Bulbine natalensis

Broad-leaved bulbine or Rooiwortel


broad-leaved bulbine (Eng.); rooiwortel, geelkopieva (Afr.); incelwane (isiXhosa), ibhucu (isiZulu)

Derivation of name and historical aspects

The generic name Bulbine pertains to the bulb-like nature of some of its relatives..

The genus Bulbine consists of about 90 species from South Africa and Australia but mainly from the southern and western parts of South Africa. They are all succulent plants, many of these have horticultural value and some are widely cultivated. Perhaps the best known of these is B. frutescens (stalked bulbine or rankkopieva), which is a popular ground cover.

Plant parts used

The whole plant, including fresh leaves, thick stem and roots. Dried roots also traditionally used.

Medicinal Uses / Ethnopharmacological uses

The fresh or dried roots (sometimes including stem and leaves) of Bnatalensis, B.latifolia, B.alooides, B.asphodeloides and B.narcissifolia are taken orally in the form of infusions to quell vomiting and diarrhea and also tot treat convulsions, venereal diseases, diabetes, rheumatism, urinary complaints and blood disorders. It is considered to be an excellent general medicine and tonic (referred to in the older literature as a “blood purifier”) The fresh leaf sap can be used to treat burns, itches and skin ailments.

Health benefits


Not endemic to South Africa. Found in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga



Botanical Description

This is a rapid growing succulent plant, aloe-like in appearance, forming solitary rosettes up to 20 cm high. Roots fleshy, yellowish, terete (circular in cross-section).

The leaves are triangular-lanceolate 190-400 x 30-60 mm green, with faint lines, firm, ascending, older leaves becoming recurved; upper surface flat, slightly chanelled towards the end; lower surface flat to somewhat rounded margin acute, and bearing a minute fringe of hairs (minutely ciliate). The tip tapers to an acute point.
The inflorescence consists of 1-4, densely flowered racemes 400-1017 mm tall. The flowers are carried on the upper half, (up to 8 flowers opened at a time). Flowers about 7-12 mm in diameter, crowded bearing membranous bracts. Flower stalks 12-14 mm long, terete. The 6 petals are yellow, spreading and 7 mm long. The filaments of the stamens are bearded which distinquishes it from Bulbinella, a genus with which it is often confused. Style 6 mm long. Plants flower in spring.

Fruits are small capsules, rounded and when ripe releasing small blackish flattened wind dispersed seed.

Preparation and Dosage

An infusion of the roots (or sometimes brandy tincture) is taken orally tow or three times a day. In the Eastern Cape Province, decoctions of the dried root (with leaves of the Monsonia ovata (Geranium emarginatum) added) are traditionally used in large doses. Bulbine root decoctions may also be administered as enemas. Leaf sap is applied directly to the skin in the form of a warm poultice.

Active Ingredients

Stems and roots contain anthraquinones such as chrysophanol and knipholone. Phytochemical screening revealed the presence of saponins, cardiac glycoside, tannins, alkaloids and anthraquinones.

Pharmacological Effects

Chrysophanol has antibacterial properties. The traditional uses suggest antibiotic, diuretic, antispasmodic and anti-emetic activities.

Plant‐based in vivo research has made significant rewarding progress in many important areas such as in the development of anticancer drugs (Harvey, 1999), and is still contributing to the research on sexual dysfunction in males world wide. It can probably be explored in the management of disorders of desire/arousal, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and hypotestosteronaemia in man.


Least concern. 2005/04/19





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