The Goodness of Elephant Grass

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Elephant Grass

 

Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum L. Schumach) belongs to the Poaceae family and is native to Tropical Africa. Also known as Napier grass, it is commonly called ciyawa giwa in Hausa, achara in Igbo, and fafa or wafa or koriko erin in Yoruba.

Constituents

Elephant grass is a source of dietary fibre, protein, cellulose, hemicelluloses, lignin, moisture and dry matter. It contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, calcium, potassium and magnesium; as well as antioxidants and phytochemicals. Other compounds found in elephant grass are chlorogenic acid, caffeoylquinic acids and seaquiterpene lactones.

Preparations

Elephant grass is available as the raw mature leaves, the young leaves and the stalks. It may be boiled to make tea, soup or stew. The infusions of the leaf may also be used as medicines.

Pharmacological actions and medicinal uses

Elephant grass helps to improve digestion, boost energy levels and detoxify the body. It helps in the maintenance of a healthy balance of gut flora by feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut with its high fibre content, which makes it a prebiotic.

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The anti-inflammatory properties of the compounds chlorogenic acid, caffeoylquinic acids and sesquiterpene lactones make elephant grass effective in the relief of pain and stiffness, and prevention and management of inflammatory conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis and cancer.

The plant may help to protect against colds and flus because of its antibacterial and antiviral properties, which are conferred on it by antioxidants and phytochemicals that help to boost the immune system by scavenging harmful toxins and fighting off infections. Thus, adding elephant grass to the diet may help to maintain health and reduce the risk of developing serious illnesses.

The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of elephant grass make it useful in protecting the skin from damage caused by free radicals, reducing acne and other inflammatory skin conditions, improving skin health and reducing signs of aging.

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The sedative properties of elephant grass, which is due to the presence of luteolin, may help to reduce stress levels, ease anxiety and promote sleep.  Elephant grass may help to achieve weight loss through the high fibre content that increases feelings of fullness; and the chlorogenic acid, which boosts metabolism.

There are reports that elephant grass has been used as carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, anti-dyspeptic, expectorant, stimulant and stomachic; and also as a treatment for jaundice and for regulation of menstrual cycle.

 

Adverse effects

Elephant grass may result in side-effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, when consumed in large amounts. It may interact with certain medications; so caution should be exercised when taking medications as well.

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Economic uses and potentials

Elephant grass is used for traditional animal feed, pest management, improving soil fertility, protecting arid land from soil erosion, paper pulp production, making handicraft articles such as baskets and for producing bio-fuel.

Elephant grass costs about N15 per kg. Cattle in Nigeria is reported to consume N5.8 billion worth of grass daily, translating to N2.14 trillion annually. There is a big market in and for Nigeria for Elephant grass in the agricultural, food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, through cultivation, processing, distribution and sales.

References

Best Home Diet (2023). Amazing benefits of elephant grass. Available at: https://besthomediet.com/amazing-benefits-of-elephant-grass/. Accessed May 16, 2023.

By Pharm. Ngozika Okoye MSc, MPH, FPCPharm

(Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency)

Email: ngozikaokoye@yahoo.com

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