North Africa


Opuntia polyacantha (Plains Prickly Pear)

Opuntia polyacantha (Plains Prickly Pear) is a cactus that grows up to 16 inches (40 cm) tall and forms low mats of pads up to 10 feet (3 m) wide. Its…

Living in the Canary Islands, on the Northwest coast of Africa, makes gardening a challenging task. A six month summer, with desert temperatures and dry, burning African winds allows only the stronger, more water-saving herbs to survive in our weather. In this post, we’ll go through the most powerfully medicinal, magical, and tasty plants from our islands.

For centuries, Canarian peasants have developed many unique ways to cultivate that defy the harsh nature of our land. The volcanic landscape, while blessed with an extremely fertile soil, is often too steep and unable to be sown with the help of animals, so the work of farmers is never easy. Terracing and saving water through tanks built right beside the crops, that are filled with rain water and/or underground water, have been the strongest allies of the Canarian farmer.

Despite what it may seem according to these conditions, we have a wide variety of healing herbs and a powerful tradition of herbalism that refuses to sink under the pressure of urban landscapes and modern, synthetic medicine. Herbs are still used daily for common illnesses, physical vigour, and beauty, and are easily available in farmers’ markets and grown on balconies and roofs everywhere.

Flowering Rue
Photo by Carolina Gonzalez

Latin Name: Ruta Graveolens

Medicinal Properties: This is a very bitter plant so its tea is not very pleasant. Pregnant women should avoid it as it is a powerful abortifacient. It is helpful to treat irregular menstruation and it is also antispasmodic, but I wouldn’t advise its use unless you are quite familiar with herbal remedies, because it is easy to overdose. In the Canary Islands, there is a traditional remedy using rue for indigestion: fry a fresh branch of rue in two teaspoons of olive oil, set aside until the oil is warm and then dab your fingers on it and use it as a massage oil for the stomach area. I have used it myself and it works much better and more safely than tea. This oil can also be used for arthritic pains, but again only on non-pregnant women. If you want your farm animals to breed, cut off all rue from their grazing zones.

Spiritual Properties: it is placed at the door of the house/business/temple to repel negativity, as this plant is a powerful warrior against conjure and evil spirits. It is a major element in protection amulet bags (dried leaves) and on hex-breaking floor washes (tea).

CAUTION. The combination of rue and solar exposure is very dangerous, especially during the plant’s blooming. It may cause severe burns and blisters if picked during daytime, so harvest before or after sunrise and wash your hands well after picking. Not everyone is allergic to it, as it happens with other allergy-inducing plants, so don’t take risks or you can end up in the hospital.

Photo by Carolina Gonzalez

Latin Name: Chenopodium Ambrosioides

Medicinal Properties : Epazote is used mainly in digestive issues. It is a wonderful herb for indigestion, or after big meals to help the digestive system work properly. In my personal experience, Epazote makes an awesome tincture for all digestive matters, and it is also steeped in liquors as part of the “Parra”, a traditional digestive herbal drink that is used to finish huge meals.

It has been used for many generations, along with Wormwood (Artemisa Absynthia), to treat intestinal parasites of all kinds. Though the risk of having internal parasites in children is nowadays very low, pets with internal or external parasites will also benefit from this plant – you can powder it and sprinkle your pet’s bed, or give your pet a bath and after it atomize the infusion over the pet’s body, always avoiding the head.

Spiritual Properties: used in protection and hex-breaking – as always, the magickal properties are analogous to the medicinal ones. Epazote helps us digest the obstacles in life and removes spiritual parasites. It makes a wonderful smudge/spray for getting rid of residual negativity from our houses: smudge/spray the house with it after situations that are highly stressful for the whole family, like after a family member’s death, after a divorce, etc. A bundle of dry Epazote is a wonderful protection to keep nightmares caused by spirits away, and to protect children from spiritual attacks.

Passion Flower
Photo by Carolina Gonzalez

Passion Flower
Latin Name: Passiflora Caerulea/Edulis.

Medicinal Properties: The Passiflora plant is the mother of the Maracujá or Passion Fruit. There are about 500 subspecies, but the most comon are the Passiflora Cerulea, which produces the yellow passion fruit, and the Passiflora Edulis, which produces the purple passion fruit. The fruit is one of the subtropical fruits with a higher amount of C and A vitamins. The juice is incredibly tasty and aromatic, as it is used mainly to enhance the taste of orange and papaya juices. A juice made of papaya and passion fruit is a powerful detox brew for diets, and does wonders for people with gastric problems.

