Do you know that the common African plant, bitter leaf, which you can conveniently grow in your backyard, can cure a lot of ailments? In Nigeria, different tribes have names for this leaf.
The botanical name for bitter leaf is Vernonia which is a genus of about 1000 species of forbs and shrubs in the family Asteraceae. Some species are known as Ironweed. Some species of Vernonia, including V. Calvoana, V.amygdalina, and V. Colorata, are eaten as leaf vegetables and are of economic value. They are known for having intense purple flowers. They are common in most West African and Central African countries. The leaves have a sweet and bitter taste. They are sold fresh or dried, and are a typical ingredient in egusi soup. They are also one of the most widely consumed leaf vegetables of West Africa.
The leaves are exported from several African countries to Europe and North America and can be purchased inexpensively in grocery stores aiming to serve African clients.
The leaves are relatively inexpensive and rich in several nutrients especially β-carotene and vitamin C which are essential for human health. It is also rich in minerals like iron, phosphorus, calcium and potassium..Bitter leaf is also rich in carotene, proteins, ascorbic acid, iron, folic acid, dietary anemia factors as shown below:
S/N Nutrients Value (g/100mg)
1 Crude protein— 25.10g
2 Ash— 17.13g
3 Cellulose content—- 12.31g
4 Edible portion—- 100g
5 Fats—– 0.4g
6 Protein— 5.2g
7 Water— 82.0g
8 Energy— 218g
9 Carbohydrates— 10.0g
10 Dietary fiber– 1.5g
11 Calcium—- 145mg
12 Phosphorus—- 6.7mg
13 Iron————– 5.0mg
14 Zinc———— 85.0mg
15 Manganese—— 710.0mg
16 Ascorbic acid—- 5.1mg
1. Battles against breast cancer
Breast cancer is the commonest cancer in women, with over one million women developing breast cancer world-wide every year.
While it also affects men, the number is quite small compared to women. In the developed world where records are better kept, it is said that one in nine women is likely to develop breast cancer in her life time.
Also according to some research, bitter leaf extracts may help suppress, inhibit the growth or growth signals of cancerous cells, suppress metastasis of cancerous cells as demonstrated in some animal studies.
Additionally, eating bitter leaf may combat breast cancer cell growth probably by a reduction of oestrogen level in the body. This is also a result of some research work.
2. Lowers cholesterol
Using a bitter leaf extract supplement on animals during a study decreased bad (LDL) cholesterol by nearly half, while simultaneously raising good (HDL) cholesterol levels. These studies have not been done in human.
3. Improves Resistance
Many studies have shown that bitter leaf extracts may strengthen the immune system through many cytokines (including pro inflammatory molecule) regulation. Our body is therefore in a better position to fight against infections.
4. Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases
Bitter leaf is an abundant source of the poly unsaturated fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic acid and these polyunsaturated fatty acids have been found to be protective against diseases of the heart and blood vessels. It is important for a person’s diet to contain linolenic and linoleic acid, because the body is unable to make them. Bitter leaf is able make these fats. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, when people consumed large quantities of linolenic and linoleic acid, they were at the lowest risk for heart and blood vessel disease when compared to those who did not.
5. High in antioxidants (anti-aging agents)
Oxidation is constantly assaulting your system’s cells. If this is left unchecked, pre-cancerous cell formation could possibly arise. According to research conducted by and published in Food Chemistry, there are antioxidant properties found in bitter leaf that, when added to a person’s diet, offer excellent disease-fighting properties.
Bitter leaf is an abundant source of oxidation increasing (antioxidants). The antioxidant properties of bitter leaf make a healthy disease fighting addition to human health.
Free Radicals (Oxidants) accelerate aging of body cells and our aging process. Therefore bitter leaf consumption can slow your aging.
6. Prevents Diabetes
Bitter leaf has been found to decrease blood glucose by 50% in animals compared to untreated animals. Research has also shown that to happen in humans.
It appears to improve the performance of the pancreas or improve the sensitivity of the body to insulin. Either way, the blood glucose can be reduced.
However, bitter leaf does not cure diabetes.
7. Helps in the Management of Gastric Ulcer
Some people have used bitter leaf to treat gastric and duodenal ulcer and claimed some relief but this is yet to be scientifically proven.