Utazi leaf (Gongronema latifolium Benth), is a culinary, medicinal, rainforest herb. The leaves are native to West African region ( Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Senegal east to Chad, south to DR Congo), and are found to possess anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, Anti-asthmatic, detoxification, and anti-inflammatory properties. Some research states that the leaves may also help maintain a healthy body, boost fertility, helps to stop the activities of some dangerous micro organisms, and reduce cancer risk.
The herb is seasonal – it flowers between July and September. This is the best time to gather Utazi leaves and use the benefits during the rest of the year. Most of Utazi leaves can be founding in the Eastern part of Nigeria. These aromatic leaves are rich in nutrients. They are primarily used for culinary purposes.
In this article, we have discussed the health benefits, nutritional profile, and side effects of utazi leaf. Scroll down to get started.
What is Utazi leaf?
Utazi leaf is a aromatic leaf of medicinal importance. They are shaped leaves that has a characteristic sharp, bitter and slightly sweet taste, especially when eaten fresh.
These leaves have different names in every country in Africa. In Eastern Nigeria (Igbo/Ibo), Gongronema latifolium Benth (Utazi leaf) is called “Utazi”. In Western Nigeria Yoruba, it is called “arọ́kẹ́kẹ́ (IFE)” while the Efik and Ibibio tribes call it “Etinkene”.
In Senegal it is called SERER gasub (JLT). In Ghana Utazi leaf is called AKAN-ASANTE aborode-aborode (FRI) akam? (FRI) kurutu (FRI) nsurogya = does not fear fire, a general name (FRI).
In Ghana the boiled fruits are put into soup as a laxative. In Sierra Leone Utazi leaf is called KISSI n-dondo-polole (FCD) KRIO rope quiah (L-P) MENDE buli-yeyakσ, nyiya yeyakσ (def.-i) the leaves, from ngeyakσ: a creeper (FWHM; FCD) tawa-bembe(-i) the leaves, from bembe: to encircle, as of a creeper (FWHM; FCD) yσnigbagbσi the leaves, from gbσle: drink (auctt.) TEMNE ra-bilong (FCD).
English Name: Bush buck
Botanical Name: Gongronema latifolium Benth
Family Name: Asclepiadaceae
In the following section, we will look at the health benefits of utazi leaf.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Utazi leaf?
Utazi (Gongronema latifolium Benth), is widely used in West Africa as medicinal, vegetable or spice and for nutritional purposes.
1. It is Rich in Protein, Fatty And Amino Acid
These properties make them an excellent food supplement, perfect for usage in food production, and in everyday cooking.
2. It Relieves Pain
Utazi is used to cure bruises, cuts and inflammation. The external application of cut leaf can reduce pain and fasten the time of curing. Besides, Utazi extract provides relief from internal pain. History also reveals that the leaf where used to massage joints, and treat children who have difficulty in walking.
3. Anti-bacterial And Anti-inflammatory Properties
The methanol extract are used as anti-bacterial vaccines, helping to slow down, and stop the activities of some dangerous micro organisms. Utazi leaf is effective in treating muscle conditions and fighting arthritis formations.
4. Anti-oxidants Properties
Saponins and flavonoids which are found in Utazi leaves possess antioxidant properties, and help to clear the human organisms from toxins. Therefore consuming Utazi leaf helps to improve overall well being.
5. Cancer Prevention
The above mentioned antioxidant properties in GANGRONEMA latifolium helps to destroy free radicals, and strengthen the cells from the inside, making them more effective in protecting the body from dangerous formations. This leaf demonstrate strong inhabitory activities against lungs and breast cancer.
6. Liver Protection
The detoxification properties in Utazi influences liver in a positive way. Particularly been an effective cure, for viral hepatitis and liver protection. The leaves are sometimes used to prevent drunkeness and intoxificating effect of alcohol.
7. Digestion Improvement
The Utazi leaf helps to stimulate digestive system by increasing the appetite and normalising metabolism. It is absolutely safe to use as a home remedy for appetite loss, stomach ache, dysentery and intestinal worms.
8. Malaria Treatment
The anti-plasmodial properties of the plant made him a local cure for such serious disease as malaria. Utazi has been used for this purpose long ago, but the recent research provides scientific evidence.
9. Anti-asthmatic Properties
The potentials of fresh Utaz leaves and roots is quite wide among other positive effect. It can be consumed for dealing with asthma.
10. Cold And Flu
The leaves soaked in hot water is good enough to deal with cough, running nose, chest pain and head ache.
The stems are cut up and boiled with lime juice, or infused in water over three days, the liquor is taken as a purge for colic and stomach-pains, and symptoms connected with worm-infection.
