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amygdalina Del.
• Vernonia amygdalina is one of the plants used as vegetable in most
parts of Africa. This presentation is divided into four sections, with
part one focusing on the Botany of the plant. The second section
elaborates on the traditional uses to which the plant is put to. The
second to the last part talks on the chemistry of the plant, while the
last segment looks at the pharmacological potentials of Vernonia
Botany of Vernonia amygdalina
• Vernonia amygdalina is a plant of the Asteraceae.
• Synonym: Gymnanthemum amygdalinum
• It is known as bitter leaf plant in English language. Based on the
geo-political zones in Nigeria, the plant has three popular names. It
is known as Shuwaka among the predominantly hausa
communities of the Northern part of Nigeria. Ewuro is its name in
the mostly Yoruba speaking Western part of the country; while the
Igbos of the Southern part of Nigeria call it Onugbo/Olubo.
Botany, cont’d
• Vernonia amygdalina is a shrub which grows up to 3meters tall. It is native to tropical
Africa. The genus Vernonia was named after an English Botanist, William
Vernon(Schiffers, 2000). It is represented by 1000 species scattered along Africa,
Asia, North and South Americas( Karthikeyan et al. 2009). However, it was wrongly
treated as ‘endemic’ to Brazil in ‘Global Compositae Checklist’(Flann2012).
• The most important parts of the plant are the leaves, which are mainly used
traditionally. The leaves are lanceolate oblong, i.e. having a shape that is between
oblong and lanceolate, which are usually 10-15x4-5cm. The leaves are usually
medium to dark green in color, with very short petiole which might be 1-2cm long.
Botany cont’d
• Flower heads are thistle-like, small, creamy white in color, grouped in dense
heads, forming large flat clusters and sweetly scented. The leaves are bitter,
probably the reason why the plant is called bitter leaf plant in English. Its
1.5-3.5mm long, 10-ribbed achene fruit is pubescent and glandular, and
brown to black in color. Seedlings show epigeal germination, the antonym of
hypogeal germination, as exhibited in many leguminous plants such as
Phaseolus vulgaris.
IMAGES OF V. amygdalina PLANT, and
chopped, washed dried leaves
Traditional uses of Vernonia amygdalina
The traditional uses of the plant will be discussed under two headings:
1. Traditional use in catering or as food; and
2. Traditional use in the cure and treatment of certain ailments that attack human beings.
Traditionally, the leaves of the plant are used in the preparation of Egusi soup and Miyar
Ingredients include the bitter leaves, fresh tomato (or paste), palm oil, groundnut powder or
egusi powder, salt, bony fish, meat, salt, pepper, onion, condiment(s), curry and seasoning. The
leaves are washed in a dilute salty water, followed by clean water to sterilize against microbes.
They are then pounded so that the concentration of the compounds responsible for the bitter
taste of the leaves will be reduced easily.
Process of soup-making cont’d
• The pounded leaves are then washed/rinsed with water consecutively, until when
the chopped leaves become reasonably free of the bitter component. The water is
then drained, and the chopped leaves transferred into a clean plate. A reasonable
quantity of palm oil is then put in a clean pot, and the pot put on stove or electric
cooker. The palm oil is then fried, together with the chopped onions, pepper and
tomato for a little while, after which some water is added on to the sauce. The
groundnut powder and half-boiled meat are then followed, and allowed to boil for a
while. Salt and other condiments were later added, and the mixture allowed to
simmer, so that the sweet taste and aroma of the mixture will manifest.
process of soup-making, cont’d
• When convinced that the sauce had boiled to the required stage, the chopped leaves should
then be added and allowed to boil for not more than ten minutes, so that all the nutrients
contained in the leaves would not be denatured. There and then, your bitter leaf soup(miyar
taushe) is ready to be served with tuwon dawa, semo, amala, or elubo.
• Alternatively, Egusi soup can also be made with the bitter leaf. The process is almost the
same with that of the ‘Miyar taushe’, only that the egusi powder is not added as a powder.
Instead, it is mixed with small quantity of water, and mould into very small boluses. After
boiling the sauce and the meat(or fish), those boluses are then put into the sauce and
allowed to boil for 3-5 minutes. The chopped, washed and drained leaves are then added,
and allowed to boil for another 3-5 minutes. After that, egusi soup is ready to be served with
rice, amala, semo, poundo or elubo.
Traditional Medicinal uses of V. amygdalina
• V. amygdalina is traditionally used in the management of diabetes in Nigeria, and
Africa at large( Akah & Okafor 1992; Atangwho et al. 2010). Traditional medical
practitioners also use it as digestive tonic, anti-malaria, appetizer, laxative,
antihelminth, and for the topical treatment of wounds( Ijeh & Ejike, 2011). In the
Northern part of Nigeria, its stems are used as chewing sticks for oral hygiene, and
for the treatment and management of some dental problems( Ijeh & Ejike, 2011).
In Malawi and Uganda, V. amygdalina is traditionally used by traditional birth
attendants in the expulsion of placenta after birth, to induce lactation and in the
control of post-partum hemorrhage( Kamatenesi-Mugishi, 2004).
Traditional Medicinal uses cont’d
• V. amygdalina is recommended for the treatment of skin infections like
ringworm by applying the liquid extract on the affected body part(s); it also
allows for easy digestion of food in the stomach; and helps in body weight
loss( Okoli et al., 2007).
• According to Agbogidi et al.(2013), if 10 handfuls of fresh leaves of the
plant are squeezed in 10litres of water and the infusion consumed two
glasses thrice a day for a month, diabetes is cured. V. amygdalina is also said to
cure hepatitis B and C, jaundice, diarrhea, diabetes and tuberculosis, with the
development of bitter leaf-based dietary supplements(Muanya, 2013).
