By Sam Magwai
Traditionally, this knowledge was passed from elders to children because people of that time were forest dwellers, so herbalists and traditional healers held invaluable knowledge of the vast variety of plants. These people got their medicinal understanding by several means. The knowledge of the stomach of certain animal species would guide them to know and understand what man could or could not use. An example: the elephant as a non-ruminant would eat certain plants, which had medicinal values specifically for them. The same reasoning applies to baboons and monkeys; the herbalists and traditional healers would observe what they ate for food and what they ate for medicinal reasons.
African men would get more of this knowledge from dreams while others had the skills passed down through the family.
To understand the medicinal value of the trees and other plants careful study of the vernacular names is important, because that is an indication of their properties. These names describe how these plants were used in ancient times. Unfortunately, cultural degradation means this knowledge is rapidly disappearing. From biblical times to the Bushman, from the Bantu era to modern man… all lived in similar habitats with many of the same kind of plants and bushes used for the same kind of medicine. These plants were named according to the way they were used.”