Common Yoruba Herbs, their English Name & Uses

Although there are hundreds of herbs known to the Yorubas, space wouldn’t allow us enumerate all of these herbs. However, we’ve decided to highlight the most common ones in this post. These include their names in English as well as some of their benefits.

Yoruba herbs, their English names, and their uses

yoruba herbs english names uses

Girdlepod (Irawo ile)

The botanical name of the herb is Mitracarpus scaber. It is a common perennial herb with a height of 30 cm.

Some of the benefits of this herb include:

  • It has antibacterial and antifungal activities which have been proven to treat skin infections. As a result of these properties, this herb can be used to treat skin infections like ringworms and scabies.
  • Girdlepod can be used to treat aches and pains such as headaches, toothaches and arthritis pain
  • It can also be used to treat amenorrhea, hepatitis as well as sexually transmitted diseases

Aloe vera (Eti erin)

Aloe vera is popular for its health benefits. The Yorubas call it Eti erin The herb is usually about 80 to 100 cm tall. The botanical name is Aloe barbadensis. Some of its uses have been highlighted below:

  • It has anti-inflammatory properties hence it can be used for skin allergies. It is also an important ingredient used in skincare products
  • Aloe vera can also be used to speed up the healing of wounds and burns.
  • It can also be used as detoxifier and boost your liver function
  • The liquid from Aloe vera can be used to treat sunburns
  • The juice from Aloe vera can be used to increase the water content in your intestine hence can be used to treat constipation.

Senna (Ewe asunwun)

The botanical name is senna is Cassia senna and the Yorubas call it ewe asunwun. Every part of the plant has been found to be extremely beneficial. These include the leaves, stem, roots and flowers.

  • Senna has been known for its antimicrobial properties; as a result it can be used to treat STDs like gonorrhea, syphilis and staph. It can also be used to treat scabies also known as crawcraw
  • Senna can also be used to alleviate pain as a result of its analgesic action. This explains why the herb has been used in arthritis pain.
  • This herb also has antifungal properties which can be used to treat Athlete’s foot and eczema.

Dracaena (Peregun)

Dracaena arborea is specie of Dracaena popularly known as dragon tree. This perennial herb has ornamental uses and usually grows up to 20m tall with its deep green thick leaves.

Some of its health benefits include:

  • Treats diabetes-induced testicular dysfunction.
  • The root has been linked with alleviating abdominal pains.

Moringa (Ewe ile)

Moringa is one of the fastest growing herbs in the tropics. The botanical name is Moringa oleifera. The herb has diverse medicinal effects. It can be used as an energy and immune booster and some of its other medicinal effects have been highlighted below:

  • It has antibiotic properties and can be used in treating common infections
  • It has an analgesic action and has been proven to cure pain, headaches and migraines
  • Moringa has been linked with the treatment of inflammatory conditions like asthma and arthritis
  • Also, the herb has also been associated with the reduction of reducing tumour growth.
  • It is a detoxifier
  • Research has shown that moringa can protect against neurodegenerative diseases related to Alzheimer’s diseas
  • It also protects the kidney from toxins and prevents formation of kidney stones.
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Hibiscus (Sobo)

The botanical name of this herb is Hibiscus sabdariffa. It is popularly called Zobo and it is usually prepared as a local drink.

Some of the health benefits include:

  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Reduces blood cholesterol
  • Research has linked it with preventing prostate cancer. The leaf extract has been discovered to inhibit the growth of human prostate cancer cell.
  • The hibiscus leaves have also been linked with inhibiting the growth of skin cancer cells due to the polyphenols it contains.

African basil (Efirin)

African basil has numerous benefits. The botanical name of the plant is Ocimum gratissimum. It can be used as a digestive aid in those experiencing bloating and indigestion.

Other benefits include:

  • Treatment of oral infections
  • Treatment of skin diseases. One of such is ringworm, the leaves can be squeezed and the extract applied to the infected skin.
  • Excellent food preservative
  • Treatment of urinary and sexual transmitted infections like vaginitis and gonorrhea.

Mint leaf (Ewe minti)

The leaves of Mint are tender can be used in several ways. The Yorubas call it Ewe minti. The botanical name is Mentha piperita.

The oil from Mint leaves is a component of most herbal toothpaste. The leaves have antioxidant and antiinflammatory components which can help in relieving seasonal allergies.

Mint leaves that have been dried can also be mixed with baking soda and can be used as airfreshener for your room. It can also b used as a form of aromatherapy due to its soothing effects.

