Spiral Ginger Plant: Discover its Medicinal Uses (Ginger lily | Costus afer) – A Comprehensive Guide

Costus afer medicinal uses

Costus afer


  • English: Spiral Ginger; Ginger Lily; White Spiral Costus; Bush Cane; Twisted Ginger; Common Ginger Lily; Monkey Sugar Cane;
  • France: Costus; Gingembre Spirale;
  • Portuguese: Fia ipqueté;
  • Senegal: belêgôfódô; gugali; tigugal; bomay; bumay; yumay karêg; timbiyâba; bira kurubafira;
  • The Gambia: bumay;
  • Guinea-Bissau: gògódje-súto; rum-rum;
  • Guinea: bira kurubafira;
  • Sierra Leone: sayina-lε ;sawa; siaŋdẽ; tofa; hσvai; kumbε; timba; tumba; hσwa; sinkoinye; timbanyi; khεmu-na; a-sul the cane; an-tap; tσfa;
  • Ivory Coast: sumé; leussin; sungho; doï; dodré; don; zazaboto; yaya; kogbèhun; koyéyé; loko yaya;
  • Ghana: sommε; asumbeε; εnyanε;
  • Togo: bomire;
  • Nigeria: úkhúerúohā; ḿbrítéḿ; kákiì-zuwaà; kákiì-zúwaà-Háusá; ókpètè; Ókpètè; ọ́kètè; ókpòtò; ókpìtì; ópètè; ópòtò; éré ógbódó; andura; achikku; atare tẹ̀tẹ̀-ẹ̀gú;

Plant Information – Growth, Importance

Spiral Ginger plant is an unbranched evergreen perennial that grows up to  3m – 4m in height. This rhizomatous herbal plant has Smooth velvety greenish color leaves have and lanceolate in shape. Leaves arranged spirally around the stem, long up to 15cm  -25cm & 4cm -7 cm wide & apex acuminate, margin sparsely hairy. Leaves are edible and acid flavor rhizomes use add as flavor or spice.

Spiral Ginger or Costus afer bears white (outer), yellowish pink tubular-shaped bisexual flowers. Flowers attached to conical spike around 3cm – 8cm long. Ellipsoid capsule-shaped Fruit contains a lot of black color seeds that cover from white color aril.

Costus afer widely distributed in African countries like Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Angola, Ethiopia, Tanzania (Omokhua, 2011). This plant is found in shaded/ moist areas in secondary forests or the forest edge. Grow well elevation up to 1400 meters.

As well as harvesting from the wild, some people like to grow them in their home garden. For growing Spiral Ginger preferred moist well-drained soil as well as full shade, though it grows well in any shade condition.


From the 70 species of Costus genus, Costus afer and Costus lucanusianus show some bit similar two varieties that somewhat difficult to understand. Apart from its vast medicinal uses Spiral Ginger plant stem (Strips) use to make decorative items like table mats, buckets, sap use to coagulate latex, and as an ingredient to nourishing cream.

Medicinal Uses

Spiral Ginger or Ginger lily is widely used in tropical Africa and a few other countries to treating numerous diseases.

Mainly stem takes for diseases from many forms. Including stem sap help to treat jaundice to avoid miscarriage and apply for skin diseases. The stem shows diuretic properties and uses for venereal diseases & urethral discharges.Also, people chewing debarked stem as a remedy to nausea and cough, stem powder to eliminate worms, and for hemorrhoids. The dried stem can be smoke to treat cough.

Leaf Sap drops to eyes for eye infections and inhales or insert drops for headaches. Some people drink the leaf sap as an ethnomedicinal treatment for malaria. Ginger lily leaf sap is also used treat to fever, constipation, edema, stomach-ache. Boiled leave gets for syphilis.

The rhizome of Spiral Ginger pulp help to relieve toothache, skin problems like abscesses & ulcers, and inflammation. Rhizome paste adds after water drink for diarrhea and dysentery. Furthermore, a decoction prepared by rhizome is used as medicine for leprosy, venereal diseases, stomach-ache, malaria.

An infusion made from flowers used to tachycardia and dried aerial parts adds as a tea for hypertension. It also works as a stimulant for the body.

According (Boison et al., 2019) to Spiral Ginger stem, rhizome leaf, have hepatoprotective, antihyperglycemic, nephroprotective, cardioprotection, analgesic, antioxidant and anti-inflammation , and other pharmacological activities.


Boison, D., Adinortey, C. A., Babanyinah, G. K., Quasie, O., Agbeko, R., Wiabo-Asabil, G. K., & Adinortey, M. B. (2019). Costus afer: A Systematic Review of Evidence-Based Data in support of Its Medicinal Relevance. Scientifica, 2019.

Omokhua, G. (2011). Medicinal and socio-cultural importance of Costus afer (Ker Grawl) in Nigeria. African research review, 5(5), 282-287.

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