First Aid Garden

Humans, animals and plants have evolved together over millions of years. Plants need to survive being consumed by various creatures but also be attractive enough to encourage pollination and seed dispersal and they do this by becoming either tasty or repellent. Every single plant is made up of cells and each cell is essentially a bag full of water and chemicals. Sometimes the combination of those chemicals can heal and sometimes they can harm and sometimes the same can be true for one plant but the difference between kill and cure is all in the dosage.

Through time and experience both humans and animals have come to learn and appreciate the healing powers of nature’s medicine chest. With that in mind here is a list of 5 amazing medicinal plants that you should have growing around your home.

1. Aloe vera-While most of the worlds aloe plants can be found in and around South Africa, Aloe vera originates on the Arabian Peninsula. One of nature’s most well-known healers the gel of the Aloe vera plant is used in thousands of beauty and health products around the world. The thick, clear, slimy gel is easily accessible by breaking the succulent leaves. It can then be smeared on sunburn to bring about almost instant relief.It’s also helpful in rehydrating dry skin so it is a boon during Joburg’s super dry winters.

2. Bulbine frutescens – Also known as Snake Plant the gel found in the leaves of this plant make it perfect for treating minor burns and superficial cuts and scrapes. The gel has antibacterial properties and can be used to relieve a range of skin conditions including insect bites, rashes, dry skin, cracked lips and many others. In African traditional medicine it was made into a tea and used to treat coughs and arthritis.

3. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – Well known for its uses in the kitchen, not all are aware of the power of ginger in the first aid kit. These flowering plants spread through a network of underground rhizomes and care must be taken if you don’t want this glorious plant taking over your garden. For this reason we recommend growing it in a pot or isolated bed. It’s great for calming a nauseous belly or to soothe a dry scratchy throat. Ginger is a known anti-inflammatory and there is some evidence that it helps prevent diabetes.

4. Lavender-There are more than 47 types of naturally occurring lavender around the world with many new varieties and cultivars being produced every year at horticultural facilities around the world. Lavender oil is famously used to treat burns as it has natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a useful addition in a potpourri and the dried stems can be placed in a clothes cupboard or in shoes where it will repel insects and fungus as well as make your clothes smell fabulous.

5. Geranium – Originating in South Africa the geraniums have become extremely popular with garden lovers around their world. Their bright flowers and geometrically shaped leaves make them perfect for both mass planting or to have a single plant as a stunning specimen somewhere special. What many don’t know is that the geranium family is equally famous in the world of natural medicine. These plants produce essential oils that can be harvested once the plant is around two to three years old. The anti septic properties of the plants oils make it perfect for rubbing on minor scratches so plant these in the sun near the jungle gym in your garden for an immediate antidote for a scraped knee.