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Rhoicissus tomentosa (Isinwazi)

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Family: Vitaceae

Scientific name: Rhoicissus tomentosa 

Authority: (Lam.) Wild & R.B. Drumm.

Common names: isinwazi (Zulu), wild grape (English), gewone bosdruif (Afrikaans)

Isinwazi is a Zulu word that describes a wild vine. It is the common name of most (if not all) species belonging to the genus Rhoicissus including Rhoicissus tridentata, Rhoicissus digitata, and Rhoicissus tomentosa. The isinwazi discussed in this article is Rhoicissus tomentosa. The genus name Rhoicissus is derived from the Greek word “rhoia” meaning “ivy” hinting at the fact that this plant is a climber. The Rhoicissus genus has about 18 species in total of which approximately 13 can be found growing in Africa. The species name tomentosa is Latin for “velvety” referring to the rusty velvety hairs on the abaxial surface of the leaves 

Rhoicissus tomentosa is an evergreen climber with vine-like simple leaves, insignificant flowers, and grape-like berry fruits that turn purple when ripe. Isinwazi is a fast-growing climber that can reach a length of 20 m. This plant is indigenous to Southern Africa (in South Africa it can be found in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and Mpumalanga Province) and grows in afro-montane forests and on riverine bushes. 

Medicinal properties:

This plant reportedly has a number of phytochemicals such as saponins that (among other things) enhances the production of sex hormones such as testosterone. As well as the alkaloids that increase blood flow to the male sexual organs. Other phytochemicals include tannins, anthocyanins, coumarins, flavonoids, essential oils, quinones, triterpenes, as well as siterol and sitosterolin – which purportedly cause slight estrogenic activity when administered to animals.

The extracts of this plant have also been shown to contain some of the highest antifungal activity which are useful against illnesses such as Candida albicans. The plant also has antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiallergic, and uteretonic (labour inducing) activities. 


The plant has edible fruits and tubers are eaten by people and animals. It is cultivated as an ornamental garden plant, and widely used as a medicinal plant. The parts of the plant that are mostly used in making traditional medicines include: the roots (and tubers), bark, leaves, and fruits. 

This plant is generally used for a variety of purposes including as a pain reliever, for cleansing and purifying the blood, for treating acne, for cleansing the nasal passage, to enhance maturation in girls, to speed up and ease childbirth, and to make umuthi obovu

  • This plant is used in the Nguni rite of passage known as iqhude or ukuthombisa. Ukuthombisa is a Nguni word that means to “grow” or growing a girl child. Ukuthombisa is a rite of passage ceremony performed when a girl child transitions from childhood to puberty. The ceremony takes place after a girl starts her menstrual cycle. Ukuthombisa is usually followed by another ceremony known as ukwemula

Ukwemula is a ceremony where a girl’s marriageable status is announced to the public. It is not the same as umemulo, these are two distinct concepts. Umemulo is a coming-of-age ceremony while Ukwemula is when a family announces to the public that their daughter is ready and available for marriage. During the ceremony the girl is given a concoction made with isinwazi. This concoction is considered essential for the girl’s reproductive capacity. If later in the girl’s life she is found to be barren or has miscarriages or stillbirths, her right of passage will be question – people will ask whether her ukwemula was performed properly. 

Some people believe that umemulo (the coming-of-age ceremony) is a more socially acceptable type of ukuthombisa or ukwemula. Since ukwemula has been condemed as promoting child abuse and child marriages. 

  • This plant is used to make inembe, isihlambezo, imbelekisane and other labour-inducing herbal tonics taken regularly by women during pregnancy to facilitate quick and painless delivery, and after birth, they are used to promote postpartum healing. childbirth. 
  • The roots of this plant are used to treat isidina or the overproduction of sebum on the face especially around the nose area. Isidina is a type of isichitho that is meant to make a person think and feel unattractive and to strongly project that to others and to have others think and feel the same.  
  • The roots are used as an ingredient in the preparation of umuthi obovu – a plant mixture that has gone through prolonged boiling and is red in colour because of the use of red tree barks as the main ingredients.
  • The roots are also used to treat male impotence and as an aphrodisiac.
  • This plant is used for cleansing and purifying the blood and the nasal passages
  • Lastly, in humans, the roots are used to treat ailments like a chronic headache, stomachache, hernia, and bilharzia.

Farmers used this plant to treat the following diseases in animals:

  • It is used to treat heartwater – an infectious tick-borne disease that can easily kill some animals.
  • It is used to treat babesiosis (also known as redwater) – a parasitic disease that infects the red blood cells.
  • It is used to treat bovine ephemeral fever (or three-day sickness) – a viral disease that causes a fever that lasts for about three days hence the name of the disease. 
  • It is used to treat helminthiasis – a parasite-borne illness in calves.
  • It is used as antihelmintics – medicines that kill parasites, such as tapeworms, roundworms, etc. 
  • It is used to ensure that cows easily and quickly deliver healthy calves.

The plant’s edible fruits are used to make red jelly, jam, vinegar, and wine.


This plant can be prepared in a number of ways to treat various conditions affecting human beings and animals. 

Human beings

  • To treat impotence and increase stamina during sexual intercourse – pound the roots and boil them in milk (or water) in order to extract the soluble chemical compounds. After boiling, allow the mixture to cool, then strain it, and administer the decoction orally.
  • To treat isidina or the overproduction of sebum on the face especially around the nose area – boil the root in water and administer the hot decoction by steaming. 
  • To cleans the nasal passages and treat chronic headaches – dry the leaves, then ground them to fine powder, and then sniff the powder.  
  • There are as many variations of the inembe, isihlambezo, and imbelekisane tonics as there are traditional healers. One tonic that women take from seven months of pregnancy for easy delivery is made by boiling the roots of different plants such as isinwazi (Rhoicissus cuneifolia), ugobho (Gunera perpensa), impila (Callilepis laureola DC), ileleva or isibhara (Vernonia natalensis).   
  • Inembe can also be made by mixing the roots of Idololenkonyane (Cyphostemma natalitiumisinwazi (Rhoicissus tridentata), Triumfetta rhomboidea, and ugobho (Gunnera perpensa).


  • To treat the three-day sickness – crush the bark of isinwazi with bark of utuvana (Kedrostis africana) then boil in water. Allow the decoction to cool and then administer orally.  
  • Farmers in the Eastern cape treat helminthiasis by crushing the roots and boiling the roots in milk. 1 tablespoon of this mixture is added to 275 ml of water and administered orally once per day until the animal gets better.  

To learn more about plants and mixtures for treating impotence and increasing stamina during sexual intercourse: access the article on the Top 10 herbal mixtures for virility: umuthi wamadoda

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