Honoring the People’s Relationships with The Toilet Paper Plant

We honor the people of Africa who are the original stewards of Plectranthus barbatus. They have been in a reciprocal relationship with this plant for thousands of years, working with it as a medicinal and utilitarian plant. Hundreds of cultures have held relationship with this plant and many still do today. We give gratitude to these cultures, as this plant would not be here today without their stewardship. 

We are still learning about cultural relationships with this plant globally. “Plectranthus barbatus is considered native to a huge range from Pakistan, India, Nepal and Ceylon south through Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, East Africa, South Tropical Africa and naturalized into southern Africa” ([1]). The leaves and roots of this plant have been traditional remedies in many of these countries for a variety of listed ailments. Many Brazilian people have shared that there is a common relationship with the plant there, utilized as an herbal tea to treat stomach ailments. Kenya and Congo have sometimes called it Kikuyu Toilet Paper and used it as toilet paper, as well as to treat microbial infections and cancer, stomach and earaches, ringworm, wounds and measles. Rwanda, Kenya, French Guiana, and Brazil have used it to treat malaria. [2 & 4] Across India, gandira, fiwain, valakah, and garmalu are used in both Hindu and Ayurvedic medicine for various ailments. The roots are pickled and eaten, or for children mixed with sugar or honey and taken with rice-water [3].

As you cultivate your own relationship with this plant relative, we invite you to remember and acknowledge these ancient relationships cultivated by humans across the world. They lived in harmony with Earth and all of our plant and animal relatives, long before dominator cultures and colonialism came to destroy this harmony. Many of these humans hold strong to their relationships to our plant relatives. We believe this act of resistance and love is of the utmost importance to our future as a global community. 

Sources: 1 San Marcos Growers, 2 National Library of Medicine, 3 Envis Centre on Medicinal Plants, 4 Ethnobotanical uses of Coleus forskohlii 

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