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Klucky’s Nutrition Reviews-Blog Zumbani medicinal uses: Traditional medicinal uses of Zumbani

Zumbani medicinal uses: Traditional medicinal uses of Zumbani

Zumbani (lemon bush/ fever tree), scientific name, Lippia javanica, is one of the most important herbs in Southern Africa. It became more popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is traditionally used for the treatment of respiratory diseases. So, for folks in the rural countryside, this provided a new lifeline. A herbal treatment to boost their immunity and prepare for the raging virus. I decided to dive deep and write about zumbani medicinal uses. The aim is to explore the traditional medicinal uses of Zumbani/lemon bush. And provide more information on this gem of the African country side.

What is Zumbani /lemon bush/fever tree/Lippia javanica?

Zumbani or lemon bush/umsuzwane is a bushy plant found in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. It is also a common plant in the Indian subcontinent. It is an erect perennial shrub. This shrub produces a lemon-like smell and flavour, when broken or damaged. That’s why it’s called the lemon bush in English. It’s leaves produce strong aromatic scents and fragrances when crashed. The plant stem, leaves and roots, all have medicinal value in traditional medicine.They also have culinary uses in several African countries.

Zumbani occurs naturally in Angola, Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Eswatini, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zanzibar. Zumbani/umsuzwane is the Zimbabwean name for the lemon bush plant. In Botswana, it is known as Mosukudu or Mosukujane.

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

Zumbani has several ethnomedicinal uses in the treatment of several diseases. It is used for the treatment of:

  • Colds
  • Diarrhoea
  • Coughs
  • Fever
  • Malaria
  • Wounds
  • Chest pains
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis

Several studies show that zumbani contains several phytochemicals. These may contribute to several of it’s beneficial properties.

  • Alkaloids
  • Flavanoids
  • Phenolic compounds
  • Triterpenes
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Iridoids

Scientific evidence has also shown that lemon bush/ zumbani has pharmacological properties which include:

  • Anticancer
  • Antiamoebic
  • Pesticidal effects
  • Antidiabetic
  • Antiplasmodial
  • Malaria treating and healing effects
  • Antioxidant
  • Antimicrobial

For more information on the health benefits of zumbani also read:

Traditional zumbani medicinal uses

List of zumbani medicinal uses as explained in the texts.

Uses in food, respiratory problems, gut problems, malaria and fever, coughs and colds, lice, wounds and injuries, skin problems
Traditional medicinal uses of zumbani

Zumbani or lemon bush herbal tea is commonly known for its ethnomedicinal applications. Lemon bush tea is important for the herbal treatment of several diseases. This includes the treatment of:

  • Colds
  • Coughs
  • Fever and malaria
  • Wounds
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Diarrhoea
  • Chest pains
  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma

The strength and effectiveness for each use are in decreasing order on the list. And the tea can be incorporated as a regular part of the diet.

Zumbani uses in food preparation

The leaves and twigs of the lemon bush are used as food additives and spices in Kenya. The leaves are also used as vegetables in India. Zumbani herbal tea is also very common in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.

The herbal tea is prepared by steeping dried leaves, stems or twigs in warm or hot water for 2 to 5 minutes. This allows the flavour to be released into the solution. Stronger tea decoction brews can be prepared by boiling the plant material for more than 5 minutes. The lemon bush tea has a lemon and vanilla-like flavour.  This tea is used to treat specific conditions within a limited number of days.

Uses of Zumbani tea

Zumbani tea is used to treat asthma in Zimbabwe. It is also used for the treatment of bronchitis in South Africa. The tea is used as a remedy for colds in Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Zimbabweans and South Africans also use this tea to treat coughs.

Nowadays, the tea is now used for recreational purposes. Several people use it as a daily general health tonic. It is highly valued because it is caffeine-free. Many of the consumers find value in its natural relaxing and calming effects.

Lippia javanica/zumbani/umsuzwane medicinal uses in the treatment of respiratory problems.

Different parts of the plants are used to treat respiratory problems. The stems and leaves are used to treat these problems in Sub Saharan African countries. These respiratory problems include:

  • Coughs
  • Asthma
  • Colds
  • Influenza
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Bronchial problems

Common Lippia javanica (zumbani) remedies for respiratory problems

In Bangladesh, Lippia javanica is mixed with 2 to 3 cloves of garlic. This remedy is taken 2 to 3 times daily as a remedy for chest pains.

In Ethiopian traditional medicine, zumbani leaves are chewed together with butter as a remedy for chest pains.