The leaves can also be used as an environment friendly insecticide to kill insects like cockroaches, wasps and ants.

Water leaf (Gbure)

The botanical name of water leaf is Talinum triangulare. The leaf has several health benefits. These include

  • Prevention of atherosclerosis and heart disease

Water leaf is able to reduce the risk of heart disease and one of such way by lowering the level of bad cholesterol

  • Improves cognition

Water leaf has a positive effect on the brain and helps to boost memory and concentration

  • Weight loss

Due to its high fibre content, preparing water leaf can reduce your calorie intake

  • Laxative

Water leaf can serve as a laxative to treat constipation or indigestion.

Bitter leaf (Ewuro)

Bitter leaf has numerous benefits especially the juice. The botanical name is Venonia amygdalina. These have been highlighted below:

  • Improves appetite
  • Treats skin infections such as Ringworm.
  • Increases milk production in lactating mothers.
  • Treats skin allergies such as itching and allergies
  • Treats cough and respiratory tract infections
  • Bitter leaf can also help lower blood sugar in diabetics

All these benefits come from extract the juice of bitter leaves and using it where applicable.

Forest burr (Emo-agbo)

Popularly called Forest burr or creeping cock’s comb, the botanical name of this herb is Pupalia lappacea.

It is a perennial herb with a typical height between 60 and 90 cm. The forest burr has flowered spikes at the end of the stem and branches. Also, the herb has flowered clusters that come together to form a burr hence the name forest burr. This herb is also known to produce fluffy fruits that are balled and can be used to filter milk.

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Tiger nut (Ofio omu)

Ofio omu is also known as omu. The English name is Tiger nut while the botanical name is Cyperus esculentus. Tiger nut has several benefits which have been highlighted below.

Tiger nuts have a high level vitamin E which when consumed helps to reduce the cholesterol level in the blood. Tiger nuts have also been linked with prevention of heart disease.

Additionally, vitamin E which is a potent antioxidant found in tiger nuts can protect your cells against damage.

Tiger nut can also be used to help keep your blood sugar under control. It works by causing improvements in insulin resistance.

If you’re trying to lose weight, including tiger nut in your diet can help reduce the number of calories in your diet while helping you fill full for long periods.

Tiger nut is also used as digestive tonic and can help to treat indigestion.

Eggplant (Igba)

Eggplant can be eaten raw or used to preparing local delicacies.

It has a special anti-ageing component, nasunin, which is responsible for the vegetable’s deep purple colour. This component can help prevent cancer cells from spreading. It does this by inhibiting their multiplication by reducing the blood supply to them.

Also, nasunin has been linked with improved cognitive function and can reduce the risk of developing neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease.

Cinnamon (Oloorun)

Cinnamon is quite popular in Yorubaland and has a wide range of uses. It is obtained from the stem of Cinnamomum tree. The dry form of cinnamon usually curls into rolls called cinnamon sticks

It is one of the most delicious spices. Some of its benefits include:

  • Lowering of blood sugar and improve sensitivity to insulin in diabetics
  • Protects the body from oxidative damage
  • It has anti-inflammatory properties that helps the body fight infections and repair tissue damage
  • Protects against cancer by reducing growth of cancer cells
  • Prevents tooth decay and reduces bad breath

Wild lettuce (Efo Yarin)

Wild lettuce is one of those herbs with a lot of health benefits. Some of which are highlighted below:

  • Treats whooping cough and asthma
  • Treats urinary tract problems
  • Cure insomnia and restlessness
  • Alleviates painful menstrual periods,
  • Controls excessive sex drive in women
  • Alleviates muscular or joint pains

The seed oil is beneficial in treating atherosclerosis. The latex of wild lettuce can also be added directly to the skin to kill germs.

Overall, wild lettuce has a calming effect which has been found useful in conditions like insomnia, restlessness and pain.

Lagos spinach (Shokoyokoto)

Lagos spinach is a perennial herb with a slightly bitter taste. It can be used to cook delicious soup by adding ground melon and some condiments to it.

The herb has several herb benefits. For instance, it can be used to treat symptoms of pile, diarrhea and dysentary. Soko is also high in calcium and can be used to maintain healthy bones.

Bitterleaf (Ewuro)

Bitterleaf has numerous benefits especially the juice. These have been highlighted below:

  • Improves appetite
  • Increases milk production in lactating mothers.
  • Treats cough and respiratory tract infections
  • Treats skin allergies such as itching and allergies
  • Treats skin infections such as Ringworm.

All these benefits come from the leaf extract which is usually squeezed and used as applicable.



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