Herbalism saved her skin! Kopano Makunyane, like many other South Africans, struggled with painful eczema. And like many other South Africans, she was unable to bear the high cost of medication. In her case, however, she was able to make her condition work for her.

Kopano Makunyane started her own skincare line after being unable to afford conventional medication. Photo: Supplied/Stokvel Talk
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Makunyane’s journey into herbalism and skincare started when, unable to afford her eczema medication, she researched natural ways to soothe her skin. The concoctions she ended up making were so effective, she turned it into a business.

“I did the thing that I always do, which was to research, research, research. And I happened upon a recipe for skin ailments like eczema. I got the herbs, and I made the skin salve. [After] I put it on, it worked like a bomb.”

Growing up, Makunyane wanted to be a doctor. She did not get into medical school though, but did end up studying psychology. She was always someone who believed in modern medicine for all your ailments, but says her perspective on healing changed during one of her lectures.

“We [talked] about how western medicine creates a division between the [sick] person and their healing. It puts the healing of that person in somebody else’s hands. In the old days, you would feel a cough coming on and then you’d go out to your herb garden, gather some herbs, crush it, and drink it into a tea. Then pish posh, you are healed.”

That was the day, she says, her outlook on healing changed entirely. Now, as someone who makes herbalist products, Makunyane is happy to trust indigenous knowledge on illnesses.

“If I’m really, really sick, then I’ll go see a doctor. But if it’s nothing dire, and I can make something to help heal myself, then I will. There’s a balance that can be met between allopathic medicine and herbalism, so that’s how I try to live.“

Kopano’s Apothocary

She began her business, called Kopano’s Apothocary, in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the lockdowns were lifted. She was unemployed at the time and needed an income.

“I was unemployed and had been the whole of that 2020 year. But I needed a revenue stream that felt aligned to me.”

Trying to find employment at a company was not an option for her, and her unemployment actually allowed her to invest time and care into her business.

“I’d never thought that me, a person who wasn’t called by the ancestors, would be a herbalist. The only way I’d ever really interacted with other herbalists is if they had a calling. I haven’t been called that way. But then I started it. I consulted a few people and they said ‘well, if you’re good at it, then just carry on’. So I did.”

The Kopano’s Apothecary brand contains three products called Skin Healing Salve, the Relaxation and Sleep Support Tincture, and the Hormonal Support Tincture, all made from natural ingredients. Those ingredients include catnip, skullcap, valerian root, calendula, comfrey, and plantain.

For Makunyane, giving her customers knowledge is very important. She does not provide formal training, but says that explaining what her products contain and how they work is very important to her.

“[With] the western medicine paradigm, only a select few have this knowledge, and only they are the ones that can disseminate it. It gives them a lot of power. My quest with herbalism is to give healing power back to people.”

Read Makunyane full story here.

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