Common names: kooigoed, sewejaartjie (Afrikaans); everlastings (English); phefo-ea-loti, toanae-moru (Southern Sotho); imphepho (Zulu); phefu, isicwe (Xhosa).
There are no words to fully describe the value of this African plant to mankind. Words such as phenomenal, extraordinary, outstanding and life-saver all put together still fall well short to describe its value and healing properties.
The African Helichrysum species is perhaps the most widely used medicinal plant in Southern Africa. In the eastern parts of South Africa, no other plant compares in popularity to imphepo and with good reason. The plant forms an integral part of African traditional medicine and it is used from the Cape Province northwards. Seldom is so much offered by such an easy-to-grow plant. Its uses include nutrition, medicine, insect repellent, ornamental and spiritual.
The true medicinal value of the African Helichrysum species is only now being unveiled by science. New discoveries of its extracts point to a powerful herbal medicine with antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, a possible cure for tuberculosis and herpes amongst its other many medicinal uses.
Derivation of name and historical aspects:
There are over 600 species of Helichrysum occurring worldwide, with 245 found in southern Africa. The word Helichrysum is derived from the Greek “helios” meaning sun and “chrysos” meaning gold, referring to the colour of many of its flowers.
The Helichrysum species are widely distributed in Southern Africa.
Plant parts used:
The roots, twigs flowers and leaves are used.
The African Helichrysum use is often linked to the distribution of this plant. Medicinally, the roots, leaves, stem and flowers are used for a variety of complaints and ailments. Depending on the species and distribution area, the uses include: angina pectoris, backache, bladder conditions, coronary thrombosis, coughs, colds, circumcision wounds, eye complaints, fever, festering sores, heart “trouble”, “heart weakness”, hyperpiesia, influenza, insect repellent, kidney diseases, painful menstruation, prevention of infection, rheumatism, urinary tract infections, virility and wound-healing.
Externally, infusions may be applied as an antiseptic wash, for rashes, marks, skin spots, fungal ailments and the whole leaf as a wound dressing.
For Europeans, the Helichrysum ranks as one of the most ancient and valuable healing plants. Helichrysum is said to be more antiinflammatory than German chamomile, have more tissue regenerating than lavender and more cicatrising (helping the formation of scar tissue) than frankincense. The oil of Helichrysum has been found to generate tissue, reduce tissue pain, help improve skin conditions, circulatory function, prevent phlebitis, help regulate cholesterol, stimulate liver cell function, reduce scarring and discoloration. It is anticoagulant, anticatarrhal, mucolytic, expectorant, and antispasmodic. It has been known to help in improving certain types of hearing loss.
African Helichrysum species contain flavonoids, sesquiterpenoids and acylated phloroglucinols. Helichrysum odoratissimum is rich in an essential oil, with α-pinene and α-humulene as main compounds.
Pain relieving, antiinfective and anti inflammatory activity has been reported for several African Helichrysum species. Proven antimicrobial activity provides scientific evidence for the traditional use in wound dressing. Strong antiviral activity has been shown in in-vitro research.
Coronary thrombosis, coughs, “heart weakness”, herpes, kidney diseases, prevention of infection, TB and wound-healing.
The essence of survival in the African savannah is strength and resilience. Time has bestowed these qualities on the great Mahogany which in its towering grandeur can reach heights of up to 30m, exploding into a canopy of prolific slender leaves providing a dappled quiet shade from the relentless African sun.
The beautifully shaped deep green leaves gradually fall all year round to blanket the earth beneath her, providing enrichment to the soil. From the seed flows its essence, Forest Mahogany oil. Rich in fatty acids, it is soothing and protective, providing perpetual moisture to soften and protect dry, damaged skin.
Trichilia emetica (Rooiessenhout)
A medium to large, handsome evergreen found in woodland, riverine and coastal forest of Southern Africa. The bark is grey-brown, smooth in texture and the leaves oblong-elliptic, dark green and glossy. The creamy-green flowers are fragrant, producing almost spherical creamy-brown fruit capsules. The black seeds are fascinating as they mimic the vacant expression of a doll’s eyes. The pinkish-brown wood darkens with age.
In African traditional medicine, the bark is soaked in warm water and used as an emetic, hence the name.
The seeds contain oil that has been widely used by the locals through the ages as a wonderful emollient, and also used to hasten the healing of fractured limbs. It can be taken internally for rheumatism, and made into good quality soap.
The rural community is involved in gathering the seeds on a continuous basis, which are then collated and pressed at temperatures below 60°C (i.e. first pressing). No solvents or chemicals are used in the process. The liquid is then filtered successively to yield a final product which is brownish, and becomes semi-solid at ambient of 20°C. The oil is rich in essential fatty acids, is extremely nourishing, and restructures the epidermis. The high proportion of mono-unsaturated oleic acid provides good stability. Further to this it has shown to have some anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activity due to the presence of liminoids such as Trichilin A. Natal Mahogany oil has also been shown to have good free radical scavenging properties.
Ref: Roy Aiken (ESCENTIA)