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The African Sausage Tree

Author: PhytoTrade Africa

( Article Type: Explanation )

Botanical name:Kigelia africana (syn. Kigelia pinnata)
Family: Bignoniceae
Common names: African sausage tree

In keeping with its common name, the "sausage tree fruits look like giant grey-green sausages. Measuring about 30 to 60cm long the fruits hang on stalks from the tree. Long, open sprays of large, wrinkled, maroon or dark red trumpet-shaped flowers that are velvety on the inside and that virtually overflow with nectar grow on rope-like stalks and are bat pollinated.

The "sausage tree" is widespread across Africa and is found in wet savannah and riverine areas. Growing over 20m high, it is semi-deciduous with grey-brown smooth bark.

Traditional uses

From Senegal down to South Africa the Kigelia fruit has a long history of both consumption and topical application. It is valued as an aphrodisiac, a disinfectant and a cure for dermal complaints.

Adolescent boys and girls use the fruit for enhancing growth of the genetalia and breasts respectively. Women rub an ointment, made from Kigelia fruit pulp, onto their breasts as a skin tightening, breast firming and enlarging treatment.This treatment is also used on babies in the belief that they will grow to be fatter.

Photo courtesy - PhytoTrade Africa


Women use the ointment to ensure clear, blemish free skin and the whole fruit is used in Tonga as a loofah for scrubbing skin smooth.

In addition the fruit is used effectively in dressing sores and wounds, both in humans as well as animals, and for a wide variety of skin applications, ranging from eczema, ulcers, acne, skin cancer and fungal infections.

Chemical and medicinal characteristics:

Scientific literature confirms the validity of many of these traditional uses due to the presence of numerous secondary metabolites. These compounds include iridoids, flavonoids, fatty acids, sterols, glycosides and napthoquinones. Antibacterial activity has been shown against both Gram-negative and Gram-postivie bacteria. Kigelia extract was shown to contract the area of wounds less than 300 mm2.

Strong anti-inflammatory activity has been indicated and determined to be due to the presence of specific COX 1 and 2 inhibitors, without showing the common side effects normally associated with this activity. In addition norviurtinal has shown cytotoxic activity through the reduction of both gross tumours and the incidence of tumour burden.

Possible applications

Kigelia fruit pulp and extracts can be exploited in the nutraceutical, dietary/herbal supplement, pharmaceutical, cosmeceutical and other markets. Specific products could include:

  • Anti-melanoma and after-sun applications
  • Anti-inflammatory agent - Extracts of Kigelia have been shown to be more effective than Indomethacin a potent synthetic anti-inflamatorry
  • Antioxidant agent - An ethanol extract of kigelia has been shown to possess some anti-oxidant activit
  • Cosmetic skin tightening active ingredient