Description and distribution
Bulbine natalensis is a hardy, evergreen, drought resistant, nonedible, perennial succulent herb with bright green, soft fleshy leaves that form the basal rosette. The plant has clusters of star-shaped yellow flowers that are held in densely packed spikes at the ends of long, gracefully arching stems, which flower throughout the year.
Locally it is also known as ibhucu in Zulu and ingcelwane in Xhosa. In Afrikaans, it is commonly called rooiwortel meaning ‘red root’ due to its ability to display a distinct orange colour whenever the lower stem is damaged and exposed to sunlight.
Bulbine natalensis is indigenous to South Africa’s south eastern provinces including KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape and Knysna in the Western Cape. It is found in dry river valleys, rocky grassland, and gorges.
Traditionally the sap of the Bulbine natalensis leaf is used as a remedy for wounds, burns, and rashes. A root infusion is also used to manage vomiting, diarrhoea, convulsions, sexual infections, diabetes, and rheumatism. It is also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and may be used for reduction of rheumatic pain.
Although Bulbine natalensis has been used in Africa for years, only recently has it become popular as a supplement in Western medicine, in particular due its ability to improve testosterone levels and boost libido. Low testosterone levels are one of the main causes of physical weakness and erectile dysfunction.
Due to the positive impact of B. natalensis on penile erection and sexual behaviour, the stem of this plant is extensively used in the treatment of male sexual dysfunctions (Ajao et al., 2019; Malviya et al., 2011; Yakubu and Afolayan, 2009).
Bulbine natalensis has therefore become known as a “testosterone booster” and used as an aphrodisiac to arouse sexual instinct, induce general desire, and increase pleasure and performance.*
Supplements containing extracts of Bulbine natalensis are also getting attention from bodybuilders as a natural supplement for increasing testosterone levels to help increase muscle mass and growth.
Extracts of Bulbine natalensis in different types of alcohol are also believed to be effective at blocking the growth of various bacteria responsible for various infections including skin, respiratory and urinary infections.
Did you know?
The watery stem extract from Bulbine natalensis contains the following compounds:
- Cardiac glycosides
- Naphthalene derivative
Sustainability and sourcing
Increasing global demand may not be satisfied by sustainably sourcing from wild populations of Bulbine natalensis although the plant is relatively easy to cultivate. There are companies which are actively developing raw material production bases where voluntary standards for sustainable agriculture (eg organic) are being implemented. Furthermore, some sustainable wild-collection operations have entered ABS (Access and Benefit Sharing) agreements with indigenous communities.**
* Musara C, Aladejana EB. Review of studies on Bulbine natalensis Baker (Asphodelaceae): Ethnobotanical uses, biological and chemical properties. J Appl Pharm Sci, 2020; 10(09):150–155.
**Bulbine published by Josef Brinckmann and Thomas Brendler
Share This Article