Semi-deciduous tree growing to 80 ft (25 m) with smooth, gray-brown bark and brown-purple flowers. The tree gets its name from the spectacular sausage-shaped fruit, up to 3 ft (1 m) in length, which hangs from a ropelike stalk and weighs up to 22 lb (10 kg).
Habitat & Cultivation
Kigelia grows throughout sub-Saharan Africa but is native to the eastern half of the continent from Tanzania to South Africa. The tree is cultivated from seed or cuttings and flowers after 6 years. The fruit is harvested when ripe.
Fruit pulp, leaves, bark, roots.
Kigelia fruit contains norviburtinal, coumarins, iridoids, flavonoids, fatty acids, sterols, glycosides, and napthaquinones. Norviburtinal has tumor-reducing activity, the iridoids and sterols are anti-inflammatory, the flavonoids are antifungal, and the napthaquinones are thought to be cytotoxic.
History & Folklore
Prized by traditional healers throughout sub-Saharan Africa, kigelia has been put to many uses. The Shona of southern Africa use the bark or root to treat skin infections and ulcers, toothache, backache, and pneumonia. In Central Africa, the unripe fruit is used as a dressing for wounds, hemorrhoids, and rheumatism.
In West Africa, the leaves are given for stomach and kidney problems, and the fruit is used as a purgative and applied as a paste to sores. Kigelia is commonly included in traditional herbal formulations for malaria.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Thanks to the knowledge and experience of African traditional healers, kigelia is now understood to be a valuable remedy for skin problems, particularly sores and ulcers, produced by bacterial and fungal infection.
Kigelia has been described as a “natural antibacterial.” Given its marked anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties, kigelia is also being investigated as a skin toner and restorer, as well as potential treatment for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, and solar keratosis (a precancerous skin problem caused by overexposure to sunlight). Various patents exist for kigelia products, and over time kigelia may become widely known as a key herbal resource for the skin.
Take kigelia internally only under professional guidance. Do not take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.