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Family: Cucurbitaceae

Scientific name: Citrullus lanatus

Authority: (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai 

Zulu names: amabhece, ibeche, ikhabe, ikhebe, umhense

Other names: common wild watermelon, jam melon  (English) bitterboela, bitterwaatlemoen, karkoer (Afrikaans)

Description: C. lanatus is an annual scrambling herb. It has leaves with toothed margins, greenish yellow flowers, and edible large fruits.   


  • The edible fruit is eaten as food that refreshes, as a source of hydration to quench thirst.
  • The fruit is boiled until it becomes soft and is eaten as a vegetable. 
  • The fruit is used as an aphrodisiac.
  • The fruit is used as an astringent.
  • The fruit is used as an expectorant.
  • The fruit is used as a diuretic.
  • The fruit is used as a stomachic.
  • The fruit is used as a blood purifier. 
  • The fruit cures biliousness.
  • The fruit treats sore eyes.
  • The fruit is used to treat scabies and itch. 
  • The seeds are ground to powder and used to make a meal. 
  • The shoots are eaten as a vegetable. 
  • The shoots are boiled and the water taken as a tea for hypertension. 
  • The plant is used as a charm to prevent worms from damaging crops.

References and further reading

  • Adetutu A., Olorunnisola O.S. and Owoade O.A., 2015. Nutritive values and antioxidant activity of Citrullus lanatus fruit extract. Food and Nutrition Sciences 6, pp.1056–1064. doi: fns. 2015.611109  
  • Deshmukh C.D., Jain A. and Tambe M.S., 2015. Phytochemical and pharmacological profile of Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.). Biolife 3, pp. 483–488. 
  • De Wet, H., Ramulondi, M. and Ngcobo, Z.N., 2016. The use of indigenous medicine for the treatment of hypertension by a rural community in northern Maputaland, South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 103, pp.78–88.
  • Erhirhie E.O. and Ekene N.E., 2013. Medicinal values of Citrullus lanatus (watermelon): Pharmacological review. IJRPBS 4, pp.1305–1312.
  • Long, C., 2005. SiSwati names and uses – Swaziland Flora – Swaziland National Trust Commission, Mbabane.
  • Ntuli, N.R., Zobolo, A.M., Siebert, S.J. and Madakadze, R.M., 2012. Traditional vegetables of northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: Has indigenous knowledge expanded the menu. African Journal of Agricultural Research, 7(45), pp.6027-6034.
  • Rahman, H., Manjula, K., Anoosha, T. and Nagaveni, K., 2013. In-vitro and antioxidant activity of Citrullus lanatus seeds extracts. Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research 6, pp.152–157.

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