Vernonia amygdalina (VA) is a
tropical plant that grows in some
parts of Africa. It is notorious for its
bitter taste and is often referred to as
“bitter leaf”. It is known under many
names such as onugbu , oriwo ,
etidot , ewuro, mululuza , ndoleh.

The leaves and stem have been used
for centuries in the treatment of
several medical conditions in
traditional African medicine.
 It is
also consumed as green leafy
vegetable in soups (ofe onugbo) ,
porridge and stews in various ways
by different cultures across Africa.

VA contains more than 30 bioactive
compounds including saponins,
terpenes, lignans, flavonoids,
phenolic acids, steroids, coumarins,
anthraquinone, xanthones.

How to Extract VA Juice
The mature leaves need to be
washed thoroughly and blended
using a blender or a juicer with
adequate amount of purified room
temperature water. 
Then, using a
tight mesh strainer or cheesecloth,
strain the juice an
d it is ready for
consumption.

Note: Heat denatures and reduces the
nutritive value of liquid VA extract,
as a result, it is best to prepare it
cold.

Antibacterial
VA extract is highly effective against
several bacterial infections and
diseases, including those that cause
pneumonia, dental caries. 7
Vernolide, and isorhamnetin found
in VA extract are responsible for its
antibacterial activity.
 A study by
Habtamu et al compared the efficacy
of VA extract with chloramphenicol
(a prescription antibiotic) and found
VA to show higher antibacterial
activity. 1

Antimalaria
It is a known remedy for fever and
contains quinine which is a potent
treatment for malaria fever. 9 It is
strongly recommended that you take
prescription anti malaria medication
if you already have malaria as the
dosing of these drugs are more
standardized.

Some experts suggest it should be
taken from time to time to prevent
malaria and not as the only
treatment for malaria after illness
has started.
Remedy for Amoebic
Dysentery
Amoebic dysentery is an infection
caused by the parasite, Entamoeba
histolytica. It affects the intestine and
may sometimes extend to the liver. It
is contracted by ingesting food or
water contaminated by feces of an
infected person or practising oral sex
with an infected person.

The symptoms of amebic dysentery
include; abdominal pain, nausea and
vomiting, severe diarrhea with
mucus, pus and blood alternating
with constipation. It may extend to
the liver causing severe liver disease
or even death. 3

Anticancer
Cancer occurs when there is
abnormal growth of some cells in the
body. Cancer cells grow rapidly and
have the potential to spread to other
parts of the body.

Bitter leaf extract inhibits abnormal
cell growth and may prevent or
delay the onset of cancer according
to research. 2, 3, 4
It may even induce cancer cells to
become more responsive to
chemotherapy, in people with cancer
who are undergoing treatment.
 5
Antioxidant
VA contains flavonoids such as
luteolin, luteolin 7-O-β-glucuronoside,
and luteolin 7-O-β-glucoside that are
responsible for its antioxidant and
detoxification benefits. The natural
antioxidant properties of VA are
similar to those of Vitamin C. 
7
Several studies have reported on the
role of VA in protecting the body
from injury from free radicals, lipid
peroxidation of tissues and it may
protect the liver against oxidative
damage. 1, 6 ,8
Antidiabetic
VA (bitter leaves) may lower blood
sugar by inducing the body to
increase the use of glucose and also
by preventing the production of
glucose from other means in the
body through a process called
gluconeogenesis. 
10
In uncontrolled diabetes, blood
glucose is unusually high, this high
sugar state cause damage to the
kidneys and other organs of the
body. Individuals living with
diabetes may benefit from regular
consumption of VA, as it can prevent
kidney damage and restore kidney
functions in diabetics. 
10
Laxative
It has been used for centuries across
Africa as a laxative. 
Taking bitter
leaves or extracts may help soften
your stool and relieve constipation. 11
Antiparasitic
Parasitic worm infections (also
known as helminths) affect nearly 1
billion people each year especially
those living in the tropics, among the
world’s poorest population and
travelers to these areas.
Parasitic worms need living hosts to
survive. 
They receive nourishment
and protection at the expense of the
host causing disease in the
process.They are able to evade the
immune response of the body and
will survive for years if not treated.
There are several known human
parasitic worms for example,
tapeworm, roundworms, pinworms,
flatworms, liver and blood flukes.
Parasitic worms have specific areas
of the body they colonize including
the intestines, brain, lungs, liver
urinary bladder.

The antiparasitic effect of liquid
extract of VA has been studied
extensively. It is effective against
human and livestock parasitic worms
in their different stages of
development. VA extract kills
parasites by paralysing and making
them unable to feed and
consequently, they die off. 2, 3, 4
A study comparing the efficacy of 3
commonly prescribed anti-parasitic
medications (ivermectin, levamisole,
and albendazole) and liquid VA
extract, found VA extract to offer
higher efficacy against livestock and
human parasites. 4

Safety
Mature VA (Bitter leaves) is
considered safe for consumption by
humans either boiled or prepared
fresh.

Young, immature leaves of VA
contain relatively high levels of
cyanide and some other
antinutrients. Therefore, immature
leaves should be properly cooked,
squeeze-washed to remove these
antinutrients. To be on the safe side,
consume only mature leaves. 12
Mature leaves are often dark green
in colour and grow farther away
from the flowers. The mature leaves
and stem are edible and considered
safe.

To remove the bitter taste, squeeze-
wash or boil the leaves. Washed VA
can be preserved by freezing or
drying, however, it may lose some of
the nutrients.