By Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu
Mbor Mbor Leaves
I must say I am amazed by the emails I have received concerning the articles on natural medicines in the Gambian jurisdiction. I am motivated by positive feedback. I aim to keep you informed, and abreast with current scientific aspects of our local remedies. We have been made to believe that our local African natural remedies have no scientific basis; which is false!
The Gambia is blessed with many natural remedies and it is time to tap into the potential of these remedies to generate foreign exchange. India, China, and many others have developed their natural remedies to generate huge foreign exchange and Africa can also do the same.
One reader who was happy with the article on wonjo requested I do this article on MBOR MBOR, Guiera Senegaleasis, King kiliba, and Raat. To show my appreciation to my readers, I went to the Serrekunda market again where the reader directed me in the mail to get Mbor Mbor and others from the women folks. I introduced myself to them, and we had a nice chat. I took pictures of them and sought their consent to use them in my publication which they agreed.
As a Professor of Naturopathy, Medical Journalist, Author, and Science writer, I didn’t just purchase it; but went further to brew it, and drink it before going to bed. The good news is that I had a deep sleep for the first time in the Gambia. But I added the following in small quantities: King Kiliba; Raat; Mbor Mbor; Cloves, African Black Pepper, and Tetrapleura tetraptera(Known as Prekese in Ghana). I have decided to write this article on Mbor Mbor. I will also write about the others in my subsequent articles.
Serrekunda Market, the Gambia, where I bought the Mbor Mbor, Raat and King Kiliba leave. Picture by: Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu.
What is MBOR MBOR?
Pictures of Mbor Mbor, King kiliba, and Raat I bought from Serrukunda Market.
Picture by: Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu.
Based on research, I found that Mbor Mbor is known as (Jambakatang in Mandinka). I also found that Mbor Mbor is a Wolof name. The interesting thing is that Mbor Mbor does not have any specific botanical name because it comes in many forms. The good news is that it comes from the family lippia Chevalieri Moldenke. If one looks at the shape and structure, it appears to be close to Lippia Multiflora family, normally known as “Gambian Tea” or “Senegal Tea.”
Additionally, Lippia Chevalieri Moldenke, however, belongs to Verbenaceae family which normally has its origin in Burkina Faso and other African Countries to treat diverse ailments. Because Mbor Mbor belongs to the Verbenaceae family, this article will examine the science behind it for making ‘Gambian Bush’ tea. So do not get confused in case I use Verbenaceae or lippia in this article. Some also say lemon verbena. I use them because they are in the same family.
Mbor Mbor, Science
My version of Mbor Mbor Tea during the brewing process. Picture by: Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu.
My final Mbor Mbor Tea. Picture by: Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu.
Carnat et al. (1999) study found Mbor Mbor 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).
Mbor Mbor, inflammation and oxidative stress
Because mbor mbor is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, it could reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
For instance, one randomized, double-blinded placebo-controlled study by Mauriz et al.(2014) involved 30 people with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis who took a placebo or 600 mg of lemon verbena or lippia extract with 10% 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.
Mbor Mbor, helps Athletes
Studies have found that a compound in mbor mbor 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 400 mg of lemon verbena extract before, during, and after an exhaustive test for 15 days led 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. This might have influenced the results.
In a recent study by Lee et al.(2021), athletes who took 400 mg 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.
Mbor Mbor, Sleep Aid
I also found in the literature that taking mbor mbor tea may deal with sleep issues. Research also confirmed that mbor mbor 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).
Mbor Mbor, 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 buildup 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 mbor mbor and wonjo 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 mbor mbor and wonjo, I cannot say the effect was attributed to only mbor mbor alone. However, what I can confidently say is that for those looking at weight management programs, the mbor mbor and wonjo 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 they tend to influence the results.
Mbor Mbor, 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 “a proper medication to prevent the skin infection by Staphylococcus aureus” in the early phases of the infection.
Mbor Mbor, Joint Aid
Caturla et al. (2010) randomized, 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.
Mbor Mbor, 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 Board of Ghana. The result of the chemical as well as sensory evaluation indicated that the analyzed 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 have developed resistance to conventional tranquilizers 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 have been noticed. More new studies are needed to confirm the antihypertensive ability of lippia
Warnings, Mbor Mbor
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 mbor mbor in many forms. Key areas of interest are improving sleep; weight management in combination with wonjo(hibiscus sabdariffa) and helping athletes. You can add other ingredients as well. I added: King Kiliba; Raat; Cloves; Tetrapleura tetraptera and Xylopia aethiopica(Grains of selim) in small quantities. 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. President, Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. Currently BL Candidate at the Gambia Law School, Banjul, Gambia. E. mail: email@example.com. +2207452652(for more information).