Statistics show that about 25% of the total numbers of vascular plants in the world are found in South Africa. Its unique and diverse botanical heritage gives traditional healers the choice of approximately 3000 medicinal plants. Of these 3000, only 10% of species are most commonly used and very few have been commercialised.
Worldwide attention is now on Artemisia afra as researchers delve into the benefits of using it for modern medicine. Diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases are a few conditions that researches are looking at. Interestingly Artemisia afra has been used by traditional healers for decades treating many ailments. It has become widely used in many parts of the world either alone or in combination with other plants. It is considered a herbal remedy for a variety of ailments from a headache to neurological disorders like epilepsy.
Respiratory tract ailments - Used for the common cold, cough, sore throat, influenza, preventing Malaria and asthma as it is said to clear the respiratory and bronchial passages. The leaves are crushed and heated then the vapours are inhaled to alleviate symptoms of colds and flu. Some insert fresh leaves in their nostrils to alleviate blocked nasal passages. A hot infusion is used as a gargle to help with a sore throat. The leaves are smoked by some tribes to help release phlegm and soothe a sore throat.
Gastro intestinal ailments - It is used in the digestive complaints like indigestion, colic, constipation, flatulence, gastritis and getting rid of intestinal worms. Here the leaves are prepared as a tea and taken orally.
There have been warnings about Artemisia afra prescribed and self-medication as it can be poisonous and have an adverse effect on your health with long term and continuous use. Long term use can cause addiction, cramps, headaches and dizziness, with some reports of coma and death with over use. It is wise to seek a doctors or natural healer’s opinion before taking supplements or using it in its natural form.
Artemisia Afra grows in most regions throughout Africa, predominantly in South Africa. This plant is a pretty garden subject and can grow up to 2 metres high. The foliage is silver, feathery and fern-like. It enjoys regular trimming with a cloud of silver foliage so cut back hard if it becomes leggy. It grows well in full sun, tolerates drought and most soils, but will growth lusher if it is watered regularly.
Artemisia Afra is available at most plant nurseries but is also easy to grown from a slip. Water your cuttings and do not allow them to dry out; after a few weeks, they begin to root and the leaves get bigger. The bushes last for many years producing thick stems full of leaves.