Bitterleaf as the name implies is a bitter plant, whose leaf extracts, stems and barks are used for culinary, medical and curative purposes. When tested, the leaf is highly bitter but contains unlimited or countless benefits. Scientifically, it is known as Vernonia amygadalina.
The vegetable contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B1 and vitamin B12. The plant is a shrub, when fully matured can be up to twenty three feet, the leaf can be green or gray in colour with a rough texture, the branches of the shrub falls off easily due to its fragile nature. The plant bears small white flowers, the flowers loom in clusters during spring.
Also known as onugbo, shawaka and ewuro by Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba in Nigeria respectively, it is an indegineous African species which can be found growing wide along edges of agriculture field. It can be cooked, both as a leafy vegetable and also used as flavour in making soups commonly in Africa.
Bitterleaf should be taken fresh but most people tend to squeeze out the bitterness from the leaf before eating, with the aim of avoiding the bitterness, which can be described as eating mere chaff due to the medicinal value has been extracted. Squeezing bitterleaf, to bring out the liquid, is a better method of taking it, though it is bitter and may be difficult to take due to its taste, but once you have come to understand the health benefit of the leaf, you will always want to take it. Most people prefer adding some other sweeter juice to bitterleaf in order to make the taste sweet or moderate. However, bitter bitterleaf is taken, either by drinking the water squeezed out from the leaf, eating it dried or puting in soups, applying it on your skin or using the stem in place of chewing stick to wash your teeth, all can be of huge benefit to your health.
The distinctive fact about this leaf is that it can grow and flourish any where, under any temperature and its bitterness which starts from the leaf down to its roots which is very good for the body. Medical researchers has proven bitterleaf to contain medicinal properties, its uses ranges from antimicrobial to decorative. and also contains nutrients like proteins, fiber, carbohydrate, ascorbic acid, carotenoid, calcium, iron, phosphonus, potassium, sulphur, sodium, manganese, copper, zinc, magnesium and selenium e.t.c which can be of great benefit to the body.
According to Dr Sanusi Idowu of Prince and Princess Hospital, Ojo Road, Ajegunle, Lagos, “bitterleaf is a natural gift from God just like honey, with high medicinal properties and some of its benefits, are, its ability to aid up metabolism in order to help one loose weight as a result of nutrients like zinc, iron, fiber, carbohydrate contained in it. He added, “I advice my patients with dibetes and pile to take a glass of bitterleaf water once daily, better taken late at night or early in the morning.
He also explained that, applying bitterleaf juice to a part of your skin that is affected by rashes, eczema, ringworm or any other skin disease can be more effective than applying other things that can bring reaction to your body or make the affected part get worse instead of been cured.
Consumption of bitterleaf and its water daily can aid in reducing your high sugar level, making it moderate and also repair your pancreas, because of its natural bitterness which contain rich vitamins.
Most patients are advised to take glucose, but when it is taken in excess, it results, into hyperglacemia which is not healthy, also when your body lacks glucose, it is known as hypoglycemia which is not also healthy to the body. Drinking Liquid bitterleaf helps your glucose content to be moderate.
Regular intake of this vegetable helps to regulate the blood cholesterol level which is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. also, the leaf can be consumed to treat fever, feverish condition, joint aches, different levels of intestinal complaints, stomach ache, as well as parasite induced disease like malaria. Taking bitterleaf juice, helps in nourishing the skin, building up your body, thus preventing harmful toxins from penetrating into your body. It serves as blood cleanser, and toner for the uterus.
Bittetleaf is also applied externally to protect against leech that transmits bilharziasis. Blood oozing from fresh wound can be stopped by squeezing fresh green bitter leaves and dropping it on the wound.