Bitter leaf plant is botanically known as Vernonia amygdalina. In Hausa the plant is known as shakwa or shuwaka, in Igbo language it is called onugbu; while in Yoruba the plant is called ewuro. It is an important component of many local cuisine especially in the tropics; where it is used in the preparation of bitter soups, bitter leaf tea, dishes and for medicinal purposes.
Phytochemical screening shows that it contains saponins, tannins, terpenes, alkaloids and steroid.
The plant also contains several nutritional and medicinal component; which include phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium, iron, zinc, moisture, protein, fat, fiber, carbohydrate,carotene, calcium, magnesium, manganese and copper.
Lactone extracted from bitter leafs contain didehydroandrographolide, deoxy andrographolide, 14-deoxy-n, homoandrographolide and 12- andrographolide. Other components include pan ikulin, mono-0-metilwithin, 4-dimetiler, polimetoksiflavon, andrgrafin and apigenin-7.
There are several health benefits of bitter leaf plant. These include:
1. Bitter Leaf Anti-Cancer Properties
Bitter leaf is one of the few plants with huge anti-cancer properties. It has been shown to be useful in the management of hydatidiform mole, trophoblastic tumor and lung tumor; which was the forerunner of cancer.
It extracts represent a DNA-damaging anti-cancer agent against breast cancer through minimal DNA damage and moderate toxicity in tumors cells; which is its main mechanism of action.
2. Bitter Leaf and Gastro intestinal Disturbances
For centuries, the tea benefits have played a key role in resolving conditions related to digestion . The leaf has been used in the management of gastrointestinal disturbance arising from bacterial contamination of food; especially bacillary dysentery caused by Shigella species.
In addition, aqueous extract of the leaves have been shown to prevent the growth and proliferation of many microorganism; including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Phenolic extracts exhibit anthelmintic activity and could be an inexpensive and readily available source of anthelmintic treatment.
3. Bitter Leaf Anti-Diabetic Properties
A research published in the American journal of Biochemistry and biotechnology reported that it is very useful in the reduction of blood glucose, as such very useful plant in the management of diabetes and other blood sugar related conditions.
Indeed, the hypoglycaemic effects produced were comparable with those of tolbutamide; a first-generation potassium channel blocker and sulfonylurea oral hypoglycemic medication.
4. Bitter leaf juice improves infertility and boost breast milk
The detoxification capabilities of bitter leaf juice and tea boost fertility by aiding the detoxification work carried out by the liver and the kidneys.
Furthermore, it has been reported that the frequent use of the plant extracts; significantly affects the production of female sex hormones especially estrogen.
Estrogen, a very important fertility hormone which helps to stop ovulation during pregnancy; is eliminated in the liver which is also responsible for balancing all reproductive hormones. A balanced hormone profile increases the chances of fertilization and conception.
In addition, the plant also improves production of quality breast milk in breastfeeding mothers.
5. Bitter Leaf and Pregnancy
A major health benefit of bitter leaf is its effects on Fertility . its ability to significantly boost a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.
Apart from the hormone balancing act , the detoxification work help prevent the pollution of the antibodies that helps the body fight disease and initiate tissue repair and regeneration.
This can significantly boost the fertility of the ovaries and also eliminate ovarian cysts and premature ovarian failure. They are also known to correct abnormal or irregular menstruation which is a sign of anovulation and hormonal imbalance.
A note of caution
Bitter Leaf Side Effects
- Individuals that are allergic can expect allergic reaction anytime they use the plant
- Because of its ability to control blood pressure it can sometimes lead to unwanted heart outcomes, it is important that you discuss with your doctor before using the plant if you have any heart condition.
- When it comes to the leaf and pregnancy there are no known side effects of bitter leaf at pregnancy.Pregnant women should discuss with their doctors or care givers before taking the juice or extract.
- Extract should not be given to infants. Persons with liver or kidney conditions should not use bitter leaf extracts without medical supervision.