Lippia, also known as Lippia javanica, Fever tea, Lemon bush, Yerba Dulce, and Mexican lippia, is a fragrant herb with a sweet and strong lemon-like odor. The leaves are crushed to give this flavor to foods in which the herb is added as a flavoring agent, like any other culinary herb, especially the leaves. Considered to be one of the most flavored herbs of South African origin, it also grows abundantly in many other African countries with tropical climatic conditions, such as Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Swaziland and Malawi. The herb grows abundantly in the eastern part of Cape as well.
The strong lemony smell of Lippia oil is a result of various other essential oils present in the herb, which include linalool, limonene, carvacrol, and estragole. Hence, it is also used to a large extent in medical field and in the perfumery industry.
Lippia is a widely grown shrub, especially in South Africa, both for its culinary as well medicinal uses. It mostly grows in the bushes, in open veld and also along the forest peripheries or margins.
Common Regional Names
The herb is known by different names as per its regional dialect in the South African region –
- Koorsbossie Beukesbossie or Lemonbossie – in Afrikaans
- Mutswane and umSutane – in Swati
- inZinziniba – in Xhosa
- umSuzwane and umSwazi – in Zulu
- musukuda and bokhukhwane – in Tswana
The herb gets its name from Augustine Lippi, an Italian traveller and historian, who is believed to have been killed in Abysinnia. Another name of the herb “javanica” is derived from the fact that it also grows in Java.
Lippia is a strong flavored herb that has a few culinary uses and the leaves and flowers are used for this purpose –
- The leaves are used like any other herb, such as oregano, rosemary or sage, for flavoring foods.
- Lippia oil is used to an extent in flavoring agents.
- The leaves are used for making tea and some species of the herb have edible fruits.
Types of Lippia & their Uses
There are many species of Lippia, that are either used for their medicinal properties or culinary use –
- Lippia graveolens – Native to Mexico, this species is also known as Yerrba dulce. It is a highly aromatic herb used for its culinary as well as medicinal properties.
- Lippia origanoide – This species is used as a culinary herb, just like oregano.
- Lippia cymosa – Native to Jamaica, this herb smells like pennyroyal and is used as a flavoring agent.
- Lippia nodielora – Known as Buccar, Ratolia and Vakhar in India and Yerba de la Sainte Maria in Chile, this species is used both for its medicinal and culinary properties.
- Lipia pseudo-thea – Native to Brazil, this species of the herb has edible fruits and the leaves are mostly used for making tea.
- Lippia scaberrima – Native to South Africa, the leaves are used for flavoring and the lippie oil is used in flavoring agents.
- Lippia citriodora – Native to Chile and Peru, this species of the herb is known for its citrus like odor and the leaves, along with flower tops are used for flavoring foods and also in medicines.
Lippia leaves and lippie oil have many positive health benefits, because of which many herbalists and herb gardeners grow this herb. In fact, most African tribes use this herb to treat many health conditions. The main medicinal uses include –
- A tea made from the infusion of this herb is consumed by the locals for its ability to treat cold, cough and bronchial problems. An infusion of the stem and leaves is mixed with milk and then consumed.
- The herb is known to control stomach upsets and also flatulence.
- Malaria, measles, influenza and even certain lung infections can be treated with a mixture made from L. javanica and Artemisia afra (herb).
- The leaves of L. javanica are used by the Xhosa people (a South African tribe) for disinfecting meat, which is anthrax infected.
- Lippia is used as a cleansing agent during funeral services, especially when in contact with a corpse and it was also used as a protection against crocodiles, dogs and lightening.
- A red ointment made from the herb is used by the Masai for decorating their bodies.