Yoruba names for herbs and plants – Nigerian medicine

Yoruba Medicine – History  The medical traditions of the Yoruba people of western Nigeria developed within a culture that deeply respects and venerates ancestors. The orishas, or gods of the Yoruba, were former ancestors such as Oduduwa, the legendary ancestor of all Yoruba people, and his son Ogun. Respect for family and ancestors is so deep that when Yoruba people die, they are buried under the floor of the family house. Their spirits remain with and protect the family.

The Yoruba believe that sickness is a whim or punishment of a specific god or ancestor, who must be identified and placated, or else is caused by witchcraft for which the appropriate countercharm must be employed. They developed a shamanistic medical tradition utilizing both herbalism (practiced by the onishegun, herbal healers) and divination (practiced by the balabwo, priests of the Ifa cult.)

Diagnosis in Yoruba Medicine

The balabwo uses both psychotherapeutic techniques in discussing the illness with the patient, also casts an oracle reading using the Ifa system revealed to the Yoruba by the trickster god Eshu Elegba. The oracular reading involves throwing a handful of 16 kola nuts from the right to the left hand, 16 times, after which the right hand is checked to see whether an odd or even number of kola nuts remains. The outcome of each set of 4 throws is marked in a sandtray with a single or double line. At the end of this process, the pattern left in the sand tray corresponds to one of the 256 verses of the Odu, which the balabwo interprets for the patient.

Because diseases may also be caused by witchcraft, curses, or a form of the evil eye, the balabwo also asks the patient questions about events that occurred in the patient’s life around the time that the illness began. Relevant information might include strained relations with family or neighbors who might have deliberately or unwittingly put a curse on the patient.

Treatments in Yoruba Medicine

yoruba medicine plants

The psychotherapeutic consultation with the balabwo is one part of the overall treatment. It has the effect of calming the patient and engendering a more positive frame of mind. The balabwo recommended that the patient take specific steps to cure the illness. By sacrificing to a particular god or ancestor, or procuring a specific charm to protect against a malicious spell. The balabwo also send the patient to the onishegun to purchase herbal remedies.

In treating diseases caused by angry gods, sacrifices may be made to the god in question, but special care must be taken not to make other gods jealous in the process. For example, it is often important to make an extra sacrifice to Eshu Elegba when sacrificing to another god, in recognition of the fact that Eshu Elegba is the messenger and mediator between the Yoruba and the gods, and also to prevent him from becoming jealous which would create further problems for the patient. The advice of the balabwo is essential to ensure that the correct procedures are followed.

Materia Medica and Important Texts in Yoruba

The important text of Yoruba medicine is the Odu, a collection of 256 verses which is the oracle consulted for diagnosis and treatment by the Ifa priests. The Odu was revealed to the Yoruba people by the god Eshu Elegba. Another important text is the Awakaiye, The Fruit of Universal Knowledge.

It should be noted that the Santeria tradition, which was brought to the Americas by African slaves, is descended from the Yoruba teachings.

yoruba medicine - yoruba name for medicinal plants

Some herbs in yoruba language

If you want to know others, just post a comment!

  • Fenugreek – ewedu in yoruba, hulba in Hausa
  • Hibiscus plant – Zobo
  • Tamarind – tsamia
  • Tumeric –  ata Ile pupa in Yoruba
  • Cayenne – Bawa
  • Chilli – Shombo in Yoruba
  • Black pepper – iyere in Yoruba, Oziza in igbo
  • Thorny pigweed/prickly amaranth – tete eleegun in yoruba
  • alternanthera nodiflora – Dagunro
  • Butryospermum paradoxum – Shea tree – Ori
  • Allium sativum -Garlic – Ayu in yoruba
  • Capsicum frutescens – Tabasco pepper – Ata-wewe
  • Lactuca capensis – Lettuce – Yanrin
  • Bryophyllum pinnatum – Air Plant, Life Plant, Miracle Leaf or Goethe Plant – Abamoda
  • Zingiber officinale – Ginger – Jinja, Atale in yoruba
  • Dioscorea dumetorum – Sweet Yam- Esuru
  • Enantia chloranta – Awopa
  • Khaya grandifoliola, K. senegalensis, K. ivorensis – Oganwo
  • Sphenocentrum jollyanum – Akerejupon
  • Olax subscorpioidea – Ifan, Ifon
  • Tetrapleura tetraptera – Aidan, Aridan
  • Lecaniodiscus cupanioides – Akika
  • Lippia multiflora – Efirin-gogoro, Efirin-oko
  • Jatropha curcas – Botuje, Lapalapa
  • Jatropha gossypifolia – cotton-leaf physicnut- Botuje pupa
  • Jatropha multifida – coral plant, physic nut or Guatemala rhubarb – Ogege
  • Cymbopogon citratus – lemon grass- Kooko-oba
  • Pterocarpus erinaceus – Apepo, Agbelosun
  • Pterocarpus osun – Osun
  • Pterocarpus santalinioides – Gbengbe
  • Catharanthus roseus -Madagascar rosy periwinkle – Apabida pupa
  • Carica papaya – Papaya – Ibepe
  • Dioclea scandens – Dasa
  • Dioclea reflexa – Agbarin, Epe, Arin

