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  • Life - Health & Wellness
  • Updated: Apr 11, 2021

15 Surprising Health Benefits Of Bitter Leaf, Uses And Side Effects

15 Surprising Health Benefits Of Bitter Leaf, Uses And Side

Bitter leaf has numerous medicinal values and incredible benefits to human health, popularly called Onugbu, Shiwaka and Ewuro by the Igbos, Hausas and Yorubas in Nigeria, bitter leaf is a vegetable that has a bitter taste and largely consumed due to its remarkable contribution to overall health.

Also known as vernonia amygdalina scientifically, bitter leaf is an indigenous African plant; which grows in most parts of the sub-Saharan region and used for cooking various food delicacies, African dishes, cuisine and popularly used for traditional medicinal practice.

This medicinal plant is of great importance in the human diet because of the presence of vitamins, proteins and mineral salts. Not only can the leaves be used for medical purposes but the stems, flowers, and seeds of the plant can be used as well.

Traditionally linked to the East African country of Tanzania bitter leaf plant can be found growing wild along the edges of agricultural fields and has been used as a treatment for many ailments from malaria, typhoid, diabetes, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, gallstones and kidney disease, to the prevention of cancer and lowering of hypertension.

As a storehouse of needed vitamins such as vitamin A, B1, B2, C and E,  the leaf has also been proven to possess antibacterial and antifungal properties.

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Surprising Health Benefits Of Bitter Leaf You Probably Did Not Know 

You will be surprised to learn some wonderful facts yet amazing health benefits of bitter leaf that might change your lifestyle and overall wellbeing.

Although, not everyone is aware of its many health benefits especially those gotten from the bitter leaf extract fondly called bitter leaf juice, which is even better because this way you will receive more useful elements and amazing nutrients of the plant when compared to cooking it.

Here are the lists of the amazing health benefits and healing properties of bitter leaf that you might have not heard.

Bitter Leaf Enhance Fertility

It will interest you to know that bitter leaf juice/tea/soup or any other meals containing the leaf can enhance fertility. This plant leaf is very impressive when it comes to the fertile reproductive system of women, the high levels of vitamins and minerals contain in bitter leaf are beneficial for the overall health and to couples trying to conceive.

Conceiving may sound easy, however, sometimes, it could be the most difficult and frustrating task. So incorporating bitter leaf juice into your diet or drinking bitter leaf juice can help a woman get pregnant easily as the chemical compounds present in bitter leaf extracts like edotides promotes hormonal balance and boosts your immune system to help fight against toxification.

Once the balance is restored to your genital hormone, your chances of being reproductive increases. A study carried out by the International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine had also revealed that bitter leaf may have a positive effect on sperm quality.

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Bitter Leaf Improves Sperm Quality 

The antioxidants, flavonoids and vitamins in bitter leaf extract could maintain sperm morphology, sperm survival and sperm function. Bitter leaf could also increase glucose metabolism leading to the production of pyruvate which is known to be the preferred substrate essential for the activity and survival of sperm cells.

The Present study carried out by Egunnike et al examined the effect of bitter leaf extract on oral administration of 50, 100 and 200 mg kg on some fertility indices for 30 days in male Wistar rats produced a significant and dose-dependent increase in sperm concentration, percentage motility, morphology and percentage live sperm. 

Another research which was done by the International Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine in 2020 also shows the positive effect of bitter leaf on sperm quality. 

Following the administration of Synthetic prednisolone (PRED) revealed that consumption of a small dose of bitter leaf juice can improve sperm counts significantly and the consumption of high bitter leaf juice increases sperm mobility hitherto decreased. 

It Helps To Naturally Detoxify The Body

Due to its richness in proteins, vitamins, minerals, as well as antioxidants. Bitter leaf juice can help in detoxifying the body against toxins and also helps improve the Immune system.

Bitter leaf contains lots of antioxidants and detoxifying properties that can fight the buildup of fat in the liver, prevents the development of fatty diseases and promotes insulin production.

The leaf juice has been used for years as a liver, kidney and lungs cleanser. It has also been proven to prevent the development of stones in the stomach and does well in cleaning the stomach of bad bacteria.

Bitter Leaf Improves Breast Milk Production

Bitter leaf juice has also been proven by researchers to increase breast milk production in nursing mothers and helps stimulates childbirth traditionally. As a homemade remedy, the washed roots and stalks of the bitter leaf can be boiled and taken as a worm expeller.

Alternatively, the fresh leaves are washed thoroughly to remove bitterness and used to prepare a type of beef soup called “Ofe Onugbu”.

