Bitter leaf plant is botanically known as Vernonia amygdalina , in Hausa the plant is known as shakwa or shuwaka, in Igbo language it is called onugbu while in Yoruba the plant is called ewuro. Bitter leaf is an important component of many local cuisine especially in the tropics where it is used in the preparation of bitter soups, bitter leaf tea, dishes and for medicinal purposes. Phytochemical screening of bitter leaf shows that it contains saponins, tannins, terpenes, alkaloids and steroid. The plant also contains several nutritional and medicinal components: which include phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium, iron, zinc, moisture, protein, fat, fiber, carbohydrate,carotene, calcium, magnesium, manganese and copper. Lactone extracted from bitter leafs contain didehydroandrographolide, deoxy andrographolide, 14-deoxy-n, homoandrographolide and 12- andrographolide. Other components include pan ikulin, mono-0-metilwithin, 4-dimetiler, polimetoksiflavon, andrgrafin and apigenin-7. This bitter tasting plant has several life saving benefits, a recent study published in the journal of food biochemistry exposed the huge potentials of the bitter leaf plant .There are several health benefits of bitter leaf plant these include:
1. Bitter Leaf Anti-Cancer Properties
Annually an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people die from the disease. The number of new cases of cancer is 454.8 per 100,000 men and women per year, cancer is increasingly becoming a public health nightmare. Bitter leaf is one of the few plants with huge anti-cancer properties, it has been shown to be useful in the management of hydatidiform mole, trophoblastic tumor and lung tumor which was the forerunner of cancer. Another study published in the International journal of environmental research and public health revealed that treatment with bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) extracts moderately reduces cellular viability and induces minimal DNA damage in MCF-7 cells. The study concluded that bitter leaf extracts represent a DNA-damaging anti-cancer agent against breast cancer through minimal DNA damage and moderate toxicity in tumors cells which is its main mechanism of action. See The Excellent Health Benefits Of Ginger
2. Bitter Leaf and High Blood Pressure Control
Another health benefit of bitter leaf plant is its ability to control blood pressure. Bitter leafs have shown very significant effect on blood pressure regulation. A clinical study which analyzed the impact of bitter leaf on low density lipoproteins (LDL) and High density Lipoprotein (HDL) showed that bitter leaf decreased bad fat (LDL) cholesterol by nearly half, while simultaneously raising good fat (HDL) cholesterol levels. A study in the Journal of Food Biochemistry revealed that free and bound phenol extracts from Vernonia amygdalina significantly inhibited α‐amylase, α‐glucosidase and there exist a strong correlation between the enzyme inhibitory activities and the phenol content of the extracts. The study concluded that this could be the possible mechanism through which bitter leaf exert its antihypertensive property. In addition the high levels of potassium in plant has been linked to the plants ability to reduce blood pressure, it therefore useful in the management of hypertension
3. Bitter Leaf and Gastro intestinal Disturbances
For centuries bitter leaf tea benefits have played a key role in resolving conditions related to digestion .Bitter leaf has been used in the management of gastrointestinal disturbance arising from bacterial contamination of food, especially bacillary dysentery caused by Shigella species. In addition, aqueous extract of the leaves have been shown to prevent the growth and proliferation of many microorganism including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Studies have shown that phenolic extracts of bitter leaf exhibit anthelmintic activity and could be an inexpensive and readily available source of anthelmintic treatment.
