You are currently viewing Gunnera perpensa (Ugobho)

Gunnera perpensa (Ugobho)

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Family: Gunneraceae

Scientific name: Gunnera perpensa

Authority: L.

Common names: ugobho (Zulu), river pumpkin (English), rivierpampoen (Afrikaans)

Plant description:

Ugobho is a Zulu name for a plant with the scientific name Gunnera perpensa L. The name ugobho is derived from the Zulu word gobhoza which refers to the flowing of fluids such as the flow of the river. One of the medicinal uses of ugobho is to correct the flow of fluids in the body by removing excess fluids. The plant closely resembles the pumpkin plant hence its English name is river pumpkin. In the Gunnera genus, ugobho is the only species in the entire genus that is found in Africa. 

Like isigqki-somkhovu, ugobho falls in the category of some of the oldest living plants. Ugobho has been around for the last 95 million years – meaning at one point in time it might have been food for dinosaurs.  

Ugobho grows up to the height of 1 m. It grows near water or in wetlands. It is on the Red List of Endangered Plants due to the mismanagement of wetland and over-harvesting for traditional medicine.

Medicinal properties:

The reported medicinal properties include anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, and uterotonic activities.

Plant uses:

The leaves, roots and stems are the parts of the plant most extensively used in traditional medicine to treat an array of ailments. The following lists the most common uses of the plant.

  • The herbal mixture made using the roots is used to promote good foetal development. The mixture also helps ensure a quick and easy labour
  • A mixture made with the roots used to induce labour in both humans and animals
  • The root mixture is used to expel the placenta after birth
  • Zulu people use the roots to help women lactate or produce milk from their breast after giving birth.
  • Women also drink ugobho herbal mixture after giving birth to cleanse the body and to help it recover 
  • Women who struggle to conceive have used ugobho to improve their chances of getting pregnant
  • The roots are used to treat endometritis (an inflammation of the uterus) in both humans and animals
  • A root decoction is taken orally to treat impotence in men and barrenness in women
  • A mixture that includes the roots of ugobho is taken orally to treat syphilis
  • A decoction made using the stem helps relieve constipation
  • The roots are used to make various types of decoctions that are taken orally to treat kidney problems, poor appetite, rheumatic fever, scabies, urinary infections, heart diseases, hypertension, and indigestion
  • The leaves are used to dress wounds, boils, and headaches
  • The leaves are used to repel ticks and other parasites and to treat gastrointestinal parasites in chickens

The edible leaves are consumed as vegetables.

The roots and stem are also edible and used for making beer.


There are countless ways of preparing ugobho, the following are some of the easiest ways:

  • The leaves are burnt, crushed, and sniffed to cure a headache.
  • A headache can also be cure by making a root decoction and taking it orally.
  • The leaves are crushed and applied directly on the skin to treat wounds.

Ugobho is one of the ingredients used in herbal tonics such as inembe and isihlambezo. Inembe is a potent labour-inducing herbal tonic taken regularly during pregnancy to ensure easy childbirth. The tonic is predominately made up of the roots of idolo lenkonyane, (scientifically known as Cyphostemma natalitium). Isihlambezo is a herbal mixture taken by many pregnant women in South Africa as a pregnancy tonic to speed up childbirth and the expulsion of the placenta. For the list of ingredients used in isihlambezo check it out Imithi yesintu instagram page

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