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Family: Amaranthaceae

Scientific name: Amaranthus hybridus

Authority: L.

Zulu names: amangwamane, imbuya, ingcwaza, isheke, ugobolo, ugobolo wamandiya, umabonda, umbhido, umdwabazane

Other names: Cape pigweed, common pigweed, misbredi, pigweed, prince’s feather, redshank, cockscomb (English) gewone misbredie (Afrikaans)

Plant description: A. hybridus is an erect herb that grows to between 1.0 to 1.3 m in height. It has edible simple ovate-lanceolate to rhomboid leaves, unisex solitary flowers, and ovoid shaped fruits with edible shiny black or brownish seed. The herb is widely distributed across the world and is regarded as an alien plant in South Africa.


  • The seeds are ground to powder and cooked as porridge and to make bread. 
  • The edible leaves are eaten as a leafy green, hence the plant is known as African spinach. The leaves are mixed with seasonings and used to prepare soup. The leaves are boiled and mixed with groundnut sauce and eaten as a salad.
  • The plant is used to treat knee pain.
  • The leaves are used to make (infusion) tea that is used to treat stomach ache and laxatives. 
  • The leaves are used for intestinal bleeding and excessive menstruation.
  • The leaves are used to treat diarrhoea and dysentery.
  • The leaves are used as astringent skin lotion, that is used as a cosmetic to make skin less oily.
  • The plant is used to treat inflammation and dermatological ailments.
  • The plant is also used to treat a lice infestation.
  • The plant is used to make green and yellow dyes.

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: 

  • Foster, S. and Duke, J.A., 1990. A field guide to medicinal plants: eastern and central North America. The Peterson field guide series (USA). Houghton Mifflin Co
  • Li, Q., Chen, G.Q., Fan, K.W., Lu, F.P., Aki, T. and Jiang, Y., 2009. Screening and characterization of squalene-producing thraustochytrids from Hong Kong mangroves. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 57(10), pp.4267-4272.
  • Moerman, D.E., 1998. Native American ethnobotany. Timber press, Oregon
  • Odhav, B., Beekrum, S., Akula, U.S. and Baijnath, H., 2007. Preliminary assessment of nutritional value of traditional leafy vegetables in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 20(5), pp.430-435.
  • Oke, O. L., 1983. Amaranth, in Handbook of tropical foods, Ed. Chan H. T. Jr., Marcel-Dekker, Inc. New York, 1, pp.12-18.
  • Oliveira, J.S. and De Carvalho, M.F., 1975. Nutritional value of some edible leaves used in Mozambique. Economic Botany, pp.255-263.
  • Pooley, E., 2005. A field to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern regions. Flora and Fauna Publication, Durban.
  • Tanaka, T. and Nakao, S., 1976. Tanaka’s cyclopedia of edible plants of the world. Keigaku Publishing, Tokyo.

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