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Amabele omfula

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Family: Typhaceae

Scientific name: Typha capensis

Authority: (Rohrb.) N.E.Br.

Synonyms: Typha latifolia L.

Zulu names: amabele omfula, gudlumfula, ibhuma, ibhunga, imbombo, ikhwane

Other names: bulrush, cat’s tail, common bulrush, common cattail, cossack asparagus, love reed, nail rod, poker plant, reedmace (English), matjiesgoed, paapkuil, palmiet, pamiet, papie, papies, papkuil (Afrikaans), motsitla (South Sotho), umkhanzi, ingcongolo (Xhosa)

Plant description: T. capensis is a perennial marshy herb that grows to about 2 m in height. It has twisted and strap-shaped leaves, brown flowers with a spike inflorescence, and one-seeded fruits. The herb can be found growing in Southern Africa and occurs in wetlands with shallow or stagnant water that is saline, acidic, and alkaline.

In 1989, at a Typha symposium held in Cape Town, it was reported that despite the fact that Typha has a potential to be an invader, it will regarded as an economic plant as it has several economic benefits. 


  • The leaves are used to weave sleeping mats, for insulating house roofs, and a broom.
  • The stems are used to make a bow and arrows for boys to play with.
  • The pollen is used as a high-protein food.
  • The edible roots are pounded and eaten as a source of starch.
  • The plant is used to make paper, purify water purification, and as green manure.
  • The plant (inflorescence) is dipped in kerosene and used as a torch.
  • The floss can be used for stuffing and padding.
  • The roots are used as an ingredient to make a decoction (called isihlambezo) that is used to promote fertility in women and to ensure an easy delivery.
  • The roots are used to make a decoction that is used to strengthen uterine contraction and to expel the placenta in animals and humans.
  • The roots and bark are used to treat oedema during pregnancy. 
  • The roots are used to clean fallopian tubes improving chances of conceiving in women.
  • The roots are used to treat dysmenorrhoea.
  • The roots are used to treat libido in men, such as male fertility issues.
  • The roots are used to treat gastro-intestinal ailments, diarrhoea, and dysentery.
  • The roots are used to improve circulation. 
  • The roots are used to make a decoction that is used to treat venereal diseases, kidney, and bladder problems.
  • The wooly inflorescence to stop bleeding wounds and as an absorbent pad during excessive menstruation.
  • The root decoction is used to treat an outbreak of body sores. The decoction is administered as a bathing agent.
  • The roots are used to make a decoction that is administered as a tonic to strengthen and cleanse the body systems, for blood purification, and boosts circulation.
  • This plant is used to treat an ear infection, especially an ear that is dripping with pus.

Safety precaution:

Using traditional medicine responsibly can enhance your overall health and well-being. Misuse and abuse can lead to complications. You can inquire about the correct use of traditional medicine from a knowledgeable herbalist and practitioner. You can also visit or email: to learn more about traditional medicine

References and further reading: 

  • Adeniji, K.O., Amusan, O.O.G., Dlamini, P.S., Enow-Orock, E.G., Gamedze, S.T., Gbile, Z.O., Langa, A.D., Makhubu, L.P., Mahunnah, R.L.A., Mshana, R.N., Sofowora, A., Vilane, M.J., 2001. Traditional medicine and pharmacopoeia contribution to ethnobotanical and floristic studies in Swaziland. Scientific, Technical and Research Commission of the Organization of African Unity, Lagos.
  • Foden, W. & Potter, L. 2005. Typha capensis (Rohrb.) N.E.Br. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2023/03/25
  • Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G., Cunningham, A.B., 1996. Zulu Medicinal Plants. An inventory. University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg.
  • Long, C., 2005. SiSwati names and uses – Swaziland Flora – Swaziland National Trust Commission, Mbabane.
  • Ma, Y., 2005. Monitoring of heavy metals in the Bottelary River using Typha capensis and Phragmites australis.
  • Masoko, P., Mokgotho, M.P., Mbazima, V.G. and Mampuru, L.J., 2008. Biological activities of Typha capensis (Typhaceae) from Limpopo Province (South Africa). African Journal of Biotechnology, 7(20).
  • Musara, C. and Aladejana, E. B. (2020) “Typha capensis (Rohrb.) N.E.Br. (Typhaceae): morphology, medicinal uses, biological and chemical properties”, Plant Science Today, 7(4), pp. 578–583. doi: 10.14719/pst.2020.7.4.872.
  • Roberts, M., 1990. Indigenous healing plants. Southern Book Publishers, Halfway House, South Africa.
  • Watt, M.J., Breyer Brandwijk, M.G., 1962. Medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. Livingstone, London.

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