Species: Ballota africana
Common names: Cat herb, Cape horehound (Eng.); kattekruie (Afr.)
Ballota is very easy to identify and a very popular herb in the Cape, The plant has soft-grey, aromatic foliage and old brown calyces. Ballota can reach a height of about more than 1m tall. The length of the bushes depend on the area where it grows - in the Karoo it grows in the shade of other shrubs and only grows to about 30cm. Typical of the family Lamiaceae, the stems are square-shaped and the leaves are formed in pairs opposite each other.
The leaves droop and point downwards, giving it the shape of a heart. The grey colour comes from short, white hair which covers the stems and leaves. The leaves, which give off a pungent smell when bruised, has toothed edges and uneven surfaces with strong lines.
Traditionally the plant has been used for fevers, measles, snakebite remedies and relieving of severe colic. Dried or fresh leaves can be used to treat coughs, colds, sore throats, influenza, asthma, bronchitis, colic, typhoid fever, hysteria, and over-excitement. Brandy tinctures had also been made to treatm haemorrhoids. More usage for Ballota includes: hoarseness, heart trouble, hysteria, insomnia, typhoid fever, headaches, liver problems, piles and as a foot bath for arthritis.
The genus name Ballota is derived from ballote, the ancient Greek name for Ballota nigra, which is commonly known as black horehound in Europe.