A favourite indigenous medicinal herb is Artemisia afra (commonly known as the wilde-als, umhlonyane or african wormwood). This versatile plant is a shrub in the daisy family and named after the Greek goddess of hunting, Artemis. Artemisia is a large genus containing about 400 species with its centre of diversity in the northern hemisphere. Other notable species in the genus include Artemisia absinthium, which is used in the alcoholic drink Absinthe, and Artemisia dracunculus, commonly known as tarragon.
This easy to grow shrub is widely used to treat coughs, colds and influenza, fever, loss of appetite, colic, headache, earache, malaria, intestinal worms and many other ailments. Artemisia afra is also a great companion plant (companion plants are plants that enhance each other’s growth or protect each other from pests). Its strong smell acts as a natural insect and animal repellent, and it has been known to repel mosquitos, flies and worms and keep dogs out when planted as a border. It also aids soil health and makes an excellent mulch as it encourages proliferation of beneficial soil biota.