Yoruba Names for plants

  • Lawsonia inermis – Henna plant – Laali, Lali
  • Ficus exasperata -Ficus Tree – Epin
  • Ficus asperifolia – Ipin
  • Ficus capensis – Opoto
  • Ficus elegans – Asoro
  • Ficus mucuso – Odan-afomo
  • Ficus thoningii – Odan-abaa
  • Ficus vallis-choudae – Ogunro
  • Vernonia amygdalina – Ewuro
  • Phyllanthus amarus – stonebreaker or seed-under-leaf- Eyin-olobe
  • Mucuna sloanei – Werepe
  • Mucuna pruriens – Ewe-ina, Yerepe
  • Alstonia congensis – Ahun
  • Mangifera indica – Mango – Mangoro in yoruba
  • Nauclea latifolia – Egbesi
  • Sorghum bicolor – Poroporo okababa
  • Senna fistula – Aidantoro
  • Erythophleum suaveolens – Erun obo, Olu-obo
  • Ocimum gratissimum – Clove Basil- Efirin
  • Telfaria occidentalis – Fluted gourd – Ugwu
  • Zanthoxylum zanthoxyloides – Senegal prickly-ash or artar root – Orin ata
  • Acalypha wilkesiana – Jiwini, Ewe larapupa
  • Sida cordifolia – flannel weed – Iso-obo
  • Sida pilosa – Eesinle
  • Sida rhombifolia – Iseketu pupa
  • Thaumatococcus danielli – Ewe moi-moi
  • Azadirachta indica – Neem, Nimtree or Indian Lilac – Dongoyaro
  • Aloe vera – Ahon-erin
  • Aloe barteri – Eti-erin, Ida-egun, Ida-orisa
  • Garcinia kola – bitter kola – Orogbo
  • Ageratum conyzoides – Billygoat-weed, Chick weed, Goatweed, Whiteweed – Imi-esu
  • Abelmoschus esculentus – Okra- Ila
  • Abrus precatorius -jequirity, Crab’s eye, rosary pea, precatory pea or bean, John Crow Bead, Indian licorice – Oju-ologbo
  • Abutilon mauritianum – Furu
  • Acacia ataxacantha – Ihun, Ewon adele
  • Acacia nilotica – Baani, Booni
  • Acanthospermum hispidum – Bristly starbur, Goat’s head, Hispid starburr – Dagunro
  • Acanthus montanus – Bear’s Breech or Mountain Thistle – Ahon-ekun, Irunmu arugbo
  • Adansonia digitata – baobab – Ose
  • Aerva lanata – mountain knotgrass – Efun-ile
  • Aframomum melegueta – Grains of Paradise – Atare
  • Alafia barteri – Agbari etu
  • Allium ascalonicum – The shallot – Alubosa elewe, alubosa onisu

