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12. Health benefits of zumbani

Zumbani also called umsuzwane/ mosukudu/ Lippia javanica/ fever tree/ lemon bush is a herbal plant found in Eastern, Southern and Central Africa. The herb is also common in the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the most beneficial African herbs. And its popularity increased greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because of its traditional uses in herbal remedies for respiratory problems. In addition, regular consumption of the plant is associated with health benefits. Here are the health benefits of zumbani.

For more information on zumbani/umsuzwane/ Lippia javanica medicinal uses also read: Zumbani medicinal uses: Traditional medicinal uses of Zumbani

Also read: 13. Most healthy African spices with amazing medicinal benefits

Health benefits of zumbani

Zumbani health benefits: anti-cancer, antiplasmodial, antituberculosis, antimalarial, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, immune boosting, antioxidant, antiinflammatory, antiashmatic, antidiabetic
Zumbani health benefits

1. Anti-cancer properties

Studies show that zumbani has anti-cancer properties. The root extract has anticancer activities on human cancer cells. This extract has anti-cancer properties against 3 proven cell lines. This includes 2 breast cancer cell lines and a single melanoma cell line.

Several terpenoids extracted from Lippia javanica were shown to have anticancer properties. Linalool is one of these terpenoid compounds. It has proven anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.  The terpenoid also has liver toxicity protective effects.

Another compound extracted from zumbani is limonene. Limonene inhibits the growth of pancreatic and mammary tumours.

Alpha pinene is another compound present in umsuzwane. It inhibits cell division in cancer cells.

2. Antidiabetic effects

Aqueous extracts of zumbani can lower blood sugar levels. Flavonoids present in the herb have insulin mimicking properties. As a result, they can lower blood sugar levels in an insulin-like manner.

A study by Akari and partners shows that the plant has glucose-lowering effects. Oral intake of zumbani can help lower your blood glucose levels. It is believed flavonoids present in zumbani are responsible for this effect. Some flavonols induce lipid formation from glucose. They also enhance glucose intake by adipocytes (fat storage cells).

This may be the reason why umsuzwane/lemon bush is used together with the Knysna lily to make “imbiza”. This is a herbal concoction used for diabetes treatment in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

3. Health benefits of zumbani: antimalarial activities

Zumbani is traditionally used as a mosquito repellent in several African countries. The essential oils from the plant have long-lasting mosquito repellent properties. As a result, they can help reduce mosquito bites.

Studies by Govere and partners show that zumbani has mosquito repelling activities.  A 76.5% protection from mosquito bites for 4 hours was recorded. This was after the application of lemon bush extracts.

Also, topical application of lemon bush extracts offered 100% protection from mosquito bites for 8 hours. However, the extracts must have an adequate concentration of active components.

Studies also show the ability of Lippia javanica to kill an adult mosquito. Dichloromethane extracts had a mortality rate of 45% whilst ethanol extracts had one of 55% on an adult mosquito.

The studies prove the health benefits of zumbani in malaria prevention.

4. Antioxidant properties

Leaf infusions of Lippia javanica (zumbani) have antioxidant properties. This means they can protect the body from oxidative stress and damage. Oxidative damage to tissues occurs when metabolism in your body produce damaging free radicals and metabolic by-products. Only, antioxidants can remove these from the body. And this reduces oxidative damage to your body tissues and organs.

Lemon bush or umsuzwane is rich in phenolic compounds. These compounds scavenge for free radicals that can damage the body. Antioxidants make these free radicals harmless. As a result, the risks of oxidative stress in the body are reduced. The removal of free radicals also reduces the risks of oxidative stress and associated diseases. So, that single cup of zumbani tea a day provides substantial health benefits.

Zumbani tea has stronger antioxidant properties than Rooibos tea. The antioxidant activities of Lippia javanica leaf infusion may be attributed to verbascoside. Verbascoside is a powerful antioxidant compound. And studies by Olivier and partners show that zumbani leaves are rich in verbascoside.

5. Antiplasmodial properties of zumbani

Lippia javanica can disturb the life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum. This is the parasite that causes malaria. Studies by Ayuko and partners show that root extracts of umsuzwane have antiplasmodial properties. Also, leaf extracts were proven to be effective against chloroquine-sensitive parasites. Lippialactone may be one of the active compounds in these extracts. This compound also has mild toxicity.

