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Gardenia jasminoides J.Ellis Rubiaceae. Cape jasmine - as erroneously believed to have come from South Africa. Distribution: China. Named for Dr Alexander Garden FRS (1730-1791) Scottish-born physician and naturalist who lived in Charles Town, South Carolina, and corresponded with Linnaeus and many of the botanists of his era. The fruits are used in China both as a source of a yellow dye, and for various unsubstantiated medicinal uses. Other species of Gardenia are found in tropical Africa and the roots and leaves have all manner of putative uses. Gardenia tenuifolia is used as an aphrodisiac, for rickets, diarrhoea, leprosy, gall bladder problems, toothache, liver complaints, diabetes, hypertension, malaria and abdominal complaints. It causes violent vomiting and diarrhoea. It, and other species, are used to poison arrows and to poison fish. Some native, muthi medicine, healers regard Gardenia as a ‘last chance’ medicine, given to patients when all else fails – the patient either dies or recovers (Neuwinger, 1996). Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London.
- Dr Henry Oakeley