Different plants

  • Alchornea cordifolia – Ipa
  • Caesalpinia pulcherima – Barbados pride, dwarf poinciana, Barbados flower-fence – Eko-omode
  • Afzelia africana – Afzelia, Lenke, Lengue, or Doussi – Apa-igbo
  • Alternanthera sessilis – sessile joyweed or dwarf copperleaf – Reku-reku
  • Anacardium occidentale – Cashew – Kasu
  • Anthocleista djalonensis, Anthocleista liebrechtsiana – Sapo, Shapo
  • Arachis hypogea – peanut, or groundnut – Epa
  • Bambusa vulgaris – Golden Bamboo, or Buddha’s Belly Bamboo – Oparun
  • Baphia nitida – African sandalwood – Osun, Irosun
  • Allanblackia floribunda – tallow tree – Eku, Eso roro
  • Byrsocarpus coccineus – Amuje wewe
  • Calendula officinalis – pot marigold – Ododo-Maria in yoruba
  • Calotropis procera – Sodom apple – Bomubomu
  • Canarium schweinfurthii – African elemi or canarium – Paapo, Origbo
  • Canavalia ensiformis – jack bean – Sese-nla
  • Carapa procera – Carapa – Abo-oganwo
  • Cardiospermum halicacabum – balloon plant or love in a puff – Shaworo
  • Celastrus indica – Ponju-owiwi
  • Ceiba pentandra – Araba
  • Cissampelos owariensis – Ewe jokoje
  • Chromolaena odorata – Siam weed – Akintola, Awolowo
  • Tetracarpidium conophorum – Nigerian walnut – Awusa, Asala
  • Vernonia colorata – Ironweed – Eriro-Ijebu
  • Xylopia aethiopica – Eeru, Erunje
  • Tridax procumbens – Igbalode, Muwagun
  • Waltheria indica – Ewe-epo
  • Vitex doniana – Oori-nla
  • Uvaria chamae – finger root or bush banana – Eruju
  • Viscum album – mistletoe- Afomo in yoruba
  • Uvaria afzelii – Gbongbose, Anikan wogba-arun
  • Urena lobata – Ilasa-agborin, Ilasa-omode
  • Uraria picta – Alupayida
  • Voacanga africana – Ako-dodo
  • Argemone mexicana – Mexican poppy, Mexican prickly poppy, Flowering thistle, cardo or cardosanto – Egun arugbo, Ekan-ekun
  • Artocarpus altilis – Berefurutu
  • Boerhaavia diffusa – punarnava – Etiponla, Olowojeja
  • Borreria verticillata – Irawo ile
  • Carpolobia lutea – Osunsun
  • Citrullus colocynthis – colocynth, bitter apple, bitter cucumber, desert gourd, egusi, or vine of Sodom – Egusi-baara
  • Citrus aurantium – Bitter orange, Seville orange, sour orange, bigarade orange, or marmalade orange – Osan
  • Aspilia africana – Yunyun
  • Nicotiana tabacum – Ewe taba

Source: An Ethnobotanical Survey of Herbal Markets and Medicinal Plants in Lagos State of Nigeria (PDF) of yoruba names for herbs and plants.

Bibliography:

  • Maclean, Una. Magical Medicine: A Nigerian Case Study. London: Penguin Books, 1977.

Some other plants:

  1. Transvaal alchornea – yoruba: ijandu, ijandudu, gbaluwo, ijan pupa, sewo sese pepe, ijan, ijan funfun, pepe
  2. Christmas bush – yoruba: isin, ipa, epa, esin, asiyin, esin abata
  3. Yellow siris, yellow bean – yoruba: ayinreta, ayinre popo, ayunre, akudinrin, alota
  4. Lebbeck tree, siris tree, white siris tree, bastard lebbeck, tall albizia, white siris – Yoruba: ayinreta; Edo: ekpaghudo; Igbo: nyie avu
  5. Flat Crown – yoruba: ayinre, ayinre isingede, ayinre ogo
  6. Black currant tree – yoruba: aduigbo, asofeyeje, olowuko, yanya holo
  7. Tassel berry – yoruba: aponlojusese, aroro
    White mahogany – yoruba: ifa okete
  8. Kola nut – yoruba: obi-abata, ogungun
    Zulu coshwood, vanquisher – yoruba: atewu-edun, orodo, ofun, fomu, obi-edun
  9. Job’s tears, gromwell-read, pearl barley – yoruba: obi, obi ifin, obi pupa, obi abata
  10. African mahogany, counterwood – Yoruba : apa, ako apa, apa igbo
  11. Pond apple – afe
  12. Soursop, prickly custard apple : eko oyibo, eko omode
  13. Wild custard apple, custard apple – abo, arere, afon
  14. Silk tree albizia, mimosa, mimosa tree, silk tree, silk sirirs, Persian acacia, pik siris tree – ayinre, ayinreye
  15. Pattern wood, alstonia – atikekereheyin, dagunro kekere
  16. Scrub ironbark, grey birch – ira odan, ira, iralodan
  17. Coastal goldenleaf, coast goldleaf – asaragba, asa gidi, aarasa, ira, fonu fonu
  18. Blighia konig sapindaceae, akee apple – isin odo, isin jise, isin oka, isin odan
  19. Triangle tops, Phialodiscus unijugatus, P. plurijugaturs, P. zambesiacus – isin ako, ako isin, odofin ile, akoisin
  20. Star apple – osan agbalumo, osan olomo wewe, onidosan, agbalumo olomo
  21. Satin leaf, Damson plum – osan edun, osan palambi, osanko
  22. Upas tree, antiaris – oriro, oro, oro efun, abori kefun, awase, oriro omo oluugbo
  23. Alligator weed – sawewe
  24. Sessile joyweed, sessile floweres globe amaranth – ewaowo, awo crede, moni roderode, sajeje

