The current health trend that seems to dominate the world is holistic health. This entails eating foods that are more organically and ethically sourced. The trend has also seen more people embrace indigenous herbs and plants to their diets, and other day-to-day requirements such as treating wounds or moisturising skin.
According to the Institute for Holistic Health Studies, which forms part of Western Connecticut State University, holistic health is defined as “an approach to life that considers multidimensional aspects of wellness. It encourages individuals to recognise the whole person: physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual”.
One factor of holistic health is being more conscious of what one consumes, and more specifically food that have myriad health benefits beyond simply being nutritive for the body.
There are some indigenous African plants and herbs health benefits you can incorporate into your daily life:
Aloe ferox (Cape bitter aloe)
The plant is shown in San rock drawings. This branch of the aloe vera family is endemic to South Africa and has such a long and deep established use in the culture.
The ferox gel, which contains 130 medicinal substances, is used as a laxative treatment and also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities. The bitter sap can help with arthritis, sinusitis and conjunctivitis, while the juice from the chopped leaves can help with burns by cleansing the affected region, encouraging new tissue growth and filling in the wound, says ResearchGate.
This well-known plant is notable for its anti-cancer alkaloids as well as the fact that it cannot be synthesised in a lab, making large-scale manufacturing impossible and relying only on the plant’s leaves, as stated by RxList. It’s been used as a bitter tonic and emetic for rheumatism, skin ailments and venereal illnesses for centuries, but it also affects glucose and blood sugar levels.
African bitter melon (bitter gourd)
This plant, sometimes known as bitter gourd, is cultivated all throughout Africa. Its leaves may be cooked to make cerasse tea, and the pulp, seeds, leaves and plants can be used to extract a juice that has been used as a diabetic remedy and a hypoglycemic agent, according to Health Shots.
Okra is a blooming plant with edible seed pods that is also known as “lady’s finger”. It thrives in hot conditions and is widely grown in Africa and South Asia. Okra is a low-calorie vegetable that is high in nutrients. It is high in vitamin C, which aids with immunological function. Okra also contains vitamin K, which aids in blood clotting, according to organicfacts.com.
Polyphenols, which include vitamins A and C, are antioxidants found in okra. It also includes a protein called lectin, which has been shown to suppress the development of cancer cells in humans. The development of breast cancer cells was suppressed by up to 63% in studies utilising concentrated okra components.
Kalanchoe species are frequently mentioned in folklore and are widely used in traditional medicine to treat fever, abscesses, bruises, contused wounds, coughs, skin ailments, infections, hypertension, rheumatism and inflammation, according to the NCBI.