South African Medicinal Plants

© Marinda Louw
Wild Dagga is a South African medicinal plant.

South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world and inhabitants have for centuries employed the help of indigenous medicinal plants. These healing plants treated all sorts of maladies including cancer, diabetes and tuberculosis (TB) as well as more benign complaints such as the common cold, arthritis, menstrual problems, stomach issues, to ward off lighting, evil powers and chase away mosquitoes and dogs.

In this section provides well-researched content on a variety of topics relating to South African Medicinal Plants, translated into all 11 official South African languages.

African Ginger Oil

African Ginger (Siphonochilus aethiopicus) is a popular Zulu herbal medicine that was believed to offer protection against snakes and lightning....more

Aloe Ferox

The versatile aloe is known for being the healing succulent. Its fleshy leaves hold nourishing properties that facilitate the healing and improvement of many ailments, most commonly skin-related....more

Anti-inflammatory African Potato

Not related to the household potato, the African wild potato (Hypoxis hemerocallidea) is associated with the lily and is a very hardy and drought resistant plant native to South Africa....more

Athrixia also Called Bushmans Tea

Also called Bushman's tea (Eng.) Boesmanstee (Afr.), Icholocholo, itshelo, umthsanelo (isiZulu), Athrixia phylicoides with its soft dark green foliage and purple daisy-like flowers is a popular garden plant...more

Baobab: Nutritious Moisturiser

The iconic baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) is a familiar site in hot, dry lowland areas of Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka and Australia. Resembling an ‘upside down tree' (also referring to its common name),...more

Blue Cape Chamomile Oil is for Anti-inflammatory

Cape Chamomile (Eriocephalus Punctulatus) is one of the lesser-known ‘camomile’ plants used for its healing oil. Its more famous cousins used for essential oils are the German and Roman chamomile...more

Buchu Oil for Blackcurrant Flavour

Buchu (‘boegoe’ in Afrikaans) is a generic name for members of the aromatic Rutaceae family and is prized for its medicinal properties worldwide. Used in South Africa for centuries by the San and Khoi people...more

Camphor Bush used as Bedding

Camphor bush, Tarchonanthus camphoratus is also known as leleshwa, African wild sage or ‘vaalbos’ (Afrikaans)....more

Can African Wormwood Cure Cancer?

Known as African wormwood or sagewood - Artemisia afra - is a highly aromatic plant also known as wildeals (Afrikaans), umhlonyane (Xhosa), umhlonyane (Zulu) and lengana in Tswana....more

Can Mongongo Nut Prevent Hair Loss?

Mongongo trees (Schinziophyton rautanenii), also known as manketti, are found in southern Africa especially in the deep sandy soils of the Kalahari....more

Cape Rose Geranium for PMS

Cape rose geranium essential oil - Pelargonium capitatum x radens (rose) - is the preferred one of 700 varieties of cultivated geranium and a hybrid of two of the three oil-producing pelargoniums....more

Cape Snowbush

This small shrub with silver leaves and white flowers are called Eriocephalus africanus and is of the Asteraceae family. Named after the fluffy seed tufts, the Cape snowbush is also called kapokbos in Afrikaans...more

Damask Rose Oil - Made in South Africa

Damask rose oil is, more correctly called, Rose Damascena oil. Rosa damascena is indigenous to the Middle East and found in Turkey and Iran but the largest rose plantings are in Central Bulgaria....more

Devils Claw used for Arthritis

Harpagophytum procumbens and Harpagophytum zeyheri are found in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, as well as in Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique (H. Zeyheri)....more

Eucalyptus Oil for Mental Exhaustion

Eucalyptus was originally used by Aboriginal Australians for its antiseptic properties - healing wounds, fungal infections and also to break fevers...more

Helichrysum Oil Invokes Ancestors

Helichrysum essential oil is distilled from the aromatic bushy perennial herb that grows along the coastal regions of South Africa and in some mountainous regions of the Free State and Lesotho....more

Hoodia for Slimming?

Sought-after for its medicinal properties, curious-looking Hoodia gordonii is also called 'Bitter Ghaap', Kalahari cactus, ‘bokhorings’ (goat horns in Afrikaans) or Khobab (in Khoisan)....more

Indigenous South African Plants as Natural Cosmetics

Many plants in South Africa - whether indigenous or naturalised - have been used as natural skin care or organic cosmetics by indigenous people and tribes for centuries....more

Kalahari Melon Oil High in Protein

Kalahari melon oil or Citrullus lanatus is also known as watermelon seed oil. Other names for this indigenous Southern African fruit is karkoer, mankataan, tshamma, ootanga or wild watermelon....more

Lippia Javanica Against Insects

Rich in a volatile oil with a lemon-like fragrance, Lippia Javanica repels insects and rodents. Grown commercially in South Africa for essential oil production, a mosquito repellant candle...more

Marula Oil: Rich Skin Hydrator

The multi-purpose marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) has been distributed throughout Africa due to migrations and is native to Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Namibia, Angola), West Africa...more

Medicinal Plants of South Africa

The potency of South African Medicinal Plants have been recognized by the international pharmacological, food and cosmetic industries and are used in a variety of applications....more

Moringa: Miracle Medicine

The small fast-growing and hardy Moringa oleifera tree is also known as the drumstick tree, horseradish, been oil tree or ‘peperwortelboom’ in Afrikaans....more

Pepperbark Tree: Endangered Medicine Plant

The endangered pepperbark tree of southeastern Africa, Warburgia salutarus, grows in South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The name ‘salutaris’ means health giving...more

Pineapple Lily - Popular Traditional Medicine

The strange-looking pineapple lily is a striking bulbous plant resembling a flowering green pineapple. Native to South Africa, its yellow-greenish flowers are carried on long spikes with a tuft of green ‘leaves’ at the top....more

Red Milkwood Fruit High in Vitamin C

Red milkwood (Mimusops zeyheri) is also called moepel, Mmupudu, umPushane, Nhlantswa and Mubululu and is native to Africa....more

Sage Oil: Ancient Medicine

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a perennial shrub with fragrant grey-green leaves about 60 cm high in the family of Labiatae/Lamiaceae....more

Sceletium Tortuosum - Traditional Mood Enhancer

This climbing or creeping plant - Sceletium tortuosum - has been known and used in South Africa for centuries. The Khoisan used the plant and introduced its mood elevating effects to the early colonisers around 1662....more

Sourplum as Medicinal Plant

In South Africa the two varieties grow in the northern and central regions of Limpopo (var. caffra) and also in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal (var. natalensis)....more

Sutherlandia Frutescens: Soothes Sickness

The ‘cure-all’ of South African plants, Sutherlandia frutescens* is widely praised for its immune boosting, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties used for ailments such as arthritis,...more

The Difference Between Lavender and Lavandin Oil

Lavender is a Mediterranean plant and not indigenous to South Africa, however, it is planted here and high-quality lavender oil is produced and exported from South Africa....more

Use Pelargonium Sidoides for a Cold

Pelargonium sidoides has mildly aromatic velvety leaves and almost black flowers and is a well-known medicinal plant in South Africa....more