What is Fever Leaf or Scent Leaf or Nchanwu Leaves?

Fever leaf: a herb one can find and add in a variety of traditional African food recipes. This herb also goes by the name Nchanwu leaves or scent leaves. But one may wonder, what is scent leaf? Is it a herb with just a strong smell? Does it give you a fever? On the contrary. These sweet basil leaves are ones you will want to add into your traditional African food. For their flavor and benefits to your body that go beyond pleasing your taste buds. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the name, the origins, as well as the benefits of Fever leaf.

 Traditional African food recipes has sweet basil leaves also called Nchanwu leaves. We explain more on what is scent leaf. Read on!
African basil scent leaf, or efinrin or nchanwu

Traditional African food: the background of sweet basil leaves

As seen above, this herb goes by a number of names. The ones stated above, as well as zumbani in Zimbabwe, effirin in Yoruba, or Nchanwu leaves in Ibo. Their latin name is Lippia Javanica. Research explains that as a traditional ingredient, it is native to some parts of Africa, such as the East and Southern Africa. These sweet basil leaves are not like the ordinary ones you may find written in international recipes. They are specific to African food.

There are other types of basil, including lime basil or purple basil. However, effirin may be the most popular. Because it has been known to the populations in these areas for centuries, they have knowledge on how to make use of it in more ways than just cooking. What is scent leaf to them is not the same as what it may be to one with no passed down knowledge on it. 

Only Some Liberians Love Fever Leaf

We mentioned that some Liberians love Mixy-Boxa type meals and that’s because those mixtures are traced back to certain tribes. This is the case with fever leaves, I believe a certain tribe loves to eat fever leaf  with cassava leaves. Could it be the Kru, Mende, Bassa, or Grebo tribe? I do not know, but if you do please comment below. Some Liberians love fever leaf because it is used to cure fever. It got mixed with food because I believe a certain elder decided to experiment and discover that fever leaf is very delicious with cassava leaves!

A two for one special: Medicine that is also food!  Some Liberians do not like to mix fever leaf with cassava leaves stew. Personally, I want to discover the type of basil that we call fever leaf since I’m not in Liberia anymore so I am not able to see the plant vis-a-vis. After digging through the rabbit hole (pun intended), I believe it might be a species close to Thai basil.

The uses of Fever leaf

Apart from being used for their lemony and woody flavor in traditional African food recipes, nchanwu leaves have the following uses:

  1. Infusion– It can be brewed into a tea that assists with respiratory conditions or skin infections. Hence the name Fever leaf. 
  2. Essential oil– Used for their scent, as well as to repel mosquitoes. It also repels fleas and ticks in cattle.
  3. Traditional medicinal practices– to help with diarrhea, fevers, malaria, asthma, and much more. 

Now in the context of traditional African food recipes, what is scent leaf? Research describes them as caffeine-free herbs containing zinc, copper, iron, as well as antioxidant properties. These antioxidants are useful in clearing out toxic chemicals accumulating in the body. To reap some of these benefits, you can add a leaf or two into your soups or stews, jollof rice, or when you are boiling corn or cassava. Some suggest taking out the leaves once done cooking. Perhaps to prevent further flavor from being infused out. You can also eat it as a vegetable with meat and it is commonly added into pestos or marinades. 

Growing knowledge in traditional  African food

Traditional African food recipes go beyond just having flavor and being filling. The ingredients are intentionally added into traditional African food. It is great that we can make ourselves more aware of what is scent leaf and what other such ingredients are. To learn about traditions and origins. For more enlightening articles, subscribe to HumbleVege.com and do not miss an update. Curious about a no-meat food lifestyle? Check out our Instagram page for real-life inspirations 😊.

Related: Heavy Liberian Palava Sauce Seitan Stew

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