People have practised natural medicine for centuries before modern technology, and it is still used throughout the world for health promotion and for the treatment of diseases. Medicinal plants are more affordable than conventional medicine, easy to obtain, more cost-effective, has fewer side effects, and they utilise the body’s natural healing process, especially succulents.

It is important to remember that you should always double-check with your doctor before consuming anything new for your body. Also, refrain from using any pesticides or any harmful chemicals on your plants because you don’t want any of those chemicals in or on your body.

Sempervivum tectorum

Common name: House leek, Hens and chickens

This low growing rosette-forming succulent, from native Europe, has juice and leaves which have been used in folk remedies for centuries. It has anti-inflammatory, diuretic (increases the amount of water and is expelled from the body as urine) and astringent (helps body tissues to shrink) properties. Sempervivum is firstly famous for its skin treatment like burns, sunburn, swelling, scratches, insect bites and abrasions by using the juicy fluid from the leaves. Secondly, for earache. Here you can use cotton wool, soaked in the juice of the leaves of Sempervivum, and leave it in the ear for several hours. For side effects, please note some people can be allergic.

Interestingly, Romans used to plant Sempervivum in front of the windows of their houses because they believed the plant was a love medicine.

Portulaca afra

Common name: Spekboom

This wonder plant of South Africa has leaves which are thirst-quenching and will help with over-exhaustion, heatstroke and dehydration. This is a helpful trick for hikers and mountain climbers as this shrub occur naturally on rocky hillsides in the Karoo. The leaf is chewed and sucked and can also be used as a treatment for sore throats and mouth infections. Rubbing the leaf juice over blisters and corns helps to soothe and heal them too. The antiseptic leaf juicy is also good for treating acne, rashes, insect bites and sunburn.

Additionally, these succulents are a valuable stock food and can be used in your salad.

Crassula ovata

Crassula ovata

Common name: Jade Plant, Lucky Plant

Crassula ovata is not a major alternate medicinal plant but is recommended for warts. A leaf is cut open and the moist flesh is bound over the wart for several days with a plaster over it. Should the treatment be successful, the wart will fall off. It is also used for treating corns.

Cotyledon orbiculata

Common name: Plakkie, Pig’s Ear

The leaves of this beautiful grey-leaved shrub with its orange-red tubular flower can be pulped and hot water poured over it, then drained and used as a poultice (a soft, moist mass applied to the body and kept in place with a cloth) for drawing infection out of wounds and sores. You can also place a piece of the leave that has been scraped, over a wart and secure it with a plaster for up to 2 weeks. This treatment softens the wart and the wart should fall out. Warmed leaves applied to boils, abscesses, corns and also blisters can also be treated.

Crassula muscosa

Crassula muscosa

Common name: Lizard Tail, Skoenveterplakkie

This highly recognisable plant with its exciting architectural leaves and minute yellow flowers during summer are medicinally used to treat abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Infusions of the plant can be made but must be used sparingly.

Always remember it can be dangerous to use succulents as medicine without the supervision of someone who knows what he or she is doing, or without the knowledge of your doctor. I hope everybody will look with new eyes at succulents.

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