A condensed Cotyledon orbiculata monograph, including its known uses in traditional medicine and its botanical information.
Side note: This is the only details the references cited below have about Cotyledon orbiculata. If you can provide any additional information, photos or reliable records, please leave a comment below or in The Muthi Flora of southern Africa Facebook group.
Traditional Medicinal Uses of Cotyledon orbiculata
Indications: Decoctions are administered as enemas for syphilis. Warmed leaf sap is used for toothache and earache and warmed leaf poultices are applied to boils and other inflammations. Leaves are applied to warts and to hard corns, which then become soft enough to be peeled off. The fresh leaf juice has been used in the treatment of epilepsy.
Magical and Charm Use: Used by the Sotho as a charm.
Caution: Causes krimpsiekte poisoning in sheep and goats. This is accompanied by bloating, trembling of the muscles, convulsions, extreme weakness, and sometimes paralysis which may last for weeks. The poisoning is sometimes fatal.
Genus: The genus name Cotyledon comes from the Greek word kotyledon that means cup-shaped hollow, which refers to the leaves of some species. The species name orbiculata comes from the Latin word meaning round circle.
The name pig’s ears is derived from the oval shape of the grey-green leaves of some forms, which are very variable with red or pale margins.
The genus Cotyledon consists of 10 species in South Africa. Other cotyledons used in traditional medicine are Cotyledon barbeyi, Cotyledon orbiculata var. flanaganii, Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga, Cotyledon orbiculata var. orbiculata.
Family: Crassulaceae. The Crassula family. Succulent leaves. Flowers with 3 – 5 separate carpels.
Life Cycle: Perennial
Morphology: Succulent shrub to 1 m. Leaves obovate to narrowly ovoid, sometimes velvety, with a grey bloom. Flowers several in a stout, pedunculate cyme, nodding, reddish, filaments hairy below.
Habitat: Cotyledon orbiculata is widespread throughout South Africa, but is usually confined to rocky outcrops in grassland, fynbos and karoo regions. Prefers sandy or stony soils in scrub (among bushes).
Arnold. T.H., Prentice, C.A., Hawker, L.C., Snyman, E.E., Tomalin, M., Crouch, N.R. and Pottas-Bircher, C. (2002). Medicinal and magical plants of southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 13. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G., Cunnigham, A.B., (1996). Zulu Medicinal Plants: an inventory. University of Natal
Germizhuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds) 2003. Plants of southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 14. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
e-Flora of South Africa. v1.21. 2018. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.