Medicinal Fynbos Plants

Many spices are identified and explained on the Perlemoen Trail.

The Khoisan were the first to discover the healing qualities in the various parts of fynbos plants. Much of this knowledge was embraced by the early European settlers; some of this knowledge is still used today with traditional healers and in modern medicine.

Wild plants are protected by law and may not be dug up, pulled up, picked or destroyed; rather visit a nursery and plant in your garden,

Many plants are poisonous never eat or use any plant as medicine unless you are 100% sure of correct identification.

Consult a doctor before using any plant as a medicine.

A few common coastal medicinal plants

Sour fig Carpobrotus edulis

Creeping plants. Succulent, three-angled leaves, flowers yellow and ageing pink.

Edible fruits used for jams, leaf juice is a natural antiseptic and traditionally gargled with water to treat mouth and throat infections, also used externally to treat eczema, wounds, burns and blue bottle stings.

Bietou, bush-tick berry Osteospermum moniliferum

Large bush simple leaves edges serrated, flowers yellow only S.A. daisy that has berries, black when ripe arranged in a ring.

Sweet edible fruit, Khoi, Zulu and Xhosa believe fruit contain blood strengthening and purifying qualities, used as a tonic recovering from illness, and male impotency. Berrys said to clear adolescent acne and skin problems. Not to be eaten if suffering from sinusitis.

Pigs Ear Cotyledon orbiculata

Stout succulent, large oval ear-like leaves, the stalked hanging tubular flowers have backward-curled petals at the rim.

Leaves used to treat corns, boils, warts and fever blisters. Warmed leaf juice used to treat earache. Internal use dangerous, potentially lethal.

Kooigoed, everlastings Helichrysum cripum

Species Helichrysum are aromatic perennial herbs or shrublets, silvery grey densely hairy or woolly leaves, creamy white flower heads.

Khoi used as a calming tea, also used to treat heart ailments in stock animals.

Said to be a cure for high blood pressure and calming a racing heart. Smoking the leaves used for pain relief. Leaves used as bedding, pillows or pot pourris said to keep bed bugs away.

Waxberry Morella cordifolia

Sprawling shrub up to 1.5meters high, small heart shaped leaves with serrated margins closely packed on the stem. Berry covered with a visible layer of wax

Boiling berries separates the wax which is in fact a fat. Berries a food for the Khoi and traded in the early days to the Cape colony to add as a component to make candles, floor polish, ointments and soap, root and bark were used medicinally.

Rose-scented pelargonium Pelargonium capitatum

Velvety-leaved low spreading plant with soft stems and perfumed cent.

Remarkable skin softener, scented leaves rubbed into hands to sooth calluses or into heels to soften cracked hard skin, also used in a bath for skin treatment, used to make a medicinal tea.

Dune sage Salvia Africana-lutea

Aromatic shrub growing 2meters tall with densely packed grey finely hairy leaves, orange brown flower clusters at stem ends.

Flowers produce copious nectar and is pollinated by sunbirds. Sage makes an excellent tea for coughs, colds, bronchitis and bacterial infections also used for wounds, skin and scalp problems.

Cape mistletoe Viscum capense

Leafless woody parasite with fleshy jointed stems, berries ripen in spring to a translucent yellow

Whole plant harvested, taken as a herbal tea, traditional remedy for asthma, bronchitis and excessive or irregular menstruation, infusion of the fruit stops haemorrhaging especially nose-bleeds, also widely used as a herbal tonic and general health tea. Overdose reportedly causes drowsiness.

Tortoise berry Muraltia spinosa

Spiny shrub growing 1 meter high sparsely covered with small, narrow leaves, numerous pink to purple flowers produce round fleshy red fruit.

Popular thirst quenching snack rich in vitamin C. infusion made with the leaves for colds and flu, include the stems for a bitter digestive, a general tonic for TB and abdominal pains.

Christmas berry or toothache berry Chironia baccifera

Much branched shrublet up to 800mm. bright orange-red berries during summer.

Whole plant used medicinally, Khoi used as a purgative and to treat boils and haemorrhoids, decoction of whole plant taken as a blood purifier for acne, sores and boils, the bitter plant causes perspiration and sleepiness. Also used in the Italian aperitif Campari.

White milkwood Sideroxylon inerme

Densely leafy shrub or rounded tree 10 meters tall oval shiny green leaves and stems that bleed a milky latex, small greenish-white flowers produce fleshy purple-black fruits.

Medicinally the bark used in infusions to dispel bad dreams, the decoction used for gall sickness in stock animals. The pulpy edible fruits are best when dried because of sticky latex. The close grained durable wood was used for wagon work, now highly protected.

Wild dagga Leonotis leonurus

Shrub growing 2 meters high with lance-shaped leaves bright orange tubular flowers clustered in whorls at intervals along the stem.

Medicinally the leaves and stem are smoked as a mild narcotic to relieve epilepsy, Leaves and root widely used to treat snakebite and other bites/stings. Along with a long list of uses including high blood pressure, obesity, asthma, viral hepatitis intestinal worms coughs and colds.

Arum Lily Zantedeschia aethiopica

Tuberous perennial long heart-shaped leaf, snowy white spathe-like flower.

Only edible if cooked, Swelling of tongue and throat when eaten fresh. Khoi made a dish called Hottentot bread from the root. Large leaves warmed and used as plasters for wounds and sores, not to be crushed juice causes irritation.

Source information (Mathia Schwegler, Margaret Roberts, Sean Privett)