The hopbush is so-called because its colourful fruits can be used as a substitute for hops in brewing. It is native to the Southern hemisphere where it grows in South and South-East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and Latin America, as well as elsewhere. It gets the name Dodonaea in honour of Rembert Dodoens a 16th century Flemish botanist, royal physician and professor. The name viscosa comes from the Latin which means sticky, referring to the texture of the plant’s leaves. It is a member of the soap tree family, the Sapindaceae and so a relative of reetha, the soap berry tree.
  In Pakistan it is called sanatha and the leaves and bark are used for fevers and to reduce swelling caused by inflammation and bumps. The fruit and bark have astringent qualities so are used to treat diarrhoea and to heal wounds externally.
  In some countries the leaves are chewed for their stimulant qualities, although as they contain saponins and the oil in them is cyanogenic, this is not advisable, although I’m told they spit out the leaf having masticated it well. Cattle have reportedly suffered liver damage after eating the foliage, although there are no known reports of this having adverse affects on humans.
   The bark is sometimes used in poultices for swellings and headaches and is added to baths. The leaves have pain-killing, wound healing and diaphoretic (sweat-promoting) qualities as well as being astringent and useful for skin rashes, toothache and sore throats. A decoction or infusion can be made from them and the liquid applied to affected areas of the skin.
  In some countries such as New Guinea they are used for house construction, as the shrubs can grow to 8 metres high, although they normally reach between 1 and 3 metres tall. They can also be used as live fences, and the wood is used to make cabinet, hammers and other small items as it is strong and durable.
  Modern research has shown that the hopbush has potential benefits as the leaves have been found to have anti-fungal, anti-diabetic (in vivo on rats) anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory anti-oxidant properties. They can also help to combat ulcers. They contain flavonoids and tannins as well as saponins and steroids and triterpenes, but further research is needed to discover exactly which substances have the most active beneficial properties.

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