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Native to less arid areas of Africa, India and the Caribbean, the flowering plant Leonotis nepetifolia also grows throughout parts of the southern United States, where it is commonly referred to as a "Christmas candlestick." Known elsewhere as klip dagga, lion's ear or, in Trinidad, shandilay, this plant produces long stands of flowering orbs that are mostly orange but sometimes purple, red or white. Though studies as of 2011 have yet to verify all of this plant's medicinal uses, a tea made from its leaves is commonly used by herbalists to calm the nerves, heal burns, alleviate symptoms of fever or colds, and even combat malaria.
Belonging to the Lamiaceae family of mint plants, Leonotis nepetifolia is most often used as a medicine by making tea with its leaves. Other herbal remedies call for a tincture to be made from the leaves or flowers, which can be applied as a treatment for burns or to ease pain from arthritis. Some people reportedly even smoke the herb as a mildly euphoric alternative to marijuana.
The health benefits of Leonotis nepetifolia allegedly come from several key components. Several naturally occurring alkaloids, like stachydrene and leonurine, are commonly found in accepted medical therapies. Flavonoids like quercetin, apigenin, rutin and hyperoside also are suspected by some herbalists of providing the body with high levels of potentially beneficial enzymes, which can ease asthma and even fight cancer. This plant also contains polyphenols and glycosides, which medical experts often point to as beneficial herbal constituents.
In the United States, Leonotis nepetifolia can grow in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's hardiness zones eight through 11. This means they can thrive from the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains to Florida, and from Texas to the Atlantic Ocean. To grow in these areas, however, they need mostly full sun, moist soil, and high humidity. Extended periods of below freezing temperatures will kill this plant.
The list of potential uses for Leonotis nepetifolia is quite long; however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not certified any of the claims as of 2011. Aside from the aforementioned uses, these teas and tinctures also are used to ease hypoglycemia and arthritis pain. In Trinidad, shandilay is a common cold and fever remedy and also is widely used by asthmatics. Some even use the herb to ease heart problems, from erratic palpitations to hypertension. It is also used to control menstruation and as a mild antibacterial agent.
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