RESURRECTION BUSH (Myrothamnus flabellifolia)

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Mupfandichimuka or mufahore (Sh), Umafavuke (N)

Resurrection bush is a woody shrub with tough branches. For most of the year it looks like an upright bundle of red-brownish sticks, usually no more than 50cm high. It is called resurrection bush for the speed with which apparently dead leaves revive when the rains come.

Tea is made from its leaves and twigs, traditionally to treat among other ailments colds, kidney problems, asthma, backaches and headaches.


Where it can be found:
The resurrection bush is very widespread in Zimbabwe. It is found only in shallow soil over rock, crevices and rocky hillsides where few other plants survive, in full sun, usually between 900-1,200m.

The plant can also be cultivated from the tiny seeds or from cuttings taken in spring. The plants are slow growing and should be kept in containers until they have reached 15cm in height, then placed in a sunny location.

What is harvested – Harvesting time:
Collection is done between May and September, after the rains. Harvesting can also be done during short dry spells in the wet season, when the plant has dehydrated.

For tea producers, the smaller twigs and dry leaves are collected. For essential oil production and ornamental use, longer (20cm), dry, leafy sticks are picked.

Average yield per collector:
Where abundant, 20-30 kg can be collected for the tea market in a day. Although a farmer can only harvest about 10 kg of good quality sticks per day, prices paid for these are higher.

A study comparing resurrection bush tea to rooibos tea found that resurrection bush tea has antioxidant properties comparable to rooibos. Resurrection bush tea is a rich source of phenolic compounds which act as antioxidants and strong inhibitors of the oxidative stress arising from exhaustion and other body reactions like phospholipid peroxidation (a leading factor in premature aging). It also contains arbutin, a potent antiseptic (also known to have skin-lightening activity).

Its essential oil exhibits strong antibacterial and antifungal activities.

The leaves are mostly used as a traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. Inhalation of smoke from burning leaves treats chest complaints and asthma. Decoctions (hot or iced tea) treat coughs, influenza, mastitis, backache, kidney disorders, haemorrhoids and abdominal pains, scurvy, menstrual pain, hypertension, halitosis and gingivitis.

The leaves may also be ground and used as a spice to flavour food.

Resurrection bush also has potential as an essential oil for use in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and perfume industry.

The plant is also used in flower arrangements and for other ornamental uses.

Informal trade in Zimbabwe is mostly through herbalists and across borders. The formal trade is to herbal tea processors, but is currently very small. With more awareness of the benefits of the tea, volumes could increase significantly. Export opportunities exist also, mostly for extract production for cosmetics. There is a small niche market in ornamentals: when water is added, a dry sprig turns green in a matter of minutes.

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