12. Rapid Growth For Newborn Babies
It is given to a newborn baby in the Joru area of Sierra Leone to make it grow rapidly. History also review that the leaf where used to massage joints, and treat little children who have difficulty in walking.
13. Infertility Treatment
Utazi leaves are one of the most popular leaves which can help you not only to maintain a healthy body but boost your fertility. They are local leaves, which are widely used in west african dishes. The high amount of minerals and presence of phytochemicals also give utazi leaves some of its therapeutic properties. It is no surprise that every woman or man wants to have good fertility. It is important for family happiness and the future of any couple. There are different approaches to solving fertility problem and using Utazi leaves is one of them.
Women with infertility problems should boil the leaves with some lime juice, honey and drink one glass of it on a daily basis during their period days.
Men can also use the leaves for sperm count treatment. For this, take a ½ bottle of lime juice and mix it with honey. One shot of this drink twice per day will be enough. The effect of this treatment may not be as quick as you might like. But be patient and this natural medicine will surely help you. A recent scientific study showed that using Utazi leaves in nutrition helped to increase the effectiveness of reproductive hormones and help to raise low sperm count. So if you want to boost your fertility and be healthier – eat some Utazi leaves on a daily basis.
14. Cholesterol And Sugar Levels
Anti-lipid properties of Utazi-leaf extract benefit lowering cholesterol in the body, 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.
In the following section, we will explore the rich and varied nutritional profile of utazi leaf.
What Is the Nutritional Profile of Utazi leaf
- Utazi leaves consist of essential oils, alkaloids, various minerals, vitamins and some essential amino acids.
- The leaves have very high nutritional value and contain nutrients like potassium, calcium, sodium, proteins, copper, manganese, and fiber.
- It is rich in proteins, fatty acids, and amino acids. These properties make them an excellent food supplement, perfect for usage in food production and everyday cooking.
Before you start cooking with utazi leaf, you may want to pick the right utazi and store it properly.
How To Select, Use And Store Utazi Leaf
Utazi leaf is available all round the year in groceries stores and supermarkets. It is also available in North America and Europe at some African food stores. Look for fresh utazi that has firm stems. The leaves will go dark green when frozen. Try to buy organically sourced utazi. Avoid buying utazi with wilted or yellow leaves.
Usually, people use all parts of this plant, including seeds and roots. Of course, there’s hardly anyone who has not heard about Utazi leaves. It can be used in different ways and forms:
- It can be used as a vegetable, and as a spice for sauces, soups and salads. The leaves are also used to spice locally brewed beer.
- The stem are used in as chew-sticks.
- The fresh leaves can be chewed or used as an extract for a drink. In the southern part of Nigeria, especially people of Southeast and South-South regions these leaves are used for cooking purposes.
- It is used as a spice or garnish for some special local delicacies, such as Isiewu, Nkwobi, Ofe nsala (white soup) and others. Use Utazi leaves and stay healthy!
You can store utazi amongst in a fridge. Just carefully wrap it in an old newspaper and put inside a nylon. It can stay as long two weeks or less (depends) with constant light.
Before you start to include utazi leaf in your diet, it is important to be aware of its side effects as well.
What Are The Side Effects Of Utazi Leaf?
According to a research on the safety of Utazi, the plant showed no behavioral or physiological changes in the body. It also did not have a marked impact on general hematological parameters and did not precipitate nephrotoxicity. However, In certain cases if consumed in excess, there can be such side effects of significant enlargement of the liver.
Utazi Leaf And Pregnancy
A question, which bothers young woman is whether is utazi good for pregnant woman. Just like in case with other spices, pregnant women should be careful with consuming utazi leaves, using in tiny proportions or rejecting during these 9 months.
To maintain a healthy pregnancy, approximately 300 extra calories are needed each day. These calories should come from a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. However There are some foods you should not eat when you’re pregnant because they might make you ill or harm your baby. Make sure you know the important facts about which foods you should avoid or take extra care with when you’re pregnant. The best foods to eat are freshly cooked or freshly prepared food. There is no data on the safety of Utazi during pregnancy, like with other herbs and spices, pregnant women should be careful with consuming utazi leaves, discuss with your doctor about this vegetable before making it part of your diet during pregnancy.
Utazi leaf has several benefits. This vegetable has been used in cooking as a spice for centuries. Utazi leaf makes your food not only delicious but also healthy. Add it to your food whenever possible to reap its benefits. The leaves are generally healthy, and information on their potential side effects is lacking. If you experience any adverse effects, stop intake and consult your doctor.
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