African Helichrysum species
There are no words to fully describe the value of this African plant to mankind. Words such as phenomenal, extraordinary, outstanding, life-saver, significant all put together still fall well short to describe its value and healing properties.
The African Helichrysum species is perhaps the most widely used medicinal plant in Southern Africa. In the eastern parts of South Africa, no other plant compares in popularity to Imphepo and with good reason. The plant forms an integral part of African traditional medicine and it is used from the Cape Province to Zimbabwe. Seldom is so much offered by such an easy-to-grow plant. Its uses include food, medicinal, insect repellent, ornamental and spiritual.
The true medicinal value of the African Helichrysum is only now being unveiled by science. New discoveries of its extracts point to a powerful herbal medicine with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, a possible cure for tuberculosis and herpes amongst other medicinal uses. The scientific value of this plant is such that it has South African universities scrambling to conduct further research.
There are over 600 species of Helichrysum occurring worldwide, with 245 found in southern Africa. The word Helichrysum is derived from the Greek "helios" meaning sun and "chrysos" meaning gold, referring to the colour of many of the flowers of species in this genus.
For Europeans, the Helichrysum ranks as one of the most ancient and valuable healing substances. Helichrysum is said to be more anti-inflammatory than German Chamomile, have more tissue regenerating than Lavender and more cicatrisant (helping the formation of scar tissue) than Frankincense. The oil of Helichrysum has been found to generate tissue, reduce tissue pain, help improve skin conditions, circulatory function, prevent phlebitis, help regulate cholesterol, stimulate liver cell function, reduce scarring and discoloration. It is anticoagulant, anti-catarrhal, mucolytic, expectorant, and antispasmodic. It has been known to help in improving certain types of hearing loss.
The Helichrysum plants are widely distributed and used medicinally in East and West Africa by indigenous cultures and Europeans settlers alike. The African Helichrysum species are well-known, popular traditional and their use is often linked to their distribution.
Medicinally, the roots, leaves, stem and flowers are used for a variety of complaints and ailments. Depending on the species and distribution area, the uses include: angina pectoris, backache, bladder conditions, coronary thrombosis, coughs and colds, circumcision wounds, eye complaints, fever, festering sores, heart trouble, "heart weakness", hyperpiesia, influenza, insect repellent, kidney diseases, painful menstruation, prevention of infection, rheumatism, urinary tract infections, virility and wound-healing. Infusions may be applied externally as an antiseptic wash and whole leaf as a wound dressing. Infusions may be applied externally as an antiseptic wash.
For HIV/aids patients, imphepo tea is a must. Because of its beneficial activity on the liver and its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antibiotic and anti-fungal properties, it improves well-being, clears the skin of marks and to a degree and protects the patient. It may also be applied externally on skin for rashes, marks, spots and fungal ailments.