Your Soap in the Bush

Devil’s Thorn (Dicerocaryum eriocarpum) is a common species in the lowveld area where we are. As the name suggests, this ground dwelling creeper is not very pleasant to step on but it does hold some other special properties, as our guests experienced first hand this week. Apart from its gorgeous purple trumpet flowers, the plant is also known as Bushman’s soap. The leaves contain saponins which when mixed with water create a slimy mucilage. This mucilage acts in the same way that our everyday soap does, removing dirt and cleaning the skin. Our trackers and rangers use their local knowledge of the area and botany to show our guests a few small traditional alternatives such as this for everyday life: simply pick the leaves of the devil thorn, crush them slightly, add a touch of water and rub yours hands together. In just seconds your hands are slimy with the unique mucilage and hold a delightfully subtle fragrance – an easy way to wash your hands in the bush. This plant is the subject of many different traditional beliefs and has many uses because of its special properties. So next time you forget your soap in the bush, don’t worry, simply keep your eye out for the traditional alternative of Devil’s Thorn.