Nutritive and health benefits of bitter leaf


According to Gills (1992), bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) as the name implies, is actually a bitter plant whose leaves, extracts, stems and barks are used for culinary,medicinal and curative purposes.   It can be used as a vegetable in preparing the popular Bitter leaf soup. It is also known as Ofe-Onugbu, Shiwaka and Ewuro by the Igbos, Hausas and Yorubas respectively.

They are eaten as leafy vegetable in several African countries and exported to other parts of the world. It has a height of 23 m, when fully grown the plant bears fruits which has slightly hairy small nuts insides.

According to Mbinglo (1998), the seeds can be cultivated or stem to propagate the plant. It takes about 2-3 weeks to geminate during the season so it is important to water in nursery bed to enable it grow well. It is harvested during the rainy season (May – August) by cutting leafy shoots. Other varieties of bitter leaf include V. calvoatna, V. colorata and V. amygdalina.

Bitter leaf helps to tone vital organs of the body like the kidney and liver. The liver is the largest organ in the body that is responsible for the secretion of bile and formation of glycogen.

How to extract the bitter leaf juice

This can be done, the old school way of rubbing the clean leaves in between your palms with the help of a little water and squeezing out the juice from the leaves. You can also use a juicer or blend the leaves with a little water, in a blender and strain out the extract with a cheese cloth, coffee strainer or a sieve with a tight mesh. Bitter leaf juice on its own, is quite bitter and this taste might be unbearable for a lot of people.

So to reduce the bitterness of the  bitter leaf juice, simply blend it with spinach or Ugwu (fluted pumpkin). If you still find it extremely bitter, then add some sweet fruits to it, such as pineapple, apples or oranges. Dry bitter leaf is also potent, but has to be properly cleaned before use.

Health benefits of bitter leaf

Bitter leaf is of good health benefits to man and even animals. Some of its health benefits include:

  1. It speeds up metabolism and therefore is great for weight loss.
  2. Bitter leaf juice relieves fever and feverish conditions. Take the squeezed juice, 3 times daily until the symptoms disappear.
  3. It also helps to reduce high sugar level in the blood, and great for diabetic patients.
  4. Squeeze the fresh leaves on your palm and apply the juice on skin rashes, eczema, ring worms and any superficial skin ailments, you’ll notice a change in few days. Don’t apply to open wounds.
  5. Bitter leaf is said to soothe and also cure pile.
  6. Taking a cup of bitter leaf juice a day, is a great way to detoxify the body of harmful toxins.
  7. Bitter leaf juice nourishes the skin.
  8. Bitter leaf also cures mild stomach ailments
  9. The washed roots and stalks of bitter leaf  are boiled and the infusion is taking as a worm expeller. A cup of bitter leaf infusion taking first thing in the morning before meals
  10. Bitter leaf juice is used by local women in Guinea-Bissau to contract the uterus after childbirth and therefore should not be taking during pregnancy or if you’re trying to conceive, because high intake might cause miscarriage.
  11. A cup of bitter leaf juice a day, energizes you…o yes it does.
  12. The plant is used for treatment of jaundice, diarrhea, hepatitis B and C, cancer, diabetes and tuberculosis with the development of bitter leaf based dietary supplement have shown great promise in chemical studies (Muanya, 2013).

Nutritive value and its composition

Lime light the numerous health and nutritional benefits of this important indigenous plant species which has long be neglected.

Findings and recommendations from this study will contribute to the improvement of this vegetable production with a view to enjoying the nutritional and medicinal benefits of the plant especially in the rural areas where malnutrition and disease epidermis are prevalent.

Herbal preparations with bitter leaf as the active ingredients strengthen the immune system through many cytokines and chemokines regulations (Muanya, 2013). The herb not only lowers the body sugar level sufficiently, it also plays a role in the repair of pancreas. If 10 handfuls of fresh leaves are squeezed in 10 liters of water and consumed two glasses thrice a day for a month, diabetes is cured.

Furthermore adding bitter leaf to your healthy diet may reduce the risk of chronic diseases like breast cancer and type  2 diabetes. Bitter leaf is a traditional ingredient in Africa cuisine. Bitter leaf can reduce bad and total cholesterol. It is an abundant source of oxidation increasing (antioxidants). The antioxidant properties of bitter leaf make a healthy disease fighting addition to human health. Staying physically active, eating a low fat diet and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce risk of breast cancer in women. Additionally, eating bitter leaf may combat breast cancer cell growth ( Edeoja et al.,2005; Ejoh et al., 2005).

Bitter leaf is an abundant source of the poly unsaturated fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic acid and these poly unsaturated

Fatty acids have been found to be protective against cardiovascular disease (Tapsell, 2006). Bitter leaf is a real wonder of nature (Adodo, 2009). It is very useful in the care of the liver and kidney. It is a multi-healer. It should be taken always for good health (Sweet et al., 2010). It is a body cleanser, it cures pile. It is a wonder plant that is known to cure almost all human health problems.

It soothes inflamed joints and eradicates pains common with arthritis or rheumatism patients (Okoli et al., 2007).

Nutritional composition of bitter leaf

Nutrients Value
Protein 33.3%
Fat 10.1%
Fibre 29.2%
Ash 11.7%
Tannin 0.6%

 Potency of bitter leaf preparation

Bitter leaf juice retains potency for as long as a month if when kept. A large quantity can be prepared, stored in can and some honey added to preserve it. It may lose its bitterness but the efficacy remains. It is recommended for the treatment of skin infection like ringworm by applying liquids, allows for easy digestion of food in the stomach running stomach and piles, just squeeze out the juice from the leaf, mix with small quantity of water and drink it two times a day.

It is a wonderful gift from God to mankind, increases milk production and quality in nursing mothers. Cures cough; chew it before going to bed at night and early in the morning before eating.

It cures itching rashes, candid, squeeze or boil the leaves and drink the liquid.

Useful in toning vital organs of the body especially liver and kidney (Sofowora, 1993).


Bitter leaf has high nutrient and anti-nutrient content, however, abrasion will bring about a significant decrease (p<0.05) in both the infusion of Vernomia amygdalina leaf induces the haemolysis of mammalian erytirocyte in vitro with human having the highest susceptibility.


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2 years ago

This is informative article, thanks for sharing.

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