The Leaders in Natural Traditional

African Medicines



African ginger is one of the Zulu’s top herbal medicines and widely used throughout its distribution area. This plant is highly prized for its medicinal value and as a result has been over harvested from the wild to a point just short of total extinction in South Africa.

African ginger is a deciduous plant with large, hairless leaves, developing annually from a small, distinctive cone-shaped rhizome. The spectacular flowers appear at ground level in early summer.

The root or rhizome is the part used, and comes to market in jointed branches called races or hands. The smell of the African ginger is aromatic and penetrating, the taste spicy, pungent, hot and biting.


Wild African ginger has a restricted distribution in Mpumalanga, Northern Province and has become extinct in KwaZulu Natal. The plant also occurs in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.  

Medicinal Uses:

This plant has a long history in African traditional medicine for a range of conditions including arthritis, asthma, candida, colds & flu, coughs, dysmenorrhoea, headaches, hysteria, influenza, menstrual cramps, mild asthma, mood swings, premenstrual syndrome, sinusitis, throat infections, thrush and to clear nasal passages.

The African ginger has a stimulating effect on the heart and circulation, creating a feeling of warmth and well-being and restoring vitality, especially for those feeling the cold in winter.

Hot ginger tea promotes perspiration, brings down a fever and helps to clear catarrh. Ginger has a stimulating and expectorant action in the lungs, expelling phlegm and relieving catarrhal coughs and chest infections.

African ginger is a wonderful aid to digestion. It invigorates the stomach and intestines, stimulating the appetite and enhancing digestion by encouraging secretion of digestive enzymes. It moves stagnation of food and subsequent accumulation of toxins, which has a far-reaching effect throughout the body, increasing general health, vitality and enhancing immunity.

African ginger is famous for relieving nausea and vomiting, from whatever cause. It settles the stomach, soothes indigestion and calms wind. Its pain-relieving and relaxing effects in the gut relieve colic and spasm, abdominal pain, distension and flatulent indigestion and help to relieve griping caused by diarrhoea.

In the uterus it promotes menstruation, useful for delayed and scanty periods as well as clots. African ginger relaxes spasm and relieves painful ovulation and periods, and is recommended to invigorate the reproductive system. African ginger also inhibits clotting and thins the blood; it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.

A preparation of this plant is administered to horses as prevention against horse sickness.

Europeans regard the African ginger as Africa’s best natural anti-inflammatory remedy, besides its many other uses.

Other beneficial uses:

Active Ingredients:

The conical rhizome and roots contain a high percentage of a characteristic sesquiterpenoid, which is a key phytochemical active. Extracts of the rhizome have been demonstrated to be anti-inflammatory (prostaglandin-synthetase inhibition), bronchodilatory, smooth muscle relaxant, mildly sedative, and anti-candidal. The presence of antiseptic monoterpenoids contributes to the bioactivity

The African ginger also contains a volatile oil with α-terpinerol (a natural antiseptic) and various other monoterpenoids.

The peculiar flavour of the root appears to depend on the volatile oil; its pungency is due to a yellowish liquid called gingerol. This is a mixture of homologous phenols of the formula C16H26O3. (CH2O) no Zingerone, C11H14O3, is crystalline and has a sweet odour and an extremely pungent taste; it is chemically related to vanillin, and is formed when gingerol is treated with baryta water. The pungency of gingerol, in contrast to that of capsicum, is destroyed by heating with alkaline hydroxides.

The volatile oil is yellow and consists largely of a mixture of terpenes, camphone, phellandrene and a new sesquiterpene, which the discoverers, von Soden and Rojahn (Ph. Ztg., 1900, p. 414) call zingiberene. There is also some citral, cineol and borneol in the oil.

Pharmacological Effects:

The African ginger has been studied for its antibacterial, anti-fungal, pain-relieving, anti-ulcer, anti-tumour and other properties.

The monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids in the oil are most likely responsible for the reported benefits in colds and influenza. Volatile oils are generally used for their decongestant, antiseptic and diuretic effects.

Research done at Cornell University Medical College has found that ginger may help prevent strokes and hardening of the arteries. The active ingredient in ginger (gingerol) is proven effective in preventing recurrences of so-called "little strokes". It is believed that this substance (gingerol) inhibits an enzyme that causes cells to clot.

How it works in the body:

The phenolic compounds are the agents responsible for relaxing the muscles of the stomach, and this may also explain their effect in easing travel or motion sickness. Fresh or dried, the root has been shown to minimize vomiting. In addition, the phenolic ingredients act within the stomach as a sedative and painkiller, which helps to reduce over-activity of the gut. In stomach infections, the oil acts as an antiseptic and an anti-inflammatory. The gingerols alone are thought to be responsible for ginger's action as a liver protective. In the cardiovascular system, ginger is thought to also reduce cholesterol levels, while at the same time increasing a sluggish circulation

Nutrient Content:

Ginger is rich in minerals and contains Vitamins B3 & B5.

Safety and Toxicity:

Contraindicated in pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Side effects of ginger are rare when used as recommended. However, some people may be sensitive to the taste or may experience heartburn. Persons with a history of gallstones should consult a nutritionally oriented doctor before using ginger. A doctor should be informed if ginger is used before surgery to counteract possible post anaesthesia nausea. The German therapeutic monograph on ginger warns patients with gall bladder disease to avoid it and also cautions against exceeding the recommended dosage. Because of its heating properties, ginger is not recommended for those who do not tolerate heat well or those with gastritis or peptic ulcers.


Siphonochilus aethiopicus

Common names:

Wildegemmer (Afrikaans); Natal ginger, Wild ginger (English); indungulo, isiphephetho (Shangaan, Sotho, Zulu).

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