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Herb of the month: Kinkeliba

My Magazine 2022/04
3 min
Kinkeliba (Combretum micranthum), also known as dutè and seh-haw - is a reddish-brown West African shrub that grows spontaneously in the lowlands of Senegal, Benin, Guinea and Gambia. Its leaves are often used in local traditional medicine to treat a long list of diseases, from fatigue to hepatitis, headaches and cancer. The drink from the leaves of the shrub has proven to be very effective against disorders of the digestive system and urinary tract due to its diuretic and disinfectant action. It has an anti-inflammatory effect, the leaf extract is even said to inhibit the growth of parasites that cause malaria, and it is also used to treat bacterial infections (Streptococcus, E. Coli).

Kinkeliba tea strengthens the liver as it stimulates the secretion of bile, which prevents the formation of gallstones and helps digestion.

However, we should not ignore the other healing effects of kinkeliba:

  • lowering blood pressure
  • fever reduction
  • cold and flu treatment
  • Diabetes treatment
  • respiratory diseases relief
  • skin rejuvenation

It is also used for sleep disorders, digestion, skin problems such as eczema and acne (due to anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties) and general recovery after illness.

In Burkina Faso and Mali, a dried leaf tea is used to treat bronchitis as well as chronic coughs during colds.

In Sudan and Burkina Faso, tea is used to treat fever, while in Niger, tea is also used as a bath to reduce fever and treat diarrhoea.

In Mali, leaf extract together with lime extract is prepared for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhoea and others.

As a spiritual bath, it can cleanse and offer spiritual protection from negative energy and entities.

In The Gambia and Guinea, Kinkeliba is called “bush tea” and is traditionally and very commonly drunk as herbal tea with or without sugar, even more often during the fasting month of Ramadan, as it promotes cleansing and strengthening of the body.

It relieves the heat cramps and is often given to pregnant women and women after delivery of the baby for cleansing and building the blood.

People also believe it’s good for fertility.


Preparation and usage:

Kinkeliba leaves - which are usually picked when they are still green and then air-dried - can be ingested in the form of tea. The leaves can only be poured with boiling water and soaked for 15 minutes, but they can also be boiled for 30 minutes (20 g of leaves per litre of water).

Serve the tea in a cup with a slice of lemon or lime for a delicious and refreshing herbal elixir. The tea has a unique taste that can be enriched with honey, fruit and other herbs of pleasant taste like mint (Nana) and hibiscus (Wonjo). Drink one to two cups of tea as a daily tonic. During detoxification or fasting, drink it more concentrated 3-4 times a day.

For a great tea, you can also re-boil the leaves up to 3 times, as this herb still releases its active ingredients each time.

The fresh leaves can also be used in preparing foods. After being pounded in a mortar, they are added to minced meat or fish together with spices to make delicious meat or fish balls and the herb brings out the additional flavour of the dish and provides medicinal nutrients.

The small branches are also cut from the bush, dried and used as chewing sticks for teeth cleaning.

You can also use the scrub to revitalize and strengthen dry, brittle and dull hair by pouring the Kinkeliba concoction over it during the last rinse.

This African bush is growing wildly everywhere in The Gambia, so it’s available for free if you are ready to go and gather it with some locals who know the plants.

For others, it is available at big markets like the one in Serrekunda, but also at almost every street vendor selling herbs.

So it’s very easily accessible and also very cheap as you can get quite a big bag of dried leaves for only 5 to 10 Dalasi (less than 20 cents). The price might get higher if you are a tourist, but that gives you an opportunity to negotiate or just accept this very low price and help the local sellers to earn just a little bit more for their work.

Do you want to try it or have you already?

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