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Family: Combretaceae

Scientific name: Terminalia phanerophlebia 

Authority: Engl. & Diels. 

Zulu names: amangwamhlophe, amangwansundu, amangwe amnyama, amangwane ampofu, amangwe ampofu

Other names: Lebombo cluster-leaf (English), lebombotrosblaar (Afrikaans)

Plant description:  T. phanerophlebia is a small deciduous tree that grows to between 3 m to 7 m in height. It has dark green leaves that are clustered at the end of the branch and have hair underneath. The flowers are small, white, with a strong and unpleasant scent. The fruits are held in clusters as nuts surrounded by a hard ribbed wind with a pale green colour when young and brown or pinkish brown when ripe. It is distributed in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Mozambique, and Swaziland. The trees grow in sandy, loam soils along streams, on stony hillsides, and in the bushveld.


  • The roots are used to make a decoction that is used as an eyewash agent. 
  • The roots are used to make an infusion that is used to treat pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), and schistosomiasis.
  • The roots are used against bacteria that cause opportunistic infections such as Candida albicans and Pseudomona aeruginosa.
  • The roots are used to treat diarrhoea.
  • The roots are used to treat aches and pains, including earache.
  • The roots are used to make poultice (ointment) that is applied topically for wound healing. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory acne cleanser. 
  • The roots are used to make decoctions for cleaning the eyes.
  • The roots are used to treat gynaecological issues and sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis.
  • The roots are mixed with those of Terminalia sericea to cause and to protect against illness. 
  • The plant is believed to be used in witchcraft to cause pain in the chest and shoulders.
  • The plant is also used to treat colic, epilepsy, hookworm, and dysmenorrhoea. 
  • The plant is cultivated as an ornamental shade plant.

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: 

  • Gerstner, J., 1941. A preliminary checklist Zulu names of plants with short notes. Bantu Studies.
  • Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G., and Cunningham, A., 1996. Zulu medicinal plants. Natal University Press, Pietermaritzburg.
  • Madikizela, B., Aderogba, M.A., Finnie, J.F., and Van Staden, J., 2014. Isolation and characterization of antimicrobial compounds from Terminalia phanerophlebia Engl. & Diels leaf extracts. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 156, 228–234. 10.1016/j.jep.2014.09.003.
  • Madikizela, B., Ndhlala, A.R., Finnie, J.F., and Van Staden, J., 2013. In Vitro Antimicrobial Activity of Extracts from Plants Used Traditionally in South Africa to Treat Tuberculosis and Related Symptoms. EBCAM 2013. Article ID 840719. 
  • Maurin, O. 2009. A phylogenetic study of the family Combretaceae with emphasis on the genus Combretum in Africa. University of Johannesburg.
  • Nair, J.J., Aremu, A.O., and Van Staden, J., 2012. Anti-inflammatory effects of Terminalia phanerophlebia (Combretaceae) and identification of the active constituent principles. South African Journal of Botany 81, 79–80. Sajb.2012.06.001.
  • Nyahada, M.R., 2021. Terminalia phanerophlebia crude aqueous leaf extract activates the NRF2-mediated antioxidant defence to prevent oxidative stress in human hepatocellular carcinoma cells (Doctoral dissertation).
  • Palmer, E. and Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of Southern Africa: covering all known indigenous species in the Republic of South Africa, South-West Africa, Botswana, Lesotho & Swaziland. Volumes 1 & 2. Trees of Southern Africa: covering all known indigenous species in the Republic of South Africa, South-West Africa, Botswana, Lesotho & Swaziland. Volumes 1 & 2.
  • Shai, L.J., McGaw, L.J., Masoko, P. and Eloff, J.N., 2008. Antifungal and antibacterial activity of seven traditionally used South African plant species active against Candida albicans. South African Journal of Botany, 74(4), pp.677-684.
  • Sibandze, G.F. and Van Zyl, R.L., 2009. The antimalarial and toxicity studies of Swazi medicinal plants. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, pp.457-457.
  • Masoko, P., Picard, J. and Eloff, J.N., 2005. Antifungal activities of six South African Terminalia species (Combretaceae). Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 99(2), pp.301-308.
  • Stafford, G.I., Pedersen, M.E., van Staden, J. and Jäger, A.K., 2008. Review on plants with CNS-effects used in traditional South African medicine against mental diseases. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 119(3), pp.513-537.
  • Watt, J.M. and Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G., 1962. Medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. second edition. Livingstone, London.

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