The African wild potato is native to South Africa. It is a bitter plant used for a wide variety of conditions including diabetes mellitus, hemorrhage, and prostate problems.
Traditional healers have used the African wild potato boiled into tea for its medicinal properties. In southern Mozambique, it was widely used during the Civil War (1976-1992) by both soldiers and civilians who lost blood through injuries. The tea from the plant is said to quickly replace lost blood. The tea is used in conjunction with other plants to combat "bad blood" in patients with diabetes mellitus.
The Shangaan used African wild potato in a mixture with other plants for endometriosis and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The rootstock was one of the ingredients of an infusion taken as an "internal parasiticide" and purgative. The Manyika used the rootstock for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. The Karanga used the rootstock as a remedy for vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pains and fevers. It was also used to treat delirium.
African wild potato may boost immune function, based on indirect evidence that sterols and sterolins in Hypoxis root have the potential to enhance immunity. Some believe its nutrient values are 50,000 times greater than modern vegetables. Today, sterols and sterolins are still sought after and are preferred immune system boosters.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
African wild potato may be a potentially effective treatment option for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Additional study is needed to make a firm recommendation.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
For benign prostatic hyperplasia, 60-130 milligrams of beta-sitosterol divided into 2-3 doses daily has been taken by mouth. For lung cancer, 1,200-3,200 milligrams of standardized Hypoxis plant extract (200-milligramcapsules) per day divided in three doses has been taken by mouth. African wild potato has also been taken as tumoricidal agent in a dose of 2,400 milligrams daily (12, 200-milligram capsules), although safety and effectiveness has not been proven.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is no proven safe or effective dose of African wild potato, and use in children is not recommended.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to African wild potato. Allergy to the plant may manifest as a skin rash.
Side Effects and Warnings
African wild potato is likely safe when consumed as a source of vitamins and nutrients such as phytosterols. It may be possibly safe when used as a tea within recommended dosing guidelines. However, African wild potato is possibly unsafe when used by patients with hyperglycemia, with liver problems or taking drugs metabolized by cytochrome P450 enzymes, or with HIV/AIDS.
There are few reports of adverse effects associated with African wild potato, which include mild abdominal cramps, or drug intolerance with anxiety, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. African wild potato may also lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare provider, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
When taken by mouth, beta-sitosterol, a constituent of African wild potato, has been associated with erectile dysfunction and loss of libido. In theory, African wild potato aqueous extract may impair kidney function, reduce urine output, and potassium and sodium excretion. Use cautiously in patients with impaired kidney function.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
African wild potato is not recommended in pregnant and breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
African wild potato may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
African wild potato may inhibit the P-glycoprotein. Patients taking HIV/AIDS medications or other antiretrovirals should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Combined use may put patient at risk of treatment failure, viral resistance, or drug toxicity.
Extracts of the African wild potato have significant effects on cytochrome P450 3A4 metabolism. Therefore, taking African wild potato with drugs metabolized by this enzyme system may possibly alter drug levels.
Aqueous extracts of the African wild potato may impair kidney function. Use cautiously in patients taking nephrotoxic (kidney damaging) drugs.
Aqueous extracts of the African wild potato may reduce urination and excretion of potassium and sodium. Use cautiously in patients taking drugs that increase urine flow (diuretics).
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Extracts of the African wild potato have effects on cytochrome P450 3A4 metabolism. Therefore, taking African wild potato with herbs and supplements metabolized by this enzyme system may possibly alter drug levels.
African wild potato may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
African wild potato may inhibit the P-glycoprotein. Patients taking herbs and supplements for HIV/AIDS or those with antiretroviral effects should consult with a qualified healthcare professional including a pharmacist. Combined use may put patient at risk of treatment failure, viral resistance, or drug toxicity.
Aqueous extracts of the African wild potato may reduce urination and excretion of potassium and sodium. Caution is advised when combining with other herbs and supplements that increase urine flow (diuretics).
Berges RR, Windeler J, Trampisch HJ, et al. Randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of beta-sitosterol in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Beta-sitosterol Study Group. Lancet 1995;345(8964):1529-1532.
Dreikorn K, Schonhofer PS. [Status of phytotherapeutic drugs in treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia]. Urologe A 1995;34(2):119-129.
Fagelman E, Lowe FC. Herbal medications in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Urol Clin North Am 2002;29(1):23-9, vii.
Klippel KF, Hiltl DM, Schipp B. A multicentric, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of beta-sitosterol (phytosterol) for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. German BPH-Phyto Study group. Br J Urol 1997;80(3):427-432.
Lowe FC, Fagelman E. Phytotherapy in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Curr Opin Urol 2002;12(1):15-18.
Lowe FC. Phytotherapy in the management of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Urology 2001;58(6 Suppl 1):71-76.
Mills E, Foster BC, Heeswijk RV, et al. Impact of African herbal medicines on antiretroviral metabolism. AIDS 2005;19(1):95-97.
Musabayane CT, Xozwa K, Ojewole JA. Effects of Hypoxis hemerocallidea (Fisch. & C.A. Mey.) [Hypoxidaceae] corm (African Potato) aqueous extract on renal electrolyte and fluid handling in the rat. Ren Fail 2005;27(6):763-770.
Ojewole JA. Antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic properties of Hypoxis hemerocallidea Fisch. & C.A. Mey. (Hypoxidaceae) corm ['African Potato'] aqueous extract in mice and rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2006;103(1):126-134.
Risa J, Risa A, Adsersen A, et al. Screening of plants used in southern Africa for epilepsy and convulsions in the GABAA-benzodiazepine receptor assay. J Ethnopharmacol 2004;93(2-3):177-182.
Vahlensieck W, Jr. [With alpha blockers, finasteride and nettle root against benign prostatic hyperplasia. Which patients are helped by conservative therapy?]. MMW Fortschr Med 2002;144(16):33-36.
Wilt TJ, Ishani A, Rutks I, et al. Phytotherapy for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Public Health Nutr 2000;3(4A):459-472.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.