• Boophane disticha
    Common names - veld fan/ windball/fireball/oxkiller fan/tumbleweed/candelabra flower/bushman poison bulb/gifbol
    Local names - munzepete or muwandwe,(shona), ingotho (ndebele), incotha (Zulu), incwadi (Xhosa), leshoma (Southern Sotho, Tswana)
  • Family -amaryllidaceae
  • The bulbs have been used as arrow poison by the Hottentots and San people but there seems no evidence, of this being a use in ZIMBABWE .
  • Toxic alkaloids have been isolated from the bulb .
    These alkaloids are:
    1. Buphanine (resembling hydrazine in pharmacological action)
    2. A weak basis alkaloid (with convulsive action)
    3. A water soluble alkaloid (similar in action to colchicine)
    4. Narcissine
    5. Another alkaloid, haenanthine (resembling atrophine)
    6. undulatin
    7. acetylnerbowdine
    8. buphanimine
    9. buphanisine
    10. buphanidrine
  • In Zimbabwe the uses of Boophane range from warding off bad dreams, to arouse spirits during the initiation of African herbalists as well as the following medicinal uses:
    1. To treat oedema - the bulb is boiled and used as a hot compress applied to the swelling.
    2. The bulb when crushed is used to treat open wounds as well as a rash on the body and skin disorders including eczema.
    3. Burns. Externally
    4. The flowers are used to make an infusion which is added to porridge and is taken by mouth to cure dizziness.
    5. Generalized pain- internal and external usage
    6. Vertigo
    7. Constipation in ruminants - an infusion is drenched
    8. Constipation
    9. Relief of urticaria
    10. Outer dressing for circumcision - the dried outer scale leaves are wrapped around the wound.
    11. A drawing property used for application to boils , infected sores, septic scratch s cuts and inflamed conditions (a moistened scale is used)
    12. Arthritic swellings and bruises, rheumatic joints, sprains and muscular strains
    13. Varicose ulcers
    14. The use of Boophane disticha in treatment of cancer.
  • Narcotic properties have been noted and ingesting the juice of the plant has caused death.

    Case history of use in cancer treatment:
    In 1986 Mr. Adrian Lind was taken ill. Pains were felt in his back and x-rays were taken and a kidney condition diagnosed. He was given morphine for the pain.
    The condition did not go away and he was in such pain that he visited a German Dominican Sister known for her skill in healing with natural plant substances.

    With the assistance of a divination rod, which she ran over his body, she diagnosed that he was suffering from cancer of the kidneys. She asked him if he wanted to go to a hospital but his reply was negative.

    She gave him part of a half bottle of brandy to make him sick - which it did - and then 4 scales from the Boophane plant with instructions to boil them - together with a small piece of root (unidentified). She told him that the treatment was dangerous but that if he did not take the mixture she was certain he would die shortly.
    The root and the Boophane were boiled together with a litre of water until reduced by half - when cool a tablespoon was drunken immediately - and then a tablespoon three times a day until the liquid was finished.

    Immediate relief was experienced from the pain and it never returned. The root was used to relieve the pain. The bulb to destroy the cancer.

    On completing the course she again administered the Boophane on its own - boiled in the same way. Taking four of the scales and boiling them in a litre of water until reduced by half and then removing the scales and throwing them away. Mr Lind took these courses of treatment three times more in succession. He never suffered any of the poisoning symptoms or any form of hysteria or disability. it must be noted that people react differently to any substance they ingest.

    Not only did the pain never return but his health improved and he has shown no signs of any reoccurrence over 20 years later - he has had no further kidney problems and leads an active life involved with the outdoors.

    There have been other cases of the same nun giving the Boophane to other persons for cancer of the breast and for cancerous tumors in the brain - all with success.

    Case of use in Zimbabwe for abdominal pain:

    A patient, 24 years of age was told by a n’ganga to drink the juice of a boophane bulb if he developed abdominal pains and felt weak. On 18 January 1953, after experiencing such discomfort, he cut off the root of the bulb, allowing a few drops of the bulb to collect on a plate. He then mixed this with cooked porridge and consumed only two spoonfuls of the mixture. Immediately his mouth became painful and he experienced a burning pain down his epigastrium. He became dizzy and fell to the ground within a few minutes. He regained consciousness 20 hours later in hospital. On examination he was irrational, talkative, and restless and displayed an intense photophobia. His pupils were widely dilated but reacted to light. The next morning he was still irrational, talkative and inclined to resist being examined, but at 5pm he regained consciousness and thereafter made an uninterrupted recovery (Gelfand & Mitchell, 573)

    The characteristic signs of boophane poisoning in non-fatal cases are rapid development of ataxia and giddiness, impaired vision, talkativeness or quietness and depression, stupor coma.

    In the book ‘People’s Plants’ it notes that it is a powerful hallucinogenic and is used in male adolescent initiation rites and in the initiation of diviners. Some diviners administer the bulb scales orally as a decoctation to enduce visual hallucinations that are then interpreted.
    A weak decoctation of the bulb scales is commonly administered as a profound sedative to violent psychotic patients and once the drug takes effect, the patient no longer needs to be restrained and can be given milder herbal remedies.

    The bulb is used extensively as a medicine, including use for headache, chest pain, abdominal pain, and insomnia. The dry bulb scales are applied topically as an antiseptic and pain-relieving dressing after circumcision, and to painful joints, swelling, bruises, abscesses, sores, rashes, burns, and septic wounds. This book goes into the use of the plant on an extensive level.

    © Odette Lind & Iain Stephens Wednesday, August 07, 1996
    Please note that this plant has not been proven by the medical world as a cure. It has been used in indigenous medicine but has also caused death. Any use of this plant is completely at the risk of those taking the plant and neither Odette Lind or Iain Stephens or their associates can be held responsible for the effects. On the advice of Sister Halaria if there has been any chemotherapy treatment or similar drug taken the plant should not be used.
    The Traditional Medical Practitioner in Zimbabwe - M Gelfand, S Mavi, R B Drummond, and B Ndemera
    Poisonous Plants of South Africa - Ben-Erik van Wyk, Fanie van Heerden, Bosch van Oudtsehoorn
    People’s Plants - Ben-Erik van Wyk & Nigel Gericke

    Return to the Indigenous Healing Plants Page

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