For those suffering from eczema or psoriasis, the notion of having a beautiful body comes secondary to the simple desire for a body that feels at ease with itself.

The vicious cycle of itching and scratching can drive people to such distraction that all they want is to replace their inflamed skin with a new version.

Emollients and steroids may offer some temporary relief but cannot provide a permanent solution to the problem.

There is a tree growing in South, Central and West Africa which may prove effective where other remedies have failed.

The Kigelia Africana tree became famous when the explorer David Livingstone carved his initials on one of its kind just before he discovered the Victoria Falls.

The tree is unmistakable:

Huge, woody, seed pods dangle from its branches, resembling large sausages.

Mature fruit can grow to more than 2ft long and weigh up to 10kg.

The bitter-tasting fruit pods are eaten by wildlife such as hippos, rhinos and baboons but are poisonous to humans. In times of famine, however, the ripe seeds are roasted and eaten.

Local people use the rind of the fruit to ferment beer and make the sap of the fruit into a variety of medicinal extracts to treat stomach ailments, piles, venereal disease, rheumatism, ulcers and skin complaints.

Derek Mann, a lifelong psoriasis sufferer, discovered the secret of the extraordinary "sausage" tree while on a business trip to Africa.

After years of trying different creams, he suddenly noticed a clear improvement in his skin condition after applying a cream made from the tree.

Laboratory research has since found that components in the tree's sap inhibit the overactive growth of skin cells which cause the itchy psoriatic lesions.

After his return from Africa, Derek's sister decided to try out the mysterious cream from the sausage tree.

Her problem was not psoriasis but eczema and she had been suffering from severe flare-ups on her face and neck all her life.

To her astonishment, after regular usage of the cream, it cleared.

Laboratory studies show that extract of Kigelia inhibits micro-organisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, E coli and Candida albicans. People with eczema tend to harbour the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus on their skin.

Admittedly, research into the tree's soothing, healthgiving properties is still in its infancy but there may soon be much wider applications.

The cream appears to slow bleeding from wounds and speed up healing.

In Africa, salves from the bark of the tree are used to treat sun-damaged skin and skin cancer.

A range of products made from the fruit of Kigelia Africana, is available under the trade name Zambesia Botanica.

The products, including creams, scalp applications, shampoos and bath treatments, can be obtained from selected chemists (call 01892 546565 for stockists).

Martina is a qualified
nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: martina@