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(Melianthus family)


This is a small family of 8 species of South African trees and shrubs classified in 2 genera (Mabberley 1997). Several of the species of Melianthus L. are grown as ornamental greenhouse shrubs or in sub-tropical bedding schemes. They are noted for the disagreeable smell that is produced when the leaves are bruised (Hunt 1968/70).

Preparations of the leaves of Melianthus L. species, used externally, are South African traditional remedies for tinea capitis and chronic or necrotic ulcers.

Melianthus comosus Vahl
Honey Flower

Steyn (1934) and Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962), citing Smith (1895), noted that in South African traditional medicine, the leaves are made into a poultice or paste and applied to bad sores and bruises.

Melianthus major L.
Honey Bush

Steyn (1934) and Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962), citing Pappe (1857), noted that in South African traditional medicine, a decoction of the leaves is an excellent external remedy for tinea capitis, crusta serpiginosa (= favus?), necrosis, and foul ulcers; and that the bruised leaves are applied to ulcers to promote granulation.


  • Hunt P (Ed.) (1968/70) The Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia of Gardening. London: Marshall Cavendish [WorldCat]
  • Mabberley DJ (1997) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the vascular plants. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Pappe L (1857) Florae Capensis Medicae Prodromus: or an enumeration of South African indigenous plants used as remedies by the colonists of the Cape of Good Hope. 2nd edn. Cape Town: W Brittain
  • Smith A (1895) A Contribution to South African Materia Medica, chiefly from plants in use among the natives. 3rd edn. Cape Town: JC Juta
  • Steyn DG (1934) The Toxicology of Plants in South Africa together with a consideration of poisonous foodstuffs and fungi. South Africa: Central News Agency
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]

Richard J. Schmidt

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