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Bitter leaf plant with leafy green vegetable is also known as Vernonia amygdalina. It is of the African origin. It is a very popular plant loved by the people from the eastern and western parts of Africa. Bitter leaf greens are used in the form of vegetable eaten to promote and enhance the digestive tract to do its job. When you look at it closely, most of the health problem we have start from what is put in the GI tract. Bitter leaf has a lot of therapeutic elements such as saponins, venomygdin and vernodalin; all of which have antibacterial properties and are useful in maintaining the health of other organs of the body like kidney and liver naturally without chemicals. Fresh bitter can be squeezed or blended like smoothies and drink as juice, you can boil it and drink as tea, put a little bit in your salad or use with other greens in your soup. A study(1) revealed that Vernonia amygdalina leaf has high protein (33.3%), fat (10.1%), crude fibre (29.2%), ash (11.7%), mineral (Na, K, Ca, Mg, Zn & Fe), phytate (1015.4mg/100g) and tannin (0.6%) content, while it contain low cyanide (1.1mg/kg).
They are claims that it also contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B1 and Vitamin B2.
Phytochemicals extracted from V. amygdalina include saponins and alkaloids, terpenes, steroids, coumarins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, xanthones, anthraquinones, edotides and sesquiterpenes.
Extracts from bitter leaf have been proven to reduce blood estrogen level through suppression of aromatase activity in the body. This finding suggests bitter leaf could be helpful in the treatment of breast cancer. (2) Regular intake of bitter leaf may also lessen the risk of breast cancer, according to the February 2004 edition of Experimental Biology and Medicine. A recent study by Izevbigie et al. reproduced similar findings (3,4, 7).
In one study two organic extracts from Bitter Leaf (Vernodalin and Vernomygdin) were shown to kill cancer cells of the nose and throat region (10)
Bitter leaf contains linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid), which are essential because the body is unable to make them. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, when people consumed large quantities of linolenic and linoleic acid, they were at the lowest risk for cardiovascular disease when compared to those who did not. These fatty acids have been shown to protect against coronary heart disease, sudden cardiac death and heart failure, possibly through anti-arrhythmic (conditions affecting the heart rate), anti-thrombotic (against blood clot), anti-atherosclerotic (against hardening of blood vessels) and anti-inflammatory (against injury, irritation or infection) mechanisms, as reported in the 2009 issue of "Current Pharmaceutical Design". Other benefits that the "Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine" attributes omega-3 fatty acids include control of arthritic conditions and protection against neurodegenerative diseases.
And bitter leaf produces these acids.
Bitter juice has been used over centuries to treat a fevers especially related to malaria. In a preliminary clinical trial 25g fresh leaves of Bitterleaf was 67% effective in creating an adequate clinical response in African patients with mild falciparum malaria. (5) Of these 32% had complete parasite clearance. Unfortunately 71% of the patients had recurrence of symptoms. I wouldn't advice to rely solely on bitter leaf juice against malaria, consult with your doctor.
Bitter leaf (V. amygdalina) may provide anti-oxidant benefits. (6) Anti-oxidants are substances which protect against cell damage. They thus help to reduces risk for serious diseases associated with oxidative stress like cancer, heart disease, stroke, aging, diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, autoimmune diseases, cognitive decline, and eye conditions like macular degeneration.
Cytokines are signalling molecules that aid cells to move towards areas of injury, irritation or infection during immune response. They are very important for the immune system. Many studies have shown that Bitter Leaf (V. amygdalina) extracts may strengthen the immune system through many cytokines (including NFҡB, pro inflammatory molecule) regulation.