The medicinal power of strophanthus

There are 38 species of Strophantus and all of these species come from Africa and Asia. The strophantus kombe only grows in East Africa. In terms of growing places, it prefers forest lands, a kind of cross between forest and steppe, on the edges of forests and near water. It grows both at sea level and an altitude of 1100 meters. Strophantus kombe is a shrub that can grow to a height of about 3.5 meters. In the past, strophantus kombe was used to make a poison that was put on arrows. Today this plant is the basis of a natural heart medicine. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing strophanthus kombe / Source: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • Discovery of stophantus
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Strophantus, good for the heart
  • Dose and safety
  • Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Discovery of stophantus

In the 19th century, researcher Sir John Kirk was collecting some strophantus kombe species to take back to England for the world famous royal botanical garden called Kew. The story goes that a drop of juice from the strophantus kombe ended up on his toothbrush. After brushing his teeth, he noticed that his heart rate decreased; this is how the effects on the heart of strophantus kombe were discovered.


In Latin, strophanthus is called strophanthus kombe . In addition to the name strophanthus, Dutch also has the name strofantus, because a ‘PH’ in Dutch is almost always converted to an ‘F’. The name strophantus is a combination of strophos, which means ‘rope’ in Greek, and anthos, the Greek name for ‘flower’. The flowers have a kind of thread-like sepals. Instead of strophantus kombe, strophantus hispidus is also used for the same medicinal purposes.

Active substances

The seed of strophanthus is used for phytotherapeutic purposes. It contains the following important active ingredients: cardenolide glycosides. These are potentially toxic substances and therefore you should only use strophantus on the prescription of a doctor.

Strophantus, good for the heart

Strophantus has a mild heart-supporting effect. Strophantine is extracted from strophantus, which is injected intravenously; that has a very strong effect on the heart. Strophanthus is often used together with other medicinal plants that have a relaxing effect on the blood vessel system around the heart, the coronary arteries. These medicinal plants are: valerian, lily of the valley and belladonna.

Dose and safety

There are a number of ways to use this medicinal plant.

  • Tincture: 100 to 200 mg of the tincture two to four times a day.
  • Tincture: five to twelve drops of a 1:10 tincture divided over a day.

Although use at these therapeutic amounts is safe and effective, it is almost no longer used. If you do use it, it is important to only use a standardized preparation prescribed by a doctor. Strophantine glycosides are digested quickly; therefore there is no danger of accumulation. This means that unlike the use of other cardiac glycosides, strophantus cardiac glycosides cannot accumulate in the body. There is no risk of overdose as long as you maintain the above doses.

Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Much of the information about the medicinal plant mentioned in this article comes from the book Groot Handboek Medicinal Plants by Geert Verhelst. That is a handbook in phytotherapy. However, it is not suitable for self-healing. Anyone who suffers from something should consult a doctor or herbal therapist for a good diagnosis and choice of the best remedies, tailored to your personal situation. The knowledge and science mentioned here is of a purely informative nature.