United Methodist Church run Africa University’s College of Health and Agricultural Sciences has made headway in developing throat lozenges made from the zumbani plant, which many Zimbabweans have been using as part of home remedies to fight Covid 19.

The new product, zumbani medicinal cough drops, is expected to help in boosting the immune system to fight against the disease.

Since last year, Zimbabweans have been using the zumbani/ umsuzwane/ lippia javanica,  which they believe has health benefits to protect them against and manage symptoms of the respiratory disease.

The medicinal properties of the herbal tea are however yet to be substantiated.

AU director of advancement and public affairs Mr Stephene Chikozho said the cough drops, which would be made from a combination of more than six ingredients, will hit the market by next month.

“The cough drops are expected to add to an array of herbal products that are on the market, with a view to boost immunity of the people in Zimbabwe and beyond, as universities in the country continue to drive transformation through indigenous knowledge systems,” he said.

Heritage-based innovations are currently the main focus of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development.

Mr Chikozho said the institution was considering partnerships with corporate, governmental and civic organisations for strategic sustainability and commercialisation of the project.

With a lot of hype surrounding the use of Zumbani in fighting Covid 19, there are still many grey areas that research is yet to clarify. The efficacy of the herbal tea is still unknown.

Principal Project Investigator Dr Eltony Mugomeri said despite its potential use to alleviate symptoms of Covid-19, dosage forms of the herb were needed to promote safe usage while promoting business spinoff.

“This project aims to develop a medicinal cough drop from Lippia javanica, a herbal plant with a long history of traditional uses in tropical Africa as indigenous herbal tea. 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 would also consider establishing an organic garden for the herb for sustainable manufacturing of the product.

While the public has been using the herb without any form of dosage, both to drink and steam, research shows that high doses and prolonged use of the triterpenoids in Lippia javanica are known to cause liver damage, with jaundice being the most notable result.

“These findings imply that Lippia javanica is toxic if consumed at dosages above 1138 ± 1.33 μg/mL. This project will use Lippia javanica at concentrations below this limit,” he said.

Dr Mugomeri also said the prototype cough drop was made following standard methods for compounding crystal sweets or candy, with the alcohol based extract and other additives.

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