The Wonders of Bitter Leaf
Bitter leaf popularly used to prepare soup in the eastern part of Nigeria is now known to be a wonder vegetable with medicinal properties which can be used to treat different ailments such as reducing blood sugar levels in diabetic patients
MANY Nigerians are resorting to the use of natural herbs and plants to take care of their health problems and improve their well-being. One of such popular herbs is the bitter leaf which has undeniable benefits and natural healing abilities. Popularly known as Ewuro by the Yorubas, Shiwaka by the Hausas and Onugbu amongst the Igbos, bitter leaf is used in preparing a famous delicacy in the Igbo land. Apart from this, bitter leaf is well known for its healing potency when it is chewed or juiced raw because cooking reduces its potency and medicinal value.
Bitter leaf is generally considered a liver herb because it stimulates, cleanses and supports the liver and gall bladder. The liver which is one of the most important organs of the body has a lot of vital functions that is needed for normal functioning of the whole system of the body. Without the liver all major process in the body will be paralysed. Without the liver fats will not be digested inside the body to be used as energy. Bitter leaf is said to be very helpful in maintaining the livers optimum health to release bile acid every time people eat fatty foods.
Studies also show that bitter leaf can be used to cure kidney-related complications. Bitter leaf also stimulates bile and hydrochloric acid production, stimulates nervous and immune system function. Interestingly, it also combats fatigue and exhaustion. It is obviously one of the very simple and inexpensive natural herbs which can be used to ensure optimum health and well-being of the body system.
Sarah Abagia, head, Dietetics Department at the National Hospital, Abuja, said: “It is not that bitter leaf can cure diabetes, but it has some sugar controlling influence to a certain degree. Bitter leaf is able to influence some drop in the sugar level. But it is not suppose to be regarded as an entire medication for diabetes. One can take a handful of fresh bitter leaf, pour in a blender, pour the desired amount of water, blend and strain it, then drink while some people take a handful of bitter leaf and eat it too.”
Bitter leaf does not only reduce the blood sugar level drastically, it also helps to repair the pancreas. According to some researchers writing in the Medical Journal of Islamic World Academy of Sciences, the administration of aqueous extract of bitter leaf at a concentration of 500 mg/kg of body weight significantly decreases the level of blood glucose and its efficacy to lower blood glucose level was comparable with that of chlorpropamide which is a standard drug used in the management of diabetes.
Regular consumption of this vegetable helps to regulate the blood’s cholesterol level which is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. In cases of constipation, stomach ache and inflammation of the stomach, bitter leaf is a remedy. Bitter leaf has been widely used and recognised for its efficacy in preventing malaria. The raw leaves are plucked and washed before being squeezed to extract the juice. Drinking the juice alone is an antidote for malaria.
According to a 2005 edition of the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, chewing the stem of bitter leaf helps to prevent Gingivitis which is a tooth-gum problem due to its proven antimicrobial activity. Common skin diseases such as ringworm, eczema and others have been successfully treated with bitter leaf because of its antimicrobial effect. The bitter leaf protects the liver from drug induced damage.
Bitter leaf, if incorporated in the diet, can slow cancer growth and even kill cancer cells. The aqueous extract of bitter leaf can also help in inducing labour and where there is no medical help, blood oozing from fresh wound can be stopped by squeezing fresh, green bitter leaves and dropping it on the wound.