Vernonia Amygdalina commonly known as Bitter Leaf is a popular plant/vegetable in Nigeria used in preparing the nutritious bitter leaf soup and making some medicinal juice.
In Nigeria the Igbos call it “Olugbo”, the Yorubas call it “Ewuro” and the Hausas call it “Shiwaka”. It is generally called bitter leaf in English because the vegetable is very bitter. So before it can be used to cook soup, it’s usually squeezed or dried to reduce the bitterness.
Bitter Leaf plant is mainly grown in the Southern and Western part of Nigeria because it grows better in rainforest areas. It’s best planted during rainy season from April to July for better productivity.
Cultivation is by stem but the leafs are the main parts that is usually harvested for preparing the famous Igbo Egusi Soup and Anambra Ede soup with bitter leaf. However, the roots are not left out as it’s used for medical purposes.
The plant can be grown together with other vegetables such as water leaf and pumpkins without issues as long as a good spacing is done.
Nutritional and Health Benefits of Bitter Leaf
The presence of flavonoid and many other plant compounds in Bitter Leaf makes it one of the most nutritional vegetables in Nigeria. Below is some of the nutritional benefits and health benefits of Bitter Leaf.
1. Fertility Booster for Women
Bitter leaf improves a female sex hormone that helps in reproductive system and body regulation.
It improves quality hormone and reproductive system in woman and also prevents the toxification of immunoglobulin which fights an important female sex hormone deficiency. It boosts estrogen reproduction.
Bitter leaf is vital for good genital health in women so to boost your fertility as a lady, always eat food or drink medical juice that contains bitter leaf.
2. Curing of Fever
This very medicinal benefit of Bitter Leaf is common in Nigeria. It is used to clear and cure fever, thanks to its flavonoids contents which have antioxidants for treating some health issues including feverish conditions.
Bitter leaf also contains other useful elements such as andrographolide lactones, glucosides, diterpene which combines and work together reduce fever and its symptoms.
It’s advisable to take a glass of bitter leaf juice at least once in a week to helps combat malaria symptoms.
3. Stop Stomach Upset
If you can endure the sour taste of Bitter Leaf when you have stomach upset, then eat a raw bitter leaf or squeeze it to extract the greenish liquid content and drink. This helps in treating abdominal pains which includes stomach upset, diarrhea and gastrointestinal tract diseases like dysentery and other similar stomach issues.
So whether you are having intestinal problems and stomach cramps, chewing some bitter leafs can be a remedy.
But before chewing, make sure you wash the bitter leafs with clean water and a little quantity of salt to kill germs.
If you prefer the juice type, just take as much leaves as possible and squeeze to extract the liquids which you will drink as a juice. Take one glass of bitter leaf juice in the morning and another glass in the evening to “flush away the yamayama in your belly” as it’s said in Nigeria.
4. For Healthy Bones & Teeth
Bitter leaf also contains Vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant mineral for keeping the bones and teeth stronger and in good condition.
It also contains vitamin K which is good for blood clothing and prevention of bone tissues weakness called “osteoporosis”.
So this vegetable is useful for everyone especially sportsmen and women.
5. Good for Loosing Weight
Stop spending too much money on expensive drugs because you want to loose weight. Bitter leaf is helps in weight loss, just cultivate the habit of eating few fresh leafs daily or taking a glass of bitter leaf juice to cut down excess calories in your body thereby reducing weight.
This medicinal vegetable also help in reducing excess fat in your body. Its fiber contents is good for maintaining and balancing the cholesterol and fat level in your body.
6. Lowers High Blood Pressure
Eating fresh bitter leaves or drinking its liquid extracts helps in lowering high BP (High Blood Pressure).
Its bitterness helps to lowers the sugar level in the blood and control blood pressure. Thanks to the andrographolide content in the vegetable which also combats diabetes.
Additionally, potassium is available in bitter leaf and it helps in the treatment of hypertension. The mineral helps to flush out accumulated salt and sodium in the bloodstream.
7. Boosts Body Metabolism
Vitamin B1 also known as thiamine is an important compound that is inside bitter leaf and it helps in the metabolism of amino acids, lipids and glucose in human body. Thiamine helps to oxidize fatty acids to produce synthesis of lipids.
Bitter leaf is vital in the chemical reactions involving Metabolism of lipids associated with carbohydrate which is normally converted into fats.
So to boost your overall body metabolism, eat bitter leaf soup, chew the fresh leaf or drink its juice on regular basis.
8. Prevents Risk of Cancer
There are several anti-cancer properties available in bitter leaves that makes it a good medicinal vegetable for prevention of cancer. These properties helps in controlling of hydatidiform mole, lung tumor and trophoblastic tumour which are signs of cancer.
Bitter leaf can be mixed with other herbal medicines to cure cancer diseases.
Importantly, Andrographolide, labdane diterpenoid present in bitter leaf is a plant compound that is effective in the treatment of gastric cancer, colon and prostate cancers.
9. Fights Free Radicals
Vitamins E, which is also present in bitter leaf serves as an antioxidant that combats free radicals which carry dangerous effects on the human body.
Bitter leaf contains sesquiterpenoids, an anti-bacterial compound which is responsible for its bitter taste.
The work of this compound is to search for free radicals from the body system and get rid of them.
10. Treatment of Diabetes
The bitter taste of this vegetable is vital in moderating the blood sugar level and controlling normal insulin function.
The bitter taste also prevents the rising of glucose in the blood which normally results to diabetic conditions.
11. Detoxifies The Body
Bitter leaf juice (liquid extracts) has detoxifying agents that helps clear impurities from the body.
This clearing process contributes in getting rid of toxins in the liver, lungs and kidney. This in return prevents potential kidney and liver problems including kidney stone development.
12. Treatment of Several Infections
Other health benefits of bitter leaf can be seen in healing skin wounds, treating mouth inflammations, skin infections, toothache, typhoid, ear inflammation, tuberculosis and respiratory tract diseases.
Nutritional Value of Bitter Leaf
Bitter leaf contains some essential vitamins like vitamin A, C, K and E, vitamin B1 and B2.
It also has fibre, proteins and minerals such as manganese, zinc, iron, potassium, calcium phosphorus, selenium and selenium.
Andrographolide, sesquiterpenoids, polimetoksiflavon, apigenin, labdane diterpenoid and andragrafin are some plant components which has one medicinal value or the other.
There is a trace of some Phytochemicals such as alkaloids, steroid, tannins, terpenes and saponin in Bitter leaf plant.
As you can see, the health benefits of Bitter leaf are numerous so you should consider adding it to your diet.