Vernonia amygdalina known by its common name, bitter leaf, is a dark leafy vegetable consumed in most West-African countries especially in Cameroon and Nigerian. Unlike other vegetables, bitter leaf can be grown in nearly every part of the planet all year round.
There are so many ways of consuming this vegetable and I must confess that most of the dishes made from bitter leaf are finger-licking delicious; does Ndolé ring a bell? Let’s save the details of that dish for later shall we? Just thinking about it makes me salivate already and I know you want to find out more about the health benefits first, so let me shake it off!!!
Have you ever wondered why the name bitter leaf? You guessed right, it is bitter! If you have never tasted the leaf raw, let me give you a clue; think about Nivaquin or Quinimax (typical anti-malaria drugs consumed in most parts of Africa). Yes it is that bitter. But nature has a reason why some plants taste the way they do.
Bitter leaf has been scientifically proven to be loaded with a variety of Minerals including Magnesium, Kalium,Zinc and Iron. I was carried to find out what nutrients are contained in bitter leaf. 33.3% of the bitter leaf leaf is made up of protein which makes it a great altenative source of protein for the African vegetarian and 10% fat.
Bitter leaf can be consumed in its leafy form, but the juice from its leaves and roots could also be extracted and used for medicinal purposes. Bitterleaf juice was my mum’s go-to medicinal plant against malaria and boy how I hated it but it works wonders to relief fever symptoms. Whether you consume bitter leaf fresh as a juice or cooked in a meal, bitter leaf has been proven to have multiple benefits for our health. Here are our top 3 benefits:
1. Bitter leaf blocks toxins
If you are a non-smoker, you probably know how annoying it is to know that those who smoke around us increase our risk of lung cancers and we just can’t do anything about it! There is some good new for us. HURRAY! Bitter leaf cleanses the lymph and acts as a barrier against the toxic pollutants from cigarettes. Though it does not completely solve the Problem, it’s at least a delicious way to partially avoid it.
2. It reduces risk of heart attacks
When properly cooked, bitter leaf produces linolenic and linoleic acid (healthy fatty acids) which greatly lower the risk of heart attacks.
3. Reduces risk of Cancer
Ijeh II, Ejike. Current perspectives on the medicinal potential of Vernonia amygdalina Del. J Med Plant Res 5 (7). CECC (2011). 1051–1061
Kokwaro, John . Medicinal Plants of East Africa 3rd ed. Nairobi, Kenya: University of Nairobi Press. 2009. ISBN 9966-846-84-0.
Forombi, EO and Olatunde O. Antioxidative and Chemopreventive Properties of Vernonia amygdalina and Garcinia biflavonoid . Int J Environ Res Public Health. Jun 2011; 8(6): 2533–2555. Accessed 16.01.2015 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138040/