Artemisia afra

Botanical Name ; Artemisia afra
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Artemisia
Species: Artemisia afra
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Common Names:wild wormwood, African wormwood (Eng.); wilde-als (Afr.); umhlonyane (Xhosa); mhlonyane (Zulu); lengana (Tswana); zengana (Southern Sotho)

Habitat :Artemisia afra has a  wide distribution from South Africa, to areas reaching to the North and East, as far north as Ethiopia. Artemisia afra is the only indigenous species in this genus.

Description:
Artemisia afra grows in thick, bushy, slightly untidy clumps, usually with tall stems up to 2 m high, but sometimes as low as 0.6 m. The stems are thick and woody at the base, becoming thinner and softer towards the top. Many smaller side branches shoot from the main stems. The stems are ribbed with strong swollen lines that run all the way up. The soft leaves are finely divided, almost fern-like. The upper surface of the leaves is dark green whereas the undersides and the stems are covered with small white hairs, which give the shrub the characteristic overall grey colour. A. afra flowers in late summer, from March to May. The individual creamy yellow flowers are small (3-4 mm in diameter), nodding and crowded at the tips of the branches. Very typical of A. afra is the strong, sticky sweet smell that it exudes when touched or cut.

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Medicinal Uses;
Artemisia afra is a well-known medicinal plant in Africa, and is still used effectively by people of many cultures. Uses range from treating cough, fever, colic, headache, to intestinal parasites and malaria. In addition, Artemisia afra is frequently used as a moth repellent, and in organic insecticidal sprays.

The roots, stems and leaves are used as enemas, poultices, infusions, lotions, inhaled (e.g. smoked or snuffed), or as an essential oil.

Artemisia afra is used in many different ways and one of the most common practices is to insert fresh leaves into the nostrils to clear blocked nasal passages. Another maybe not so common use is to place leaves in socks for sweaty feet. The roots, stems and leaves are used in many different ways and taken as enemas, poultices, infusions, body washes, lotions, smoked, snuffed or drunk as a tea. A. afra has a very bitter taste and is usually sweetened with sugar or honey when drunk. Wilde-als brandy is a very popular medicine still made and sold today. Margaret Roberts lists many other interesting uses which includes the use in natural insecticidal sprays and as a moth repellent.

Used mainly as an aqueous decoction or infusion applied externally or taken orally, the extremely bitter taste being masked by the addition of sugar or honey. Fresh leaf may be added to boiling water and the vapors inhaled.  For the treatment of cough, croup, whooping cough, influenza, fever, diabetes, gastro-intestinal disorders and intestinal worms.  As an inhalation for the relief of headache and nasal congestion or a lotion to treat hemorrhoids. In traditional practice, fresh leaf is inserted into the nostrils to relieve nasal congestion or placed in boiling water as a steam bath for menstrual pain or after childbirth. Warmed leaves may be applied externally as a poultice to relieve inflammation and aqueous infusions administered per rectum or applied as a lotion to treat hemorrhoids.  African Artemisia afra foliage was smoked by many Indian tribes to induce visionary states during religious ceremonies. It is a strong narcotic, analgesic and antihistamine. It is an excellent smoke or smoke-mix, reputed for its hallucinogenic effects and psychoactive properties. In Central America and the Caribbean Islands, it is dried and smoked along with Cannabis sativa as an aphrodisiac.  Volatile oils from the plant resulted in significant activity against Aspergillus ochraceus, A. niger, A. parasiticus, Candida albicans, Alternaria alternata, Geotrichum candidum, and Penicillium citrium

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_afra
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_UZ.htm
http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantab/artemisafra.htm
http://www.herbgarden.co.za/mountainherb/article_wildeals.htm

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