Succulents are surging in popularity for several simple reasons. They are:
- water wise
- nearly indestructible
- adds colour and texture to your garden
- easy to grow
- easy to find especially those indigenous to South Africa.
They also include some well-known medicinal plants. Even if you’re not a huge enthusiast when it comes to natural remedies, chances are you’ve heard of some of the health benefits of Bulbine frutescens and Carpobrotus edulis.
Common names: Cats tail, Burn jelly plant, Balsem kopieva
Bulbine frutescens occurs widespread throughout Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State and Kwazulu Natal. It has great value in the home garden where it is a useful first-aid remedy for children’s everyday knocks and scrapes. Fresh leaves produce a jelly-like juice, squeezed and frequently applied, is amazingly effective to take care of a wide range of skin conditions and wounds. The list is endless: acne, burns, blisters, cold sore (even in your mouth), cracked lips, nails and heels, insect bites, mouth ulcers and sunburn. Also, very effective for treating wounds, sores and rashes on both human and on animals.
The healing effect is likely due to glycoprotein, which is also present in the leaf gel of the Aloe species. In Limpopo Province, plantations of Bulbine frutescens have been established where innovative commerce skincare products are being produced. Some commercial shampoos include it as a moisturizer.
This easy to grow succulent for full sun and beautiful orange or yellow flowers in spring and summer is really one of nature’s finest medicinal plants. Used externally, Bulbine species are reasonably safe – just be sure to check for allergic reactions. Use with caution internally.
Common names: Sour fig, Suurvy, Vyerank
Carpobrotus spp. are a superb water-wise plant, indigenous and frequently used as a sand binder, dune and embankment stabilizer, and also as a fire-resistant barrier. The yellow or pinkish flowers in spring are followed by edible fruit and is a very powerful remedy for constipation. The fruit can also be used for cooking jam.
Leaf juice is astringent and mildly antiseptic and if mixed with water and swallowed, it can treat diarrhoea and stomach cramps. It also can be used as a gargle to treat laryngitis, sore throat and mouth infections. Simply by chewing a leaf tip and swallowing the juice will help to ease a sore throat.
A crushed leave is a famous soothing cure for blue-bottle stings and, being a good coastal groundcover, it is often on hand when needed. The leaf juice is also used as a soothing lotion for burns, bruises, scrapes, cuts, grazes and even sunburn. It can be applied to cracked lips and to cold sores on and around the mouth.
Bulbine frutescens and Carpobrotus spp. are both useful plants to have in the garden, not only for its remarkable medicinal values but also for its ability to survive almost anywhere with minimum attention. With very little water and care, these plants are a must for every garden.
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