Herb: Sorghum

Latin name: Sorghum bicolor

Synonyms: Andropogon sorghum, Holcus bicolor, Holcus sorghum, Sorghum saccharatum, Sorghum vulgare

Family: Gramineae (Grass Family)

Medicinal use of Sorghum:

The decoction of the seed is demulcent and diuretic. It is used in the treatment of kidney and urinary complaints. The inflorescence is astringent and haemostatic.

Description of the plant:


5 m
(16 feet)

August to

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Edible parts of Sorghum:

Seed - raw or cooked. It is used as a whole grain in similar ways to rice or can be ground into a flour and made into bread etc. The ground seed yields a particularly white flour. Sorghum is a staple food in some regions, where it is often fermented (lactic acid fermentation) before being eaten. The sprouted seed can be eaten raw, and is sometimes added to salads. Sap - raw or cooked. Very sweet, it is made into a syrup. Stems - cooked. Some caution is advised here, there are some reports that the leaves can contain the poison cyanide.

Other uses of the herb:

The flowering panicles are used as brushes brooms and whisks etc. Stems are used for weaving fences, mats, wattle houses etc. The plant is an excellent source of biomass.

Propagation of Sorghum:

Seed - sow April in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. Germination should take place within 2 weeks if given a minimum germination temperature of 23C. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and plant them out after the last expected frosts. Consider giving them some protection, such as a cloche, until they are growing away strongly.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Known hazards of Sorghum bicolor:

The immature plant is poisonous, especially if slightly wilted, since it can contain the toxins hydrogen cyanide and the alkaloid hordenine. These substances are destroyed if the plant is dried or made into silage. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.