Stakeholders have called for local research on the medicinal properties of the fever tea tree, locally known as zumbani.
This comes as some of the province’s biggest institutions are conducting research for the purposes of producing tea and throat lozenges from the plant.
While the jury is still out on the scientific value of a number of traditional home remedies in fighting Covid-19, the zumbani plant has gained popularity in Africa and beyond owing to its medicinal properties.
While the public has been drinking the herb and using it to steam themselves without any form of dosage, research shows that high doses and prolonged use of the herb can lead to liver damage, with jaundice being the most notable result.
Regardless, Africa University’s College of Health and Agricultural Sciences is in the process of developing throat lozenges made from the plant, while a tea producer is making a zumbani variety.
The university’s principal project investigator, Dr Eltony Mugomeri, said despite its potential in alleviating Covid-19 symptoms, dosage forms were required to promote safe usage, hence the urgent need for research.
“This project aims to develop a medicinal cough drop from lippia javanica, also known as zumbani.
“The cough drop prototype was produced at Africa University to test the concept. Besides the oral cough drops, the project also aims to develop a higher dosage form that can be dissolved in hot water for steaming of the airways,” said Dr Mugomeri.
He said the university will also consider establishing an organic garden for the herb for sustainable manufacturing of the product.
On the other hand, a highly-placed source within a tea producing company, who declined to be named citing research protocols within the organisation, confirmed that they have already started research on production of a variety of tea from the zumbani plant.
“We have already taken it up and the research process is already underway. Official announcements on the outcomes will be made in due course,” said the source.
Former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) vice president, Mr Richard Chiwandire said local scientific research was needed as soon as yesterday to ascertain zumbani’s medicinal properties.
“Zumbani has gained a good track record of effective use over the years. Now that we have the Covid-19 pandemic, credible scientific research is now needed so that if it is beneficial the plant can be formally processed and packaged as a local and export product,” said Mr Chiwandire.
Research has shown that zumbani is caffeine-free.
Food processing expert, Mr Joseph Mavu, added his voice on the need for more research on the plant.
“We need to research on the zumbani plant. It will be very useful to find out its medicinal properties and how the human race can benefit from its processing and consistent supply,” he said.
According to internet sources, the zumbani plant is a rich source of vital minerals such as cadmium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc.
It is therefore believed to possess anti-viral, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-malarial, antibiotic, anti-allergic, anti-plasmodial, anti-microbial and analgesic properties.
Owing to those properties, it is believed that the plant prevents the onset of degenerative diseases such as cancer, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic illnesses.
It also helps treat fevers, especially in the case of malaria, influenza and measles; as well as bronchial problems such as chronic coughs, colds, asthma, flue, influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, shortness of breath, chest pains, sore throats, blocked and runny noses and tonsillitis.
It is also believed that zumbani helps in preventing lung infections, lowering abdominal pain, menstrual pain, backache and chest pain, while showing aptitude to aid blood flow by clearing blood clots and cholesterol. Proponents of the herb also believe that its regular use helps in reducing fatigue, body chills, insomnia and earache. In addition, they argue that zumbani can help treat acne, eczema, dermatitis and hair loss. Some have even linked zumbani to fertility problems’ solutions.
Apart from the consumptive uses, zumbani can also be processed into livestock fodder. It is also used as a lice, tick, pest and mosquito repellent, as well as freshening the air.
Interestingly, there is also a spiritual dimension to the zumbani plant.
Traditionalists believe the plant can ward off evil spirits.
From a Christian perspective, Genesis 1 verse
29 reads: “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth.”
Some have argued that zumbani is among those herbs mentioned in the Bible.