Many Africans including Asians are adopting the use of natural herbs and plants these days as perhaps their last resort in taking care of their health challenges, as well as improving on their health and well-being. One of such popular herbs is the bitter leaf plant, which has unarguable and undeniable benefits and natural healing abilities.
Bitter leaf is very familiar to some people but others may not have any idea about this wonder leaf.
Popularly known in Nigeria as ‘Ewuro’ by the ‘Yorubas’, ‘Shiwaka’ by the Hausas, ‘Onugbu’ by the Igbos, and ‘Aforloh’ amongst the Idoma people, bitter leaf is scientifically called Vernonia amygdalina.
Bitter leaf, known naturally for its distinctive bitter taste, foamy nature while being washed and largely regarded as a good condiment for soup preparation in the Eastern part of Nigeria, not leaving out some parts of the South-southern parts as well, is one plant that has been identified as a wonder vegetable over the years. Every part of this plant is bitter starting from the leaves to its roots. The bitterness of this plant is actually good for the body.
Bitter leaf is used in preparing a famous delicacy in Nigeria’s Igbo land, and asides this, the leaf is well known for its healing potency when chewed or juiced raw, as cooking or processing through fire reduces its potency and medicinal value.
Bitter leaf can grow anywhere unlike other leaves that only grow in certain places and temperature. These leaves flourish anywhere they grow.
Nutrition of Bitter Leaf
Bitter leaf contains flavonoids, deoxy andrographolide, 14-deoxy-n, andrographolide, 12-didehydroandrographolide, and homoandrographolide. There are also ketones, alkane, aldehydes, potassium, sodium, calcium, acid grit, and resin.
Health Benefits of Bitter Leaf
Strengthens liver health
This wonder leaf is generally considered a liver herb because it stimulates, cleanses and supports the liver.
The liver is one of the most important organs of the body. There are a lot of major functions that the liver should do every day and this includes the production of bile acid that helps in fat metabolism. Without the liver, fats will not be digested inside the body to be used as energy. Bitter leaf can be very helpful in maintaining the livers optimum health to release bile acid every time people eat fatty foods.
Another major function of the liver is the production of glycogen. Glycogen is stored energy that is released in times of low level of glucose especially for people who do fasting. The liver should be well taken care of by using bitter leaf.
Good source of fatty acids
Also bitter leaf is an abundant source of the polyunsaturated fatty acids linoleic and linolenic acid. Because your body can't make these two fats, they are required from the diet. A study found that diets rich in these two fatty acids were protective against cardiovascular disease. In this study, those who consumed the greatest amounts of linoleic and linolenic fatty acids had a 40 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to those that seldom consumed these two fats.
Improves kidney health
Another very vital organ inside the body is the kidney. Kidney helps in the excretion of waste products inside the body. If the normal function of the kidney breakdown there will be huge problem inside the body. Bitter leaf is a natural herb that is useful in taking care of the kidney.
Good for diabetes
Diabetic patient can also use bitter leaf as one of their medication to prevent high sugar level in the blood. It will not only lower the sugar level in the blood but also repair impaired pancreas. Pancreas is the organ responsible for the production of insulin for glucose to reach each cell to use by the body as energy. Impaired pancreas does not release the right amount of insulin to maintain the right sugar level in the blood.
Reduces the risk of breast cancer
Adding bitter leaf to your healthy diet may reduce your risk of chronic diseases like breast cancer. It is found that consuming bitter leaf may combat breast cancer cell growth. In a test tube study of human breast cancer cells, scientists from Jackson State University found that bitter leaf inhibited the growth and proliferation of breast cancer cells.
Regulates cholesterol level
Elevated cholesterol, especially "bad" LDL cholesterol, is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer's disease. In an animal model, supplementation with bitter leaf extract reduced LDL cholesterol by 50 percent while also boosting "good" HDL cholesterol. However, no research investigating bitter leaf on cholesterol has been conducted on humans.
Good source of antioxidants
Your body's cells are under a near constant assault from a harmful process known as oxidation. Unchecked oxidation can increase the chances of precancerous cell formation. Bitter leaf is an abundant source of antioxidants, researchers reveal. The researchers add that the antioxidant properties of bitter leaf make a healthy disease fighting addition to your diet.
Bitter leaf contains an antiseptic that is very effective to reduce heat inside the body. The content of andrographolide lactones, glucosides, diterpene,and flavonoids serve to reduce fever.
Lowers blood pressure
Bitter compounds have among other substances, andrographolide, alkaloid, and potassium. Andrographolide content of which can improve the body’s defence systems such as the production of white blood cells that attack bacteria and other foreign substances. High potassium in bitter leaf is useful to remove water and salt to treat hypertension. Potassium compounds provide efficacy to lower blood pressure.
Effective for typhus disease
Bitter is also believed to be used as a medicine for typhus. Typhus is a disease caused by bacterial infection of the intestine and lymph nodes, and spleen.
Bitter substances have the typical form of andrographolide. Besides andrographolide, also has panni colin substances. Based on these two elements, the bitter leaf is named andrographis paniculate. Andrographolide and panni colin specific main function is actually to increase endurance.
Aids treatment of typhoid
Typhoid is a disease caused by bacteria. Consuming bitter leaf is able to kill the bacteria that cause typhoid.
Improves skin health
Bitter leaf helps the body to reduce the risk of skin aging and fight against the effects of free radicals. The bitter extract is able to increase the body’s defence against infection that lowers the quality of the organs in the body, including the skin tissue.
Bitter Leaf Side Effects
Bitter leaf is safe to be consumed in the right amounts. Side effects that may arise are loss of appetite, diarrhoea, vomiting, rash, headache, runny nose, and fatigue.