Lippia Multiflora family is normally known as ‘Gambian Tea’ or ‘Senegal Tea’. In Ghana, it is known as lippia tea. Additionally, Lippia Chevalieri Moldenke belongs to Verbenaceae family, which normally has its origin in Burkina Faso and other African countries for treating diverse ailments. This article will examine the science behind making lippia tea. Do not get confused in case I use Verbenaceae or lippia in this article because lippia belongs to the Verbenaceae family. Some also say lemon verbena. I use them because they are in the same family.
Lippia – the science
Carnat et al. (1999) study found lippia tea made from the leaves of lippia is rich in beneficial polyphenolic compounds, including verbascoside and luteolin 7-diglucuronide. Two studies (Sánchez-Marzo et al. 2019; Portmann et al. 2012) found that verbascoside in lippia has strong antioxidant activity. Four additional studies (Giancamillo et al. 2015; Mosca et al. 2014; Galli et al. 2020; D’Alessandro et al. 2014) in both animal and test-tube found that verbascoside could avert cell damage and enhance the body’s antioxidant defenses.
Apart from verbascoside, two other studies(Sourki et al. 2021; Ghasempour et al. 2016) espoused that lippia is also clothed with many plant compounds with antioxidant properties, including geranial, neral, luteolin and limonene.
Additionally, Bellakhdar et al.(1994) found that the essential oils also contain active components such as 1,8-cineole, also known as eucalyptol (12.4 percent); geranial (9.9 percent); 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one (7.4 percent); and neral (6.9 percent).
Lippia, inflammation and oxidative stress
Because lippia is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, it could reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
For instance, one randomised, double-blinded placebo-controlled study by Mauriz et al.(2014) involved 30 people with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis who took a placebo or 600mg of lemon verbena or lippia extract with 10 percent verbascoside for 28 days. Lippia led to a drastic reduction of the type of inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein.
Another study worth noting is Lee et al. (2021), which examined 60 healthy adults and found that taking 400mg of lippia extract for 10 days before and during exhaustive exercise tests decreased urine levels of an oxidative stress marker called 8-OHdG, compared with placebo.
The interesting thing is that the lippia group received higher blood levels of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and lower levels of the inflammatory protein interleukin-6 (IL-6). This means that taking lippia could reduce oxidative stress and protect against muscle damage. A previous study by Funes et al.(2010) found that giving lippia protects cells against oxidative stress and reduced exercise-induced muscle damage in healthy men who engaged in an intense, 90-minute running protocol for 21 days.
Lippia helps athletes
Studies have found that a compound in lippia could protect your cells from damage. Hence, this may help athletes as exercise causes stress and muscle damage in the body. This was justified in one clinical trial by Buchwald-Werner et al. (2018), where 44 athletes took 400mg of lemon verbena extract before, during and after an exhaustive test for 15 days, leading to less muscle damage, faster recovery, less pain, and higher levels of the antioxidant enzyme called GPx, compared with a placebo treatment. It had been argued that due to the fact this study was funded by the company that produced the lemon verbena supplement, these results might have been influenced.
In a recent study by Lee et al.(2021), athletes who took 400mg of lemon verbena extract for 10 days before and during exhaustive exercise tests had reduced muscle pain and lower levels of a marker of muscle damage called creatinine kinase (CK), juxtaposed with those in a placebo group.
In a holistic form, the studies, as espoused, means that taking mbor mbor tea could help rescue and fight against exercise-induced muscle damage in athletes though we need more clinical trials in humans.
Lippia – sleep aid
I also found in the literature that taking lippia tea may deal with sleep issues. Research also confirmed that lippia was used in the olden days to manage insomnia and induce sedation (Rashidian et al. 2016).
Another recent study by Afrasiabian et al.(2019) used 100 people with insomnia and found that taking 10ml of lemon verbena syrup before bedtime drastically enhanced asleep, total sleep time, sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness as compared with a placebo group.
Finally, two other animal studies (Jiménez-Ferrer et al. 2017; Razavi et al. 2017) found that lippia could have anti-anxiety and calming effects. These properties could also benefit those with insomnia ( Jillian Kubala, 2021).
