The value of medicinal plants in remote communities

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Nowadays, nature is coming to the fore as a source of well-being more than ever before, but how new are these trends really?

The use of plants as a source of healing and good health is widely practised today, but these 'alternative' medicines, far from being the latest fad, have been around for centuries – and it all began in Africa.

As the Cradle of mankind, the Dark Continent has supported human life for longer than anywhere else, with plant medicines featuring in both San rock art and ancient Egyptian scrolls.

Today, many remote communities still rely on these remedies for their well-being and emergency medical treatment for the following reasons:

  • Good modern healthcare is not easy to come by in the rural areas,
  • Traditional healers are still revered and consulted for remedies to countless problems,
  • Prices of modern healthcare options remain out of the reach of many people, and the government support thereof is inadequate to deal the needs of growing rural populations,
  • Many traditional plant based health remedies continue to work well enough for them to still be considered.
  • Most of the indigenous medicinal plants are threatened to some degree today because of their overuse or due to unsustainable harvesting techniques.
  • Some are slow growing trees, some are difficult to find bulbs, others are common 'weeds'.
  • They are a lot cheaper than modern medicine, however can still be difficult for some families to afford – because this is not in the formal market, trading opportunities still occur for the obtaining of such remedies.
  • Rural folk can be suspicious of new technology and would rather stick with what they know

Traditional remedies are also a reminder of the customs and culture of African people and give the elders credibility among new generations.

Unsung heroes of nature's medicine chest


These hardy plants are a common sight on any visit to South Africa and are far more than just an attractive element along the roadsides or around camp while on safari.

  • Aloe Vera is well-known and commercially available in creams and lotions for treating skin irritations and even fungal infections.
  • Aloe Ferox is proven to have anti-inflammatory, calming, antiseptic, germicidal, and anti-parasitic properties.


Known as the miracle tree, the leaves, bark, roots and immature pods of the Moringa tree can all be used. As a tea, it can treat headaches, gastric ulcers and diarrhoea. It can also be applied to the skin to help clear up wounds, insect bites and even fungal skin conditions. Moringa is also considered a 'superfood' due to its remarkable and highly nutritious profile.


Great for making lemonade and biscuits, the roots of the ginger plant are ground into a powder to cure many ills. A powerful detoxifier, ginger tea assists in combating abdominal pain and cramping and may also be used to ease headaches, colds, throat infections and hysteria.

Ginger can also reduce fever and high blood pressure and is often served with garlic as a breath freshener.

Learning about these natural remedies can be an interesting part of your luxury safari experience with Thornybush Collection. Ask your game guide to point out some of these medicinal plants while you are out exploring the bush or on a visit to our community gardens.


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Sunday, 16 December 2018