Zimbabwe: Fever tree hype grips the People as Covid-19 Spreads On

There is growing excitement in Zimbabwe over a local herb, Zumbane which is also referred to as lippia javanica. Popularly known to many as the fever tree, the herb which has existed since time immemorial is now being thrust into the limelight and being linked to the management of Covid-19.


The herb is largely used to treat upper respiratory infections which include flu-like symptoms as well as complicated chest ailments.


Following a recent claim from Madagascar of an herbal drink that could possibly cure Covid-19, Zimbabwean herbalists have fielded their own equivalent, the fever bush which they claim works wonders on Covid-19 patients.


The herb which matures as a small shrub is found in many parts of the country and is not new on the market. With a distinct lemon smell it has always been sold as "Makoni-zumbani tea in popular supermarkets.


It was once popularized in the initial days of HIV-AIDS but over the years many had almost forgotten about it until the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.


The leaves are used fresh or dried in boiling water and taken as tea.

The leaves however are not supposed to be dried in direct sunlight, to avoid loss of nutritional properties. After they have dried, the leaves are constantly, upon drying, sprinkled with water to give them colour.


Selina Makore from Chikwaka village, some 50km (about 31 miles) from the capital Harare swears by the medicinal properties of the herb.


"We have always used it here to treat many ailments. It is also a fabulous immune booster and many people living with HIV-AIDS take it often," Makore said. She added that she learnt about herbs from her great-grandmother and advised that people should not wait until they are sick to take it.


"It should be part of one’s diet,” she said. Of late, people were flocking from Harare in search of the herb.


"We are not really charging people but just asking for a token of appreciation," she said modestly.


The president of the Traditional Medicines Practices Council (TMPC) Friday Chisanyu said Zumbane had immense medicinal properties.


"It was traditionally used to treat respiratory diseases mostly. This included shortness of breath as well as preventive medicine. Long ago we would share blankets with someone infected with flu but because we used to drink Zumbane we would not get infected,” he said.


Chisanyu claimed that the herb also opened airways and relieved those with shortness of breath. He, however, warned that they were not calling it a cure for Covid-19.


"People should seek help from proper health facilities. We do not want a situation where patients descend on healers putting them at risk of infection, instead they should be guided by the health ministry," he said.


While the government has not been open on the issue of managing Covid-19 with herbs, early this month it allowed traditional herbalists to treat Covid-19 patients.


A communiqué was sent to the city health director, Prosper Chonzi asking him to allow a local herbalist Kenneth Chivizhe to treat Covid-19 patients. In the letter, the director in the department of the traditional medicine in the health ministry Onias Ndoro said the patients will participate by choice and consent.

He added that they might monitor and see how the patients will respond to the treatment.


Previously, Nyika Mahachi, president of the Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians alluded to the fact that the Coronavirus was still evolving, and its mortality was high.


In the meantime, the World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned against people using untested remedies for Coronavirus. Although it acknowledged the use of herbs, the WHO said there was need to allow for the traditional medicines to go through proper trials.