FEVER TEA TREE (Lippia javanica)

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Zumbani (Sh), Umsuzwane (N)

When crushed, the leaves of the fever tea tree, locally known as zumbani, give off a strong lemon-like smell. It is said to be one of the most aromatic of Zimbabwe’s indigenous shrubs, related to the commonly used herb, lemon verbena.


Where it can be found:
The fever tea tree is widely distributed throughout Zimbabwe, in all Natural Regions. It is known to colonise disturbed areas, making it a pioneer plant.

Due to its popularity as a herbal tea in Southern Africa, the plant is being overharvested in some areas. The plant grows easily from seed and also takes from cuttings; therefore cultivation, rather than wild-harvesting, is encouraged. It is very hardy and can grow under difficult circumstances, requiring little maintenance. It prefers sunny areas. Zumbani can be included as part of hedges or windbreaks around vegetable gardens or on contour ridges between row crops. The strong scent of the leaves may help to repel garden pests.

What is harvested – Harvesting time:
Smallholder farmers harvest the leaves during a very short harvesting period, from March to May.

Average yield per collector:
An individual can produce up to 200kg of dry leaf material/year.

The plant possesses analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic and anti-bacterial activities.

  • Zumbani is caffeine-free and contains some amounts of vital minerals such as copper, zinc and iron.
  • It contains flavonoids and phenolic compounds which are water-soluble. These compounds possess antioxidant qualities, which are quite significantly higher than in rooibos tea.
  • Zumbani tea is exceptionally low in tannin (much lower than rooibos).

The leaves are made into refreshing lemon-flavoured tea that is used traditionally to treat coughs, colds, bronchial problems and to bring down fever, to treat dysentery and diarrhoea, rashes and headaches.

Zumbani is also used as a pesticide. The leaves may be cut and used to mulch vegetable beds to improve the soil and repel pests. The oil from the leaves repels fleas and ticks in cattle and mites in poultry. The leaves may also be used as bedding for poultry houses to repel external parasites. In South Africa the herb is grown commercially to produce oil for mosquito repelling candles. The leaves can also repel insects in wardrobes and cupboards, much like lavender.

Current formal local demand for dried leaves is growing. The opportunity for zumbani lies in its promotion as a (ice) tea, as herbal teas are fast gaining popularity. Estimated potential demand is around 100 tonnes/year on the local market and 1,000 tonnes/year on the export market.

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