6. Antibacterial properties

Lippia javanica/ zumbani also has antibacterial properties. It is used in the treatment of several diseases caused by microorganisms. It has been shown to have antibacterial effects against Klebsiella pneumoniae. The herb also has antimicrobial activities against several respiratory microorganisms. Linalool a compound found in zumbani has strong antimicrobial properties. Methanol leaf extracts of zumbani have antimicrobial properties against 15 Gram-positive and negative bacteria. And this includes drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria. Additionally, the herb contains the compound apigenin. Apigenin has antibacterial activity against cholera and diarrhoea bacteria. This may explain traditional zumbani use in diarrhoea treatments.

7. Antifungal activity

Zumbani also has antifungal properties. It can inhibit fungal growth. Isoverbascoside and verbascoside are compounds in umsuzwane. And they may be responsible for this effect. These compounds have known antifungal activity. Verbascoside has powerful antimicrobial properties. And it is known to be effective against bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Zumbani leaf extracts are also effective against Candida species of fungi. These fungal species are responsible for fungal infections on the human genitalia. 

8. Antituberculosis activities

A study by Mujovo and their partners show that umsuzwane may have antimycobacterial activity. According to this study, zumbani is a source of euscaphic acid. And this compound has activity against drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This is the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB).

This study validates the use of zumbani in herbal tuberculosis remedies. It also explains, validates one of the most important health benefits of zumbani.

9. Antiviral effects of zumbani

Zumbani/fever tree has different phytochemicals with antiviral activities. Its extracts can inhibit the activation of HIV 1 and its replication. It also contains compounds that inhibit the enzymes that are important in viral replication. In addition, the protects the body from HIV linked opportunistic infections. Several flavonoids present in Lippia javanica inhibit the activities of viral enzymes. The compound luteolin also has the same effect. Zumbani also has antiviral activities against measles, chickenpox, bronchitis, pneumonia and shingles viruses.

10. Anti-inflammatory activities

Inflammation forms a foundation for most chronic diseases.  Zumbani has several compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. These compounds scavenge free radicals from the body. And these free radicals contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation. So, removing them from the system lowers inflammation.

This is a very important health benefit. That is because inflammation can occur in the human body and fester for years. Most of the time it can be ignored. And also, you may not notice it until it explodes in the form of chronic disease. And without inflammation, most of these diseases wouldn’t exist. So, zumbani is a powerful herb indeed.

11. Immune boosting activities

Studies show that regular consumption of zumbani also has immune-boosting benefits. A study in mice showed an association between zumbani intake and elevated levels of white blood cells. This shows its ability to boost the number of immune system cells in the body.

Zumbani may stimulate or regulate the proliferation, differentiation and maturation of committed stem cells that are important for white blood cell production.

12. Antiasthmatic effects

Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways. The disease results in variable expiratory airflow limitation. This is due to the constriction of bronchioles or increased mucus secretion. Asthma can be allergic or non-allergic to environmental allergens.

Zumbani has similar therapeutic effects to corticosteroids. Corticosteroid drugs are used in asthma treatment. The effects of zumbani on asthma are similar to those of prednisolone;  an oral corticosteroid used to treat asthma.

This is because Lippia javanica decreases the inflammatory markers in the body. And this helps in preventing oxidative stress in the body. It also helps in improving the antioxidant defence systems in the body. Several compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And these may also contribute to its antiasthmatic effects. These compounds include :

  • Syringic acid
  • Protocatechuic acid
  • P coumaric acid
  • Caffeic acid
  • Vanillic acid

And these make up 88% of the total phenolic content of zumbani.

Zumbani contains flavonoids and phenols. These compounds possess anti-inflammatory, bronchodilatory and antiasthmatic effects.
According to this study, ingestion of an equivalent of one or 2 cups of zumbani tea per day has significant effects on asthma. This provides anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiasthmatic effects. Therefore Lippia javanica tea has potential in asthma treatment.

Conclusion

Zumbani is a very powerful herb with several health benefits. While these are not all the health benefits of zumbani, they may be the most important. Tell me what you think about umsuzwane in the comment section.

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