When next you’re in Franschhoek, pop into the indigenous herb garden in the town’s main road.
There you will find Judah James, a Khoi Rastafarian who has extensive knowledge of local herbs and what they have been used for through the centuries.
There are popular herbs like wilde als for colic; buchu, which is used to treat a wide range of ailments, including flushing kidneys, treating skin conditions and curing fungal infections; and kooigoed, which Khoi people bundled and used as mattresses. Kooigoed is also used for a multitude of ailments.
Khoi people roamed the Cape, and Franschhoek, for centuries. They depended on fynbos for its healing properties, for food and bedding.
James has been running the garden since 2006, on a piece of land owned by the municipality and granted to him. He landscaped the garden and carefully planted herbs, plants and flowers.
The garden is a haven of peace and he invites people in to enjoy the tranquility.
A tour of the garden reveals scores of plants and he readily shares his knowledge, identifying the plants and listing their uses.
Most of the herbs are steeped in hot water and the tea drunk, but some can be ground up and used in a poultice, and others are burnt to release fragrant smells.
He will also create a mixture of herbs and leaves when people come to him with specific complaints.
Every Saturday he sets up shop at the local market, from where he sells his medicinal wares.
“I also started growing culinary herbs, parsley, fennel and thyme,” James says.
James’ knowledge comes from 22 years of learning how his ancestors treated their aches and pains.
“I’ve been busy with herbs since 1992, and I learnt a lot by trading knowledge with Rastafarians and Khoi people,” James says.