Utazi leaves and its nutritional benefits
Utazi leaves or Gongronema latifolium as it is mostly called is the botanical name for a local leaf/herb by the Eastern part (Igbo/Ibo) of Nigeria. The Western part of Nigeria call this leaf arokeke and it is a tropical rainforest plant mainly used as vegetable, medicine or spice by the people. Health benefits of utazi leaves are widely known in traditional medicine and used to treat various symptoms and diseases. The plant belongs to the family of Asclepiadaceae and mainly grows in tropical forests in the west of Africa, including Nigeria.
It is cultivated mostly in West African countries such as Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Senegal, etc. In the southern part of Nigeria were it is commonly grown it is known as Utazi by the igbos, the Yoruba’s call it arokeke, Efik and Ibibio call it Urasi.
Utazi plant is highly medicinal in nature, which suggests why its health benefits cannot be overemphasized. Researchers agree that the fundamental ingredients used for medicinal purposes are stored in the various parts of the utazi plant such as; the fruits, seeds, leaves, root and bark.
Nutritional benefits of Utazi (Gongronema latifolium)
Health benefits of utazi have been stated by numerous pharmacological studies. Some of its benefits are:
- Relieves pain
Utazi leaf can be used to relieve pain caused by bruises, cuts, inflammation, rashes etc. A paste of the leaf should be made and applied to the affected area. (external application). Also aqueous extract of the leaf can be taken to provide relief from internal pain.
- Maintaining the required blood sugar level in diabetes
Utazi leaf is used in traditional medicine for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. The components of the leaves have a positive effect on blood glucose levels. In a small clinical trial, the blood glucose concentration of healthy humans was determined after consumption of the leaves, and it showed a significant reduction in blood glucose level.
- Anti-sickling agent
Internal usage of the root in combination with other tropical plants provides treatment of sickle cell anemia. Over time, these roots have been seen to be very effective in combating diseases.
- Antioxidant potential.
The ingredients of leaves include saponins and flavonoids, which are substances that exert an antioxidant effect on the human body, and also have antibacterial characteristics.
- Cancer prevention
The above mentioned antioxidant properties are useful for treating cancer: they help to destroy free radicals and strengthen the cells from the inside, making them more effective in protecting the body from dangerous formations. During the studies, utazi demonstrated strong inhibitory activity against lung carcinoma and breast cancer.
- Anti-ashmatic property
Research has it that Gongronema Latifolium (Utazi leaves) has anti-ashmatic potential. Asthmatic patients can chew the fresh leaves of G.latifolium to relieve wheezing while a cold maceration of the roots of the plant can be consumed as treatment for asthma.
7. Antibacterial & anti-inflammatory properties
The methanol extracts are used as antibacterial medicines, helping to slow down and stop the activity of some dangerous microorganisms. Utazi is effective in dealing with muscular conditions and fighting arthritis formations.
- Treatment of gastric ulcer
According to studies published in 2010, the stem bark extract of Gongronema Latifolium (Utazi) leaves has equally been reported to have anti-ulcerative property for the treatment of gastric ulcer.
- Cure for malaria
The antiplasmodial properties of Utazi leaves made it a local cure for such serious disease as malaria. According to a study conducted in 2010, the leaves have antiplasmodial activity which supports the traditional use of the leaf extract of the plant for local treatment of malaria.
- Cough and phlegm laxative
The leaves soaked in hot water are a good way to deal with a cough, running nose, chest pains, and a headache, caused by the cold. Traditionally, the utazi leaves consumption is generalized in Nigeria as medicine for coughing and sputum. If you chew fresh leaves or after scalding with hot water, almost instantaneous relief of the symptoms occurs.
- Liver protection
Utazi leaves can promote the detoxification actions of the liver. It can be macerated in alcohol and used for the treatment of viral hepatitis and bilharzia. It can be used to prevent drunkenness because it neutralizes the intoxicating properties of alcohol and its harmful effects on the liver.
- Lowers Cholesterol and sugar levels
Anti-lipid properties of utazi-leaf extract benefit lowering cholesterol levels, which discovers the close relations between utazi leaf and weight loss. The normalization of sugar levels benefits in the management of diabetes, the disease, which has been affecting more and more people lately. The consumption of utazi leaves during clinical studies showed the reduction of glucose in the blood.
- Aids digestion
An Utazi leaf aids digestion by stimulating the digestive system. It stimulates the flow of bile and increase appetite for food. Juice extracted from Utazi leaves can used in the home treatment of sore gums, colic, dyspepsia, loss of appetite, stomach ache, constipation, dysentery and intestinal worms.
- The utazi leaves and pregnancy
The utazi leaves have a significant amount of nutrients, which have a positive effect on the well-being of pregnant women. These leaves are also rich in some vitamins like calcium, sodium, copper, and potassium. Utazi and pregnancy are generally combined in traditional medicine in Nigeria. The leaves are used as a remedy for cleaning the uterus after childbirth and reducing pain symptoms of the abdomen. Nursing mothers can use Utazi leaves to control their weight and restore the body after birth. Gongronema latifolium (utazi) is a tropical plant that grows in the bush. These leaves have a wide shape and bitter taste which are very common in Nigeria and are mostly used for traditional medicine.