Khanyisa Healing Garden


Khanyisa Healing Garden

Project Aim

To establish an innovative healing and research garden showcasing South African medicinal and food plants used to address malnutrition and lifestyle diseases such as stress and anxiety. The aim is to utilize this wealth of indigenous knowledge for community development and societal wellness. A further aim is to create an international network of these gardens to foster collaborative projects around plant conservation, ethnobotany and health promotion.

The garden will serve to integrate conservation, health promotion and research relating to African medicinal plants while providing unique spaces for ethnobotanical-tourism job creation, wellness and cultural and environmental preservation. We have identified a number of potential sites for the establishment of the pilot garden and are looking for suitable and synergistic partnerships to align with on this exciting venture.

“Khanyisa” is a word that means to illuminate and indicates the action of some of the plant medicines used in South African traditional medicine to uplift and heal the nervous system.

The Vision

The growing interest to know more about South Africa’s medicinal plants together with the great need of healing spaces has inspired the vision of creating the Khanyisa Healing Garden, which would serve as a place to document and research the cultural understandings and significance of the local medicinal healing plants, their therapeutic uses and conservation aspects, while providing a unique space and service for people to heal and improve their health. The vision is also that similar gardens can be replicated elsewhere around the world  as a network with the aim of connecting academic institutions, indigenous people and public interest groups under one umbrella that will foster societal wellness and education on medicinal plant knowledge.


  • Identify the best possible partnerships (stakeholders have already been identified in South America and Europe) and the most suitable site for the pilot garden to meet the desired business outcomes and activities (guided walks, workshops, training and conferences etc).
  • Create the Khanyisa Garden and the healing spaces.
  • Select and train up local community members to be field guides, workshop facilitators and garden assistants to create viable and sustainable jobs and skills development related to selling the renewable natural resource of the area (i.e., the practical experience of learning about and experiencing the plants, nature and healing).
  • Teach the applied knowledge to visitors and local communities for health promotion, plant conservation and local cultural revitalization. [/one_third] [one_third]


Ethno-Tourism & Skills Development

There is a rapidly growing interest from overseas in South Africa’s traditional medicine plants, particularly those plants used to treat lifestyle conditions such as stress, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity etc. A garden of these food and medicinal plants can be used to draw researchers and tourists to learn about their cultural and scientific value through unique nutrition and holistic medicine workshops, treatments, and walks that Jean has experience in facilitating.

Botanical & Cultural Heritage Promotion & Conservation

By documenting threatened South African cultural and botanical medicinal plant knowledge from local elders and healers will stimulate research, biodiversity conservation and education around the plants.  Outcomes will include print and digital promotional materials, online plant database, workshop materials, research papers, brochures, presentations, community art and more.

Local community health promotion

A complementary outcome of the project will be implementing health promotion training and cultural heritage revitalization to local community members for social and cultural upliftment. Thus, there is great research scope, social and economic benefits in documenting and showcasing the local South African medicinal plants, their cultural and medicinal value.

We invite collaboration from passionate individuals, research and businesses to help grow this unique project that can be replicated here and elsewhere around the world so as to promote well-being through holistic medicine.

Khanyisa Healing Garden



Jean-Francois Sobiecki

Khanyisa garden


South African medicinal plants are greatly under-studied. In particular there is a rich yet unexplored tradition of psychoactive plants used in South African traditional medicine for effectively treating psychological and other nervous system conditions. Preliminary research has shown that over 300 species are used traditionally in South Africa in treating nervous system problems and mental illness, the details of which have not yet been recorded (Sobiecki, 2002, 2012).

Much of this medicinal healing knowledge is being lost an alarming rate with the dying of South African traditional elders and healers who are not passing on their healing wisdom to the younger generation who have lost interest in traditional values.  Thus, it is critical that this indigenous knowledge is documented and preserved for future application in medicine and healing before it is lost entirely. Furthermore, it is predicted by the World Health Organization that by 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of disease burden in the first world. It is clear that many people living in modern day cities today are struggling more than ever to deal with stress and health related issues. Therefore, there is a great need for innovative places of healing, personal development and health promotion.