Bitter leaf has a taste that many people can’t withstand, though the plant really does have an impressive list of health benefits. So, if you can get past the flavour, you’ll be rewarded in more ways than one.
Also known as vernonia amygdalina, bitter leaf grows in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the plant is well regarded in traditional medicinal practice.
Historically, the leaf has been used as a treatment for many ailments from malaria, typhoid, diabetes, diarrhea, tuberculosis, gallstones and kidney disease, to the prevention of cancer and lowering of hypertension. The leaf has also been proven to possess antibacterial and antifungal properties.
1. Bitter leaf helps relieve stomach aches
Bitter leaf is a well known traditional remedy for stomach aches. A study in the Toxicology Reports journal has also shown that the plant may provide some protection from stomach ulcers. It is thought that the antioxidants in bitter leaf contribute to these positive gastric effects.
2. It may help protect against prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is a relatively common cancer especially amongst older men. While following the treatments prescribed by a medical professional are essential for successful treatment of prostate cancer, bitter leave has shown promise in the prevention of the disease by a study in the Nutrients journal . The same research also noted that the plant may improve survival rates as well.
It is thought that the high levels of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals such as flavonoids contribute to the preventative qualities of bitter leaf in regards to prostate cancer.
3. Bitter leaf helps relieve insomnia
While some people fall asleep as soon as they hit the pillow, not being able to sleep is an issue for many. Insomnia can range from an occasional inconvenience to a debilitating condition. Bitter leaf has traditionally been used to help with insomnia.
Drinking a Bitter leaf solution at night, before bed is thought to bring on a calmness and relaxation that aids sleep.
4. The plant may enhance fertility
A study in the International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine has shown that the plant may have a positive effect on sperm quality. All in all, the generally high levels of vitamins and minerals in bitter leaf are beneficial to overall health, so will be beneficial to a couple trying to conceive.
5. Bitter leaf helps relieve fever
Bitter leaf contains flavonoids, which have powerful antioxidant effects, and can help with treating a variety of health issues such as a high fever. In particular, bitter leaf was historically used in traditional medicine for the treatment of the bacterial infection typhoid fever.
6. It has properties that may aid diabetes
It is thought that a combination of factors mean that bitter leaf may help aid diabetes. Research published in the International Journal of Biological and Chemical Sciences demonstrates that the presence of phytochemicals, vitamins and other nutrients such as proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, ash and other components are thought to act together to lower blood sugar levels.
7. Bitter leaf has properties that may aid high blood pressure
A study in the Journal of Food Biochemistry has shown that bitter leaf inhibits particular processes in the body, and as a result, may have a positive effect on high blood pressure. The antioxidants in bitter leaf are also another factor that can further aid with the treatment of the condition.
8. The plant is good for bones and teeth
Vitamin C is a great antioxidant mineral found in bitter leaf, which plays a vital role in the body, including the maintenance of bones and teeth.
It also contains traces of vitamin K which helps the body maintain healthy bones and prevents the weakening of bone tissue, also known as osteoporosis.
9. Bitter leaf improves metabolic function
Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, plays an important role in the metabolism of lipids, amino acids and glucose in the human body. Thiamine is an important dietary supplement occurring naturally in a bitter leaf that helps to oxidize fatty acids in order to produce the synthesis of lipids, which is one of the body’s essential processes.
10. It helps fight free radicals
Another nutrient in bitter leaf is vitamin E, which serves as an antioxidant fighting against free radicals that have harmful effects on the body’s system.
Preparation and Cautions
For traditional medicinal purposes, bitter leaf is often consumed by chewing the tender stem to release a bitter liquid. Alternatively, you can pound the fresh leaves in a mortar and to press out the juice. Add a pinch of salt to three tablespoons of the undiluted liquid and drink.
Remember to always consult with your doctor about any medical concerns, conditions and supplements that you may be taking. Always take the advice of a medical professional on how to proceed with your treatment.