revalidation

Benefits of bitter leaf 

Bitter leaf is a vegetable used for preparing delicious meals in some parts of the world. It also has numerous benefits, some of which are beneficial.

Black people in the farm harvesting vegetables and herbs

Key takeaways

  • Bitter leaf is botanically known as Vernonia amygdalina. It is found and consumed in various parts of Africa and Asia.
  • Bitter leaf has numerous health benefits and serves various medicinal and edible purposes.
  • The benefits of bitter leaf include treating infections, treating inflammatory conditions, and relieving digestive and metabolic issues. 

Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) is a perennial herb that belongs to the Asteraceae family. It is a very common plant grown in various households across Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and other West African, Sub-Saharan African, and Asian countries. The plant is known for its bitter taste, as its name depicts.

Bitter leaf has different local names across different parts of the world where it is consumed. But, irrespective of location, it serves similar functions and is used for similar purposes. Every part of the plant is considered useful. Its leaves can be crushed or pressed to produce an extract or juice, while its stem can be used as toothpicks and chewing sticks in rural communities.

For generations, the plant has been considered to have health and medicinal benefits, including antifungal and antibacterial qualities. These qualities make it useful, as it may be used to treat certain ailments such as dysentery, high blood pressure, and diarrhea.

The benefits of bitter leaf include:

1. Serves antimicrobial purposes

Bitter leaf extract may be effective in eradicating certain microbial organisms. Some people use it as a home remedy to treat certain microbial diseases and infections.

2. Acts as an anti-cancer and anti-proliferative agent

Another potential benefit of bitter leaf is its anti-cancer and anti-proliferative properties. An older 2003 study suggests that when incorporated into meals, bitter leaf may help prevent or delay the onset of breast cancer.

This may be possible as the plant contains various nutrients and phytochemicals such as flavonoids, terpenes, xanthones, coumarins, saponins, alkaloids, and other anti-proliferative agents that may aid in the treatment of certain types of cancer.

3. Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects

The anti-inflammatory effects of the compounds contained in bitter leaf may provide temporary relief for some common inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, toothache, and asthma.

Bitter leaf also contains vitamin E, which serves as an antioxidant. Antioxidants aid in fighting free radicals that may pose a threat or cause harmful effects on the body.

4. Enhances fertility

A 2014 study on Wistar rats published by the International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine found that bitter leaf improved sperm quality in the animals used.

While the study was carried out on animal models and scientists need to carry out such a study on humans, the study suggests that bitter leaf has the potential to positively impact fertility in humans. The high levels of vitamins and anti-inflammatory compounds in this vegetable may help boost fertility in humans.

5. Treatment of fever

Bitter leaf is also commonly used in some places to treat people who come down with a fever due to infections. It may be effective for this purpose, as research indicates that the leaf contains antipyretic properties. The antipyretic properties contained in bitter leaf may help reduce high body temperatures in people with fevers. [8] 

6. Relieves stomach aches and indigestion

Due to the fact that bitter leaf has anti-inflammatory effects, it may provide relief from any inflammation or pain in the digestive system. Hence, the plant may be considered a home remedy for stomach aches and indigestion.

7. Treatment of diabetes

Bitter leaf may have anti-diabetic effects. It may induce hypoglycemia (reduced blood sugar) while also providing the muscles with enough glucose to function. [10] 

8. Vitamins and minerals

Bitter leaf is rich in vitamins such as vitamins A, C, E, B1, and B2, and minerals such as sodium, manganese, iron, potassium, zinc, and calcium. The vegetable also contains high levels of protein, fat, and crude fibers. These micro- and macronutrients are essential for health and the normal functioning of the body's organs.

9. Treatment of hypertension

One of the numerous potential benefits of bitter leaf is its role in managing high blood pressure. The plant contains vitamins E and C. Both of these vitamins have antioxidative effects and help improve arterial stiffness and endothelial function, which helps stabilize and decrease blood pressure in people with hypertension.

It also contains potassium, which helps eradicate excess sodium and ease tension in the walls of the blood vessels.

10. Common weight loss aid

For individuals who intend to lose some weight, it may be best to choose a healthier plant-based diet. You may want to consider adding bitter leaf alongside a variety of other vegetables and fruits to your light meals.

A diet with bitter leaf alongside other fruits and vegetables will help provide you with the necessary supplements you need to attain your desired body weight.

Is it good to drink bitter leaf water every day?

