Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina)

Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina): Benefits, Uses, and Side effects

Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) is an awesome vegetable plant that is grown in various countries in Africa. It is quite popular in Nigeria and it is known for its signature bitter taste. It is known by the Yorubas as Ewuro, by the Igbos as Onugbu and by the Hausas as Shiwaka.

Bitter leaf’s botanical name is Vernonia amygdalina. Bitter leaf is from the Asteraceae family. Bitter leaf has antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It also has anti-inflammatory and antihelmintic properties. Anthelmintics are drugs used to expel parasitic worms and other internal parasites from the body without causing damage to the host.

 Bitter leaf is also used to treat various ailments like hypertension, diabetes, tuberculosis, stomach ache, malaria, typhoid, gallstones, diarrhoea, and the prevention of cancer.

Bitter leaf has all of its parts used for food and medicinal purposes. These parts include the leaves, extracts, stems and barks.

Studies prove that extracts from bitter leaves have antibiotic actions against drug-resistant microorganisms. Some bacteria that can cause serious diseases become resistant to commonly used antibiotic drugs over time. Extracts of bitter leaf plants can destroy these sets of bacteria.

Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina): Benefits, Uses, and Side effects

In this article, we shall be discussing other various benefits of the bitter leaf plant. These benefits are as follows:

1. Stimulates uterine contraction

Long before there were medical advances in the health sector, the bitter leaf was used to assist women in giving birth. In cases where uterine contractions were not progressing properly, bitter leaf extract has been given to the woman to stimulate uterine contractions. It also assists in the birth of the placenta after the birth of the baby.

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2. Weight loss

Bitter leaf speeds up metabolism. Hence, it is ideal for weight loss. The components of bitter leaf help to reduce the excess fat in the body. It reduces the extra calories in the body and also reduces bad cholesterol.

Bitter leaf is also good for weight loss because of its high fibre content. The fibre in bitter leaf fills up the gastrointestinal tract and makes one fill full quickly. It also reduces the number of calories being absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.

3. Fever reducer

Bitter leaf helps to reduce fever naturally, especially in places where they do not have access to antipyretics. Fever can be dangerous in babies because it can cause convulsions, irreversible brain damage and other complications. Bitter leaf helps in reducing fever due to the flavonoids it contains.

4. Blood sugar reduction

Another benefit of Bitter leaf is that it reduces blood sugar. Studies have discovered that Antioxidants and fibres in bitter leaves can help reduce blood sugars. The fibres prevent fast absorption of sugar in the gastrointestinal tract, hence, preventing sugar spikes.

An animal study discovered that bitter leaves significantly reduced fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL-Cholesterol after fourteen days of administration. 

5. Prevents cancer

The bitter leaf contains antioxidants that help prevent cancer. The antioxidants fight free radicals that can cause cancer in the body.

One test-tube study discovered that bitter leaf extracts stopped the growth of cancerous cells found on the nasopharynx. According to the same study, it was discovered that two compounds (vernomygdin and vernodalin) showed anti-cancer effects. Studies have shown that the presence of increased levels of antioxidants has been shown to prevent the types of free radical damage that have been associated with cancer development.

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6. Relieves Insomnia

Another benefit of bitter leaf is that it relieves insomnia. While some people find it easy to sleep, others need extra help before they can sleep. This is where Bitter leaf comes in. When you drink a Bitter leaf solution at night before bed, it brings about a calmness that aids sleep.

7. Enhances fertility

Bitter leaf is good for couples trying to conceive. It contains vitamins and minerals that help to enhance fertility. The bitter leaf contains vitamins A, C, E, B1, and B2 and minerals such as zinc, manganese, iron, calcium and potassium.

Zinc regulates hormonal functions that make sure ovulation is regular, hence, helping conception. Zinc also helps with healthy sperm formation. All these nutrients help increase fertility and maintain a healthy reproductive system.

8. Controls blood pressure

The bitter leaf contains compounds that help to reduce blood pressure. The antioxidants present in the bitter leaf are responsible for this. They attack free radicals that try to increase blood pressure. Bitter leaf also helps in reducing bad cholesterol which simultaneously reduces blood pressure.

9. Healthy bones and teeth

Another health benefit of Bitter leaf is that it maintains healthy bones and teeth. It contains calcium that keeps the bones healthy and prevents osteoporosis and rickets. It also contains Vitamin C which helps to keep the connective tissues in the gums stable and healthy, which in turn, holds the teeth in place.

10. Metabolism

The bitter leaf contains thiamine that helps with improving the metabolism of the body. It helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fat and protein in the body.

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11. Breast milk production

Bitter leaf is given to nursing mothers to enhance their breast milk production. It is cooked as soup, given as a drink or as a dry powder to the mothers. This makes breast milk flow abundantly.

Other uses and benefits of Bitter leaf

Bitter leaf can soothe and cure pile

It detoxifies the body of harmful toxins

It cures eczema, rashes, ringworm and other skin ailments

It nourishes the skin

It cures mild stomach ailments

It is a worm expeller

It energises the body

It is used to treat boils, bruises and cuts.

Side effects

Bitter leaf has no known side effects on humans or animals. However, it is advised to consume bitter leaves in small amounts at a time, as a high amount of Bitter leaf can be poisonous to the body system.

Also note that the roots contain toxic chemicals, hence it has to be properly cleaned before it is ingested and in small amounts. Bitter leaf juice should not be taken during pregnancy, as high intake may cause miscarriage.


Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) is a nutritious plant that should be added to one’s diet. Bitter leaf can be made into soup, can be added to smoothies and can be made as tea. Its benefits are many and one cannot go wrong with Bitter leaf.

However, ensure you do not consume in high doses and pregnant women should avoid drinking its juice.

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