When COVID-19 hit African shores in the first quarter of 2020 a myriad of remedies for symptoms and ailments associated with the pandemic were bandied about, with solutions ranging from over-the-counter medication and homemade concoctions to organic oils and homegrown herbs. The most talked about of these was the African Wormwood (Artemisia Afra), better known as Lengana to Sesotho speaking people and Umhlonyane to the Ngunis. The herb’s popularity rose to even greater heights after the president of Madagascar promoted a herbal concoction made with, among others, the artemisia plant as a cure for the Corona virus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) cautioned against this, and what we now know is that Umhlonyane does not cure COVID-19, but rather helps with the relief of some symptoms and lingering effects of the virus, such as coughs, fever, colds and loss of appetite, provided it is used properly.
One of the positives that came out of the Madagascar “cure” saga and similar debates is that more people are now beginning to open up to, and educate themselves about organic medicine and healing herbs. But in truth, this is not a new phenomenon. Plants have been used for their healing properties by our forebears from time immemorial. Science is only catching up now, with plants and herbs being repackaged into “modern” medical products such as oil extracts, capsules, powder and liquid medicine.
The HOMEGROWN Farm is home to the African Wormwood and other healing herbs from the Artemisia family, such as the Common Wormwood and Mugwort. In addition these, the farm also houses the Plantain Herb, the Rhubarb and the Yellow, Pink and Purple Bergamot.
According to the SA Government’s publication Vuk’uzenzele, about 80% of Africa’s population relies on traditional medicine for their basic health needs. Situated in Centurion, South Africa, the HOMEGROWN Farm is well-positioned to meet this growing need for plant-based medication with its array of healing herbs.
Holistic healing practitioner and wellness coach, Satram Blair emphasises the importance of including healing herbs and essential oils in one’s shopping basket as these have natural healing abilities for a variety of afflictions, such as insomnia, loss of appetite, soreness, influenza, fever and other common ailments. As an expert in her field, Satram cautions against the haphazard use of healing herbs due to misinformation and lack of knowledge, like we saw with the huge demand for umhlonyane due to COVID-19. She emphasises the need for people to learn more about variants of these herbs and their different benefits.
Listed below are the healing herbs you can purchase fresh from the HOMEGROWN Farm, and their benefits:
African Wormwood (Artemisia Afra/Lengana/Umhlonyane)
Good for the treatment of cough, fever, colds and flu, swelling of the throat, fever, blocked nose, bronchitis, loss of appetite, colic, gout, asthma, diabetes, bladder and kidney disorders. This potent herb may be used as an infusion, lotion, steaming, inhaled (as smoke or snuff), or as an essential oil. It can also be used as a moth repellent.
Mugwort Wormwood (Artemisia Vulgaris/Chinese Moxa/Felon Herb)
The Mugwort is one of the more palatable wormwoods, used in recipes such as soups, rice, cakes, dumplings, and tea. Medically, it can be used to control menstrual bleeding and treat fungal infections. It can also be used as an insect repellent and soothing sore feet.
Common Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium)
This is typically taken as an extract or tea for the alleviation of pain and joint inflammation. It can also be used as an ointment. However, the herb should never be directly applied to the skin because its compounds are too concentrated and may result in skin burns. The herb is also used as an antioxidant and a cure for tapeworms.
Pink Bergamot (Monarda Didyma)
This herb has mint scented leaves which are used as flavouring for meat, salads, and tea. The spicy leaves are also used in infusions to improve digestion. Just like the Mugwort, the Pink Bergamot is an effective insect repellent when crushed.
Purple Bergamot (Monarda Media Willd)
Another mint herb, used for soothing skin irritations, reducing fever, and treating colds. The herb is also good in the garden for attracting pollinators, such as honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
This celery-like herb has edible but sour stalks which can be taken raw or cooked with a bit of sugar. It is commonly used in pies, crumbles and other deserts. The rhubarb is a good source of vitamin K1 and high fibre. Only the stalks of the rhubarb should be eaten because the leaves contain high levels of the poisonous chemical, oxalic acid.