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Helinus integrifolius (Ubhubhubhu)

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Family: Rhamnaceae

Scientific name: Helinus integrifolius

Authority: (Lam.) Kuntze

Common names: ubhubhubhu (Zulu), soap plant (English), seepbos (Afrikaans)

Ubhubhubhu is a weird name for a plant. It means rapid, fast, quick, or in the shortest possible time. This name refers to the rapid action of the medicine (umuthi) in healing ailments or overpowering witchcraft. Ubhubhubhu is scientifically known as Helinus integrifolius. The genus name Helinus means a tendril and refers to the fact that this plant is a shrub with climbing tendrils. The species name integrifolius means entire leaf adverting to the smooth margins of the leaf that have no indentations, serrations, lobes, or undulations. 

Ubhubhubhu is a woody climber (vine) with large oval leaves. It usually grows in forests, grassland, and bushland. Ubhubhubhu is a herbal oneirogen. Oneirogens are dream inducing herbs that are used to enhance the dreaming mind. Other examples of oneirogens are uvuma omhlophe (Synaptolepis kirkii) and ubulawu (Silene capensis). Ubhubhubhu is also known as ubulawu obude

The term “ubulawu mixture” refers to a mixture made from different types of plants, including oneirogen plants. “Ubulawu mixture” does not have to contain ubulawu (Silene capensis) in order to be called ubulawu mixture. There are many different types of ubulawu mixtures. These mixtures differ in the combinations of plants used and the combination of plant parts used (roots, stems, or bark).

Ubhubhubhu contains saponins, these are compounds that foam up like soap when stirred in water and this is where the plant gets the common name “Soap plant“. 


The roots, bark, and leaves are the most extensively used parts of the plant and they are used to treat an array of ailments and to induce certain conditions.  

  • Traditional healers use ubhubhubhu in the making of ubulawu mixture to induce and enhance vivid and lucid dreaming and to interpret the dreams clearly. 
  • Ubhubhubhu is used by traditional healer initiates to activate their powers of intuition in order to communicate with ancestors. 
  • Traditional healers use ubhubhubhu to increase their learning ability and to strengthen their memory in order to retain the knowledge imparted to them. 
  • Ubhubhubhu is used to make a popular love potion that’s used by young men when seeking the affections of young women.
  • Ubhubhubhu is used in ritualized bathing. It is applied topically as a substitute for soap.
  • In the Eastern Cape, Amathole District, ubhubhubhu is used to manage hair loss and skin infections. 
  • Ubhubhubhu is usually applied as a lotion to manage skin disorders.
  • In the Zulu culture, ubhubhubhu has been used as an emetic (a substance to induce emesis) to treat hysteria.
  • Ubhubhubhu is believed to bring good luck and positive results in things such as court cases, exams, and competitions.
  • The plant is also used to drive away competitors. 
  • Ubhubhubhu is used as a blood tonic (a liquid supplement consumed to produce more blood cells in the body).
  • It cleanses the body and the mind and provides both physical and psycho-spiritual healing.
  • And it increases general health and energy. 

The general public use ubhubhubhu for:

  • Treating arthritis, paralysis, infertility, and backache
  • Managing diabetes mellitus
  • Treating leg pains and stroke

The root is used to ward off evil spirits and to defend against witchcraft.


Ubhubhubhu can be prepared in the following ways:

  • Ubhubhubhu is used as a charm to win competitions. To win a competition with ubhubhubhu, you take the roots and soak them in cold water and then stirred quickly, to cause the water to foam. You sip the foam and then spit it out forcefully while calling out loud the name of the opponent in a competition. This practice ensures that the rival’s advances in a competition or court case are rejected. 
  • Cold water infusions from different roots and stems are mixed with the roots of ubhubhubhu to make ubulawu mixture. For example: Ubhubhubhu is mixed with isindlandla (Bersama tysoniana) in the ubulawu mixture to induce vivid and lucid dreaming. Ubulawu mixture can also be prepared from the roots of umjuje (Silene undulata) and the stem of ubhubhubhu. This mixture is taken as emetics by traditional healers as part of their initiation. To help the initiate connect and communicate with the ancestors. As mentioned earlier, ubulawu mixture can be prepared with different types of plants and they do not necessarily have to include ubulawu (Silene capensis).  
  • The leaves of ubhubhubhu are mixed with water to make foam in order to bathe and wash hair.

In conclusion, ubhubhubhu is a psychoactive plant that is used by diviners to facilitate communication with the ancestors and to activate divination abilities.  

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