Category Archives: Medicinal Plants

Various plants that have medicinal properties.

Ice Plant: Hottentot Fig

One of the more noticeable plants in southern California is the Ice Plant, Carpobrotus edulis. It is also known as Hottentot Fig or Sour Fig. Ice Plants seem to grow everywhere here. They have beautiful large yellow flowers that catch the eye. Besides being pretty, the ice plant has a variety of uses.

1-FlowerThis is an ice plant flower. The blooms are large, two or more inches across, and I have seen them in yellow and pink.

2-Leaf Cross-sectionThe leaves are triangular and succulent. Because they are full of water, they are resistant to fires. One of the main landscaping uses of the ice plant is as a fire barrier. By planting a dense patch of ice plants, people can protect their houses from the wildfires that are so common here in the west.

4-Large PatchAs you can see, ice plants grow very densely, excluding other plants. This prevents other, more flammable plants from growing in the otherwise fireproof ice plant barrier. They also have short but strong roots that are used to prevent erosion. This makes them useful on slopes and dunes where erosion can cause serious damage. It was first imported to stabilize the ground around railroads. On the other hand, it is very heavy because it is full of water, and the weight has caused some slopes to collapse.

3-FruitsThe ice plant grows fat, succulent fruits after it blooms. They start off green, and ripen to yellow or even reddish.

5-FruitThe skin of ice plants is extremely astringent. I tasted it, and it made my mouth completely pucker up. The leaves are considered edible, but I would peel them first. I have read that chewing on the tip of a leaf (nearly all skin) is a remedy for sore throats. On the other hand, once you cut open a fruit…

6-Fruit Cross-sectionThe inside of the fruits is filled with a seedy pulp, that is very edible. You can see the comparison with figs clearly here. I couldn’t find a ripe fruit for the photos, but the flavor is sweet, tangy, and a bit salty since it grows by the coast. Quite tasty, and a good source of moisture in such a dry climate.

A word of warning: This plant can become invasive very easily. It was imported from South Africa, where it is native, to prevent erosion, and has quickly spread everywhere. If you grow it, take care that it does not spread out of your control.

~The Homesteading Hippy

Backyard Medicine: Aloe

Of the medicinal plants, it seems that none is so well-known among the general public as Aloe vera. This species is a bit of a mystery, since it does not occur in the wild, and biologists have been unable to determine its origin. What we do know is that some 500 species of Aloe occur in the wild in Southern Africa, Madagascar, and Arabia. It is likely that Aloe vera is a hybrid of more than one of these wild species. Continue reading

Backyard Medicine: Purple Coneflower

Yesterday, I posted about the medicinal uses of yarrow, a common garden plant. Today, I want to talk about the coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. In the wild, coneflowers are found in eastern North America, although they have been widely introduced. They produce beautiful flowers, available in many varieties but purple in the wild, and the center of each flower is made up of a spin cone-shaped structure. Continue reading

Backyard Medicine: Yarrow

I would like to focus some attention in this blog on the herbal remedies that we often have growing in our yards. Many plants have medicinal uses, although some are nearly impossible to use safely or effectively without specialized training. A fair number, however, can easily be used to treat a variety of minor ailments. One of the best known of these is yarrow, Achillea millefolium. Continue reading