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Family: Rubiaceae

Scientific name: Vangueria infausta

Authority: Burch.

Synonyms: Canthium infaustum (Burch.) Baill., Vangueria barnimiana Schweinf., Vangueria munjiro S.Moore, Vangueria tomentosa Hochst., Vangueria velutina Hook.

Zulu names: amaviyo, umviyo, umviki, amatulwa, umthulwa, inkabayomntwana, umsunuwengane, umfilwa, umkhandlu, umhlambamanzi, umbizo, umgana

Other names: African medlar, forest wild medlar

Plant description: V. infausta is a small deciduous multi-stemmed tree that can grow to between 3 to 8 m in height. It has ovate-shaped light green leaves with entire margins, small greenish white to yellow flowers, and edible globular fruits that turn light brown in colour when ripe. It occurs in the woodland, grassland, rocky hillsides, and arid forest habitats. It can be found growing in Southern Africa, East Africa, and Madagascar.


  • The edible fruit is used to make jam, juice, pudding, wine, and traditional beer. 
  • The edible fruit is used for making thin porridge. 
  • The leaves and roots are made into an infusion that is taken orally to treat malaria.  
  • The leaves and roots are made into an infusion to treat parasitic worms, such as roundworms, and oral candidiasis.
  • The roots are used to make an infusion to treat abdominal problems such as gastro-intestinal disorders, parasitic worms, and menstrual and uterine problems. 
  • The roots are also mixed with those of Helinus integrifolius as remedy for infertility in women.
  • The bark and roots are used to stop diarrhoea and to treat blood in the stool. 
  • The roots are used to treat chest complaints, cough, fever, and pneumonia. 
  • The leaves are used to treat skin irritation, blisters, rash, redness, and discolouration. 
  • The leaves are used to wipe the vagina to treat genital swelling and painless sores.
  • The plant is used to treat toothache and headache. 
  • The plant is used to treat hypertension. The root is used to make a decoction that is taken for a strong heartbeat in both children and adults.   
  • The roots are mixed with those of Bridelia micrantha and Dischrostachys cinerea, the mixture is used to induce anesthesia. 
  • The plant is mixed with the roots of Grewia occidentalis in order to hasten maturity. 
  • The plant is also taken as aphrodisiac.
  • The plant is used to repel snakes and to make isihlungu, an antidote for snake bite. 
  • The wood is used as a charm of protection against sorcery for the homestead.
  • The plant is used as a protective charm against lightning. 
  • The wood is used as firewood (and charcoal), furniture, musical instruments, tool handles, and weapons.
  • When the wood is burned it is believed to cause cattle to bear only male offspring. 
  • The leaves are used to wipe as toilet paper.
  • The plant is cultivated as an ornamental.

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: 

  • Adeniji, K.O., Amusan, O.O.G., Dlamini, P.S., Enow-Orock, E.G., Gamedze, S.T., Gbile, Z.O., Langa, A.D., Makhubu, L.P., Mahunnah, R.L.A., Mshana, R.N., Sofowora, A., Vilane, M.J., 2001. Traditional medicine and pharmacopoeia contribution to ethnobotanical and floristic studies in Swaziland. Scientific, Technical and Research Commission of the Organization of African Unity, Lagos.
  • Bapela, M.J., Meyer, J.M. and Kaiser, M., 2014. In vitro antiplasmodial screening of ethnopharmacologically selected South African plant species used for the treatment of malaria. Journal of ethnopharmacology156, pp.370-373.
  • Behr, K. 2004. Vanguria infausta Burch subsp. infausta; National Botanical Garden: Pretoria, South Africa; Available online: (accessed on 02 February 2023).
  • Bruschi, P., Morganti, M., Mancini, M. and Signorini, M.A., 2011. Traditional healers and laypeople: a qualitative and quantitative approach to local knowledge on medicinal plants in Muda (Mozambique). Journal of Ethnopharmacology138(2), pp.543-563.
  • Chhabra, S.C., Uiso, F.C. and Mshiu, E.N., 1984. Phytochemical screening of Tanzanian medicinal plants. I. Journal of ethnopharmacology11(2), pp.157-179.
  • Chauke, M.A., Shai, L.J., Mogale, M.A., Tshisikhawe, M.P. and Mokgotho, M.P., 2015. Medicinal plant use of villagers in the Mopani district, Limpopo province, South Africa. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines12(3), pp.9-26.
  • Chinsamy, M. and Koitsiwe, M., 2016. Traditional knowledge of medicinal and food plant uses for sustainable community livelihoods: A case of Batswana communities in South Africa. Journal of Social Sciences46(2), pp.146-154.
  • Coates Palgrave, K., 1977. Trees of southern Africa. Veld & Flora63(4), p.8.
  • 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, pp.284–289.
  • Dlamini, B., 1981. Swaziland Flora: Their Local Names and Uses. Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives: Forestry Section, Mbabane, Swaziland. 
  • Maroyi, A., 2015. A comparative study of medicinal plants used in rural areas of Namibia and Zimbabwe.
  • Maroyi, A., 2018. Nutraceutical and ethnopharmacological properties of Vangueria infausta subsp. infausta. Molecules23(5), pp.1089.
  • Mbukwa, E., Chacha, M. and Majinda, R.R., 2007. Phytochemical constituents of Vangueria infausta: their radical scavenging and antimicrobial activities. Arkivoc9, pp.104-112.
  • 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.
  • Pooley, E., 1993. The complete field guide to trees of Natal, Zululand and Transkei. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Natal Herbarium, Durban.
  • Schmidt, E., Lotter, M. and McCleland, W., 2002. Trees and shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger national park. Jacana Media.
  • Watt. J.M. and Breyer-Brandwijk. M.G. 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. E. & S. Living-stone Ltd., London.

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