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Tulbaghia violacea (Isihaqa)

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Family: Alliaceae

Scientific names: Tulbaghia violacea

Authority: Harv.

Common name: isihaqa (Zulu), wild garlic (English), wildeknoffel (Afrikaans)

Plant description

Isihaqa is scientifically known as Tulbaghia violacea and wild garlic in English. The English name comes from the belief that, even though the plant has garlic-like flavour, it doesn’t give the bad breath that you do when eating real garlic (scientifically known as Allium sativum). Wild garlic belongs to the same family as onions and real garlic. It has the same antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, anticancer, anti-Candida and antioxidant properties as the real garlic. T. violacea can be found growing throughout Africa. It is mostly concentrated in the Southern African region, especially the Eastern Cape, and tends to grow in rocky grasslands.


The leaves and bulb are the most extensively used parts in traditional medicine. They are used to remedy a wide range of ailments.

  • In the Eastern Cape, the plant is used to treat wind in babies. Wind is the gas or air trapped in a baby’s stomach. A lot of this air comes when the baby is drinking milk from the bottle or when there isn’t a good supply of the milk in the mother’s breast.
  • The anti-Candida properties makes it ideal for treating oral fungal infections.
  • The infusion of the plant is often used on HIV/AIDS patients to treat various ailments such as pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), fever, colds, high blood pressure, asthma, oesophagus cancer, and cryptococcal meningitis. You can use the infusion to get rid of intestinal parasites such as tapeworms.
  • The leaves are dried and crushed into powder. The powder is sniffed to cure and taken to cure cure sinus headaches. This type of medicine is known as umbhemiso in Zulu.
  • The crushed leaves can be applied on the skin to repel fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.
  • The plant is used in making a love portion.
  • The leaves are edible and used as a type of leafy green and garnish. 


To treat intestinal parasites – boil the bulb in water, strain the decoction, and take as enema.    

Cultivating and harvesting 

The plant is cultivated as a garden plant to repel snakes. It is planted area with too many snakes, such as Durban (KZN). 

To harvest the bulb, cut the bulb with a knife from the base, ensuring that you leave the roots intact in the ground.  

There is another type of isihaqa known as Cassia abbreviata Oliv. subsp. beareana (Holmes) Brenan, to learn about this plant access Cassia abbreviata (Isihaqa)

Safety precaution

The use of traditional medicine in prescribed dosages will yield good results. Misuse and abuse may lead to complications. To learn about correct dosage, consult a traditional healer or a herbalist. You can also visit or email: to learn more about traditional medicine.

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