Vachellia karroo (Acacia karroo) (Soetdoring, Sweet Thron, umuNga) is the most common and widespread thorn tree (Acacia) in southern Africa. It has a wealth of medicinal uses for people and animals and it is also used magically. The gum is edible.
Ethno Medicinal Uses of Vachellia karroo (Acacia karroo)
Administered to people: The Zulus make an astringent medicine from the bark. The Sotho use crushed roots mixed in food for infants with colic. Ground bark infusions are used for stomach ache in Transkei.
Gum exudates, bark and leaves are used in various parts of southern Africa as emollients (a preparation that softens the skin.) and astringents (binding action on mucous membranes and exposed tissues) and for colds, ophthalmia (inflammation of the eye), diarrhoea, dysentery (a type of gastroenteritis that results in diarrhoea with blood), haemorrhage (an escape of blood from a ruptured blood vessel).
Gum is reported to be used with Capsicum fruit and strong vinegar in a plaster applied to acute osteomyelitis (an infection of the bone). It is also used as a drawing agent for abscesses and splinters and for thrush and sprue in the mouth.
The Vhavenda use the bark for many ailments and as an emetic and coagulant, while the thorns are used for heart pains. In Zimbabwe, roots are used for general body pains, dizziness, convulsions, venereal disease and as aphrodisiacs.
Administered to animals: The Vhavenda use the bark for tulp poisoning in cattle. In Zimbabwe, roots are used to kill parasites in fowl runs.
Applied in a magical sense: The Zulus take bark decoctions as emetics for ailments believed to be caused by sorcery. The Vhavenda use the thorns for magical purposes.
Edible: Children use the gum produced during the summer as a sweet. The seed is used as a coffee substitute. (Fox and Norwood Young)
Other uses: Bark has been used for tanning hides.
Vachellia karroo can flower up to 6 times a year depending on the rain. It is a host to various butterflies and attracts a multitude of insects. Vachellia karroo also attracts bushbabies that eat the gum. The roots are nitrogen fixers which make this tree ideal for planting on disturbed and poor soils. (Wildflower Nursery)
Vachellia karroo is the most widespread thorn tree (acacia) in southern Africa and it is found in a diverse range of habitats, including dry thornveld, river valley scrub, bushveld, woodland, grassland, coastal dunes and coastal scrub in all nine provinces, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland and also in Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi. (Fox and Norwood Young)
This monograph contains details of Vachellia karroo as per the references cited below. If you can provide any additional information, photos or reliable use records, or spot any errors, please leave a comment below or in The Muthi Flora of southern Africa Facebook group.
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.
Fox, F.W., Norwood Young, M.E. (1982). Food From The Veld. Edible Wild Plants of southern Africa. Delta Books, Craighall, South Africa.
Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G., Cunnigham, A.B., (1996). Zulu Medicinal Plants: an inventory. University of Natal
Wildflower Nursery – https://wildflowernursery.co.za/indigenous-plant-database/acacia-karroo/. Accessed on 2020/01/13