Source – CRC World Dictionary of Plants Names – Umberto Quattrocchi

  • leaves of Senecio biafrae – worowo in Yoruba
  • fermented seeds of Parkia biglobosa, African locust beans in English, Igba/Iyere in Yoruba
  • leaves of Talinum triangulare (water leaf) or Basella alba, Indian spinach in English, Amunututu in Yoruba
  • West African black pepper/Ashanti pepper (Piper guineense, Uziza in Igbo and Ata iyere in Yoruba
  • Phyllanthus amarus – ehin olobe or eyin olobe in Yoruba
  • Celosia argentea – soko (yoruba)
  • Launaea taraxacifolia – African lettuce, wild lettuce – efo yanrin.
  • Xanthosoa poeppigii – ewe koko
  • Citrus aurantiifolia – osanwene
  • Anacardium occidentale – kasu
  • Vernonia amygdalina Delile – ewuroaja
  • Bridelia ferruginea benth – ira
  • Physic nut, termite plant, Barbados nut, fig nut – eto-mkpo
  • Monodora myristica – abo lakoshe, arigho, eyinaghose
  • Lawsonia inermis – henna, cypress shrub, egyptian privet, alkanna – laali in Yoruba, uhie inine in Igbo.
  • Hybanthus Enneasprmus – abiwere in Yoruba Usolala-ocha in Igbo.
  • Asparagus africanus – aluki, kadankobe
  • Syzygium aromaticum – Clove – konofuru
  • Holarrhena Floribunda – Holarrhenna – Ako-ire, are-ibeji, areno, isai
  • Alstonia Boonei – awun
  • Shea butter tree – emi, emi-egidi
  • Guava – guafa
  • Solanum incanum L. – Bitter apple – ikan
  • Brimstone tree – oruwo, owuru
  • Garlic – Allium sativum – ayu

