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Amasethole wehlathi

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Family: Sapotaceae

Scientific name: Mimusops obovata

Authority: Sond.

Synonyms: Mimusops oleifolia N.E.Br., Mimusops rudatisii Engl. & K.Krause, Mimusops woodii Engl.

Zulu names: amasethole, amasethole wehlathi, umasethole wehlathi, umasethole abomvu, umnolwe, umnweba, umphumbulu, umthinzi wehlathi, umhlalankwazi, umnqambo, umpandane

Other names: bush red milkwood, red milkwood, (English) bosmelkhout, rooimelkhout (Afrikaans)

Plant description: M.obovata is a medium to large evergreen tree that grows up to 20 m in height. It has dark green obovate leaves, whitish yellow flowers with a sweet aroma, edible oval-shaped fruits that turn yellow to red when ripe, and pale to dark grey rough bark. The tree is used by some African tribes for traditional medicine and as a source of food.


  • The edible fruits are enjoyed by people and animals.
  • The plant is an ingredient for making commercial herbal remedies. 
  • This plant is used to treat the symptoms of umeqo.
  • The plant parts are used in the preparation of umuthi omhlophe.
  • The bark is an ingredient in preparation of umuthi obovu.
  • The bark is used to make a decoction (using milk and water) and administered as an emetic.
  • The bark is macerated and the liquid taken orally to treat stomach ache.
  • The bark is used to treat respiratory ailments, such as asthma and chest phlegm. The roots are used to treat tuberculosis. 
  • The roots are used to make a decoction that is taken orally to treat gonorrhoea and schistosomiasis. 
  • The plant parts are used to treat diarrhoea.
  • The plant is mixed with Coddia rudis (umsikilinjane) to treat impotence.
  • The bark is used to manage malaria.
  • The plant has antiasthma compounds that are effective against asthma. 
  • The plant is used as an emetic. 
  • The timber is used for building huts.

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: 

  • Boshoff, W., 2016. Mimusops obovata.
  • Leister, O.A. 2005. Seed plants of Southern Africa: families and genera. Strelitzia 10. National Biodiversity Pretoria. 
  • Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. and Cunningham, A.B. 1996. Zulu Medicinal Plants. An Inventory. University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg.
  • Madikizela, B., Ndhlala, A.R., Rengasamy, K.R.R., McGaw, L.J. and Van Staden, J., 2017. Pharmacological evaluation of two South African commercial herbal remedies and their plant constituents. South African Journal of Botany, 111, pp.291-298.
  • Neuwinger, H.D. 2000. African traditional medicine: A dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific Publishers, Stuttgart.
  • Pooley, E. 2003. The complete field guide to trees of Natal, Zululand & Transkei . Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
  • Semenya, S.S. and Maroyi, A., 2018. Plants used by Bapedi traditional healers to treat asthma and related symptoms in Limpopo province, South Africa. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018.
  • Semenya, S.S. and Maroyi, A., 2019. Ethnobotanical survey of plants used by Bapedi traditional healers to treat tuberculosis and its opportunistic infections in the Limpopo Province, South Africa. South African Journal of Botany, 122, pp.401-421.

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