Sausage Tree

The benefits of the sausage tree are just becoming known in the U.S.

By now you are probably familiar with my writing here on NaturallyCurly. I’m the herbalist contributor who writes plant monographs on various medicinal botanicals and natural products used in hair and skin care which hold benefits specific to curly hair. I write about the familiar ingredients popping up in beauty products — ingredients like avocado, murumuru, acai, neroli and bitter orange tree.

I listen to you, the readers, to find out what you're seeing on the beauty shelves and what it is you seek to learn more about. At the same time, I have my own personal interests in botanicals from continental Africa — Earth-friendly products that are sustainable and that help communities economically.

Recently, a tree has come across my radar that is garnering attention on the international marketplace, especially in the UK. You might not have heard about it yet. This is a tree whose products are truly deserving of room on your health and beauty shelves. Meet Kigeli-Keia — also known as sausage or cucumber tree.

A truly fascinating specimen, sausage tree is a tropical species occurring in the eastern part of South Africa — for example, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and northwards as far as Tanzania. It is called Nufuten in Ghana, and grows on banks or close to rivers and large streams elsewhere in tropical Africa from Eritrea to Chad and west to Senegal. Many trees that grow near water are held in awe by traditional healers in various parts of Africa, the Caribbean and Americas as holding holistic healing potential. As we take this journey into the realm of Kigeli-Keia, it is important to note that the tree growing on this terrain shows exceptional healing potential.

Growth and Habit

Sausage Tree

Sausage tree blooms.

Sausage Tree

Sausage tree fruit.

The tree is fairly erect, not branching a great deal. Where it does branch, the tips of the branches remain very thick, giving it a somewhat stout appearance. The sausage tree is a deciduous fruit-bearer that sheds its leaves in late autumn or winter, depending on moisture. Flowers are a spectacular dark red. In spring, they open, living as long as two months. They are set in whorls of three on a central rachis.

Sausage-shaped fruit grows up to 10 centimeters in diameter. It is dull greenish-grey, hard and very heavy. Fruit hangs from a very long, sturdy stalk, and falls in March and April. The pod-like fruits remains on the ground many months.

Chemical Constituents

Kigeli-Keia offers a number of beneficial effects for kinky, curly and wavy hair. It is a natural conditioning treatment that deters eczema. Creams or pomades featuring high concentrations of this elixir minimize the rashes that arise from shaving the hair line, when wearing hair close-cropped yet curly.

Kigeli-Keia can be used to treat burns that come from chemical or heat straighteners of hair. It contains natural pain relievers. It can be useful for very tight braids, extensions, twists, knot styles — also on the shoulders and hands of the braider or stylist.

Scientists analyze the chemical constituents of the various tree parts and run tests to isolate the specific beneficial qualities of this tree’s constituents and to understand its lengthy use as an important traditional healer’s tree medicine. They have found it contains:

  • Napthaquinones (including kigelinone)
  • EFAs (including vernolic acid)
  • Courmarins (including kigelin)
  • Iridoids
  • Caffeic acid
  • Norviburtinal
  • Sterols (sitosterol and stigmasterol); Steroids have been used to treat skin disorders such as eczema
  • Flavonoids: luteolin and 6 hydroxluteiolin; have hygroscopic and fungicidal properties
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests skin cancer use and Kaposi sarcoma (an HIV-related skin ailment) treatment
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Anti-malarial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral
  • Traditional Black South African Uses

    South African people have a long history of using this tree to fight, treat, soothe, attract or deter:

  • Fungal infections
  • Skin treatment: eczema, psoriasis, boils
  • Serious skin ailments, such as leprosy
  • Ringworm and tapeworm
  • Post-partum hemorrhaging
  • Diabetes
  • Pneumonia
  • Toothache
  • Tonga women use it as a cosmetic against sun and anti-aging properties
  • Used to promote Aphrodisiac qualities
  • Fruit is used to ferment beer
  • Leaves are livestock fodder
  • Wild animal food: monkeys, parrots, baboons, elephants, etc.,
  • Treatment for piles (boiled roots, stem, and bark)
  • Against gonorrhea (decoction of bark)
  • Wash to treat rheumatism

Products Containing Kigeli-keia

A.E Hobbs Ltd. Shampoo

A.E. Hobbs Ltd. Scalp Application

BioBotanica Skin Care with Kigelia Extract

BioBotanica Sun Care with Kegelia Extract

Cellex-C Under Eye Toning Gel

Enriched Pure Olive Kegelia Body Silk Spritz

Kigelia Cream for Psoriasis, Eczema, Cancer Recovery

Kigelia Pure Gel for Acne, Eczema, Dermatitis


Stephanie Rose Bird is an artist and writer. She is the author of Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones: Hoodoo, Mojo & Conjuring with Herbs and Four Seasons of Mojo: An Herbal Guide to Natural Living.

She also hosts a Yahoo study and practice group based on her writing here.


Home page image by J.M. Garg.