Traditional medicine| 50 plants to take you back to the basics of medicine and healing

In many parts of Zimbabwe, reliance is still placed on traditional medicines due to their affordability and ease of access. In some cases, there are cultural and spiritual considerations that come into play. Below are 50 plants that are used to treat various diseases and ailments.

1. Mugan’acha

lannea discolor

An infusion of the bark and roots is used to treat fevers and constipation in children. Fibre extract is drunk to reduce the duration of menstrual flow, and root extract is used as an eye-drop for sore eyes.

The tree produces a grape-like fruit which is eaten fresh. Another non-medicinal use is for fencing poles made from the wood. The poles easily take root and flourish again.

2. Mutsambatsi

lannea edulis

Root extract is drunk as bilharzia, diarrhoea, and gonorrhoea medicine. The tree produces an edible grape-like fruit.

3. Mumango

mangifera indica

The mango, a juicy stone fruit, is commonly eaten in Zimbabwe. Tender leaves of the mango tree are used as a remedy for all kinds of respiratory problems. Extract from the tree’s bark is drunk as a remedy for diarrhoea and dysentry.

4. Mubedu

ozoroa insignis

Root extract is drunk as diarrhea and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) medicine. The tree produces an edible fruit which is small, kidney-shaped and raisin-like. When ripe, the fruit is black and wrinkled.

5. Mufokosiyana

rhus longipes

Root extract is drunk as a remedy for infertility in women, and to dilate the birth canal.

searsia pyroides

Root extract is drunk as cough medicine.

searsia tenuinervis

Leaf extract is drunk as a remedy for heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding.

6. Mupfura

sclerocarya caffra

The roots are crushed and boiled, and the steam directed into sore eyes. The tree produces an edible fruit which is fleshy, plum-like, and pale green turning yellow when ripe.

7. Mubikasadza

searsia dentata

The leaves are chewed while fresh, and the sap is swallowed. It is a remedy for ulcers, diarrhoea and stomach problems. The tree’s fruit is shiny red when ripe.

8. Muroro

annona stenophylla

Root paste is applied on boils, and the extract is drunk as a remedy for chest pains and STIs. The roots can also be mixed with mufufu roots, and sprinkled around the homestead as a snake repellent.

9. Muruguru

carissa bispinosa, carisa edulis

Root extract is drunk as cough and diarrhoea medicine. The tree produces an edible fruit.

10. Chirindamatongo

catharanthus roseus

Root extract is drunk as a remedy for stomach problems, including diarrhoea, dysentery and indigestion.

11. Rukato

asparagus africanus

Root extract is drunk as diarrhea and pneumonia medicine, and to dilate birth canal.

12. Konje

sansevieria aethiopica

The leaves are put into a fire so that the sap exuded is squeezed into a painful ear.

13. Mushayamhanda

sansevieria hyacinthoides

The plant has quite a number of common uses.

Leaf or rhizome sap is given to a dehydrated child. The leaf can be used as dressing on a sprained ankle, and can be macerated and given to a colicky infant.

The rhizome is added to non-alcoholic beverages taken by pregnant women to dilate the birth canal and prevent delivery complications. The roots are also used to dilate the birth canal.

Warm rhizome extract is given to a person with an aching tooth to keep in the mouth for up to two minutes before spitting out the mixture.

14. Gavakava

aloe greathedii

Leaf extract is drunk as a remedy for constipation, and veneral diseases especially gonorrhea.

15. Mupasa

brachylaena discolor

Leaves are chewed and juice swallowed as a remedy abdominal disorders, primarily ulcers.

16. Chifumuro

dicoma anomala

Bulb extract is drunk as a remedy for a wide range of illnesses. The bulb is commonly tied on a string and worn around the neck, waist or wrist of a child to protect against ‘spiritually induced’ illnesses. This plant is believed to counteract or expose (fumura) spells.

17. Ruhwahwa

schkuhria pinnata

This is a herb used for a variety of ailments. An infusion of the plant is drunk to treat stomach pains, sexually transmitted infections, and for abortion.

18. Rurimirwemombe

sonchus oleraceus

The herb’s leaf extract is drunk as a remedy for stomach problems.

19. Mupepe

commiphora marlothii

Mupepe is a small to medium-sized tree. The tree’s root extract is drunk as STI medicine.

20. Chizhuzhu

gymnosporia buxifolia

The leaves are chewed and sap swallowed as remedy for abdominal pains.The chizhuzhu shrub is also common for its use in rituals associated with ridding witchcraft.

chizhuzhu
chizhuzhu

21. Muchakata

parinari curatellifolia

Root extract is drunk as constipation medicine, and teeth are washed with root decoction as a remedy for toothache.

The tree produces a much sought after fruit – chakata/ hacha, and inspired a common Shona proverb, Totenda maruva, tadya chakata (We will only appreciate the tree’s blossoms after enjoying the (chakata) fruit.) The proverb warns against counting on something that is yet to happen.

muhacha tree
muhacha

22. Mutunduru

garcinia buchananii

Bark extract is drunk to reduce the birth canal. The tree’s fruit is fleshy, spherical, and yellow when ripe. It is eaten as an aphrodisiac.

