You are currently viewing Isihlakothi (Searsia chirindensis)

Isihlakothi (Searsia chirindensis)

  • Post comments:0 Comments
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Isihlakothi, scientifically known as Searsia chirindensis. The plant name Searsia is derived from Paul B. Sears who was head of the Yale School of Botany. The species name chirindensis is named after the Chirinda Forest in the Chipinge district of Southern Rhodesia Zimbabwe. This species name was given by Charles Francis Massy Swynnerton, an English naturalist. The Chirinda Forest is where the largest number of searsia species are found in Africa. Searsia chirindensis used to be known as rhus chirindesis. Both searsia and rhus belong to the mango family, Anacardiaceae. 

Isihlakothi grows along the coastal belt from the Cape to Tanzania. It is a medium-sized tree that grows up to 10m in height in most areas, while in some areas this tree can grow up to 20m.

In traditional medicine, isihlakothi is used to treat an array of human ailments. 

  • The bark is used to treat convulsion and epilepsy. Isihlakothi is one of the few plants used to treat convulsion
  • In Transkei, the mixture made from isihlakothi bark has neuroprotective effects and reduces apoptosis and that’s why it is used to treat neurological and neurodegenerative disorders
  • The bark is used to strengthen the body, to stimulate circulation, and to treat rheumatism
  • The tonic, or umuthi obovu, is used to treat sharp internal pain
  • The sap of this tree is used to treat cardio-vascular issues
  • Treats bacterial infections such as diarrhoea

Other uses of isihlakothi include:

  • The wood of this tree has been used to make wood for knife handles. That’s why in Venda, the tree is named muvhadela-phanga which translates to “wood for knife handles”
  • The leaves and bark of this tree is used as fodder by bushbuck, kudus, black rhinos etc.
  • The fruits of this tree are eaten by birds and monkeys

Searsia chirindensis and Searsia rehmanniana are both called isihlakothi. But these two plants do not treat the same ailments. Searsia rehmanniana is used to treat acne and other dermatological issues as well as respiratory problems such as coughs and fever.  

In 2003, isihlakothi and umvangazi (Pterocarpus angolensis) were both chosen as trees of the year.

Isihlakothi is what you call a hardwood. There are two types of wood in Botany, namely, softwoods and hardwoods – the difference between the two is on the cell structure, the wood, seeds, leaves, and the chemicals and compounds in the tree. The chemicals and compounds in the hardwood, makes the heartwood of isihlakothi rich reddish brown as well as heavy and strong, which makes it ideal for making attractive furniture.  

Leave a Reply