Herbs and plants used in traditional medicine by African tribes and people

This chapter on African traditional herbs and plants used for healing purposes by the San and other tribes, was added by "popular demand".

We take no responsibility whatsoever for any damages, wrong and inaccurate information and strongly advise anybody against using any of the information included in this website. Most modern medicines come from herbs and plants, and we strongly recommend to go see your medical doctor.

Before the event of colonialism, Africa was a continent where the "witch doctors" and "herbalist healers" taken care of all ailments, real or not.

Even now in the 21st Century, African witch doctors are still found all-over Africa. Superstitions, cannibalism and the use of human parts in African witchcraft, are still practiced in many African countries. Please note, there is a real big difference between a witch doctor and a traditional herbalist healer.

The African traditional healers went by many names such as: Inyanga and Isangoma in Zulu, Ixwele and Amaquira in Xhosa, Nqaka in Sotho and Toor-dokter, bossie-dokter or kruie-dokter in Afrikaans.

Some of these remedies were also known as "boere-rate" or "kruie-rate".

Although the Inyanga or Sangoma is considered to be more spiritually endowed, the elders, birth attendants, mediums, herbalist and the ordinary person living in the bush are all carriers of tribal medicine knowledge of which wild herbs and plants to use.

The following herbs / plants descriptions are for informational purposes only. We are not advising or prescribing herbs or plants for any specific medical conditions.

Always check with you health care provider prior to using herbs/plants for medical purposes. Be smart and do your research. Most of the information and herbs listed in the following descriptions has not been verified or not proven safe by the FDA. Use at your own risk.

Abortifacient - Abscess - Acne - Anodyne - Anthelmintic - Antiseptics - Ear Ache - Stomach Ache - Head Ache - Aphrodisiacs

Common herbal plants with medicinal properties:

Shepherd’s Tree (Boscia albitrunca): This unique African tree is a virtual bread-basket of uses. Various tribes in Namibia and Botswana consider the Shepherd tree as a "holy tree" and will not destroy it. In Botswana, they have even build roads around it, so they do not have to take it out. Flour for porridge and bread is made from the sub-roots, and even a coffee alternative is extracted from it.

Sheperds Tree (Boscia albitrunca)

Medicinal Uses of the Boscia albitrunca: A cold infusion of the leaves is used as a lotion for inflamed eyes in cattle. A decoction of the root is said to be effective in the treatment of piles. The unripe fruit has been used commercially as a remedy for epilepsy.

Acacia erioloba - Ear infections can be treated with the dried powder of the pods, The gum can be used for the treatment of gonorrhoea and the pulverized burned bark can be used to treat headache.

Acacia hebeclada - Rood can be used for a cure for diarrhoea.

Acokanthera oppositifolia - This plant and ALL its parts are extremely poisonous, it contains several cardiac glycosides of which Acovenoside A is the major compound, with minor constituents which include the well known hunting poison ingredient Ouabain.

Acovenoside A. - Is highly toxic and can cause death even with minute doses. A infusion of the root bark are used to treat excessive and irregular menstruation. Very Small doses of the plant are taken orally, and some applied topically for the treatment of toothache. Other medical uses include the treatment of colds, anthrax and tapeworm.

Acacia nilotica (Mimosa nilotica) - The Zulu people of South Africa make a tea from the bark for treating cough. Astringent bark used for diarrheal problems, dysentery, and leprosy. Other preparations used for coughs, mouthsores, toothache, ophthalmia, and syphilitic ulcers.

African Vocanga (Vocanga africana) - This plant is used by the Diola tribe of Africa against infectious diseases. It has also been reported to been used to treat mental disorders and as an analgesic. Reported to contain voacangine (carbomethoxy-ibogaine), ibogamin, plus many other unidentified alkaloids in the root and trunk bark, leaves and seeds. The total alkaloid fraction is said to be slightly toxic, acting as CNS depressants and hypertensive.

Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) - This unique and well-known plant from Namibia, is effective in the treatment of arthritis, and exported to Europe. Also aids in liver and gall-bladder complaints.

Lion tail (Leonotis and Leonuris) - Are known collectively as lion's tail; ongoing research at the CBGTEP suggests that these little-known herbs may also be useful as a calming tea. Various tribes in South Africa use the leaves and roots of the plant as a remedy for snake bite, and to alleviate the pain of other bites and stings. The decoction of dried leaf or root is used as an external wash to treat itchy skin and eczema. Internally, the tea of the dried leaves is taken to treat headache, bronchitis, high blood pressure and the common cold. The plant contains volatile oils and marrubiin.