Virtually every indigenous tree in Zimbabwe seems to have some medicinal application – roots and bark are the most used parts although other parts such as fruit, leaves etc. are also used. The following articles are for interest only and the Tree Society of Zimbabwe does not recommend and will not be responsible for anyone experimenting with any herbal application/remedy mentioned in the articles.
THORA’S HERBAL HINTS
Olive Olea europaea
One of the oldest named trees – when the dove returned to the Ark for the second time it carried a fresh branch of olive in its beak.
The Greeks made it their symbol of wisdom and only chaste men and virgins were allowed to grow it.
The Romans called it ‘the tree of Minerva’ and venerated it. Those asking for a cessation of hostilities would carry an olive branch – peace being a form of wisdom.
The tree gives the Mediterranean countries wood, leaves and fruits, in other words provides them with shelter, warmth, food and remedies.
The ancients made great use of olive oil in their food and in the care of their bodies. Athletes rubbed themselves from top to toe to keep muscles and joints supple and also employed it internally for liver complaints and gallstones.
Today olive oil is still taken for hepatic insufficiency, gallstones, biliary or renal colic, colitis and constipation – easily tolerated.
To prevent intoxication swallow a tablespoon of olive oil before wining and dining. Externally, olive oil mixed with the white of an egg, is a soothing ointment for burns and insect stings. A tea made from olive leaves is recommended for hypertension, angina pectoris and diabetes – lowers blood sugar level. The infusion is also used for cleansing wounds and promoting healing.
In some countries the leaves are used for tanning leather.
Wild Olive – Olea europaea subsp. africana
A hardy, drought and frost resistant tree, the beautiful wood of which is used in carvings. Propagation by seed is easy and the commercial olive tree has been successfully grafted on to the wild olive.
All pieces of the bark and wood left after carving is saved for kindling as the inhaled smoke cleans the head.
An infusion of the fresh leaf is an excellent eye bath and a pad of cotton wool soaked in the tea and placed over closed eyes is soothing and relaxing. The leaves boiled in water makes an effective gargle for sore throats.
A decoction of the root is used for bladder and kidney ailments.
A powdered dried leaf stops bleeding and is still used by some tribes.
The wild olive is the tree emblem of the Orange Free State.
Sand Olive Dodonaea viscosa
This tree grows amazingly quickly and pruned can make a very attractive shrub – often used as a hedge – the winged seeds germinate freely.
It has been used medicinally for many years. A tea made with the leaves and fruit is sipped to ease colic, gripes, diarrhea and nausea.
The same brew will bring down a fever and used as a wash will cool and comfort heat rash and inflammation. Used as a gargle this tea soothes a sore throat. A tea made of the root is for coughs, colds and bronchitis.
Compresses of the leaves warmed, and placed over strained muscles and sore back will ease the strain and pain.
The winged fruits used in potpourri absorb the aromatic oils wonderfully and retain the fragrance a long time.
LAVENDER – Lavendula spica (Lavendula officinalis) and Lavendula dentata.
These herbs look good in the garden and smell divine. For thousands of years they have been used not only for their fragrance but also as a disinfectant, vulnerary, sedative, stimulant, tonic and carminative. The Romans used lavender in their bath water (its name in fact derives from the Latin lavare – to wash), satchels of lavender were placed in chests and cupboards and lavender oil was brushed on bed¬steads to get rid of bugs and rubbed into children’s hair to kill lice.
A dog if bitten by a viper was rubbed with a handful of lavender to save its life – the essential oil is a powerful antiseptic and a remarkable neutralizing agent of venom. In the 16th Century laundry women dried their washing on lavender hedges and lavender water was always sprinkled on washing before ironing. How lovely!
It is the flowering tips, picked before fully in bloom, that form the basis of various preparations. A mild infusion is sedative and anti-spasmodic and therefore prescribed for disorders of a nervous origin – insomnia, poor digestion, migraines and irritability.
A stronger infusion is stimulant, sudorific, tonic, disinfectant and diuretic. Can be prescribed for laryngitis, bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma, chills, influenza and feverishness.
Lavender oil can be made by macerating a handful of fresh flowers in a litre of olive oil in a transparent jar in the sun for three days. Strain and press, then repeat the operation till the required strength is reached. I think Vitamin E oil works equally well and is excellent for the skin and not quite as expensive. This oil can be used for migraines and headaches rubbed on the forehead and taken internally – 6 drops on a lump of sugar. Also a good remedy for vertigo and digestive disorders. The lotion is good for burns, eczema and congestion of the lungs. Rubbed into the hair it strengthens and cleans. Lavender is said to promote hair growth, is an excellent rinse and a quick setting lotion. Use 2 cups lavender flowers and leaves, 10 cloves, 2 litres of boiling water, Boil then strain.
Use this lotion in the bath as well. It is stimulating and acts as a deodorant.
Make a small lavender pillow to induce sleep – fill with dried flowers and foam chips.
Lavender flowers and leaves chopped up and mixed, impart a special subtle flavour to many sweet dishes, in tea, fruit drinks, cake icing, pancake and sponge cake mixes.
This is equally true of the scented geranium leaves.
Try making lavender syrup – boiling flowers and sugar together then adding it to your favourite ice cream recipe. Delicious!
All old woody stems of your lavender plants can be put in a tub and covered with boiling water then allowed to cool in order to make, when strained, a delightful fragrant foliar spray for your precious pot plants and garden flowers and vegetables.
THE LAVENDER TREE – Heteropyxis dehniae
This tree was renamed in honour of Mrs. Gertrude Dehn who made extensive studies of it in the Rusape and Marondera areas. It is a fragile dainty tree, lovely at all times of the year and deserving an honoured place in the garden.
African tribes have used it in herbal medicine and have also appreciated its fragrant perfume.
A scented tea is made by pouring boiling water over the leaves and stems, and then strained to relieve heartburn, colic and flatulence. It is a tonic tea, strengthening and reviving, given to old people, to refresh weary travelers, and to help a new mother regain strength. It also aids digestive upsets and colds.
A strong brew is used as a wash and deodorant – very good in the bath – fragrant and invigorating.
Crushed leaves added to Vaseline treat cracked heels and dry skin on hands and feet – relieve tiredness and soften calluses. Rubbed on to pillows, the crushed leaves help to keep mosquitoes away. Dried and powdered leaves are used as talc.
The leaves and twigs boiled make an excellent inhalant to clear the nose and chest.
This brew is also used as a mouthwash for gum infections and toothache.
A strong brew is made to keep ticks off dogs and cattle, goats and donkeys, and for treating bites and scratches on these animals. The dried leaves make an excellent ingredient for potpourri.
LAVENDER CROTON –Croton gratissimus
The branches of this tree when crushed are pleasantly aromatic and are dried and powdered by the Bushman ladies to make a perfume. The charred bark is used to treat bleeding gums but this tree is believed to be toxic, an Euphorbiaceae.
It is also known as the hairy lavender fever berry.