Thursday, December 9, 2010

Artemisia afra - an extremely versatile South African herb

Artemisia afra

This wonderful shrubby plant is very generous with its foliage once it is established and can be cut back regularly and will sprout again with vigour. The leaves are quite delicate and feathery, and have a fruity aroma when crushed. A tincture made of the fresh leaves is fruity and deep dark green, whereas when made from the dried leaves it is dark brown, less fruity and more bitter. The fresh leaf is quite intensly bitter to chew, and interestingly will get rid of a headache as effectively as any pain killer. One might have to chew two leaves, but many a sissy will prefer to take a pill :)

Artemisia afra is complex chemically and in its actions. It contains complex volatile oils as well as terpenoids, coumarins and acetylenes. It is antimicrobial, antioxidant, analgaesic and antihistamine. It is a decongestant, and combined with the antihistamine action it is an excellent herb for upper respiratory tract infection and allergy. It can also be used to get rid of intestinal worms, so very good to add to dog food in small qualtities if worms are suspected.
It is also thought to be antimalarial. I have given the tincture to many people who are travelling into malaria regions.  As most antimalarials are anyway not 100% foolproof and come with sometimes hefty side effects, Artemisia is a good option.  Because of its thujone content, it should not be taken in excess. I always blend herbs to minimise the risk of side effects, and to maximise the synergistic action of a formula. Where anti malarial action is required I also give Echinacea.
I recommend that you see a practitioner for these tinctures. The tinctures or tablets sold in health shops are very often too weak to have a protective effect, despite what it says on the label!

Another important feature of any herb is its sustainability, and this herb is easy to propogate and very hardy.

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