be found at Londolozi and ones that I have personally used before.
Coconut-scented sage (Syncolostemon canescens)
Coconut-scented sage is a small shrub often found on the crests in some areas of the reserve. It is often smelt before it is seen triggering guests to ask “What is that amazing smell?” Once disturbed this small purple-flowered beauty releases a strong, delectable, and unusually fruity, coconutty scent. A personal use of this for me is to spice up a gin and tonic, a sought-after safari sundowner drink. If we find ourselves stopping upon a crest for our afternoon drinks and a chance to stretch our legs, I often have a quick look around to see if we might be in luck and have some of these fragrant gems nearby.
Often simply picking the plant releases the aromas but if not then holding a small piece in one hand and clapping the other hand over the plant will release this coconut sensation and can add a delicious flavour to your drink. I often rub it onto my hands to smell the scent for hours. I guess I could try infusing it into my body creams so that I could smell like coconut the whole day. I even place it in my candles to release a scent in my room, that’s how good it smells.
Nyala Tree (Xanthocercis zambesiaca)
After chatting with Life Sibuyi, a highly experienced Senior Tracker and someone who has spent many years at Londolozi and many of these years in the gardens and is an expert in the botany realm here, he told me that the bark of a nyala tree is highly sought-after in the Shangaan culture for its healing properties. There is one nyala tree at Londolozi that I know of and on one side of the tree trunk, you can see a small chunk missing that had been carved out a long time ago by someone who needed it to help clear out their sinuses. The bark can be used to help cure sinus infections and flu. There are also traditional uses to help treat diabetes mellitus. Another common use is to dry the fruit and crush it into a tasty porridge.
If you have ever been to Londolozi and gone on the village walk or even walked around the camp you would have noticed all the aloes that are flourishing along the paths. Maidie Varty loved aloes so in honor of her, Londolozi has planted aloes in all the happy places around camp. Not only are they beautiful when they are flowering as these bright blooms attract sunbirds, bees, and a whole host of other insects but aloes can also have a few health benefits. Aloe gel can be ingested to help with digestion and intestinal problems. The gel can also be used for skin burns, healing wounds, skin hydration, and skin allergies. It is packed with lots of nutrients that are needed for healthy hair and skin too!
Lion’s Ear or Wild Dagga (Leonotis leonurus)
These brightly coloured flowers decorate many different landscapes in South Africa from rocky terrain to open grasslands. Many kids in the Shangaan tribe will pick the tubule flowers to suck on the sweet nectar inside. A few different trackers have shared stories of this with me, explaining how delicious it is and how it gave them energy. So now when I see it flowering I pick one petal to have a burst of sweet nectar energy!
Lion’s ear contains a chemical constituent leonurine that has been reported to be used in traditional medicine for curing a wide range of ailments including headaches, coughs, fever, asthma, haemorrhoids and dysentery. Many traditional people are terrified of snakes and use a concoction out of the leaf and root in treating snakebites as well as a natural remedy or charm to keep snakes away. An infusion of the flower and leaf is used to treat tapeworm. The twigs of this plant can be added to a warm bath to soothe diseases such as itchy skin and help to relieve cramps in the muscles. It has also been reported as a slimming medicine. I am yet to need to treat any of these ailments myself but know that should I need to I have a handy plant nearby.
Early inhabitants of South Africa, such as the Hottentot tribe or Khoikhoi, smoked the dried leaves and flowers which were said to have narcotic properties. Bringing on a calm sensation or euphoric feeling when smoked, hence the vernacular name wildedagga meaning wild dagga or wild marijuana. Reportedly similar to Cannabis but not in any way related, lion’s eye/ wild dagga is very mild and not nearly as potent. It’s a popular and legal herbal alternative for smoking instead of tobacco or cannabis. Users have reported to have experienced symptoms of mild excitement or elation, visual impairment, dizziness and lightheadedness, nausea, and sweating.
After reading about all the plant powers around all of us, I hope it has inspired you all to see not only the beauty of plants but also understand that working with them can really enrich your life in a healthy better way!