Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alluring and Healing Agapanthus

Easy-to-grow Agapanthus (African Lily) produce glorious clusters of lily-like blooms that last throughout the summer.

Yesterday I posted a new Agapanthus plant profile on my website.

The six or so species that comprise the genus Agapanthus (African Lily) are found growing wild along the coastal belt and inland mountainous regions of southern Africa. These clump forming perennials have been collected from their natural habitats and developed into many spectacular garden hybrids that adorn landscapes all around the world.

I guess, as I live and garden in South Africa, the native home of Agapanthus I have tended to take this amazing plant for granted. The gardens of my childhood home always included masses of both blue and white varieties. As children we loved to use the tall flower stems (after the flowers had withered) for Zorro style sword fights! My garden now, has a number of the indigenous species all of which give great pleasure.

Perhaps what most gardeners fail to give much thought to, is the wonderful medicinal properties of so many of the plants we grow in our gardens. In South Africa, many of the indigenous African people consider Agapanthus to be both a magical and a medicinal plant, and the plant of fertility and pregnancy.

Traditionally Xhosa women (of the Eastern Cape) use the roots to make antenatal medicine, and they make a necklace using the roots that they wear as a charm to bring healthy, strong babies.

The Zulu people of KwaZulu-Natal use Agapanthus to treat heart disease, paralysis, coughs, colds, chest pains and tightness. It is also used with other plants in various medicines taken during pregnancy to ensure healthy children, or to augment or induce labour. In some tribal groupings it is used as a love charm and by people afraid of thunderstorms, and to ward off thunder.

Margaret Roberts a renowned herb grower, author and specialist in the use of herbal remedies, advises hikers to put leaves in their shoes to soothe the feet, and to wrap weary feet in the leaves for half an hour. The long, strap-like leaves also make an excellent bandage to hold a dressing or poultice in place, and winding leaves around the wrists are said to help bring a fever down.

Agapanthus contains several saponins and sapogenins that generally have anti-inflammatory (reduce swelling and inflammation), anti-oedema (oedema = swelling due to accumulation of fluid), antitussive (relieve or suppress coughing) and immunoregulatory (have influence on the immune system) properties. Although the precise activity of Agapanthus compounds is not known, preliminary tests have shown uterotonic activity (increases the tone of uterine muscles).

Agapanthus is suspected of causing haemolytic poisoning in humans, and the sap causes severe ulceration of the mouth so the plant should not be chewed or swallowed.

If you would like to know more about the propagation, planting and growing of these wonderful plants and the many hybrids now available, visit my website http://tinyurl.com/y9feaso . I am sure that you will find the visit rewarding.

1 comment:

  1. We have just had a few new breeds of the inapertus in, two in particular we have not heard a great deal about before- The Ice Cascade and the Midnight Cascade