Bitter Leaf and Its Health Benefits

The bitter leaf plant is packed with so many health benefits. According to the tribes in Nigeria, It is known as Elewuro amongst the Yorubas, it is called Shuwaka by the Hausas and it is used in preparing the famous Onugbu soup by the Igbo people.

Apart from its culinary delicacy, the bitter leaf is well known for its healing potency. With a characteristic bitter taste, It reminds people that life is not always sweet and bitterness often preceeds sweetness.

Below are some of the health benefits of Bitter leaf juice extract (Vernonia amygdalin) enjoy the read:

  • Bitter leaf juice relieves fever and feverish conditions
  • Blood sugar lowering power

It helps to reduce high sugar level in the blood, thus great for diabetic patients. Bitter leaf also helps to repair the pancreas. Squeeze some fresh leaves in few litres of water and take two glasses thrice daily. Some people take a handful of bitter leaf and eat it too. According to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Bioresources, researchers at the University of Jos, it stated that the crude chloroform extract of the Bitter leaves has an anti-diabetic effect in rats with Diabetes mellitus (Type 2 diabetes) under laboratory condition.

Similarly, researchers writing in the Medical Journal of Islamic World Academy of Sciences said that

“…the administration of aqueous extract of bitter leaf at a concentration of 500 mg/kg of body weight significantly decreased the level of blood glucose. Its efficacy to lower blood glucose level was comparable with that of chlorpropamide, a standard drug used in the management of diabetes.”

Indeed, a Bitter leaf-based herbal anti-diabetic medication has passed human clinical trials and received a United States Patent for the treatment of diabetes far back as 2008.


  • Antibacterial properties

The fresh juice extract, when applied to the skin, helps with rashes, eczema, ringworms and any superficial skin ailments.

  • Body detoxifier

Taking a cup of bitter leaf juice a day is a great way to detoxify the body of toxins (poisons from metabolism and /or those from external sources like air pollution and otherwise).

  • Boost lactation and milk let-down

Bitter leaf juice has been proven by researchers to increase breast milk production in nursing mothers.

  • Worm expeller

As a home remedy, the washed roots and stalks of the bitter leaf can be boiled and taken as a worm expeller.

  • Hastening childbirth

The aqueous extract of the Bitter leaf can help in inducing labour. Ugandan researchers studying the use of Bitter leaf herbal remedies in stimulating childbirth traditionally in rats found that the water extract of the plant showed marked rat uterine stimulation (oxytocic). This is an indication that Bitter leaf can hasten childbirth or cause abortion if used in preterm pregnancy.
In Malawi, a survey found that the dried bark of Bitter leaf is used to improve contractions of the womb during childbirth.

  • Prevents toothache

Researchers in 2005 edition of the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines say that chewing the stem of Bitter leaf helps to prevent Gingivitis (a tooth-gum problem) and toothache due to its proven antimicrobial activity says. Whilst the bitter taste may make it unappealing to many people for everyday use, a person with embarrassing gingivitis or a toothache may benefit from using it.

The Nigerian Bitter Leaf Soup


  • 2kg Meat of choice (beef, chicken, pork, turkey)
  • Bitter leaf (wash to desire)
  • Half cup of ground Crayfish
  • Maggi or Knorr seasoning (3 cubes
  • Ogiri (a product of castor seeds)(optional)
  • Dry fish (2 medium sizes)
  • Stockfish head (1 big size)
  • Palm oil (about 25cl)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cocoa-yam (pounded) or
  • 4 cups of Melon seeds Egusi (if you choose to make bitter leaf soup with Egusi)

You may choose to watch this video on preparation method or go further below to the written procedure:


First of all, to soften the leaves and further remove the bitter taste, boil for about 10 – 15minutes. As most people usually add a little quantity of edible potash to hasten this process, we advise against it. The reason is, this catalyst (potash) tend to affect the entire soup in a slightly negative way and that potash is detrimental to the health of a hypertensive consumer.

If you still want to add potash, it will completely wash off the bitter taste and soften the leaves in less than 3 minutes of boiling, but then you would want to boil again alone and wash thoroughly with just water to remove every trace of the potash. (FYI – The more a vegetable is boiled, the more its nutrients leach away into the boiling water. Don’t over boil your vegetables)

Then, parboil meat with every necessary ingredient, add the (hot-water) washed dry fish, stock fish and cook until it is tender, add more water then add palm oil, ground crayfish, pepper, Maggi seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Stir and allow boiling.

At this point, it should give a good “soupy” taste (even though it would be watery). Then add the pounded cocoa yam as you can find in the video below (at this point you can add the ground Egusi if you choose to make bitter leaf soup with Egusi), also add the ogiri now.

In conclusion, cook till the cocoyam dissolves, (this would likely take about ten minutes) then add the bitter leaves. Stir, taste and add more salt if necessary then cook for three to two minutes and you are done with the making of Nigerian Bitter Leaf Soup (Ofe Onugbu).

bitter leaf soup

Now, either of these five can go along with it – Eba, Fufu, Semo, wheat or pounded yam. So, remember. Life’s a bittersweet situation. Eat bitter leaf for sweeter healthier life. For more details on this exotic vegetable – bitter leaf. Here’s a link to a research work carried out on (Vernonia amygdalina)

5 Responses

  1. Hello,
    I am in America. I have a health problem and was drawn to Bitter leaf. I have been drinking it as a tea and it is slowly but surely helping me. I love this plant. It is very difficult to get. The source from Amazon is out. Do you have a source?

    1. Hi Maridee.
      Nice of you to reach out and drop your comments.
      We make this vegetable (bitter leaf) locally available to our subscribed clients on consultation programs here in Nigeria. We have our local sources and unfortunately, international shipment is not yet an option. We hope to be of better assistance soonest.

      Best regards,
      Diet234 Team

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