As I see it, everyday, you do one of two things – build health or produce disease in yourself – Adelle Davis.

There are so many diseases plaguing this present generation mostly due to what we take into our bodies, knowingly and unknowingly. This development has forced many people to start taking responsibility for their own lives, especially as many of these diseases are incurable. It is in this spirit of taking responsibility for our lives and minding what we eat that I decided to write on this wonderful plant of bitter leaf.

What’s that about bitter leaf being the sweetest of all? Like seriously? Yes! I mean it. Sweet not to the taste buds, I must say, but sweet for the whole body system.

BITTER LEAF Picture courtesy of dobbyssignature

(Picture courtesy of dobbyssignature)

Its botanical name is Vernonia Amygdalina, neglected and detested for its bitterness, but definitely loaded with medicinal values. A perennial shrub that grows in most parts of tropical Africa, bitter leaf is everywhere, especially here in Nigeria. The Hausa call it shiwaka, in Yoruba it is ewuro while it is known as onugbu in Igbo.
Bitter leaf has a thousand and one uses that are beneficial to man, animal and the environment. However, I prefer to dwell mostly on the benefits as natural health remedy. My granny loves eating boiled yam with red oil garnished with fresh pepper, onions, salt and raw bitter leaf! I tell you that she is a living testimony of what bitter leaf can do for you. Aside adding it to the oil, sometimes she just plucks it and chews. Now, as old as she is, (don’t ask me how old o), all her organs and senses are intact and if you ask me, I believe it is due to her lifestyle which she has been following over a long period of time.

The following are some of the health benefits of bitter leaf. Some I can personally attest to as in my house we have been using bitter leaf therapy for a while now. Some others I got through research as you too can find if you search.

 Bitter leaf detoxifies the blood and purifies the body system
 It decreases the blood glucose as it has sugar controlling influence to a certain level. This makes it a great friend to diabetics as it helps cut the sugar level. Also reduces the risk of diabetes.
 It helps reduce bad cholesterol while boosting the good cholesterol.
 It increases energy level and fights exhaustion and fatigue.
 Bitter leaf extracts according to experts, work as anti-oxidants, to help suppress, delay or kill cancerous cells in many ways.
 It helps purify, protect and maintain the liver and kidney. We know the importance of these organs don’t we? This is also very important for diabetics due to the effects of their medications on these organs over time.
 Bitter leaf prevents nausea when chewed, especially for pregnant women while the roots are used for treatment of toothache and prevention of gum decay due to its anti-microbial activities.
 It can be used for treatment of fresh wounds or as first aid. I am sure many of us can attest to this.
 Ladies! Bitter leaf nourishes the skin. Can you beat that?
 Generally, it serves as remedy for stomachache, coughs, calms the nerves, increases breast milk in nursing mums and so on and so forth.

The list is actually endless and I can’t possibly reel them all out here but I’m sure a trial will definitely convince you.
I know many people will rather go for chocolates and all such chemical foods we prefer to stuff ourselves with, but it is gradual death. Taking bitter leaf can be daunting for first timers, but with time, even your taste buds will no longer feel that bitterness. It is best taken raw and fresh because according to experts, its potency decreases with cooking and boiling.

Bitter leaf can be chewed raw after rinsing out dirt. Some people prefer to wash it a few times to reduce the bitterness. That’s not too bad either. I personally prefer to just rinse out the leaves very well in clean water, then pour drinking water in, squeeze the leaves thoroughly to bring out the juice and gulp the thing down, yummmyyyyyy. Often times, I add few leaves of scent leaf (nchuanwu) to this too.

PICTURE COURTESY OF nigerianfoodtv

BITTER LEAF JUICE (courtesy nigerianfoodtv)

To avoid waste, the leaf left after squeezing out the juice can be chewed also, by then, it will no longer be too bitter. You have to find the best way for you to enjoy this and stay healthy.
I won’t forget to mention the ‘sweet’, delicious bitter leaf soup. That is another way to use bitter leaf while others add it to melon and draw soups. This is still nutritious since bitter leaf contains significant quantities of carbohydrates, fiber, proteins, iron, calcium and so on and all these cannot be lost during the cooking process.

You will agree with me that we need to make bitter leaf part of our everyday diet. Therefore, it needs to be readily available. You can buy fresh bitter leaf from most markets in Nigeria, or order from Amazon, yes. Best of all, plant it as a garden beside your house especially this rainy season. It is easy to plant and grows fast too.
So what are you still waiting for? Go for it.
An unknown author asks; ‘If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?

Feel free to add your own experiences with bitter leaf to this.