Medicinal Plants in South-western Saudi Arabia
Medicine, whether traditional folk medicine or mass-produced pharmaceutical drugs, have been beneficial in curing and treating all manner of diseases and illnesses throughout the centuries. Indeed, it is from the traditional folk medicine that has allowed us to make great strides in treating illnesses.
There are still places around the world that still prefer to treat diseases and infections in the traditional ways. Medicinal plants are used in Saudi Arabia to treat a vast array of conditions, including rheumatism, asthma, diabetes, stomach conditions, constipation, eye and ear problems, colds and flu, fevers, measles, bladder and urinary diseases, toothache, epilepsy, and skin allergies.
Over the past few decades, scholars have studied the medicinal plant life in the south west of Saudi Arabia, to evaluate their properties and how they are being used.
The local name for this plant is sayah and is an annual herb. It is usually found in the lowlands near Mahayel. The leaves of the plant are generally ground up into a powder, used to treat acne. Locals will also apply it to the genitalia area in order to improve urination.
An under-shrub found commonly in the lowlands, it is known locally as alreen. It can be used in two ways; the plant itself is used to stop bleeding and the extracted juice from the plant can help cattle with eye conditions.
A small tree cultivated on terraces on Fayfa Mountain, this remarkable tree shows some unique characteristics. Scholars noted that, “chewing the leaves stimulates central nervous system and might be helpful in treating diabetes; it also shows undesirable effects such as increasing irritability, feeling of thirst, decrease of appetite, gastric disturbances, constipation, sexual impotence (in chronic users), and hangover; leaves contain vitamin C, niacin, calcium, iron, tannin, and some alkaloids”.
The local name for this medicinal plant is thuffa and is commonly planted in gardens and farms in the southwest region of Saudi Arabia. The leaves and seeds, when produced in a decoction, can help relieve pain caused by measles and treat upset stomachs.
This shrub or tree can be found both cultivated and in the wild and commonly known as henna. The plant is used to create a dye that can be used for hair and decorate the skin. It will also help soften the skin, especially the hands and feet. The plant contains non-saturated compounds such as carotenes and xanthophylls.
Many more plants have been recorded. Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia has some fine hospitals and the medical care standards are better than some other countries, many of its people still cling to traditional folk medicine to help them with their everyday health ailments. Tib Arabi, the traditional folk medicine, is mainly used by older generations, but younger generations are starting to see the benefits of traditional healing practices.
Abulafatih, H. A. (1987) Medicinal Plants in Southwestern Saudi Arabia, Economic Botany, Springer on behalf of New York Botanical Garden Press.