Lippia – obesity
Diez-Echave et al. (2020) 6-week study fed mice a high-fat diet. One group was left untreated; another got lemon verbena extract. The treated group had a reduced fat build-up and an enhanced ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes — two large phyla, including the gut microbiome.
A similar study by Magne et al.(2020) also found that both humans and animals with obesity have higher Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratios than those who are regarded to have a healthy weight.
Finally, a previous study by Boix-Castejón et al.(2018) in 54 people with overweight found that taking a daily supplement with lemon verbena and hibiscus extracts for 8 weeks decreased the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin, and enhanced the fullness-promoting hormone glucagon-like peptide-1. This is interesting! Additionally, those who took the lippia and sobolo together also had a decrease in body fat as compared to the placebo group.
Let me also say that since the supplement used in this study contains both lippia and sobolo tea, I cannot say the effect was attributed to only lippia alone. However, what I can confidently say is that for those looking at weight management programmes, the lippia and sobolo combination is the deal from the study.
Another issue from this study was that the research was funded or sponsored by a company that has an interest in the supplement. Hence, one could say there may have been the tendency to influence the results.
Lippia – infections
Studies have also demonstrated the numerous impact of mbor mbor in fighting bacteria. For instance, Ghaemi et al.(2007) study in animals treated for seven days with either no treatment, a conventional topical antibiotic, ointment prepared from ethanolic extract of lemon verbena, or an injection of lemon verbena concluded that the topical lemon verbena ointment was “a proper medication to prevent the skin infection by Staphylococcus aureus” in the early phases of the infection.
Lippia – joint aid
Caturla et al. (2010) randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study examined a supplement rich in antioxidants (lemon verbena) and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an alternative treatment for joint management. For nine weeks, 45 subjects with joint pain and discomfort took the nutritional supplement or a placebo. Lemon verbena extract proved strong antioxidant properties, and again, the study highlighted the verbascoside naturally found in the herb. After nine weeks, those who took the supplement demonstrated a drastic decrease in pain and stiffness as well as enhanced physical function.
Lippia – hypertension
In Ghana, one old study found that this plant is used in the management for the treatment of arterial hypertension (Abena et al. 1998). Another old study (Noamesi, B. K, 1977) examined a product called Power Tea herbal preparation in the laboratories of the National Standard Authority of Ghana. The result of the chemical as well as sensory evaluation indicated that the analysed product differed entirely from the conventional tea, i.e., Thea Sinensis.
In the laboratories of the National Institute of Health, Education and Welfare – Bethesda, Maryland, some medicinal properties of the preparation were studied. The ability of the extract of Power Tea to lower blood pressure was confirmed in three species of laboratory animals when the extract was injected intravenously. The active principle has been reported to be very potent but appeared to be present only in small amounts in the tea. Some clinical trials were also carried out on the product and Power Tea has shown hypotensive and hypnotic properties.
It was tried on six drug addicts who had developed resistance to conventional tranquilisers administered for hypertension and anxiety states. Power Tea tended to maintain low blood pressure levels as well as assured adequate sleep and rest. No signs of hangover were noticed. More new studies are needed to confirm the anti-hypertensive ability of lippie.
Warnings – lippia
Though it is naturally safe to use mbor mbor, one recent study by (Dosoky and Setzer, 2021) found that lemon verbena essential oils could increase the risk of birth defects. For this reason, pregnant women should not inhale aromatherapy with verbena.
The European Medicine Agency(2020) also reports that pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid mbor mbor tea or extract, tincture or syrups.
Studies; both animals and humans have demonstrated numerous benefits of lippia tea in many forms. Key areas of interest are improving sleep, weight management in combination with sobolo(hibiscus sabdariffa), and helping athletes. You can add other ingredients as well. You can also brew it alone!
Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as medical advice for treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific naturopathic therapies.
The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, and a science writer. He is also the President of Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. Currently, he is a BL Candidate at the Gambia Law School, Banjul, Gambi
mail: [email protected]