With many bitter leaf benefits it is no doubt the King of Bitter Plants. The African Bitter leaves (Vernonia Amygdalina) is a herb native to the tropical regions of Africa. It is commonly called bitter leaf because of it’s characteristic bitter taste which is as a result of the presence anti-nutritional factors or phytochemicals such as alkaloids, saponins, tannins and glycosides.
Other notable indigenous African nomenclature of the African Bitter Leaf include: onugbu (Igbo), ewuro (Yoruba), chusar-doki (Hausa), etidot (Ibibio). Bitter leaf, a very popular traditional African herb is used widely for the preparation of soups and staple dishes or for medicinal purposes in most African homes.
This great gift of nature which has been studied and researched on extensively, is known to possess immense pharmacological benefits, nutrients and chemical compounds that are highly beneficial to human health.
Some Health Benefits Of Bitter Leaf
Medicinal properties of bitter leaf include :
- Improves The Immune System – many studies have shown that bitter leaf extracts strengthen the immune system through the regulation of cytokines.
- Antipyretic Function – owing largely to the presence of active compounds such as xanthones, edotides and anthraquinone in bitter leaf, this herb serves as an effective resource for fever treatment. It causes the hypothalamus to override a prostaglandin-induced increase in temperature.
- Anti-Helminthic Properties – Helminthiasis is any macroparasitic disease of humans and other animals in which a part of the body is infected with parasitic worms(Helminths), such as tapeworms, flukes and roundworms. Bitter leaf possesses anti-helminthic properties thereby making it effective in the treatment of stomach upsets, aches, and discomfort. It serves as a wonderful worm expeller!
- Aids In Chemotherapy Sensitivity – bitter leaf has been proven to possess inhibitory properties towards proliferation of cancer cells. Daily intake of the bitter leaf juice has been found to make such cancer cells susceptible and more responsive to chemotherapy. Continuous consumption of this herb has been known to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, as it contains active compounds that inhibit the activities of aromatase (the enzyme which catalyzes the production of estrogen ). Many studies have shown positive correlations between increased estrogen levels in women and breast cancer risks.
- Antimalarial Properties – bitter leaf can serve as an effective substitute for quinine, and is widely believed to be effective in creating an adequate clinical response in patients with mild falciparum malaria.
- Anti-Diabetic Effect – due to the presence of saponins, coumarins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, sesquiterpenes and other biologically-active compounds in bitter leaf, it is highly regarded as a viable tool in the reduction of blood glucose levels and control of diabetes.
Other health benefits of bitter leaf include: – it is useful in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, control of body cholesterol levels, speeds up metabolism, treatment of pile, erodes nausea, serves as an effective anti-oxidant, relieves toothache and gingivitis. Oh yes, it can also be employed in the brewing of beer!
Dear readers, it is quite safe to say that bitter leaf is a great blessing from nature, a remedial plant which has extensive therapeutic and pharmacological uses. So go ahead, prepare a delicious meal of bitter leaf soup or pure bitter leaf juice, you’ll be glad you did!
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Note: this post is purely for educational purposes only and should not be misconstrued as a direct replacement for sound medical diagnosis and treatments.
Author: James Agu