Facts and benefits of African Potato

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Facts and benefits of African Potato

African Potato Quick Facts
Name: African Potato
Scientific Name: Hypoxis hemerocallidea (Hypoxis rooperi)
Origin Southern Africa
Shapes Capsule is called a pyxis which splits along its diameter causing the upper portion of the capsule to drop off
Taste Unpleasant bitter taste
Health benefits Traditional medicines for urinary tract infections, heart disease, infertility and anxiety
Hypoxis hemerocallidea (Hypoxis rooperi) commonly known as African potato, African star grass, Bantu Tulip, Papa Silvestre Africana, and Pomme de Terre Sauvage d’Afrique, South African Star Grass and Sterretjie is a medicinal plant in the Hypoxidaceae family. The plant has no relationship with the potatoes you’re probably most familiar with. It’s actually part of the lily family.  The plant is native to southern Africa from South Africa as far north as Mozambique + Zimbabwe. This plant is the best known member of this genus. Its most common name is the African wild potato. It is a hardy very attractive drought and frost tolerant deciduous geophyte that is extremely easy to grow which is an asset to any landscape or garden. It grows well in most soil types in full sun to partial shade where it flowers freely throughout summer.

The name Hypoxis was given by Linnaeus in 1759and was derived from the Greek words hypo (below) and oxy (meaning sharp), in reference to the ovary which is pointed at the base. The specific name hemerocallidea is derived from the Greek hemera (a day) and kallos (beauty), presumably referring to the flowers which are short-lived and resemble the day lily Hemerocallis. African potato has been used as a traditional medicine for centuries. It is a household name in South Africa and probably the best known multi plant in the country. The African potato has even been recommended by a former Minister of Health for inclusion in the daily diet of HIV patients.

Plant Description

African potato is a tuberous, deciduous perennial plant that grows about 15 inches tall. The plant occurs in a wide range of habitats, including sandy hills on the margins of dune forests, open grassland, rocky grassland, dry stony, grassy slopes, mountain slopes and plateaus and road verges. It grows well in most soil types in full sun to partial shade where it flowers freely throughout summer. The plant consists of tuberous rootstock or corm which is hard, fleshy, mucilaginous and dark brown or black on the outside and yellow-orange inside when freshly cut.

Tuberous rootstock is traditionally used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Weak infusions and decoctions of the corm are used as a strengthening tonic and during convalescence, and against tuberculosis and cancer. It is also used for prostate hypertrophy, urinary tract infections, and testicular tumors, as a laxative and to expel intestinal worms. Anxiety, palpitations, depression and rheumatoid arthritis are further ailments treated with the plant.


Leaves are linear to broadly lance-shaped, slightly hairy which are to 400 mm long, neatly arranged one above the other in 3 ranks, broad, stiff and arching outwards with prominent ribs and tapering towards the tips. The lower surface of the leaves is densely hairy with white hairs. Leaves appear above ground in spring before the flowers.


Flowers are carried on 5 or 6 slender erect inflorescences, each carrying 5-13 bright yellow, star-shaped flowers with 6 tepals. Six free stamens arise from the base of the tepals with prominent anthers. The style is short and fat, carrying the robust stigma.


The fruiting capsule is called a pyxis which splits along its diameter causing the upper portion of the capsule to drop off, exposing the black seeds that soon tip out.

Traditional uses and benefits of African Potato

  • Hypoxis is efficacious in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
  • It is effective in curbing ailments like hemorrhage, which leads to internal bleeding without any external trace.
  • It is effective in taking care of conditions like Multiple sclerosis, which leads to physical illness or insanity due to impairment of the nerve cells of both brain and spinal cord.
  • It is also helpful in combating delirium which results in extreme confusion, due to immediate changes in functionality of the brain.
  • It is beneficial for treating fever, headache, migraines and dizziness also familiar as light headedness.
  • It is also useful in overcoming disorders like chronic fatigue syndrome also familiar as Yuppie Flu, which leads to utmost lethargy.
  • It is a wonderful defender against Sinusitis which leads to grave headache and pain in the Nose.
  • It is useful in treating nervous ailments like Epilepsy, which has the direct impact over central Nervous system, resulting in turmoil in the brain cell activity.
  • It is essential in treating eye ailments like cataract which leads to decrease or loss of vision as a result of cloud like layer on the eye lens.
  • It is a good herbal treatment for fighting against affliction like HIV and AIDS.
  • It is effective in counteracting oral problems due to ulcers and various other gum infections.
  • It is useful in curbing problems of High Cholesterol, which results in various ailments associated to the heart like coronary heart disease.
  • It is potent in fighting against cancer and also helps in lowering the growth of different types of Cancer and the adverse effects of Chemotherapy.
  • It is effective in fighting and curbing lung Cancer.
  • It is fruitful for treatment of Asthma and Tuberculosis.
  • It is worthwhile in treating Diabetes and regulating level of Blood Sugar in the body.
  • It is an herbal treatment for skin, as it helps in diminishing signs of ageing, acne, burn marks, allergies, boil and helps in providing a flawless complexion.
  • It is efficient in counteracting skin afflictions like Eczema, which causes red patches on the skin.
  • It is helpful in curing warts and transmittable ailments like chicken pox and measles.
  • It is effective in overcoming blood loss at the time of injury.
  • It helps in strengthening immune system which in turn prepares the body to fight against diseases.
  • It is beneficial for curing Lupus Erythematosus in several parts of the body, as it involves the attack over body cells and tissues which are functioning normally and are healthy.
  • It is advantageous in combating obesity as it helps in cutting down weight by burning body fat.
  • It is effective in combating bladder disorders, which are an outcome of bladder infections like cystitis, leading to severe pain in bladder.
  • It is fruitful in tending to male reproductive organs problems i.e. prostrate problems like prostrate Hypertrophy, leading to swelling in the prostrate.
  • It is helpful in case of benign prostatic hyperplasia, which results in weak urine stream and one always feels that urinary bladder is not empty even after immediate urination.
  • It is useful in curbing prostate cancer which is also familiar as Carcinoma.
  • It is valuable in curing tumors associated to Male reproductive organs i.e. the Testicles.
  • It is useful in counteracting urine afflictions.
  • It is important for women as it helps in curbing abdominal pain at the time of Menopause. It is favorable syndrome in treatment of Premenstrual syndromes.
  • It is helpful in curing Endometriosis which leads to the outgrowth of cells forming membranes of the uterus, from the uterine cavity.
  • It is helpful in curing muscle ailments like convulsions which causes sudden constriction and expansion of muscles leading to quivering.
  • It also takes care of Sprains, agonizing muscles and other Muscular inflammation.
  • It is useful in counteracting the joint troubles like arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Other Facts

  • It is said to ward off storms and nightmares.
  • Sliced corms, when exposed to the atmosphere, turn black with oxidation.
  • Flowers are short-lived and close at midday.
  • Flowers open successively from the base to the apex.
  • Usually 1-3 flowers are open at the same time, thus encouraging cross-pollination.
  • Hypoxis hemerocallidea is fire-tolerant, and occurs widely in grassland where fire is part of the ecological regime.
  • Leaves are used to make rope.
  • Leaves and tuber are used as a dye and give a black color, which is used to blacken floors.
  • Flowers of Hypoxis hemerocallidea are pollinated in particular by bees as well as other pollinators.


  • Overeating African Wild potato may cause nausea, indigestion, gas, diarrhea or constipation.
  • There are reports of loss of erection and interest in sexual activity caused by African Wild potato.
  • Pregnant and nursing women should avoid using it.
  • Individuals with sitosterolemia should avoid eating African Wild Potato.










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