4. Bitter Leaf Cure For Headaches, Migraine And Flu
Headache is the symptom of pain anywhere in the region of the head or neck and severe headaches increases your risk of depression .The ability of bitter leaf to cure headaches especially tension headache and migraine have been well documented over the years, it has also been shown to be helpful in relieving symptoms associated with cold and catarrh. Many parts of the bitter leaf plants are useful in the treatment of fever, jaundice, constipation, malaria, hiccups, kidney problems, schistosomiasis, cough, wounds, veneral diseases and other bacterial and protozoal infection according to an article in the malaria and chemotherapy control. Also See Health Benefits of Zobo Drink
5. Bitter Leaf Anti-Diabetic Properties
A research published in the American journal of Biochemistry and biotechnology reported that bitter leaf tea is very useful in the reduction of blood glucose, as such bitter leaf tea is a very useful plant in the management of diabetes and other blood sugar related conditions. Blood sugar lowering effect of Bitter leaf have been confirmed by another study published in the Phytotherapy Research. The study reported that aqueous leaf extract of the plant, produced a maximum lowering of blood sugar in fasted normal and alloxanized rabbits. The hypoglycaemic effects produced by bitter leaf were comparable with those of tolbutamide a first-generation potassium channel blocker and sulfonylurea oral hypoglycemic medication. Click Here to See How To Make Bitter Leaf Tea
6. Bitter leaf juice improves infertility and boost breastmilk
The detoxification capabilities of bitter leaf juice and bitter leaf tea boost fertility by aiding the detoxification work carried out by the liver and the kidneys. It has been reported that the frequent use of bitter leaf plant extracts significantly affects the production of female sex hormones especially estrogen.Estrogen a very important fertility hormone which helps to stop ovulation during pregnancy is eliminated in the liver which is also responsible for balancing all reproductive hormones. A balanced hormone profile increases the chances of fertilization and conception. In addition bitter leaf plant also improves production of quality breast milk in breastfeeding mothers. See The 5 Simple Ways To Get Your Man to Last Longer Naturally
7. Bitter Leaf and Pregnancy
A major health benefit of bitter leaf is its effects on Fertility . its ability to significantly boost a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. Apart from the hormone balancing act , the detoxification work of bitter leaf help prevent the pollution of the antibodies that helps the body fight disease and initiate tissue repair and regeneration. This can significantly boost the fertility of the ovaries and also eliminate ovarian cysts and premature ovarian failure. Bitter leafs are also known to correct abnormal or irregular menstruation which is a sign of anovulation and hormonal imbalance. Also Read How To Make Bitter Leaf Juice
Bitter Leaf Side Effects
- Individuals that are allergic to bitter leaf can expect allergic reaction anytime they use the plant
- Because of its ability to control blood pressure it can sometimes lead to unwanted heart outcomes, it is important that you discuss with your doctor before using the plant if you have any heart condition.
- When it comes to bitter leaf and pregnancy there are no known side effects of bitter leaf at pregnancy.Pregnant women should discuss with their doctors or care givers before taking bitter leaf juice or extract.
- Bitter leaf extract should not be given to infants. Persons with liver or kidney conditions should not use bitter leaf extracts without medical supervision.
How to Use Bitter Leaf
How to use bitter leaf as energy and vitality booster – Squeeze the leaves, fresh or dry in water. Remember to wash in either case before squeezing to get rid of parasites and bacteria. Take a glass 3 times daily.
How to use bitter leaf to treat pneumonia– Squeeze the fresh leaves of bitter leaf in water and warm the concoction to further extract more medicinal components . Take a glass full of the extract thrice daily.
How to use bitter leaf to treat sleeplessness (Insomnia)- Place fresh leaves of bitter leaf plant in a blender and blend adding water as you blend to make juice, alternatively, pound the fresh leaves in a mortar to extract the juice. Take 1-2 glasses of bitter leaf juice at night. Non diabetics can add sweeteners or honey to taste.
How to use bitter leaf to treat gastrointestinal problems – if you have gastrointestinal problems taking extracts and juice of bitter leaf or even chewing and swallowing, the leaves can provide relief. Extracts and juice also soothes swollen joints and eradicates pain associated with arthritis and rheumatism.
Bitter leaf is widely available in the tropics and easy to plant and manage. Growing this plant in the family garden is a common practice in West Africa especially Nigeria where it is used to make a variety of concoction, soups and delicacies. See The Major Health Benefits of African Food
Permission is hereby granted for the use of whole or parts of this article provided appropriate credit is given to www.publichealth.com.ng
Public Health Nigeria an Interdisciplinary public health movement focused on health education, advancing fair public health policies, promoting fitness, healthy diets, responsible behavior, community health and general well-being.