Kenyans sniff lemon bush leaves for coughs and colds. They also take a half glass of zumbani leaf infusions 3 times a day for coughs and colds.

In South Africa, 50 g of lemon bush (zumbani) leaves are added to a cup of boiling water. The infusion is used as a remedy for coughs, colds or bronchial problems. Also, this infusion can be mixed with vaseline to make a skin ointment. South Africans also use leaf or twig decoction brews taken orally to treat asthma, colds and coughs. Leaves are also used in washes and poultices for chest pains.

Zumbani is also used for tuberculosis and chest pains. The remedy is made by boiling leaves for 5 minutes. And one glass of the extracts is taken orally 3 times a day.

By taking 2 handfuls of zumbani leaves and boiling them in 2 litres of water, a strong extract is made. The extract is used for steaming once or twice a day for coughs, chest pains, fever, chills and sore throat. The extract can also be taken orally for the same problem. One cup is taken daily.

More zumbani remedies in respiratory problems.

You can also mix zumbani with other herbs for the treatment of several other health problems.  These problems include blocked nose, chest pains, coughs, earaches, fatigue, influenza, fever, headache, running nose and lack of sleep.

Lemon bush can be taken together with African wormwood or sage wood, umhlonyane (Zulu name), and Artemisia. This is used to treat bronchial problems, colds and coughs.

Using Lippia javanica (zumbani) and Knysina lily (umathung) produces imbiza. Imbiza is a popular herbal tonic used by the Zulu people in South Africa. This herbal tonic acts as an immune booster. They also use it for treating: cancer, chest pains, colds, diabetes, HIV or AIDS symptoms, tuberculosis and skin infections.

Burning the leaves and twigs generates aromatic smokes. Inhalation of the smoke is a popular remedy for asthma, chest pains, colds and chronic coughs.

Also, if you make leaf or twig infusions, the vapour has medicinal uses. The infusion vapour can be inhaled for coughs and colds.

All these zumbani medicinal uses highlight its importance in treating respiratory problems in traditional African medicine.

Lippia javanica /zumbani medicinal uses in gastrointestinal tract health

Taking leaf and root decoctions of Lippia javanica may alleviate digestive system problems. These decoctions work as remedies for cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea.

In Mozambique, oral intake of zumbani root decoctions treats diarrhoea. The decoction can treat a type of diarrhoea in which one produces milk stool. The milk stool is accompanied by vomiting.

In Kenya, leaf decoctions help as herbal medicine for diarrhoea. South Africans on the other hand use leaf extracts for diarrhoea. Soaking crushed leaves in water, produces the extracts. You can then take 75 ml of the extract twice a day for diarrhoea relief.

In South Africa, zumbani leaf infusions assist in remedies for HIV/AIDS symptoms. These remedies also treat AIDS-associated opportunistic infections. These may include tuberculosis, diarrhoea, coughs and poor immunity.

Leaf tea decoctions can kill intestinal worms. In other words,  zumbani has an antihelmintic function.

These are the zumbani medicinal uses for gut problems from across Africa and India.

Zumbani medicinal uses in malaria and fever treatment

In several Southern African countries, the Lippia javanica plant is used to make remedies for fever and malaria. A decoction of fresh and air-dried leaves, is used to steam or wash body parts infested with lice. In India, the zumbani plant also repels lice in poultry. In Zimbabwe and South Africa, burning the plant produces a mosquito repelling smoke. Also, leaf and twig decoctions are used as remedies for fever. The Venda people of South Africa use leaf decoctions for malaria.

Zumbani medicinal uses in wound healing, injury pain and skin infections

Several studies have shown the use of zumbani for wound healing and skin problems in several cultures. Traditionally zumbani helps in treating a variety of skin infections. These include boils, chickenpox, febrile rashes, measles, scabies, scratches and stings. People use zumbani to treat these problems in Kenya, South Africa, Eswatini and Zimbabwe.

Kenyans, wrap 50 g of fresh leaves around a fresh wound to enhance healing. South Africans, take infusions are orally as a remedy for wounds. In Zimbabwe and Kenya, oral remedies of leaf infusions can help treat measles.

Ashes of zumbani leaves and twigs treat scabies. However, they are first mixed with fat before application.

And these are the awesome zumbani medicinal uses in Africa.


It is very important to note that the zumbani/ Lippia javanica plant is very important in African traditional medicine. In this article, I just wanted to explain traditional zumbani medicinal uses. Most of these medicinal uses tend to work in traditional settings. So, if there is a traditional herbal plant you want as your wingman, I think zumbani is one of the best. Do you have more medicinal uses I left out? Well, leave a comment!

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