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Clivia miniata (Umayime)

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Family: Amarylidaceae

Scientific name: Clivia miniata

Authority: (Lindl.) Regel

Common names: umayime (Zulu), bush lily (Zulu), boslelie (Afrikaans)

Umayime is scientifically known as Clivia miniata. The genus name Clivia was given in honour of the Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Charlotte Clive, who first cultivated and flowered this type of plant in England. This genus is sensitive to the sun and should be planted in the shade, thusly, at times it is cultivated as an indoor plant or a pot plant. Clivia is native to Southern Africa and only has six species. The most attractive and popular of these six species is miniata. The name miniata describes the red lead-like colour of the flowers. 

The reason that Clivia miniata is the more popular species in the Clivia genus is because it is a variable plant, meaning it has many variations which include: Clivia miniata var. miniata, Clivia miniata var. citrina, and Clivia miniata var. variegata just to name a few. These variations are mostly distinguishable by the colour of the flowers. Besides the usually bright orange flowers, Clivia miniata flowers can also be pale yellow, or cream. The flowers can also have different shades of orange, pink, and red. The color of flowers depends on the variation.

The common name umayime is not soley reserved for Clivia miniata, it is also the common name for Clivia gardenia, Clivia robusta, and Clivia nobilis.

Not sure if umayime is also the common name for Clivia caulescens and Clivia mirabilis.  

Medicinal properties:

Clivia miniata contains lycorine, a toxic crystalline alkaloid that is highly poisonous when ingested and in high doses may be lethal. This means consuming large quantities of umayime can be hazardous, causing a host of health issues including paralysis and central nervous system depression. Even though lycorine is toxic, it has been shown to have antiviral and antitumor properties and can be a weak agent for destroying protozoa (single celled organism). The plant has uterotonic activities for inducing labor and reducing postnatal bleeding. For this reason, it is used to make tonics for pregnant women. Umayime is also presumed to have antidiabetic potential. 


Umayime has ornamental and medicinal value. When using umayime, avoid consuming high doses especially when using the bulb and roots as they are the most poisonous. With that said, in low doses umayime is used to treat a number of ailments. 

  • The leaves of umayime are to make an infusion taken by pregnant women as alternative medicine to facilitate delivery at childbirth and to augment labour.
  • Umayime is used in the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (or HIV) due to the antiviral activities in the leaves and roots.
  • In Limpopo, umayime is used to treat arthritis, skin disorder, and tuberculosis.
  • In the Transkei region, the bulb of umayime is used to treat infertility and urinary complaints.  
  • Zulu people use umayime to treat influenza, bad cough, building of mucus in the nose or throat, fever that is not associated with an infection, malarial or scarlet fever, small-pox and measles, pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and issues related to the small intestine.
  • Umayime is an effective anodyne hence its use as a pain reliever.
  • It is used as an emetic, a substance to induce vomiting.
  • It is also used as a snakebite antidote.

Umayime is also used to make isiwasho for protection, also known as intelezi in Zulu. This can be to protect a family against evil spirits and witchcraft. For example, to ward off evil entities from your home you can make a mixture that includes umayime and sprinkle it around the home, this is known as ukuchela in Zulu.

Some people use umayime as an emetic for cleansing after being struck by or almost struck by lightning. This is because a person being struck by lightning is associated with witchcraft, you can watch the video on African superstitions about lightning to learn more about why Africans are superstitious about lightning. Umayime is also used to make intelezi that can be sprinkled in and around the home to protect the home against lightning strikes.   


The leaves, roots, and parts of the corm (swollen underground plant stem) are prepared using different methods in order to treat the abovementioned ailments. 

  • Umayime is normally mixed with ishongwe (Pachycarpus species) and isihlungu semamba (Ursinia tenuiloba) to make a herbal mixture known as izihlungu. Izihlungu is also used to treat stomach cramps that stem from consuming poisoned meat. For example, if you eat an animal that died from a snake bite you can drink the izihlungu herbal mixture.

The three plants (umayime, ishongwe, & isihlungu semamba) are known as snake-bite medicines. If you get bitten by a snake you can use one or all three to treat the snake bite. For example, if you get bitten by a black or green mamba you can use isihlungu semamba as an antidote. The word isihlungu comes from “ubuhlungu” which means pain and semamba refers to the poisonous snake called mamba. Ergo, isihlungu semamba is a cure for the pain caused by the poisonous mamba snake.

  • The leaves of umayime are one of the ingredients used when making isihlambezo, a herbal tonic that’s consumed during the last three months of pregnancy to help with pregnancy-related ailments such as indigestion, edema, infection, constipation, and hypertension. It also used to augment child labor.   
  • The roots and leaves of umayime are ingredients in the herbal remedy called inembe, an infusion taken regularly during pregnancy to ensure an easy childbirth. 
  • Boiling the leaves of umayime in water, straining the mixture, and drinking the resulting liquid can cause contractions in the uterus and the small intestine (or the last part of the small intestine).
  • The leaves are crushed and applied directly on the wound.
  • The stem is used to make a decoction that is taken orally to cure gastro-intestinal ailments.
  • The corm is used to make a concoction that purifies and cleanses the blood.
  • The corm is also used to make decoction that is used to treat urinary complaints.  

Umayime is used to prepare an emetic (a substance for inducing emesis) to treat fever that is not associated with an infection and malarial or scarlet fever. 

Umayime should not be used on animals, especially cats and dogs. It can cause convulsion, tremors, an abnormal heartbeat, and low blood pressure. In some cultures, umayime is the symbol of gentlemen of honor and nobility.

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