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Leonotis leonurus

‘Minaret Flower’, Wild Dagga, Wildedagga

Leonotis Leonurus is a very important traditional medicinal plant that has a naturally wide distribution over large parts of South Africa. It has been used by many indigenous peoples for a very long time. This indigenous shrub, which varies in height from two to five metres, has light brown, woody stems with long, narrow-toothed light green leaves.

The descriptive name ‘Minaret Flower’ was acquired because the distinctive tiers of bright orange, tubular-shaped hairy flowers resemble a minaret. The leaves, a tincture prepared from the roots, or a decoction of the seeds, are well-known snakebite remedies among rural people, while a decoction of the leaves, flowers, stems and roots is used to treat spider bites and scorpion stings.

A decoction of the leaves is drunk to treat high blood pressure, asthma, a bad digestive system, piles, influenza and bronchitis. It is applied externally to treat skin diseases, eczema, boils, sores, itchiness and muscular pains. Fresh twigs in bath water will also relieve itching. A decoction of leaves, stems and seeds was reputed to be a tonic as well as a treatment for jaundice. A tincture of the flowers is a treatment for coughs, colds and headaches. In earlier days people suffering from nervous spasms, epilepsy and strokes smoked the fresh leaves.

A large perennial shrub, Leonotis Leonurus will grow up to 1,5 metres tall and spread 1 to 2 metres across. It bears very attractive orange flowers in autumn, and white-flowered forms are also available. The flowers provide nectar that attracts birds and insects. These shrubs benefit from a good ‘haircut’ each spring.