The kigelia africana tree is native to tropical Africa, sprouting across many countries, including South Africa, Senegal, and Namibia. Can you guess from the image why the tree was dubbed the “sausage tree”? Yep, because of the oblong, sausage-looking fruits that sway from its branches.
Although the common name “sausage tree” adds a certain gaiety to the plant, you definitely don’t want to mess with the raw fruit. First, the fruits alone are enormous and heavy, measuring between 30 and 100 cm long and weighing 5 to 10 kg — which means you probably don’t want to be standing under the tree when they fall. Second, reports suggest that the kigelia fruit is poisonous if eaten raw, although I’m not sure why anyone would be tempted to do that. However, when prepared correctly, these incredibly potent plants have proven useful in many ways.
Traditionally, Senegalese people would boil the flesh of the fruit in some water and rub the concoction onto the breasts of young girls to enlarge them (Neuwinger, 1996). Now there’s a gift idea for your teenage daughter. In the Central African Republic, Gbaya tribal populations dip the tips of their hunting arrows in a paste made from kigelia and Strophanthus Gratus seeds. The poison from the Strophanthus Gratus seeds quickly kills large prey, making their hunting extra effective. The large fruit is also used in religious practices. In South Malawi, for instance, it is hung in the corner of homes to ward off whirlwinds. Any takers? Believe it or not, kigelia is also used by the Kikuyu community of Kenya to make beer by sun-drying the fruit and mixing it with sugar cane juice.
Kigelia is most often used for its medicinal properties to treat an array of conditions. In West Africa, the leaves are used in a drink to treat stomach aches and in a poultice for lower back pain. West African populations also use bark extract to treat snakebites, which softens the skin and eases the application of other plant-based remedies. The plant’s bark is also used to treat a number of conditions, including STDs, sores, convulsions, ulcers, pneumonia, etc. The plant is also often used against rheumatism, to draw out tapeworms, and to treat wounds. In Indian traditional medicine, the fruit is used to remove kidney stones (Houghton & Jâger, 2002).
Nowadays, scientific researchers are investigating the properties of kigelia under controlled conditions. Many studies have shown in particular that kigelia can be used to treat skin cancer! Isn’t that incredible? Investigations found that stembark and fruit extracts from the plant were found to inhibit melanoma growth effects. Studies have also shown mainly the antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties of kigelia extracts (Saini et al., 2008).
Basically, kigelia is a superhero in the plant world. And its powers aren’t limited to medicinal uses. Kigelia extract can also be used to promote a youthful appearance. Topical application of the fruit’s extract has shown wonderful skin-tightening effects, such as reducing wrinkle depth and fine lines, tightening the skin around the eyes, and promoting skin elasticity. On top of its smoothing effects, kigelia extract also gives skin a healthy appearance by improving pigmentation and removing sunspots (Saini et al., 2008). This combination of properties is the ultimate solution for dull, tired skin. Because of its plumping, brightening, and circulation-boosting effects, kigelia extract is the perfect ingredient to apply in the morning for a fresh, well-rested, and glowy appearance throughout the day. Plus, kigelia extract’s luxurious sensation on the skin makes it a completely unique skincare ingredient. While some skin-firming ingredients can be abrasive and irritating, kigelia extract feels soft and refreshing on the skin.
And don’t forget its antimicrobial activities! People sometimes think applying skincare products traps bacteria and causes breakouts. In fact, acne can occur when the skin is dry and overcompensates by producing excess oil to keep the skin hydrated. Unfortunately, this excess oil doesn’t reach the surface of the skin, causing clogged pores and breakouts. [Side note: it’s always important to cleanse your face to prevent bacteria build up.] What’s great about using kigelia extract in our Hydrating Floral Elixir is that it prevents bacteria build up while hydrating the skin! So no need to worry for your acne-prone skin — this extract can be used on any skin type.
By now I’m sure you’re convinced of the myriad of benefits that kigelia africana offers. Let us know in the comments how you would use this miraculous plant — even if it’s just to ward off whirlwinds!