Ice plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) is native to South Africa, but common in chaparral habitats around the world. Ice plant is attractive, with fleshy green leaves covered with small fibers, causing them to sparkle like ice in the sun. There are a number of different “ice plants.” However, plant taxonomy places the types with which I deal here in the genus Delosperma. The plant is demulcent and diuretic. It is used in the treatment of inflammations of the pulmonary and genito-urinary mucous membranes.
The leaves are used in the treatment of ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdomen), dysentery and diseases of the liver and kidney. Used externally it relieves itching, pain, swelling and redness of the skin. The leaves of the ice plant make spinach like vegetable. South Africans are known to chew the fermented leaves. The leaves provide a safe trailside nibble, are sometimes pickled, and are demulcent to skin and mucous membranes, make a cooling and healing poultice for treating sunburn or minor lesions.
Referred to with many different and unusual names, Carpobrotus plants have various species with brilliant coloured flowers. Best known for their medicinal properties and ground-hugging qualities, Carpobrotus are surely incredible plants. With unusual names like pigface and ice-plant, you would certainly want to have one in your backyard.
The Ice Plant has a tendency to go a pinkish or rosy-red colour in hot dry conditions and this, in itself, makes it an attractive plant. The fresh sap of the Ice Plant was found to be a great remedy for all manner of skin complaints and could be added to baths or extracted and made into ointments and creams. Skin diseases such as neuro-dermatitis and psoriasis could be treated with Ice Plant sap. The leaf juice is astringent and mildly antiseptic. It is mixed with water and swallowed to treat diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach cramps, and is used as a gargle to relieve laryngitis, sore throat and mouth infections.