Herbal remedies were the precursor to modern pharmaceutical medicines. They have been used for centuries to treat a variety of illnesses and symptoms. We can still learn a lot from Traditional African Medicine and use medicinal plants to heal certain ailments, fight bacteria and prevent infections. One such plant that has excellent antibacterial properties is African potato.
There is some confusion about its name; it is wrongly named African potato. It is not actually a member of the potato family. Although the rootstock reminds us of a sweet potato, it has a hard, fleshy, mucilaginous compressed stem, called a corm, that develops vertically (not like a tuber or swollen stem that develops horizontally). It uses the corm to overcome winter conditions. In spring, a new set of leaves grows from the apex of the corm.
This well-known medicinal plant (Hypoxis hemerocallidea) has many health benefits. It is one of the most commonly used and traded plants in Traditional African Medicine. It has even been recommended by the South African Minister of Health for inclusion in a daily diet.
Source of Health offers three products that contain African potato; Anti-Bacterial for fighting bacteria and viruses, Elixir of Life for overall well-being and Immunity for a stronger immune system. These products use African potato for its ability to minimise bacteria, build a strong immune system and introduce antioxidants into the body.
Medicinal uses of African potato
African potato is one of the most popular plants for use in traditional African remedies. “In a study on the plants sold at muti markets in the Eastern Cape, Hypoxis hemerocallidea was the most-traded plant,” says the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). “Weak infusions and decoctions of the corm (underground plant stem) are used as a strengthening tonic, during convalescence, and against tuberculosis and cancer,” explains SANBI.
“It is also used for prostate hypertrophy, urinary tract infections, testicular tumors, as a laxative and to expel intestinal worms. Anxiety, palpitations, depression and rheumatoid arthritis are further ailments treated with the plant…Hypoxis hemerocallidea is used to build up the immune system of patients suffering from cancer and HIV,” states SANBI. African potato is also noted to be a powerful immuno-enhancer that strengthens the immune system and enables faster recovery after sickness.
In addition, African potato can be used to treat diabetes and high blood pressure as studies have shown that it reduces hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemic-induced oxidative stress. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and affects millions of South Africans. This plant has been the focus of many studies and has been proven to have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antidiabetic properties.
The rootstock and underground stem are the parts most often used for traditional remedies. They can be dried and used in a tea-like infusion containing water. The plant should not be consumed raw as it contains toxic substances; once the plant is dried and processed, it is safe for consumption. This wonderful medicinal plant has multiple healing properties and no short-term side effects from its use, which is why we have included it in three of our Isiphethu Sempilo products.
More information about African potato
African potato grows throughout most of South Africa and neighboring countries. The plant is incredibly resistant to wildfires and even relies on this natural process for population growth. African potato lies dormant underground during fire season and resprouts after the fires have subsided. Fire actually promotes the growth of new leaves and stimulates the spread of seeds and germination.
It is fairly common in the wild, but due to its popularity in traditional medicines, African potato can be overharvested. It also faces threat from expanding urban populations. We sustainably source our African potato from local growers and agricultural projects. “It is suggested that the incorrectly used name ‘African potato’ was introduced by the media in early 1997, when the hype around the plant arose, possibly after the Afrikaans ‘Afrika-patat‘, since the tuber could possibly remind one of a patat or sweet potato,” says SANBI.
The plant has long spear-shaped leaves that stack one atop of the other and grow outwards in a neat triangular pattern. The undersides of the leaves are very hairy. The star-shaped yellow flowers usually close at midday and only one to three remain open at any one time to encourage cross-pollination. The large underground tuber is dark brown and covered with bristly hairs, but when cut with a knife, it appears bright yellow inside.
African potato is easy to grow at home in pots or in the garden. It can survive for long periods of time without water and is frost-resistant. The plant prefers full sunlight and well-drained soil. The tuber remains dormant during the winter months and needs to be kept dry. The leaves will perish after summer but will reappear in late winter just before the first rains.
To learn more about African medicines and traditional plant-based remedies, please do not hesitate to contact us. Source of Health is a manufacturer of Traditional African Medicines under the brand Isiphethu Sempilo. We use biomedicine processes to create herbal remedies, combined with scientific methods to ensure the finest quality and trustworthy herbal extracts.
Source of Health offers a range of herbal products that are effective as natural remedies for pain, depression, illnesses and more. The use of medicinal plants as part of traditional African healthcare is one of the oldest and most assorted of all therapeutic systems. It has been used through the ages to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve or treat physical and mental illnesses.
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