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Family: Apocynaceae

Scientific name: Carissa bispinosa

Authority: (L.) Desf. ex Brenan

Synonyms: Arduina acuminata E.Mey., Arduina erythrocarpa Eckl., Arduina megaphylla Gand., Carissa acuminata (E.Mey.) A.DC., Carissa cordata Dinter, Carissa erythrocarpa (Eckl.) A.DC., Carissa myrtoides Desf., Carissa wyliei N.E.Br.

Zulu names: amathungulu, isibethankunzi, umshayankunzi, umvusankunzi, umvusankunzi omhlophe

Other name: hedge thorn

Plant description: C. bispinosa is an evergreen thorny shrub that grows up to 5 m in height. It has dark green glossy, forked (y-shaped) thorns at the tips, milky latex leaves, star-shaped sweetly scented white flowers, and edible berry-like fruits that turn bright red when ripe. The plant can be found growing in the woodland areas of Southern Africa.  


  • The edible fruits are eaten as food and used to make jam, jellies, and wine.
  • The roots are used to make a hot infusion that is drunk to treat cough and flu. 
  • The dried and powdered roots are administered by licking the powder. 
  • The roots are dried and powdered and administered by inhaling the powder to cure a headache
  • The plant is dried and powdered and used as isihlungu, a snakebite antidote.
  • The branch of the tree is used in the incwala Kingship ceremony (in the Kingdom of Eswatini) to strike the back of a black bull that is to be slaughtered during the annual ceremony. This is done to make the bull fierce and strong in order to prevent it from falling an easy victim to warriors who have to overcome it with bare hands. 
  • The roots are used to stimulate male sex hormones and impotence.
  • The roots are used to treat toothache and other dental infections.
  • The roots are used to stop diarrhoea and dysentery.
  • The powdered bark is mixed with water and applied topically on the face as a sunscreen and skin lightening ointment.
  • The bark is used as a love charm.

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: 

  • Maroyi, A., 2011. An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used by the people in Nhema communal area, Zimbabwe. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 136(2), pp.347-354.
  • Muleya, E., Ahmed, A.S., Sipamla, A.M. and Mtunzi, F.M., 2014. Free radical scavenging and antibacterial activity of crude extracts from selected plants of medicinal value used in Zululand. Pakistan Journal of Nutrition, 13(1), pp.38..
  • Pooley, E., 1993. The complete field guide to trees of Natal, Zululand and Transkei. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Natal Herbarium, Durban. 
  • Rose, E.F., and Jacot Guillarmod, A., 1974. Plants gathered as foodstuffs by the Transkeian peoples. South African Medical Journal 48, pp.1688 –1690
  • Schmidt E., Lotter M. and McClel and W. 2002. Trees and shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger national park. Jacana Media, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Stoffel, P.B., 2004. South Africa National Biodiversity Institute,
  • 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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