The consumption of bitter leaf juice or its rich soup can help improve quality breast milk and increase milk flow. Meanwhile, in some parts of Nigeria, the dried powdered bitter leaf is given orally to nursing mothers to promote milk production. Although recent animal studies have found similar activity. More human studies are required.

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Bitter Leaf Aids In Weight Loss

Looking for a fast and easiest way to shed some weight or burn excess fat in the body, bitter leaf juice is the perfect answer to your quest. Aside from enhancing fertility, bitter leaf is also known as an amazing supplement and great therapy for burning off extra fat in the body due to some components in the leaf that boosts your body’s metabolism.

Compounds found in the juice are effective in causing you to eat less than you normally would because if not treated, bad fat storage can pose a risk of other chronic health conditions.

A daily dose of bitter leaf juice in your diet can eliminate bad cholesterol and reduces excess calories in the body. The only issue is that it may be hard to get past the bitter taste and if you can, you are good to go. 

A cup of Bitter Leaf juice after eating will surely give you the best result, couple with the fact that it will also help with digestion by fighting bad cholesterol levels in the body.

Bitter Leaf Helps In Curing Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is one of the common cancer disease relatively high amongst older men and its symptoms include difficult and painful urination, loss of bladder control, blood in semen, amongst others. But a study in the nutrients journals shows that bitter leaf is essential in the successful treatment and prevention of prostate cancer.

Other studies have shown that bitter leaf extract can boost the immune system, inhibit tumour growth and prevent the development of cancer cells.

Bitter leaf juice contains numerous anti-cancer properties like andrographolide compound which has been scientifically found to be effective in treating prostate cancers, gastric cancers, and colon.

With prostate cancer, bitter leaf juice increases the flow of urine and reduces the pain, it also helps regulates the spread of the cell due to the high levels of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals such as flavonoids that contribute to the preventative qualities of bitter leaf in regards to prostate cancer.

It Helps Relieve Stomach Ache

One of the most popular traditional remedies for stomach ache is bitter leaf juice and it has been used for years to cure stomach upset, constipation, dysentery, diarrhoea and lots more as a result of some digestive problem. It is also a natural remedy for intestinal infections due to the potent antioxidants present in the leaf juice. 

A study in the Toxicology Reports journal has also shown that the plant may provide some protection from stomach ulcers and positive gastric effects. Drinking Bitter leaf juice is well-known to bring immediate relief and helps indigestion.

All you need do is to chew the tender stem of the plant like a chewing stick and swallow the bitterness and the ache will stop within few minutes.

Bitter Leaf Helps To Maintain Strong Bones And Teeth

Vitamin C property found in bitter leaf is a very strong antioxidant mineral that has a special role in the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth in the body, as well as the prevention of deficiencies associated with this essential vitamin. 

A glass of bitter leaf juice will give you a good percentage of your daily recommended intake of the vitamin along with other nutrients that will also strengthen your bones and teeth.

The trace of Vitamin K found in bitter leaf also helps in maintaining healthy bones and the prevention of bone tissue weakness known as osteoporosis which extends beyond blood clotting.

Bitter Leaf Helps Relieve Malaria, Fever And Other Diseases

The anti-parasite and anti-bacteria properties in bitter leaf make it one of the best traditional remedy for curing malaria and fever diseases in Nigeria. Medically, bitter leaf has been converted into capsules to treat all other forms of bacterial infections.

 It is a known cure for sexually transmitted diseases (STD), Hepatitis B, intestinal parasitic infections and skin diseases such as ringworm, eczema and so on. It also cures cough, as well as toothaches.

Bitter leaf carries a large amount of natural quinine, which helps in the area of sickness relief and contains flavonoids, which have powerful antioxidant effects that can help with treating a variety of health issues such as high fever, typhoid, malaria etc.

Other elements like andrographolide lactones, glucosides, diterpene present in the leaves work together to treat and trim down fever and its symptoms.

To cure malaria or fever, all you need to do is to wash the leaf thoroughly with clean water and ensure it is clean, then put it in a clean bow and squeeze it without water to extract the natural juice. When that is done, take the leaf juice 3 times a day to ensure a quick recovery. 

Bitter Leaf Helps Relieve Insomnia

Bitter leaf among all other plant leaf has been traditionally and medically proven to cure insomnia. So if you are unable to sleep at night, which can range from an occasional inconvenience to a debilitating condition, bitter leaf is the surest cure to the ailment. 

All you need to do is to take two glasses of bitter leaf juice every night before bedtime, in no time, you will experience how your body system will be so calm and relax which will eventually lead to good sleep. You may add a little honey if you wish but not compulsory.

While some people fall asleep as soon as they hit the pillow, some can not, but bitter leaf juice extracted from the leaf will actually aid good sleep, helps you perform at your best and remain healthy. 

