The Fynbos kingdom is a South African Floral wonderland of exquisitely beautiful shrubs with flowers of all shades and wild, delicate fragrances that extends from Vanrhynsdorp up the West Coast towards Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, never leaving the coastline by more than 200km’s. For such a small area, an amazing 3% of the worlds plants are found here and 20% of Africa’s.
It’s a kingdom unique in the world and its intricate web of life holds many healing secrets that are being explored by scientists for their many wonders. The thin soils they grow in mean they are not particularly nourishing as a nutrient source, but it is this very thing that results in them producing very powerful healing phytochemicals as they strive to survive in these meagre soils.
Their healing powers are not a new discovery though, they were used by the indigenous Khoikhoi and later by the European settlers as traditional remedies for a wide range of health issues and as such, hold a place in our heritage that deserves respect and protection.
Perhaps the most famous Fynbos remedy that you may not even realise is part of the Fynbos family, is Rooibos tea, a Fynbos species endemic to the Clanwilliam area that has become an international hit with its powerful anti-aging, antioxidant profile and many health benefits ranging from cancer prevention to calming the nerves.
As awareness of preserving and exploring this special kingdom has grown, there has been a blossoming of products sourcing from the fynbos kingdom, from teas, to beauty products and skin remedies to essential oils, the healing wisdom of these rare protected plants is becoming available in a carefully sustainable and responsible fashion. Let’s take a quick dip into the Fynbos medicine chest.
This species with the wonderful fragrance is well loved for its association with a traditional remedy that is said to give you plenty of oomph! The stalks were added to brandy to create a classic cure-all tonic, or else steeped as a tea. It was revered as a digestive aid that could help alleviate bloating, gassiness and stimulate digestion. It also has a beneficial effect on the urinary system, helping to combat infections and acting as a diuretic to prevent water retention and cleansing the kidneys. The fragrant foliage can act as an uplifting tonic too, helping to dispel stagnation and depression.
The current word on Buchu is that is a super anti-inflammatory and is being studied as a possible aid to overcoming the problem of antibiotic resistant superbugs.
Another aromatic herb with an out of this world fragrance that touches the spirit, Imphepho with its silvery woollen leaves and golden flowers is abundant in the Fynbos Kingdom. From packing a punch in the antiaging department to being burnt to invoke trance states and blessing from the ancestors, this is a herb that is synonymous with South Africa, and the fynbos pharmacy wouldn’t be complete without it.
The Khoisan stuffed mattresses with due to its soft, rambling structure and it’s an effective ant-parasitic too, just the thing to keep those bed bugs at bay! Its medicinal uses have ranged from treating high blood pressure, to heart and kidney ailments and the Khoi used it as a calming tea that helped with insomnia. As an essential oil it can help calm skin ailments, prevent infections and repel insects, these protective properties also making it a good treatment for aches, pains, coughs and colds. The leaves can even be smoked to provide pain relief.
The honey bush is a cousin to the Rooibos plant and has been found to have amazing anti-aging effects. The longer you steep this herb as a tea, the more powerful it gets and the green form of the tea gives you the ultimate health kick.
This caffeine-free, low tannin tea has been found to help clear many skin ailments such as eczema and psoriasis, as well as skin cancer and all sorts of intestinal disorders. It’s hailed as an overall health tonic and studies by the University of Stellenbosch have found promising evidence that it can help prevent breast cancer.
This plant is closely related to Buchu as so also has that wonderful aromatic power. Its fragrance is its blessing as it has traditionally been used as a deodorant to hide bad odours and as a pleasant natural perfume. As is often the case with clean, sweet fragrances, it can be used to lift depression, anxiety, and even anger. Cape May also acts as an insect repellent and can help ease the aches and pains of colds and flu as well as help expel harmful infections with its antiseptic properties, both internally and externally.
The Cape Snowbush with its snow-like white blossoms is a naturally uplifting, whether it be to soother the tensions and strains in your muscles or your emotions. It has a sedative, anti-anxiety effect that helps you move past negative thoughts to a more positive perspective, helping you to focus and gain mentail clarity. Use the essential oil in your bath to give yourself an emotional reboot.
The essential oil can also be used to promote circulation and combat water retention and oedema and its antiviral properties protect against infection. Snowbush can also be used to painful or irregular menstruation and helps alleviate premenstrual water retention in the legs.
This little succulent otherwise known as burn jelly plant, or Snake Flower, is what you could call a living first aid kit for your skin you can pluck fresh from the veldt. The stems contain a jelly-like substance well known for treating all manner of skin ailments – acne, blisters, cold sores, insect bites, eczema and sunburn – it’s your skin on tap quick-fix – simply pluck and squeeze the gel onto the affected area. It can also be taken internally too – pour some boiled water over some leaves in a cup and drink it up for coughs, colds and to help ease arthritis.
This is just a taste of this vast little kingdom that smatters the southern tip of Africa with fragrant magic. The Fynbos kingdom may cover a small area, but it holds big secrets that we should approach with respect, and cherish for future generations.