Siphonochilus aethiopicus/ Indungulo/isiphephetho/African ginger

Family: Zingiberaceae

Description

This natie Southern African plant has been overharvested due to its desirable medicinal properties to the point of close to extinction in the wild. It used to be found on forest floors around KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo but now mostly exists due to cultivation. The light green, lance-shaped leaves sprout annually in spring from a tube-like base and can reach a height of about 40cm. Wild ginger has large, distinctive but short-lived purple/pink or white flowers with a yellow centre, delicately textured and scented. Its leaves and roots smell similar to normal household ginger.

Herb uses

This plant is thought to be the most highly sought after medicinal plant in South African traditional medicine markets. The aromatic rhizomes and roots of Siphonochilus aethiopicus are chewed fresh to treat asthma, coughs, colds, flu and hysteria. It is used by the Swati people to treat malaria and is chewed by women during menstruation. It is also administered to horses to prevent horse sickness. Clinical studies on the plant indicate that ethanol and ethyl acetate extracts and fresh/ raw rizome material have antibacterial and anti-infllamatory properties.

Common Names: Natal ginger, Wild ginger (English); Wildegemmer (Afrikaans); indungulo, isiphephetho (Zulu).