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Family: Sapotaceae

Scientific name: Mimusops caffra

Authority: E. Mey. ex DC.

Synonym: Mimusops revoluta Hochst.

Zulu names: amasethole, umasethole, umasethole wasolwandle, umdakamfene, ukhakhayi, uhayihayi, umnweba, umnweba wentaba, umnole, umthunzi, umthunzi umhlophe, umhlalankwazi, umnqambo

Other names: coastal red milkwood (English) kusrooimelkhout (Afrikaans)

Plant description: M. caffra is a small-to medium sized tree that typically grows to 10 m and occasionally to 20 m in height, depending on the location. The tree has leathery and hardy leaves, star-shaped white to cream coloured flowers, a dark grey bark that contains a milky latex, and one-seeded edible berry-like fruits that are rich in Vitamin C. It occurs in the eastern coasts of Southern Africa along the Mozambique, KwaZulu Natal, and Eastern Cape regions. 

The Zulu name amasethole is a portmanteau of the words amasi (sour milk) and ithole (calf), referencing the milk sap of the tree.


  • The edible fruits are eaten as food. They are used to make jam, jelly, and wine. 
  • This plant is used to treat the symptoms of umeqo.
  • The bark is used as an ingredient in the preparation of umuthi obovu
  • The bark is used to make a decoction that is used to treat bruises, wounds, and sores. 
  • The bark is macerated and administered as an emetic, to induce emesis.
  • The bark and roots are used to make a decoction that is administered as powerful enema to treat back pain. 
  • The roots are used in a mixture administered as a tonic to enhance virility and sexual performance in men.
  • The roots are used to treat sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhoea.
  • The bark is used to manage malaria. 
  • The timber is in construction, such as building a hut, and as fuel-wood.
  • The tree is planted as an ornamental tree.

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: 

  • Boon, R., 2010. Pooley’s trees of eastern of South Africa: A complete guide, second edition. Flora and Fauna Publications, Durban. 
  • Botha, J, Shackleton, C, Emanuel, PL. 2003. Productivity and abundance of Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra in and around rural settlements and protected areas of the bushbuckridge Lowveld, South Africa. Forests Trees and Livelihoods, 13, 217-232.
  • De Wet, H., Nkwanyana, M.N., Van Vuuren, S.F., 2010. Medicinal plants used for the treatment of diarrhoea in northern Maputaland, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 130, 284–289. 
  • De Wet, H., Nzama, V.N. and Van Vuuren, S.F., 2012. Medicinal plants used for the treatment of sexually transmitted infections by lay people in northern Maputaland, KwaZulu–Natal Province, South Africa. South African Journal of Botany, 78, pp.12-20.
  • Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. and Brink, M., 2008. Plant resources of tropical Africa. Prota 7 (1): timbers 1.
  • Mngadi, S.V., 2017. Elemental composition and nutritional value of the edible fruits of coastal red milkwood (Mimusops caffra) and Transvaal red milkwood (Mimusops zeyheri) and the impact of soil quality (Doctoral dissertation).
  • Palmer, E, Pitman, N. 1972c. Trees of Southern Africa; AA Balkema: Cape Town, South Africa, 258-269.
  • Pooley, E. 1993. The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand and Transkei; Natal Flora Publications Trust: Durban, South Africa, 311-322.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. With supplement: search system for diseases. Medpharm.
  • Simelane, M.B., Shonhai, A., Shode, F.O., Smith, P., Singh, M. and Opoku, A.R., 2013. Anti-plasmodial activity of some Zulu medicinal plants and of some triterpenes isolated from them. Molecules, 18(10), pp.12313-12323.
  • Van Wyk, B.E., and Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants. A guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.

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