In Africa, herbs have been used for thousands of years to heal, as food, commerce and for health and well-being. Generally, people all over use herbs to cook and to look after themselves. I will heighlight some herbs that grow in Africa and can be found in other countries. Africa is blessed with thousands of plants, botanicals and herbs; but for this issue of Ingredient Feature, I will focus on these four ingredients, Neem tree, Shea butter, Palm oil and Black Soap. On the benefits they have brought and how they have been used for thousands of years for different purposes.
1. Neem tree- (Dogonyaro)
Neem tree is indigenous to India, Burma, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. And is referred by various names as; Dogon Yaro (Nigeria), Neeb, Margosa (Arabic), Azad Dirakht (Persian). This evergreen shady tree grows luxuriously in the tropical and semi-tropical
In Africa, the Neem tree can be found in the norther part of Nigeria and know as the Dogonyaro tree. It is very medicinal and highl y regarded for it’s antibacterial properties. Traditionally, It is boiled and drank as a cure for malaria. Neem oil is also used to treat all sorts of skin and hair problems from, hair lice and dandruff to infections. However, Neem oil, very smelly and unpleasant, with a very strong strength that over powers any other oil that it is used with and so should be used in moderation. The Gunky smell can be ovelooked due to the benefits it provides.
2. Palm Kernel oil-Elaeis guineensis
Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the fruit kernels (seeds) of the oil palm. Palm oil is naturally reddish in color because it contains a high amount of beta-carotene.
Palm oil is edible and used for cooking, the body , frying and in soaps and cosmetics. The benefits of palm oil.
The demand for palm oil is growing and can be found in almost everything you eat from magarine, to butter,cakes, preserves and more. However, you can’t talk about palm oil without highlighting the problems.There has been alot of conroversies sourrounding palm oil because of the deforestation, devastation and tragedy that it is causing the Orangotangs and some communities.You can read an article here from the independent about problem palm oil is causing in the western region.
3. Black Soap-oshea Dudu
Black soap also comes from West Africa. It is made from plantain leaves, palm tree leaves, cocoa pods or other leaves. The leaves are burned and then water and oil is added. The oils can be coconut oil, shea butter, palm oil or cocoa butter. The process can take up to 2 weeks and recipes are passed down through generations. This means that different regions and tribes have their own ways of making black soap. Black soap is known as Ose Dudu in Nigeria – ( ‘soap black’).Black soap helps with acne, rashes and hyper-pigmentation. It is not as drying as most soaps and can be used all over the body.
Black soap is medicinal and can be found in Ghana, Nigeria and other aprts of West Africa.
4. Shea Butter-
Shea butter known as Karite butter, is a cream coloured fatty substance extracted from the fruit, they grow only in the wild and can take up to 50 years to mature. Alsos known as Mangifolia tree found in the west and central Africa. Western countries are just begining to recognise the benefits of shea butter, something that African have known for thousands of years.
For centuries, Africans have used Shea butter to:
• Moisturize and regenerate skin and hair
• Reduce inflammation, stretch marks and wrinkles
• Treat eczema and arthritis
Shea butter has proven healing properties, dubbed the women’s gold of Africa, it has great healing properties. Heals burns and wounds, promotes cell regeneration, used to treat Eczema, rashes, severe dry chapped skin, provides natural protection against sun damage and ultra violet rays. Good for stretch marks; long application helps delay appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. We use Unrefined shea butter in our Creams and lotions.
What are your experiences with using any of the herbs and plant above? Have you come across them or used them. We use all of these ingredients I have written about and more, in making our products because of the benefits they provide. Our ingredients are sourced from sustainable resources and suppliers who maintain fairtrade principles. Nature heals, So why change it.
Pic Credit: Google images