A close-up of the hands of a South African traditional healer during a ritual. Source: YouTube.
In June, Artemisia afra was in high demand on the streets of Johannesburg in South Africa. To treat COVID-19 symptoms, the Indigenous herb’s silvery leaves were for sale at roadside vendors and in the city’s popular traditional markets. Some people even pulled the plant from private gardens. And on the sides of nearby highways, people held signs for “mhlonyane” (A. afra’s isiZulu name) and offered bushels to passing motorists like bouquets. Between February and July, the herb doubled in price.
People in the region have consumed the bitter plant for centuries to treat illnesses from colds to intestinal worms. With deaths rising as South Africa battled its first COVID-19 wave, people have turned to A. afra and other traditional medicines, including cannabis. (They were not the only ones. In April, Madagascar’s president, Andry Rajoelina, had launched