Due to the herbal nature of bitter leaf, people tend to take bitter leaf juice for its numerous health benefits. But drinking bitter leaf juice excessively every day may not be a good idea. This is because bitter leaf may have cytotoxic (harmful to living cells) effects.

Taking a glass of bitter leaf juice some days—early in the morning or late at night before bed—can provide you with certain nutrients that your body needs.

Also, if you have a medical condition, speak to your doctor first before trying bitter leaf as a home remedy. If you have mild symptoms like a fever or stomach ache, see a doctor if they persist or don’t get better, even after trying home remedies like bitter leaf.

Health benefits of taking bitter leaf together with scent leaf

Bitter leaf and scent leaf (Ocimum gratissimum) are two popular herbal plants used in Africa and Asia, and both vegetables can be very beneficial to health. 

Benefits of taking bitter leaf together with scent leaf include:

  • They may help treat ailments such as diarrhea and headaches.
  • Scent leaf is said to contain thymol oil, which can be used as an antiseptic.
  • Both plants may help lower blood sugar levels.
  • Both plants can be used to prepare local cuisine, enhancing taste and nutritional value.
  • The minty smell of scent leaf enables it to provide fresh breath when chewed.

Why should you see a doctor before using bitter leaf as a home remedy?

Although bitter leaf is known to offer numerous health benefits, it’s always important to seek professional help.  Not all ailments are best treated with herbs. Also, herbal treatments sometimes offer temporary relief or may not cure the underlying cause of a symptom.

It is always safer to visit your doctor when you come down with a sickness, not just to get relief from your symptoms but to get a proper diagnosis. This is to ensure you are treating the main problem causing your symptoms.

Thanks to the numerous advancements in modern medicine, different types of medications are now available for numerous medical conditions. Some of the medications contain varying concentrated doses of some of the compounds seen in bitter leaf. This enables them to be amazingly effective in treatment and provide faster relief.

Wrap up

Bitter leaf is an age-old herb used to treat various ailments. Over the years, numerous researches have been done to uncover the health benefits of bitter leaf.

It has remained a food of choice for people in different parts of the world because of its anti-inflammatory, anti-malarial, and anti-parasitic effects, as well as its abundant supply of nutrients.

References

  1. R.N Okigbo and E.C Mmeka (2008). Antimicrobial Effects of Three Tropical Plant Extracts
  2. Izevbigie E. B. (2003). Discovery of Water-soluble Anticancer Agents (edotides) From a Vegetable Found in Benin City, Nigeria
  3. Gresham, L. J., Ross, J., & Izevbigie, E. B. (2008). Vernonia amygdalina: Anticancer Activity, Authentication, and Adulteration Detection.
  4. Clement G. Yedjou et.al (2019). Prostate Cancer Disparity, Chemoprevention, and Treatment by Specific Medicinal Plants
  5. Adeolu Alex Adedapo et.al (2014). Anti-Oxidant, Anti-Inflammatory and Antinociceptive Properties of the Acetone Leaf Extract of Vernonia Amygdalina in Some Laboratory Animals
  6. Ebenezer O. Farumbi and Olatunde Owoeye (2011). Antioxidative and Chemopreventive Properties of Vernonia amygdalina and Garcinia biflavonoid
  7. Risikat Eniola Kadir et.al (2020) Low Dose Bitter Leaf Improves Sperm Quality Disrupted in Immunosuppressed Wistar Rats
  8. Oboh G. (2006). Nutritive Value and Haemolytic Properties (in vitro) of the Leaves of Vernonia amygdalina on Human Erythrocyte.
  9. Modinat A. Adefisayo et.al (2017) - Gastro-protective Effect of Methanol Extract of Vernonia amygdalina (del.) Leaf on Aspirin-induced Gastric Ulcer in Wistar Rats.
  10. Ochuko L Erukainure et al.(2019). Histochemistry, Phenolic Content, Anti-oxidant, and Anti-diabetic Activities of Vernonia amygdalina Leaf Extract. 
  11. Plantinga et al. (2007). Supplementation with Vitamins C and E Improves Arterial Stiffness and Endothelial Function in Essential Hypertensive Patients.
  12. L D Whigham et al. (2012) Increased Vegetable and Fruit Consumption During Weight Loss Effort Correlates With Increased Weight and Fat Loss.
  13. Jane Ogoamaka Okwuzu et.al (2017) Cytotoxicity Testing of Aqueous Extract of Bitter Leaf (Vernonia amygdalina Del) and Sniper 1000EC (2,3 dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate) Using the Alium Cepa Test