Teas and tinctures of this plant’s leaves and root are known to be used to treat anxiety and depression. This plant is usually combined with Valerian Root, Lemon Balm, Orange flowers, Violets and other calming herbs and flowers. The leaves can also be smoked, dried and powdered, and mixed with other smokeable herbs, as the sedative alkaloid it contains has the same effects.

Spiritual Properties:The flowers are used mainly for love and passion amulets – a bundle of leaves, left to dry over the bed, will assure the couple lovely and passionate nights but since it is also related to the Passion of Christ, this plant is also used in ceremonial/blessing incenses and oils, as it is believed to keep away negative entities.

Photo by Carolina Gonzalez

Latin Name: Thymus Vulgaris

Medicinal Properties: though used mainly as a spice for soups, stews and sauces (try it with grilled chicken or vegetables), thyme has many powerful medicinal properties. It eases fever, phlegm and cough relieves muscle pain and headaches caused by menstruation and sunstroke helps digestion, lowers fever, and it is also a powerful antiseptic and antibiotic. Along with rosemary and sage, there is little thyme can’t heal.

Spiritual Properties: in magic, thyme equals courage and luck. A powerful amulet against negativity, evil eye and persistent ghost activity, it is also used for money and prosperity spells. It is just as powerful as a medicine than as a magical herb: there is hardly a spell/amulet that doesn’t improve with the use of thyme! It is also a very fragrant herb, so it can be burnt as incense to repel negative energies, specially on businesses.

Photo by Carolina Gonzalez

Latin Name: Foeniculum Vulgare

Medicinal Properties: this humble plant, often overseen as a weed due to its prolific nature, is full of healing properties. It eases digestion, relieves nausea and vertigo, works instantly on heartburn and bloating, and it is a mild sedative, becoming an excellent after-dinner tea. It is also a wonderful eye wash, especially for dry and sore eyes that are exposed to dry climates, and used along with antibiotic herbs, a powerfully healing wound/sunburnt wash.

In the islands, it is customary to give fennel tea to babies with colic. Although nowadays herbal healers are extremely cautious when giving herbal teas to babies younger than a year, many generations of Canarians have used this remedy for their sick babies.

Spiritual Properties: fennel is highly related to children’s protection and thus, to angelic magic. Tied in a bundle over the main door of the house, it is a sign of angelic protection, keeping negative spirits away. It is also a very well known herb for lucky gambling – keep a small red fabric bag filled with fennel near your lottery tickets for an extra dose of good luck.

About the author:
Carolina Gonzalez has been a professional Tarot Reader and Spiritual Worker for over 15 years, as well as a creator and provider of Spiritual Art and Supplies through her online business, House Of Eleggua, which caters an exquisite worldwide clientèle with the best quality items for the practise of African and Latin American – origin religions. Her blog, as of September 2012, has reached 335,000 visits and her artwork is proudly displayed on altars, temples and sacred spaces all around the world.

Carolina and her husband Fernando Abisaab are also the founders of the House Of Eleggua Temple, which is involved in several charity and environmental projects, and focused on educating their supporters on the beauty and power of African and Latin American – origin religions.

All text and images property of Carolina Gonzalez. Do not reproduce this article, or the images included, without written permission from the author.

About North African Herbs and Spices

North African cooks depend on complex blends, some containing more than 20 different North African herbs and spices, often mixed with various oils or ground nuts. A few of the most popular, and their major ingredients, include:

Ras el Hanout


  • Garlic
  • Hot chili peppers
  • Mint
  • Various North African herbs and spices, along with lemon juice and olive oil


The popular Botanical Gardens and Arboretums in New Jersey are a mecca for a wide variety of plants, shrubs, and trees that have been cultivated for scientific, educational, and ornamental purposes. Some of the gardens and Arboretums include a reference library, a herbarium, greenhouses, and historic estates.

