Updated: May 29, 2022

Elephant plant, or Portulacaria afra, is a versatile plant that has a long history of use in traditional medicine and cuisine. It is native to South Africa, but has become popular throughout the world due to its unique properties and ease of care. In this article, we will explore the many uses of elephant plant and why it has become such a popular choice for gardeners and herbalists alike.

Medicinal Uses

One of the primary uses of elephant plant is in traditional medicine. The plant has been used for centuries by indigenous healers to treat a variety of ailments, from coughs and colds to digestive problems and skin conditions. The leaves of the plant are rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, which make them effective at fighting free radicals and reducing inflammation in the body.

Some of the most common medicinal uses of elephant plant include:

  • Digestive aid: Elephant plant can be used to soothe upset stomachs and improve digestion. The plant’s leaves contain enzymes that help break down food more effectively, reducing bloating and gas.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Elephant plant has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce pain and swelling caused by arthritis, gout, or other inflammatory conditions.
  • Immune booster: The antioxidants found in elephant plant may help support a healthy immune system by neutralizing harmful free radicals that can damage cells.

Culinary Uses

In addition to its medicinal properties, elephant plant is also commonly used in cuisine. The leaves of the plant have a slightly sour taste and can be used as a substitute for lemon juice or vinegar in recipes. They can also be eaten raw or cooked and are often added to soups or stews for flavor.

Here are some ways you can use elephant plant in your cooking:

  • Add chopped leaves to salads or sandwiches for a tangy flavor.
  • Use elephant plant leaves to make a pesto or salad dressing.
  • Add elephant plant to soups or stews for a sour taste.

Ornamental Uses

Elephant plant is also a popular choice for gardeners and landscapers. The plant is easy to grow and care for, making it a great choice for beginners. It can be grown as a small shrub or trained to grow as a bonsai tree, depending on your preference.

Here are some ways you can use elephant plant in your garden:

  • Grow elephant plant in containers on your porch or patio.
  • Use elephant plant as a ground cover in your garden.
  • Train elephant plant to grow as a bonsai tree.


Is elephant plant safe to eat?

Yes, elephant plant is safe to eat in small quantities. However, it should not be consumed in large amounts as it may cause digestive upset.

How often should I water my elephant plant?

Elephant plant prefers well-draining soil and should be watered thoroughly when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Be careful not to overwater as this can lead to root rot.

Can I propagate elephant plant?

Yes, elephant plant can be propagated from stem cuttings. Simply take a 4-6 inch cutting from the end of a stem and remove the lower leaves. Place the cutting in soil and keep it moist until roots form.

In conclusion, elephant plant is a versatile and useful plant that can be used for many purposes. Whether you are looking for a natural remedy for an ailment, a unique ingredient for your cooking, or an attractive addition to your garden, elephant plant is definitely worth considering.