Bitter Leaf Lowers High Blood Pressure

The bitterness of bitter leaf juice helps to lower the sugar level and controls blood pressure. Also, the antioxidants in the bitter leaf are another factor that can further aid the treatment of the condition.

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.

Doctors advise hypertensive and diabetic patients to consume bitter leaf as the potassium it contains is a good remedy for hypertension and it prevents sodium from spiking up in the bloodstream by flushing out the accumulation of salt.

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Bitter Leaf Reduces Cholesterol

Bad cholesterol derived from saturated fat, animal fat and other food substances that do contain cholesterol, triggers various diseases like diabetes, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. Several studies have found that antioxidants and fibre found in bitter leaf plant may help lower sugar levels that cause diabetics.

Another animal study discovered that bitter leaves significantly lowered fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL-Cholesterol after fourteen days of administration. So regular consumption of dried bitter leaf as tea is recommended to regulate blood sugar in the body.

Bitter Leaf Helps Fight Free Radicals

One of the major function of bitter leaf plant compound is to scavenge free radicals from the body system as well as terminate their activities. This is possible through the Vitamin E nutrients found in the leaf that serves as antioxidant fighting against free radicals that have harmful effects on the body. The anti-bacterial compound in the leaf known as sesquiterpenoids gives it a bitter taste to disbanded this radical.

Bitter Leaf Helps Cure Pile 

There is a little fuse to this, do you know that using the extract of both bitter leaf and scent leaf can help to cure both internal and external pile within a space of one week.

You can achieve this by extracting the juice from bitter leaf and mixing it with the juice extracted from scent leaf or just chewing it. This powerful combination can help cure internal pile in just one week. If you are using the extracted juice method, take half a glass cup twice daily for 3 days. You will be surprised by the outcome.

For External pile can be cured by placing the Bitter Leaf paste on it.

Bitter Leaf Serves As Wound Treatment

This wonderful traditional African medicine can also work as a wound treatment, fresh bitter leaves are crushed, and the fresh juice is used to treat cuts, bruises, or boils. It’s believed to stop bleeding and prevent infection.

How To Prepare/Extract Bitter Leaf Juice

There are lots of ways you can extract and prepare bitter leaf juice, for traditional medicinal purposes, bitter leaf is often consumed by chewing the tender stem to release a bitter liquid. some even go as far as using it to brush their teeth.

You can also pound the fresh leaves in a mortar and press out the juice. Add a pinch of salt to three tablespoons of the undiluted liquid and drink.

You can as well use a bowl, but firstly, you will need to wash the leaf thoroughly with clean water and ensure it is clean, then put it in a clean bow and squeeze it without water between your palms to extract the natural juice from the leave with the help of a sieve. 

Alternatively, you can use a juicer or blend the leaves with a little water, in a blender and strain out the extract with a cheesecloth, coffee strainer or a sieve with a tight mesh.

To reduce the bitter taste of the bitter leaf juice simply blend it with scent leaf, spinach or Ugwu (fluted pumpkin) because bitter leaf extract on its own is quite bitter and this taste can be a major turn off for people.

If you still find it extremely bitter, then add some sweet fruit juices to it, such as pineapple, apples or oranges to alleviate the bitterness.

How To Preserve Bitter Leaf Juice (Vernonia Amygdalina)

To save time, a large quantity of bitter leaf extract can be made at a go, but to preserve it if you are not consuming it all at a time you need to add honey to preserve the solution. You can also add scent leaf to it and keep it in the fridge.

Note that bitter leaf juice stored for longer than twenty-four hours loses the bitterness but the efficacy remains.

Possible Side Effects Of  Bitter Leaf (Vernonia Amygdalina)

Below are the possible side effects of bitter leaf for human, animal and

It Can Lead To Miscarriage

One of the common side effects of bitter leaf is that it can lead to miscarriage. i.e if you know you are pregnant and expecting a baby soon do not drink bitter leaf juice. Although, bitter leaf extract helps with conception, but immediately you know you are pregnant you need to stop drinking it so as not to lose your baby.

It Can Lead To Adverse Allergic Reaction

For those with different allergic reactions, it is advisable to consult your doctor first before drinking or using bitter leaf extract as it may not be good for your health. And if you are using the leaf juice remember not to go overboard with it.

Consume Minimal Bitter Leaf Juice

Bitter leaf extracts have no known side effects on humans or animals aside from the ones mentioned above. However, scientific evidence advises that bitter leaves should not be consumed in high amounts because, at high doses, it becomes toxic and poisonous to human cells.

Also, it is important to note that the roots contain toxic chemicals that may cause poisoning and should be ingested in minimal amounts after proper cleansing.

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