The aromatic fever tree belonging to the Verbena family - Lippia javanica - is a woody shrub about 1 m to 2 m tall and a popular medicinal and garden plant. It is naturally occuring in South, Central and East Africa. It is also called lemonbush or ‘musukudu’ (Tswana), ‘umsuzwane’ (in Zulu), ‘koorsbossie’ (Afrikaans) and ‘mumara’ in Sotho.
Fever tree grows easy from seeds and cuttings. A fast grower, it prefers a sunny position and is happy in almost any soil type, often colonising disturbed areas. It is both cultivated and wild-harvested in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.
Scientific studies on L. javanica oil indicate that its range of pharmacological activities include anticancer, antidiabetic, antimalarial, antimicrobial and antioxidant effects. The leaves, twigs and roots are used in traditional medicine by the Xhosa people (who call it ‘inzinziniba’) as a general health tonic or, as a stronger infusion, to treat coughs and bronchial infections.
Applying the strong tea as a lotion, it can soothe rashes and scratches and treat lice and scabies. Used in cleansing ceremonies when someone has been in contact with a corpse, it is also believed to offer protection against crocodiles, lighting and dogs.
Mixed with Artemisia afra (African wormwood), lippia helps to treat fevers due to flu, malaria and measles and can prevent lung infections. Inhaling the smoke from burning stems and stems may be effective against asthma and chronic coughs. The smoke also repels mosquitoes, crushed leaves mixed with water are used to get rid of ticks and twigs used as bedding in poultry housing get rid of fleas and mites.
Leaves are rubbed on the skin, around the entrances of dwellings or thrown in the fire to keep mosquitoes away. “Imbiza,” a popular herbal decoction prepared from L. javanica and the Knysna lily, is used by the Zulu people as an immune booster and also for the treatment of cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS symptoms and TB.
Rich in a volatile oil with a lemon-like fragrance, it repels insects and rodents. Grown commercially in South Africa for essential oil production, a mosquito repellant candle using the essential oil has been developed by the CSIR based on traditional knowledge. The leaves have oil glands on the edges and gives off a strong aromatic aroma when rubbed. Leaves and flowers are stripped off the plant and steam extracted for its essential oil.
It is often difficult to obtain a consistent flavour profile as its flavour varies between lemony, cinnamon, eucalyptus and mint within the same species. For use in mosquito repellents, manufactures often need to adjust the flavour profile by adding lemongrass or other essential oils to obtain the correct repellent smell.
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