Bitter leaf is known botanically as Vernonia amygdalina. The igbos call it “Olugbu” while the Yorubas know it as “Ewuro”. After washing the leaves to remove the bitterness, bitter leaf is popular for “Bitter leaf soup” preparation in most southern parts of Nigeria where it grows luxuriantly.
Like most bitter-tasting herbs, bitter leaf contains “Bitter principles” which are a combination of alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, essential oils, etc.
Generally speaking, bitter-tasting herbs:
- Act as stimulating tonics for the digestive system.
- Stimulate the flow of bile and appetite for food.
- Enhance the activities of the pancrease and regulate blood sugar.
- Promote the detoxification actions of the liver.
?In herbal medicine, the leaves, the stems and the roots of bitter leaf are used in the preparation of herbal remedies. But in most cases, the fresh juice extracted from the leaves is more potent than any other part of the plant.
Experience has shown that the whole plant exhibits the following herbal actions: Antitumor (anti-neoplatic), broad spectrum antimicrobial (antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic and antiviral), digestive tonic and mild expectorant.
Bitter principles, saponins, etc, are some of the most important component of the leaves. It is the saponins content of the leaf that gives foam.
METHOD OF PREPARATION:
First off, the fresh leaves of the plant are harvested and rinsed properly in clean water. The leaves are then pounded in a mortar and the deep green sap is pressed out from the pulp. After sieving, 2 to 4spoonful of the green sap are taken 3 times daily;
Internal or Oral Uses:
1. As a broad-spectrum antimicrobial;
The fresh sap from the leaves is very helpful in the treatment of all kinds of infectious diseases:
The juice extracted in palm wine is taken daily for the treatment of viral infections such as smallpox, measles and chickenpox. The bitter leaf sap in wine is also applied externally all over the body to help reduce itching conditions.
The sap extracted from the fresh leaves of bitter leaf is used among the rural people in the treatment of:
a. Blood in urine caused by schistosoma (blood flukes) or a condition known as schistosomiasis.
b. Malaria (it is often regarded as quinine substitute).
c. Amoebic dysentery
2. As a digestive aids:
The sap extracted from the leaves, taken daily; or chewing the root stimulates appetite for food and promotes good digestion. Taking the fresh sap with a pinch of salt helps in relieving:
- Gastrointestinal upset.
The juices extract from the fresh leaves, when taking at bedtime, helps in promoting bowel movement in cases of mild constipation. The fresh sap taken with lime juice helps in the treatment of hemorrhoids (pile).
3.As Hypoglycemic Agent:
The oral intake of the liquid resulting from boiling the leaves has been observed to lower the blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. The hypoglycemic (i.e., the blood sugar lowering) effects of bitter leaf is enhanced when the leaves are combined with other herbs like Fever plant (“Nchuawu” Igbo or Effirin – Yoruba) and Fluted pumpkins (Uguh in Igbo); up to ½ glass of the sap extracted from mixture of these herbs could be taken twice daily. Also the sap can be taken as a general body tonic: that relieves stress. The combination of the three herbs when taken as indicated above is equally helpful in the reduction of the size of growths in any part of the body including the cancerous ones
4.As an antidote to poison:
The fresh sap of bitter leaf has the potential to neutralize all forms of poison including the so-called “Psychic” toxins.
5. Bitter leaf as Tumor Breaker:
Some research works have shown that the fresh extract of bitter leaf reduces the progression of breast cancer. This antineoplastic action of bitter leaf was well known among the practitioners of herbal medicine many years ago.
The sap extracted from the fresh leaves taken up to 5 times daily in small doses (up to 2 desertspoonful) is particularly useful in the treatment of breast lump at the early stages – when the lump has not really taken a firm root in the breast.
The sap of Bitter Leaf works synergistically with a combination of green lime fruit and raw garlic cold extract in water.
During the therapy which may last up 2-3 months, other bitter-tasting herbs like “utazi” phyllanthus, and also mistletoe cold extracts are equal given. These combined therapies help to cleanse the liver and strengthen its detoxifying activities; and equally help in breaking down the tumor.
These therapies usually bring relief from fear and anxiety that are associated with the detection of breast lumps. They have indeed brought smiles and happiness to the faces of many women with this problem. These therapies are useful, however, only when the lump is detected early.
Studies have shown that most women develop breast lumps as a result of:
- Chronic stress – internalized or retained negative thoughts (arising from suppressed anger, frustration in love matters, unforgiving attitude etc.).
- Chronic systemic pollution arising from toxins (poor bowel movement).
- Poor dietary habits that may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
These factors are known to give rise to what is referred to as toxemia, and chronic toxemia overstresses the liver and the immune system. Over burdening the liver often results in its insufficient functioning that may also lead to the establishment of cancerous growth centers in the body – including the breasts.
6. Other Uses of Bitter leaf:
- Women take the sap of bitter leaf to help correct an irregular menstruation and to alleviate the discomforts of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Coughing and Pneumonia.
- Rheumatism and analgesic.
- Restoration of stamina.
EXTERNAL USES OF BITTER LEAVES:
- After softening the leaves on fire, the pulp made by beating the leaves is applied externally to heal sores.
- The pulp of fresh bitter
leaf can be mixed with palm oil and paste on boils to mature them and to draw out pus and toxins to the skin surface.
- The sap is rubbed directly on the body to help reduce itching and to treat skin infections like ring worms and eczema. It is an effective antifungal agent.
-The fresh leaves of bitter leaf are pounded with native soap and used as a purification bathing soap to help repel all manner of negativity.
- In most rural villages, the stem of bitter leaf tree is used as chewing stick for daily oral hygiene.