North Jersey Botanical Gardens and Arboretums

Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary
324 Forest Drive South,
Short Hills, NJ 07078
An historic woodlands garden and educational institution. They promote an understanding of the relationship between people and the environment through programs that integrate arts, sciences and the humanities. The Arboretum conducts four major activities: education, outreach, research, and zoological/horticultural display. The Arboretum provides services to local schools, community institutions and citizens of all ages

Cross Estate Gardens New Jersey Historical Garden Foundation
Old Jockey Hollow Road
Bernardsville, NJ 07924
The gardens are intended to offer visitors a view of historic trees and learn about their importance to native Americans and colonists. Located on the property of the New Jersey Brigade Unit of the Morristown National Historical Park, the gardens feature a variety of perennials, a wisteria-covered pergola, a mountain laurel allee, native plants, and large specimen trees. The gardens can be experienced as a self-guided walk. Hiking trails are also on the site and connect to trails in Jockey Hollow, Lewis Morris Park, and the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary (New Jersey Audubon).
The Gardens are open from dawn to dusk and admission and parking are free.

Frelinghuysen Arboretum
53 East Hanover Ave
Morristown, NJ
(973) 326-7600
A 127-acre park that provides a beautiful setting for visitors to take a casual walk around its beautiful Colonial Revival mansion to stroll amongst the beautiful gardens, woodlands, shrubs, and meadows, to discover and learn about plants that are ideally to the soils and climate of Morris County. Self-guiding trail maps and information are provided.

Greenwood Gardens
274 Old Short Hills Road
Short Hills, NJ
[email protected]
Greenwood Gardens maintains a number of outdoor sculptures and ornaments. The stone Tea House is framed by ceremonial hand-washing basins of granite and whimsical oversized chess pieces. Granite lanterns adorn the walls of the cascade terrace, a bronze sculpture of a boy holding two geese by the sculptor Emilio Angela (1889-1970) has been reinstated in the center of the Garden of the Gods and latticework panels have returned to the Cottages.
Greenwood Gardens is open to the public Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Entry is by advanced timed ticket registration.

Leonard J. Buck Garden
11 Layton Road
Far Hills, NJ 07931
908 234-2677
The Leonard J. Buck Garden is a nationally recognized rock garden.
Since the late 1930s when the garden was established, the garden covering a 29 acre wooded stream valley has grown to include a range of planted rock outcroppings and woodland gardens. Named after Leonard J. Buck, who created the garden on his his estate, it subsequently donated in 1976 by Helen Buck to the Somerset County Park Commission. Visitors to the Leonard J. Buck Garden can expect to discover an amazing variety of exotic rare rock garden plants, beautifully landscaped amongst rock formations. Visitors can wander the wooded trails that filled with wildflowers, ferns, and other shade plants. Below the Visitor Center, the F. Gordon Foster Fern Collection contains a shade garden of hardy ferns and perennials. The peak season of bloom is in spring, when delicate wildflowers, diminutive alpines, and colorful azaleas all compete for attention, however horticultural interest is abundant throughout the year

New Jersey Botanical Garden
2 Morris Road
Ringwood, NJ 07456
Spend a couple of hours wandering through the 96 acre gardens with over 400 varieties of lilac. Take a casual stroll though the woodland paths of magnolia walk and crab apples. The gardens contain mostly mostly annuals and as a result return visitors will experience a change throughout the seasons and from past years. There are also attractive fawns and small "Four Seasons" statues anchoring the ovals in the corners. Stop by for a visit at the magnificent Tudor-style manor house. . Admission is free.

Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
474 Upper Mountain Ave
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043
This living museum, listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Sites, offers a spectacular display of thousands of iris varieties to visitors from all over the world. Blooming season runs from mid-may through June

Reeves-Reed Arboretum and Gardens
165 Hobart Ave.
Summit, NJ
(908) 273-8787
The arboretum is attractive for visitors who are interested in experiencing and learning more about woodlands and gardens and to leave with the added knowledge of how they can become better stewards of nature and the environment. The site covers 13 acres of landscaped lawns, gardens and woodlands. It includes 5 1/2 acres of formal gardens. The gardens represent design trends of the early 20th century. Recently they have undergone restoration of the historic Wisner House, the Azalea Garden, and the Rock Garden. They also have a variety of children's educational programs and can host children's birthday parties.

