Ben Coley, Head Trainer of Bushwise, and his team have provided a short list of essentials to look out for if you ever become lost in the bush and are in dire need of some toiletries should something go wrong!
Ben Coley’s ‘Did you know?’ is an essential guide on how you can use the bush in a more personal way:
- Magic Guarri (Euclea divinorum) and Jackelberry (Diospyros mespiliformis)
The frayed ends of the branches of these trees have been used for centuries as toothbrushes. Branches are broken off and the ends stripped of bark before chewing them in order to produce a frayed ‘brush’ that can be used to scrape off plaque from the teeth. Both are considered to have antibacterial properties that also help to keep the teeth clean from bacteria that can cause decay.
- Leadwood (Combretum imberbe)
The ash from the burnt bark of the leadwood tree has been used for centuries as toothpaste. Its fine texture produces a gentle abrasive that is very effective in removing any unwanted build-up of plaque.
- Aloe species
These iconic plants contain various proven antibacterial properties for treating wounds and as a moisturiser. In order to prevent infection of a cut or scrape, the leaves are broken off and the bitter sap is applied directly to the wound.
- Devil’s Thorn (Dicercaryum eriocarpum)
The leaves of the Devil’s thorn, when added to water, create a foamy substance that can provide a very effective substitute for soap. The presence of saponins in the leaves act as an antiseptic detergent and are very effective at dislodging and transporting dirt of any surface it is applied to. The soapy substance produced has also been used traditionally in childbirth as a lubricant and is also proven to dilate the birth canal!
- Knobthorn (Acacia nigrescens)
Like many in the bushveld, these abundant trees are rich in tannins. Tannins have the ability to constrict blood vessels and produce a numbing sensation, and have been traditionally used to treat cuts inside the mouth, mouth ulcers and even nose bleeds.
- Silver Cluster Leaf (Terminalia sericea)
The tannins in this tree have been used traditionally for centuries to help with diarrhoea due to its ‘binding affect’. Simply chewing on a few leaves (although rather unpleasant!) is considered a sufficient remedy. The inner bark off this tree can also be woven into an incredibly strong twine and used to hold wound pads in place.
- Sausage Tree (Kigelia africana)
Extracts of the large oval-shaped fruit have been proven to contain various chemicals effective at treating skin condition including psoriasis and eczema. Simply rubbing the juice on to the skin should cause immediate relief albeit for a short period of time.
- Large-Leaved Fever-Berry (Croton megalobotrys)
Rumours abound that this widespread tree has the ability to cure malaria. In 1899, Dr John Marberley was reported to have been cured by seeds and bark of the tree administered to him by an African doctor. Unfortunately it took him 20 years to identify the plant! Despite this haughty claim, no further research was conducted.
- African/Weeping Wattle (Peltophorum africanum)
The feathered leaves of this tree are famously known as Bushmen’s toilet paper (always an essential item!). However, its leaf structure does not suggest great efficacy and thus it is perhaps best substituted with the large soft leaves of the ‘elephant’s ear’ or Abutilon angulatum.
About BUSHWISE and Ben Coley
Bushwise offers comprehensive 50 and 23-week FGASA Professional Field Guide courses, 65 and 80-day Introductory Field Guide and Wildlife career courses and Hospitality Internship Placements at Safari lodges in Southern Africa. Bushwise also launched two new 65 and 83 day Introductory Field Guide & Wildlife Careers course in September 2015.
Despite being born and raised in England, from an early age, African wildlife always held a special place in Ben’s heart. Over the last decade Coley has been fortunate enough to guide and manage various lodges in the Sabi Sands Wildtuin (Mpumalanga), KwaZulu-Natal and Tanzania, as well as more recently gaining two years of experience as a trainer to students wanting to become field guides. He has FGASA level 3, full trails guide, SKS birding theory and he is a registered assessor and moderator for FGASA
By: Ben Coley.