It may be named after a 19th-century botanist, but Warburgia has been around for centuries, and it has been a staple of medicine since the caveman days.
Warburgia salutaris, commonly known as the pepperbark tree, is named after Dr. Otto Warburg (1859-1938), a noted German botanist. It is found naturally in Africa, most often in Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
If you’re curious about how it got its common name, it’s because the leaves have a peppery flavor, and they are used to season foods that benefit from pepper.
But if you’re wondering why we still care about it today, it’s because of how early humans used it, and that wasn’t to add spice to a salad.
Among the early adopters of the warburgia were the Maasai tribe, who have used it to treat malaria. When ground into snuff, the stems and root bark have been relied upon to clear the sinuses. And when powdered and mixed with water, warburgia is also used to help cure sores that arise in the mouth.
Those are the most traditional ailments for which folks use warburgia, but the plant has a number of other medical uses. It is a traditional remedy for yeast infections and effective against bladder infections.
Warburgia has also been successfully used as an antibiotic and to fight headaches, the common cold, respiratory ailments and influenza.
One of the most recommended ways to use warburgia is as an expectorant. It is fantastic for coughs, chest congestion and just about anything having to do with the respiratory system.
For those worried about taking too much over-the-counter medicine for allergies or a perennial cold that never seems to go away, this could be a natural means of controlling the symptoms and taking a break from manufactured cough syrups that rarely seem to do much good.
What’s more, warburgia has another use—it is traditionally thought of as an aphrodisiac. That’s not to say it’s a date drug. But ancient humans were pretty smart in a lot of ways, and they seemed to know how it affected their libidos.
Warburgia can be consumed in many forms. Traditionally it is smoked, ground into a powder, or used as an expectorant. It is also available online in tablet form.
One recent concern: the pepperbark tree is being over-harvested. That means it might not be around for much longer. Unless steps are taken to regulate its consumption, the tree is likely to become a lot more scarce
For the time being though, warburgia looks like another success story from caveman medicine that still works today.
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