Bitterleaf is a medicinal plant that grows everywhere in Nigeria and East Africa. As the name implies, it is very bitter, but the leaf and its roots can be used as herbal medicine to treat fever, hiccups, and stomach discomfort. The benefits more than makeup for its bitter taste.
In the Yoruba language, it's called Ewuro, Onugbu by the Igbos, and Shuwaka in Hausa. If you live abroad and find people looking at you funny when you say bitter leaf, try calling it Vernonia amygdalina instead.
It is a long word, but they might recognize that word instead.
Nutritional Components of Bitter Leaf
Nutrition is one of the most important factors influencing a healthy pregnancy. You need an extra 300 extra calories daily to maintain a healthy pregnancy. You can get these calories from a well-balanced diet.
A serving of bitter-leaf soup contains over 256 kcal.
This is the nutritional value of 1 serving of bitter leaf soup.
Calories: 256 kcal
Fat: 47 g
Carbs: 24 g
Fat: 20 g
Protein: 4 g
Health Benefits of Bitter Leaf
Bitterleaf is a well-known herb in Nigeria. It is famous for several health benefits. Bitter leaf:
- Treats insomnia, toothache, and arthritis.
- Helps fight heart disease by lowering cholesterol.
- Significantly decreases blood sugar.
- Helps detoxify and reduce harmful free radicals. It interferes with DNA activities that may cause cancer.
- Alleviates malaria symptoms.
Benefits of Bitter Leaves in Pregnancy
Drinking a cup of bitter-leaf juice has many benefits.
You can also make it into a leaf soup. When making bitter-leaf soup, the leaf is usually processed. All the bitter liquid is washed away and drained. This process significantly reduces the nutrients, so you might not get as many nutrients as you would from the juice.
A 2006 study by G Oboh, the Federal University Of Technology Akure, shows that bitter leaf has high nutrient content. However, abrasion, which is washing in this case, will bring about a significant decrease.
Bitter leaf juice or soup will help with the following in pregnancy:
- Increases milk production in Lactating mothers: Bitterleaf, like many other dark green vegetables, contains phytoestrogens that boost breast milk production.
- This vegetable increases the production of prolactin, thereby triggering more milk production.
- Protect the body against pollutants: Exposure to air pollution in pregnancy increases the risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, unnatural malformation, and newborn death.
- Certain nutrients in bitter leaf protect against pollutants from cigarette smoke and other dangerous gases.
- Helps indigestion in pregnant women: Indigestion is a common plague in pregnancy. It is usually caused by hormonal changes or your baby pressing against your stomach.
- The effects are heartburn or acid reflux. Bitter Leaf contains essential nutrients, like fiber, that aid digestion and prevents these discomforts.
- Prevents miscarriage: Bitter leaf stimulates progesterone production, also known as the pregnancy hormone. This prevents miscarriage.
- A research study showed that progesterone increased the chances of women already experiencing bleeding, an early sign of threatened miscarriage, to have successful pregnancies and live births.
- Lowers blood pressure: The edotides in bitter leaf juice help to control blood pressure in pregnant women. This is good for pregnancy hypertension.
Side Effects of Bitter Leaves in Pregnancy
In Nigeria, there is a widespread belief that bitter leaf juice can cause miscarriage. There is no medical research that directly links the consumption of bitter leaf juice to miscarriage.
"So many times, I have seen pregnant women take bitter leaves juice to cure morning sickness and for vitality. I have not seen any woman who drinks bitter leaf water suffer from miscarriage or abortion, "says Udomoh Eshemoka, a practicing medical doctor.
But a study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology shows that bitterleaf, among several leaves that grow widely in Nigeria, is capable of causing contraction of the uterine walls.
Although research shows that consumption of this vegetable can trigger contractions in early pregnancy, the soup can be taken safely in any quantity. This is because the leaf is usually washed and processed so much that the nutrients and potency are reduced to make bitter leaf soup. This makes consuming a large quantity of this soup while pregnant safe.
If you are still uncertain or have questions, ask your midwife or doctor at your next antenatal appointment. Do you take bitter-leaf soup during pregnancy? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments!