As its name suggests, it is a plant whose main characteristic is its bitter stem and leaves. There also exists a species of the plant which produces a ‘sweet leaf’. Popular in most of West Africa and named after botanist William Vernon. Its botanical name is Vernonia, it belongs to the family of Asteraceae. Bitter leaf is also referred to as ironweed, a name coined from the intensely purple flowers which later take on a rusty hue. Bitter leaf is able to flourish in a variety of climates unlike other plants which are often naïve to certain areas.

Although most popularly used for food, bitter leaf has also traditionally been used for its medicinal properties now proven by medical research. University of Texas’s studies actually show that the risk of having breast cancer and type II diabetes could be reduced drastically. Some of the most common uses are noted below.

1.Stomach ache: Chewing the tender stem and swallowing the juices is well known for stomach aches. Alternatively pound the fresh leaves in a mortar to extract the juice. Add a pinch of salt to three tablespoons of the undiluted juice and drink. This version is reported to bring immediate relief.

2.Skin infections & other ailments: For skin infections such as ringworm, itching, rashes and eczema, the pure, undiluted extract of bitter leaf is excellent. Simply apply it to the affected part daily. The roots are used by sufferers of gingivitis and toothache due to antimicrobial properties which prevent the growth of bacteria.

3.Good for the liver: Weighing between 1 and 3 kilograms, the liver is essential for the metabolism of fats and protein and must therefore be well taken care of. Alcohol, sugar, and processed foods  we often feed ourselves can weaken the liver and make it susceptible to infections. Damage to the liver is often difficult to reverse and bitter leaf has long been used as a toner for this and other vital organs of the body.

4. Diabetes: As with the liver, bitter leaf helps repair the pancreas as well as cut down sugar levels in the blood. Agitate and squeeze ten handfuls of the fresh leaves in ten liters of water and drink two glasses thrice daily for one month. This amounts to six glasses of water daily.

5.Insomnia: Bitter leaf extract has been known to work magic for many unable to get restful sleep. Simply take two glasses of bitter leaf solution every night to experience great calm and well being. You may add a little honey if you wish.

6.Pneumonia: Squeeze the fresh leaves of the plant in water.Take a glass full thrice daily. Warm *Do not boil the solution each time before drinking. Continue the medication for a month. To save time a large quantity can be made in one go. Add some honey to preserve the solution. NB:Bitter leaf extracts stored for longer than twenty four hours lose the bitterness but the efficacy remains.

7.Prostate Cancer: It is most common among black men over forty years old. Its symptoms include difficult and painful urination, among others. Bitter leaf helps increase the flow of urine and reduces the pain through its anti-inflammatory properties. It is also said to stop the cancer from spreading . Simply squeeze the fresh leaves in water and take a glassful four times daily.

8.Fatigue: often feel weak and tired? Do you lack vitality and vigour? Squeeze the leaves in water and drink a glass three times daily. Soon you will experience a new lease of energy.

9.Stroke: Bitter leaf solution has a calming effect on the nerves, strengthens the muscles and cleanses the system.

10.Arthritis: Arthritis or rheumatism patients who have tried bitter-leaf solution as described above attest to its effectiveness. It soothes inflamed joints and eradicates the pain.


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