Van Vleck House & Gardens
21 Van Vleck Street
Montclair, NJ 07042
Discover the beauty of the historic house and gardens on a 6 acres with over 400 varieties of trees and shrubs. The Van Vleck estate and gardens is an excellent example of the large estates built in this New York City suburb during the late 1800s.They also offer a variety of educational programs for adults and children Open daily, 9am to 5pm. Admission is Free

Willowwood Arboretum
300 Long View Road
Far Hills, NJ
(973) 326-7600
130 acres of rolling farm land, has about 2,100 kinds of native and exotic plants, many of them are rare. In addition to the formal gardens near the residence and undisturbed forest, historic collections include oak, maple, willow, magnolia, lilac, cherry, fir, pine, a superb specimen of Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia) now more than 98Щ‚ВЂВ™ tall, masses of ferns and handsome stands of field and forest wild flowers. open free to the public daily, 365 days yearly from dawn to dusk. Visitors are invited to enjoy the gardens Spring through Fall. During Winter, the Ornamentals Collection offers evergreen and deciduous plants featuring interesting fruit, bark or branching habit.

Central Jersey Botanical Gardens and Arboretums

Deep Cut Gardens
152 Red Hill Road
Middletown, NJ 07748
(732) 671-6050
Deep Cut Gardens, with over 54 acres of gardens and greenhouses, is an ideal place for the home gardener to enjoy the huge variety of native plants through the seasons. One of the sections features renovated Parterre with 52 varieties of roses with over 180 bushes. The gardens can be enjoyed by taking a casual walking tour or stopping by visitors center and the reference library to speak to one of the horticultural specialists.

Grounds For Sculpture
18 Fairgrounds Road
Hamilton, New Jersey 08619
(609) 586-0616
The Grounds For Sculpture is a 35-acre park that attracts over 100,000 visitors each year to enjoy the beautiful gardens, the outdoor permanent sculpture collection, indoor seasonal exhibitions, and to learn about contemporary sculpture through a variety of educational programs including workshops for adults and children, artist residencies and lectures, tours for adults, schoolchildren, toddlers, as well as touch tours for the blind.

Rutgers Gardens
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
112 Ryders Lane
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Made up of a collection of specialty gardens geared to promoting and providing accurate information about the art of horticulture and the relationship between plants, human health and nutrition in the designed, as well as in the natural landscape. It includes:
Donald B. Lacey Display Garden - One of the most unusual and colorful displays annuals, tropicals, herbs and vegetables in NJ.
The Roy H. DeBoer Evergreen Garden - The evergreens are grouped by genus around the great sunken lawn, with a large weeping white pine serving as the focal point.
The Ella Quimby Water Conservation Terrace Gardens - A series of terraces demonstrating the sustainment of drought tolerant plants.
American Hollies - Displays an unusual collection of native evergreens.
Shrub Collection - Features the oldest collection of lilacs, both hybrids and species that were originally planted in 1927.
Rain Garden - Displays attractive and environmentally sensitive additions to residential, commercial and municipal properties.
Rhododendron and Azalea Garden - This garden was designed as a garden community integrating small trees with a variety of shrubs --- emphasis is on Rhododendrons and ground covers.
They also offer children's programs including group field trips, summer camp, and self guided tours. Open 365 days a year. Admission is free.

Sayen Park Botanical Garden
155 Hughes Drive
Hamilton Square
Hamilton Township, NJ
(609) 890-3874
Also known as Sayen House and Gardens, this 30 acre botanical garden is a municipal park with more than 1,000 azaleas, nearly 500 rhododendrons, and more than 250,000 flowering bulbs for spring display. The garden also is beautifully arranged with ponds, bridges, gazebos, and walking trails. The Gardens are at their peak in the spring when they have their annual Azalea Festival each Mother's Day, during which Sayen House is open to the public from 10AM to 4PM. Held Rain or Shine. The Sayen House can be rented by both Township and non-residents for private functions like wedding receptions, fund raisers, and other

South Jersey Botanical Gardens and Arboretums

Camden Children's Garden
3 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ 08103
This 4 acre indoor and outdoor center is enjoyed by both children and families. Here children can discover and explore the natural world. The garden provides horticultural experiences for creative and imaginative play. The Garden includes three indoor attractions and other outdoor exhibits and activities.

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Gardens
Village of Anglesea
111 North Central Avenue,
North Wildwood, NJ
On the grounds of the Hereford Lighthouse, there are over 200 plant varieties in different garden areas that adorn the site, each connected by winding paths that eventually lead right up to the seawall and Atlantic Ocean. Benches, set back in cozy little niches line the garden path and a large gazebo is a focal point of this beautiful and tranquil setting

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