23. Muchacha

cucumis anguria

Pieces of fruit are left around the home as a snake repellent. The tender leaves of the plant are cooked as spinach.

24. Furi

coleochloa setifera

This is a grasslike plant. The root powder is taken as a remedy for pneumonia.

25. Musumhadombo

diospyros lycioides

Root extract is drunk as a remedy for infertility in women.

26. Musumha

diospyros mespiliformis

Root extract is drunk as abdominal pain medicine.

27. Muvhinji

euclea crispa

Root extract is drunk as cough medicine. In addition, the fruit of the plant is edible.

28. Mushangura mudiki

euclea divinorum

Root extract is drunk as diarrhea medicine, or as a remedy for a troubled or growling stomach. In addition, the fruit of the plant is edible.

29. Musimbiti

androstachys johnsonii

Root extract is drunk as an aphrodisiac. The tree also has a reputation for wood that is extremely hard and durable. It is commonly used for fencing and construction work.

30. Mutsvoritsvoto

bridelia cathartica

Root extract is drunk as a remedy for infertility in men. The fruit of the tree is edible.

31. Mutuzvidzembwa

bridelia mollis

Root extract is drunk as cough medicine.

32. Mushagahuwe

flueggea virosa

Root extract is drunk as pneumonia medicine, and also for contraceptive purposes. Dried root powder is applied to part bitten by a snake, as an antidote, and on wounds.

33. Musvosve

macaranga capensis

Root extract is drunk as an aphrodisiac.

34. Mupfuta

ricinus communis

Teeth are washed with root decoction as a remedy for toothache, and oil from the seed is applied to sore eyes.

35. Munhiti

spirostachys africana

Root powder mixed with porridge is used as a remedy for veneral infections.

36. Muvunga

acacia karroo

Root extract is drunk as a convulsions remedy, an aphrodisiac, and a remedy for gonorrhea and syphilis.

37. Muriranyenze

albizia antunesiana

Bark extract is drunk as a constipation remedy. Leaf extract is drunk to loosen stools and increase bowel movement. Root extract is drunk as an aphrodisiac, and a remedy for diarrhoea, gonorrhea and infertility in women.

38. Mupfuti

brachystegia boehmii

Bark extract is drunk as STI medicine. This tree is commonly used for firewood, together with the musasa, munhondo and muunze trees.

mupfuti tree
mupfuti

39. Muremberembe

cassia abbreviata

Root extract is drunk as abortion, aphrodisiac, constipation, diarrhea and gonorrhea medicine.

40. Mugwiti

dalbergia melanoxylon

Dried leaves are smoked as a cigarette to treat asthma.

41. Ndorani

elephantorrhiza goetzei

The root is ground into a powder which is usually taken together with porridge or boiled as a tonic with water.  It is used as a remedy for a variety of ailments. These include abdominal pain, diarrhoea , indigestion, loss of appetite, gonorrhoea, and as an aphrodisiac. It is also mixed with roots of musekesa as a remedy for bilharzia.  

ndorani powder
ndorani powder

42. Mutiti

erythrina abyssinica

Bark extract is drunk as backache medicine, and root extract is used to rinse mouth that has wounds. The seeds are often used to make necklaces.

mutiti tree
mutiti

43. Ruvavashuro

indigofera setiflora

Root extract is drunk as diarrhoea medicine.

44. Muzeze

peltophorum africanum

Extract from the bark, leaves or roots is drunk as syphilis medicine. Root extract is also drunk as a remedy for diarrhoea and STIs, or administered into sore eyes. Teeth are washed with a decoction of the root, as a remedy for toothache.

muzeze

45. Musekesa

piliostigma thonningii

Extract from the bark, leaf or root is drunk as cough medicine. Leaf extract is also drunk as a remedy for heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding. The roots can also be mixed with ndorani as bilharzia medicine.

It is also known as mutukutu.

mutukutu

46. Mubvamaropa

pterocarpus angolensis

Bark extract is dropped into ear as earache medicine, and also drunk as remedy for heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding. The root extract is drunk as a remedy for infertility in women.

The tree is sought out for its durable hardwood, called mukwa, and is considered a threatened species.

47. Munhunguru

flacourtia indica

The leaves are browsed by mouth as diarrhoea medicine. The nhunguru (batoka plum), which is purple when ripe, is a well-known wild fruit.

48. Nhindiri

hypoxis obtusa

The bulb of this herb is chewed, and sap swallowed as a remedy for abdominal pain.

49. Mubvumira

kirkia acuminata

Bark extract is drunk as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery and constipation medicine. Juice from the tree’s fruit is applied to part bitten by snake, as an antidote, or on wounds.

50. Hwahwa hweshiri

hoslundia opposita

Extract from the leaf is dropped into eyes as cataract medicine.

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There are many more indigenous plants with medicinal properties; hundreds of them. In addition, these plants have other uses including construction, food from fruit, and helping maintain an ecological balance. Some of the plants listed here have other uses that have not been given. Others have different names altogether.

Please feel free to leave a comment and share anything else you have.


The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only.  If you need help with a medical condition, always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider.

For this article, reference was made to a study by Maroyi A, titled Traditional use of medicinal plants in south-central Zimbabwe, and to the website, Flora of Zimbabwe (www.zimbabweflora.co.zw).

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