Hundreds of years ago, long before the entrance of Europeans into the African continent, the people of Africa had been making use of nature -leaves and roots to rid themselves of ailments of all sorts.
In fact, traditional healers were the first port of call for the vast majority of the people. Till today, a few still visit herbal centres for healing. Here are five African herbs and their powerful healing properties.
1. Basil leaves
Locally known as scent leaf, (efirin in Yoruba, nchanwu in Igbo and daidoya in hausa), the basil leaf is a tropical plant species that belongs to the family of Labiatae. It is usually a homegrown Nigerian shrub used mainly as spices for cooking delicacies due to its unique aromatic taste.
Scent leaves are high in calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, carbon and vitamin A, the elements and oils from the leaves have been shown to possess antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal activities.
Scent leave aids digestion can be used to treat stomach disorders. The aqueos extracts of the scented leaf can be taken to relieve ear ache and colon pains, oral infections and fungal infections. fever, cold and catarrh.
Nchanwu oil which is produced from squeezed nchanwu leaves can be used as a food preservative due to its anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties. When left to dry and burnt, this leaves could serve as a mosquito repellent.
The buchu herb (Agathosma Betulina) is cultivated in the Western Cape for its essential oils. It is a renowned natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic used to treat high blood pressure, UTI infections, arthritis, gout and countless other ailments.
3. Devil’s claw
Scientifically called Harpagophytum, the Devil’s claw is endemic to the dry areas of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Its medicinal properties which are mostly stored and cultivated from the large tuberous roots are harvested and dried to form powders, mixtures and extracts.
It is commonly used to treat pain, enhance mobility and provide relief from a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, diabetes, neuralgia, headaches and menstrual problems.
4. Bitter Leaf (Vernonia Amygdalina)
Known as Ewuro in Yoruba, Onugbu in Igbo, and Shiwaka in Hausa, as the name implies, the leaves of this plant are bitter, and that is why a lot of people can’t withstand it.
Bitter leaf has a lot of detoxification properties that make it a powerful essential in helping the body fight against many diseases and infections. It also has antipyretic properties.
If taken fresh, the benefits include remedy for stomach ache, treatment of malaria, typhoid fever, and also diarrhoea as well as normalizing blood disorders. The leaves are usually squeezed and the juice extracted and consumed or the stems chewed.
5. Moringa plant (Moringa Oleifera)
Popularly referred to as the miracle tree. Moringa is a popular flowering tree with culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal uses. Moringa plant is rich in amino acids, minerals and vitamins especially vitamin A, C, and E.
Its antioxidants properties help to fight free radicals and molecules that cause cell damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress. It is used to fight inflammation because it has properties which suppress inflammatory enzymes and proteins in the body.
It is also effective in reducing glucose and lipid levels in the blood which is beneficial to the cardiovascular system. Moringa leaves and flowers are rich in polyphenols which helps to protect the liver against oxidation, damage, and toxicity.
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