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Lippia Javanica (Umsuzwane)

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Family: Verbenaceae

Scientific name: Lippia javanica

Authority: (Burm.f.) Spreng

Common names: umsuzwane (Zulu), fever tree (English), koorsbossie (Afrikaans)

The genus name Lippia is named after Augustin Lippi (1678-1701), an Italian traveler and natural historian who was killed in Abyssinia, Ethiopia at the age of 23. The specie name javanica was given by the Dutch Botanist Nicolaas Laurens Burman, who mistakenly thought it was collected in Java (one of the Greater Sunda islands in Indonesia). Burman placed the species in the genus Verbena. Later, Philipp Carl Sprengel, a German botanist, corrected the mistake and moved the species to the genus Lippia.  

Lippia javanica is a shrub that can reach a height of 5 m. It can be found growing on the hillsides of grasslands, fringes of forests, and riverbanks throughout eastern, central, and southern Africa. The plant grows in just about any type of soil. It is a drought resistant fast grower that prefers direct sunlight.

Medicinal properties

L. javanica reportedly has anticancer, antidiabetic, antimalarial, antiplasmodial, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.


L. javanica uses are wide ranging. The plant is used for culinary, medicinal, spiritual, ornamental, and other purposes.

Culinary uses:

  • The aromatic leaves are used to make a popular herbal tea known as mosukujane and zumbani tea
  • The leaves are used as a leafy green
  • The leaves are used to make a health drink and tonic
  • The stem is used to preserve milk
  • The leaves are used to take away the bad smell in certain foods. For example, meat that begin to smell is boiled with the leaves to take away the smell.

Medicinal uses:

  • The leaves are used to treat asthma, coughs, colds, influenza, blocked nose, headaches, pneumonia, congested nasal, tuberculosis, and bronchitis
  • The roots are used to treat intestinal worms, cholera, diarrhoea, and dysentry
  • The leaves and roots are used to treat wounds, sores, boils, chicken pox, rash, measles, and scabies.
  • The leaves are used to treat fever and malaria
  • The leaves and roots are used to make a health tonic to boost the immune system of people with cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and TB
  • The plant is used to make emetics (substances for inducing emesis) and enema solutions
  • The plant is used as a mild sedative for hysteria and shock. It is used after a death of family member.

Spiritual uses:

L. javanica is used for spiritual purposes in the following ways:

  • The plant is used to treat the symptoms of umeqo,
  • The plant is rich volatile oil and has a significant amount of essential oil, hence its use to make perfume oils and candles
  • The leaves are used in cleansing ceremonies after a funeral to cleanse the people that come in contact with the deceased. It is also used to wash the tools used to dig the grave
  • The plant is used to cure a person from having nightmare
  • The leaves are used to ward off evil spirits by sprinkling around the home (known as ukuchela in Zulu) and bathing
  • The leaves are used to protect the home from lightning
  • The plant is used to protect against crocodiles and dogs
  • The plant is used as a good luck charm

Ornamental and other uses

  • The plant is cultivated as a decorative ornamental plant
  • The leaves are used to disinfect meat that has been infected with anthrax
  • The plant is used to repel lice, ticks, and mosquito


The plant can be prepared in the following ways to treat the abovementioned conditions:

  • The herbal tea is prepared by steeping the fresh or dried leaves in boiling water and allowing them to sit for five minutes add honey or sugar for taste. The tea can be drank with or without milk to treat bronchitis and cough.
  • The herbal tonic is prepared by boiling the leaves in water is taken to treat chest pain and tuberculosis.
  • An infusion made using a handful of leaves are mixed with the a few cloves of garlic (Allium sativum) is used to treat chest pains.
  • Leaves are boiled in water and decoction administer by steaming to treat sore throat, fever, and blocked nose.
  • The leaves are chewed with butter for pain and cough.
  • The leaves are burnt to repel mosquito. Burning a candle made from the plant’s extracts also repels mosquitos.
  • The leaves are chewed as spat around the body for protection.
  • A branch of the plant is placed inside the home to protect against lightning.

Safety precaution

The use of traditional medicine in prescribed dosages will yield good results. Misuse and abuse may lead to complications. To learn about correct dosage, consult a traditional healer or a herbalist. You can also visit or email: to learn more about traditional medicine.

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