Medicinal Orchid Usage in Rural Africa

  • Eng Soon Teoh


African usage of orchids is unique because among the natives health takes on a wider meaning than usual. Personal well-being also involves success in establishing friendship, business, love, hunts and protection against natural catastrophes. Nearly 50 species are employed as charms for such purpose.

As illness is believed to be caused by witchcraft or possession by spirits, vomiting may expel such noxious items. Many orchid species are employed to help one to puke. Some species cause a person to purge: others stop diarrhoea. They are usually served as infusions, but instillation of plant juice into the ear and application of powdered tubers on afflicted limbs are examples of alternative approaches. Ansellia africana and some species of Eulophia are employed as aphrodisiac. Orchids are also employed to help women to conceive and one species to ensure smooth labour. Of the 60 medicinal orchid species, a third belongs to the genus Eulophia. Africans believe that eating orchid tubers promotes health and some Africans eat orchids regularly. Over 50 orchid species (predominantly in Disa, Habenaria and Satyrium) have been identified in chikanda, a cake made with orchid tubers. If Africans are to continue consuming orchid tubers as chikanda, such orchids need to be managed as root crops.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eng Soon Teoh
    • 1
  1. 1.SingaporeSingapore

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