Plant names from Yoruba

  • Morinda lucida – Oruwo
  • Enantia chlorantha – Awopa
  • Alstonia boonei – Ahun
  • Gossypium barbadense – cotton seed – Owu
  • Alstonia boonei – Stool wood – Ahun
  • Cymbopogon citratus – lemon grass – Ewe tea, Oko oba
  • Carica papaya – pawpaw – Ibepe
  • persea americana – avocado pear – Pia
  • Hymenostegia – ikun
  • Emilia coccineus – Scarlet tassel flower – odundun-odo
  • Peperomia pellucida – Silver bush – Renren
  • Elaeis guineesis – Red oil palm – Ekuro
  • Vitex grandifolia – Stool wood – Oori
  • Bryophyllum pinnatum – Life plant – Abamoda
  • Cajanus cajan – Pigeon Pea – Otiili
  • Vernonia amygdalina – Bitter leaf – Ewuro
  • Nicotiana tabacum – Virginia tobacco – Ewe taba
  • Allium ascalonicum – Onion – alubosa gambari, alubosa keta, elubasa
  • Garcinia kola – Bitter kola – Orogbo
  • Citrus aurantifolia – Lime – Osan wewe
  • Citrus paradise – Grape – Osan nla
  • Amaranthus spinosa – spiny amaranth – Tete elegun
  • Amaranthus viridis – slender amaranth – tete- abalaye
  • Bryophyllum pinnatum – mother of millions – Odundun Abamoda
  • Calotropis procera – milkweed – Bomubomu
  • Heliotropium indicum – scorpion weed – Ogbe ori akuko, Agogo igun
  • Kalanchoe crenata – Eti eleti
  • Manihot esculenta – cassava, tapioca, manioc, yucca – Gbaguda, Ege
  • Momordica charantia – bitter melon, bitter gourd, balsam pear – Ejinrin were
  • Ananas comosus – Pineapple – Ope-oyinbo
  • Ocimum basilicum – Basil – Efinrin wewe, ofen, eferi, efinrin aruntantan, efinrin ata, efinrin marugbosanyan, efinrin aja
  • Basil plant – Nchanwu in igbo
  • Ricinus communis – Castor oil plant – lava pupa, Laa funfun
  • Bambusa vulgaris – bamboo – oparun
  • Anacardium occidentale – cashew nut tree – Kausu
  • Cucuma doonestica valeton cucuma longe – turmeric – atale, atale pupa
  • Verbena – Verbena officinalisVerbena – Ewe Orukan, Yemaya.
  • Parsley – Petroselinum crispum – Isako, Oshun
  • Sage -Salvia officinalis – Kiriwi, Babaluaye, Obatala.
  • Purslane, Pigweed, Little Hogweed – Portulaca oleracea – Gbure.
  • Spinach – Spinacia oleracea – Obedo, Ewe tutu, Ede.
  • Anise – Pimpinella anisum – Eweise, Ochiosi, Azowano.

Medicine plants with Yoruba Names

  • Sweet potato – oduku, anamo, edumsi, kukundunkun
  • Colocasia esculenta – taro, dasheen – ikoko, kok, isu koko, koko, koko funfun
  • Canna indica – edible canna – ido, okun
  • Cyper esculentus – chufa, rushnut, earth almond – ofio, ofio omu, imumu ofio omu, erunsha
  • Dioscorea alata – water yam, common yam – ewura duduku, kiamfa, arunfanfan, atti, egbodo
  • Dioscorea bulbifera – potato yam, aerial yam – emina, guite sinde, guite sode, aparia isu, emina esi,
  • Dioscorea cayenensis – yellow yam, negro yam – pansaga, agandan, aginipa, apepe, igangan
  • Dioscorea dumetorum – Bitter yam – itakun isu
  • Dioscorea esculenta – lesser yam – isu alubosa
  • Musa paradisiaca – plantain – (banana fruit) ogede agbagba
  • Zea mays – sweet corn – agbado
  • Centella asiatica – asiatic pennywort, wild violet – ewe karo
  • Crassocephalum crepidioides – hawksbeard velvetplant – ebolo, efodu, egusi
  • Opuntia ficus-indica – prickly-pear, Indian fig – oro agogo
  • Cucurbita pepo – summer squash, courgette, zucchini, marrow, pumpkin – elegbe, elegede, apala
  • Lagenaria siceraria – bottle gourd,calabash gourd, white flowered gourd, white pumpkin – igba
  • Luffa aegyptiaca – smooth loofah, discloth gourd, sponge gourd, vegetable sponde – run, erun kaankan
  • Telfairia occidentalis – fluted gourd – egusi, iroko
  • Trrichosanthes cucumerina – snake gourd – tomato elejo
  • Arachis hypogaea – peanut, grouns nut, pea nut, chinese almond – egpa, epa gidi, ogodsia
  • Cajanus cajan – pigeon pea, cajan pea, Conge pea, yellow dhal, cajan pea – otili, otimi
  • Canavalia ensiformis – jack bean, horse bean – papanla, popondo, poponla
  • Lablab purpureus – hyacinth bean, lubia bean, Indian bean – awuje
  • Mucuna prurins – velvet bean, buffalo bean – werekpe, esin, esinfunfun, esise, ewe ina, here, wepe, werepe, yerepe
  • Solanum melongena, eggplant – Igba aja

Visit this 2 articles for some more Yoruba plant names

Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants – Yoruba Names

World Dictionary of Grasses  – Yoruba Grass Name

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