Health Benefits Of Gongronema latifolium (Utazi)
GANGRONEMA latifolium (utazi) is a climbing shrub with broad, heart-shaped leaves that has a characteristic sharp, bitter and slightly sweet taste, especially when eaten fresh. The stems have soft/hairy that yields milky latex or exudates.
It belongs to the family of plants known as Asclepiadaceae and it is widespread in tropical rainforest of West African countries, such as Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Senegal, etc.
In southern Nigeria, where it is commonly grown, the Igbos call the plant utazi, the Yoruba know it as arokeke and the Efik and Ibibio call it utasi. Parts used Fruits, seeds, leave, root and bark.
Chemical constituents Bitter principles, essential oils, alkaloids, saponins and tannin, various minerals, vitamins and some essential amino acids.
Properties Experience has shown that the whole plant exhibits the following herbal actions- analgesic, antitumor, broad spectrum antimicrobial (antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic and antiviral), antipyretic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, anti-sickling, anti-asthmatic, mild expectorant, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, hepatoprotective, digestive tonic and laxative properties.
Methods of preparation The fresh leaves or the stem can be chewed or the sap extracted with water or palm wine. The whole plant can equally be infused with boiling water (as tea) or by boiling (decoction).
In some cases, the dried or fresh leaves are prepared as tincture (i.e. extraction in alcoholic beverages). Uses Nutritional Uses Like most bitter-tasting herbs, Gangronema latifolium contains “Bitter principles” (a combination of alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, essential oils, etc).
Generally speaking, bitter-tasting herbs, such as bitter leaf, utazi, phyllanthus, etc. are known to act as stimulating tonics for the digestive system.
They stimulate the flow of bile and appetite for food and they enhance the activities of the pancreas, regulate blood sugar and promote the detoxification actions of the liver.
In southern part of Nigeria, especially among the people of Southeast and South-South, the leaves of this herb are used commonly for nutritional purposes, including as a spice and vegetable to garnish some special local delicacies, such as Isiewu, nkwobi, abacha/ugba (African salad) ofe nsala (white soup), unripe plantain porridge, etc because of its sharp-bitter and sweet taste.
In many local “joints,” where people enjoy Isiewu, nkwobi and abacha/ugba (African salad) with palm wine or beer, the leaves are usually added to these delicacies to help prevent drunkenness or hangover.
The leaves are believed to neutralise the intoxicating properties alcohol and its harmful effects on the liver. Medicinal Uses An infusion or decoction of the whole plant (the leaves and stems) is used in the home treatment of: Digestive problems, such as loss of appetite, dyspepsia, colic and stomachache, constipation, dysentery and intestinal worms.
To lower blood sugar levels and high blood pressure in diabetic and hypertensive patients, respectively. To cleanse the womb and treat abdominal pain after childbirth.
To prevent liver damage associated with alcoholism and viral hepatitis. Helpful in treating malaria. To relieve cough, wheezing and asthmatic attacks.
A decoction of Gongronema latifolium (utazi), Mormodica charantia (balsam pear) and Ocimum gratissimum (fever plant) is usually given to patients been treated for hepatitis to help cleanse and rebuild their liver.
NOTE An occasional liver cleansing and rebuilding therapies are usually recommended to patients who have suffered hepatitis. An unhealthy liver is the root cause of many health problems.
With a weak liver, the body cannot function properly. Apart from hepatitis (viral or toxic), some of the things that affect the liver adversely, include synthetic hormones (xenoestrogen), some analgesics, over-eating, malnutrition, worm infestation and emotional breakdown, fatty and over-cooked food.
Other health tips For nervousness, restlessness and insomnia Boil up to two heads of common Garden Lettuce with a bottle of water (75cl) and drink a glass of this decoction three times a day. This remedy helps in restoring inner calmness.
It is equally useful in controlling hyperactivity (restlessness) in children. In this case, however, white (refined) sugar and all foods containing artificial flavor or colorant have to be completely eliminated from the child’s daily menu.
In cases of sudden heart attack The patient can be revived immediately by putting up to ¼ to half of a teaspoon of whole cayenne pepper powder directly under the tongues.
This is then repeated at 15 minutes intervals until the crisis is over. Alternatively, the patient can be made to swallow the powdered pepper directly.
Cayenne pepper is a good tonic for the cardiovascular system. It balances circulation, normalises blood pressure, strengthens the heart and lowers high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
It prevents arteriosclerosis, platelet aggregation and blood clot formation within the blood carrying vessels. It also prevents angina pectoris, heart attacks and stroke.
To stop diarrhea Drink a tablespoonful of raw cold pap (corn starch) dissolved in cold water and repeat this every two hours until the stooling stops. Boil up to 40 grammes (a handful) of fresh Guava leaves in up to 75cl (One bottle) of water. Filter and drink a cupful (250ml) three to four times daily.
Mix about three tablespoons of fresh Aloe Vera gel with 500ml of lukewarm water and use this as Enema to check the frequent stooling. To relieve painful and bleeding Pile or inflamed rectum- Rectitis Fold the normal kitchen/cooking foil into a small cylindrical mold, fill this mold with fresh Aloe Vera gel and put this into a freezer to form ice-cold Aloe Vera gel.
Carefully remove the foil and insert the oval shaped iced Aloe Vera gel deep into the rectum as the normal pile suppository and retain this for as long as possible.
For mental and physical fatigue Eating plenty of whole pineapple at any time of the day will restore the needed strength. Alternatively, a handful of freshly harvested local chickweed (called Awede in Yoruba) is blended with a bottle (75cl) of pineapple juice. After filtering, a glass is taken three times daily.
Smelly feet Dissolve half teaspoon of powdered alum in 250mls of warm water and use in rinsing the feet to help reduce sweating and to deodorise the feet. The alum is also used to dust the feet.