V. amygdalina
• Besides significant quantities of lipids( Eleyinmi et al. 2008), proteins with high
essential amino acid score( Eleyinmi et al. 2008), carbohydrates( Ejoh et al. 2007),
and fibre( Eleyinmi et al. 2008), V. amygdalina also possess appreciable quantities of
ascorbic acid and carotene( Ejoh et al. 2007).
• Calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper and cobalt have also
been found in significant quantities in the species( Eleyinmi et al. 2008). A wide
array of phytochemical oxalates, phytates and tannins has been reported ( Udensi et
al. 2002; Ejoh et al. 2007; Eleyinmi et al. 2008) from leaves of the plant. Stigmastanetype saponins such as vernoniosides A1, A2, A3( Jisaka et al. 1992); A4, B2, B3(Jisaka
et al. 1993); C, D and E (Ohigashi, 1994) are present in the leaves. The A-series
saponins are responsible for the bitter taste of the leaves.
Phytochemical constituents of the plant cont’d
• Sesquiterpene lactones are other class of useful phytochemicals found
abundantly in the leaves of V. amygdalina. In addition to vernolide and
vernodalol( Erasto et al. 2006), vernolepin, hydroxyvernolide and vernodalin
( Koshimizu et al. 1994) were also identified in the species. Igile et al. (1995)
reported the presence of three flavons, namely: luteolin, luteolin 7-O-βglucoroniside and luteolin-7-O-β-glucoside in the leaves of the plant. The
presence of flavonoids was also confirmed by Tona et al. (2004). Coumarins,
terpenes, phenolic acids, xanthones and anthraquinones were also found
( Tona et al. 2004).
Phytochemical constituents of the plant cont’d
The antioxidant activity of the three flavons was determined by measuring the
coupled oxidation of β-carotene and linoleic acid. It was shown that luteolin was
a significantly more potent antioxidant than the synthetic antioxidant butylated
hydroxytoluene(BHT) at the same concentration. The two glycosides showed
similar activities, but significantly lower activities than luteolin or BHT(Godwin
O. Igile et al., 1994). This has corroborated with the findings of
Kupchan et al., who reported that vernodalin and vernolide have antitumoral
tivity, with the other two components, hydroxyvernolide and vernodalol, having
weak activities.
Phytochemical constituents cont’d
• In addition, Wazis CH et al.,(2013), reported that the phytochemistry of the
ethanolic leaf extract of V. amygdalina indicated the presence of high
concentrations of alkaloids, tannins and saponins, whereas cardiac glycosides
and phlabotannins were seen in moderate concentrations. They went further
to state that the research indicated the absence of flavonoids and steroids.
Structure of vernodalin
Structures of vernolide and vernodalol
Fig. 1 Structures of vernolide and vernodalol.
P. Erasto , D.S. Grierson , A.J. Afolayan
Bioactive sesquiterpene lactones from the leaves of Vernonia amygdalina
Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 106, Issue 1, 2006, 117 - 120
Structure of hydroxyvernolide
• Research has shown that V. amygdalina has many other phytotherapeutical
properties like antibacterial activity( Ibrahim et al. 2009), antioxidant
property( Adaramoye et al. 2008), anti-cancer activity( Izevbigie 2003;
Khalafalla et al. 2009), serum lipid modulation properties( Ugwu et al. 2010),
antihepatotoxic activity( Arhoghro et al. 2009), fungitoxic as well as
phytotoxic effects(Alabi et al. 2005). According to a research carried out at
the University of Texas, USA, an extract of bitter leaf is an active anticancer
agent; and may also help to prevent the onset of breast cancer in women.
Pharmacology cont’d
• V. amygdalina extracts were reported to inhibit and even reverse CCl4 induced
hepatotoxicity ( Babalola et al., 2001). Conversely, Ojiako et al., (2006)
reported that leaves of V. amygdalina may be toxic if consumed in very large
quantities, and consecutively.
1. Adaramola, O. A., Akintayo, J. Achem and M. A. Fafunso(2008). Lipid-lowering
Effects of Methanolic Extract of V. amygdalina leaves in rats fed on high
cholesterol diet. Vascular Health and Risk Management 4:236-241.
2. Agbogidi, O. M. and Akpomorine, M. O.(2013). Health and Nutritional Benefits
of Bitter Leaf. International Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical
Sciences 2(3):164-170.
3. Akah, P. A. and C. L. Okafor(1992). Blood Sugar Lowering Effects of V.
amygdalina Del. In an Experimental rabbit model. Phytotherapy Research 6:171-173.
4. Alabi, D. A., L. A. Oyero, Jimoh and N. A. Amusa(2005). Fungitoxic effects of V.
amygdalina Del., Bryophyllum pinnatus Kurz, Ocimum gratissimum (Closium) L. and
References cont’d
Eucalyptus globulus (Caliptos) Labill water extracts on cowpea and cowpea seedling pathogens in AgoIwoye South-western Nigeria. World Journal of Agricultural Sciences 1:70-75.
5. Arhoghro, E. M.,K. E. Ekpo, E. O. Anosike and G. O. Ibeh(2009). Effects of Aqueous Extract of
Bitter leaf on Carbontetrachloride induced Liver Damage in Albino whister rats. European Journal of
Scientific Research 26:122-130.
6. Atangwho I. J., P. E. Ebong, E. U. Eyong and M. U. Eteng(2010). Combined administration of
extracts of V. amygdalina Del. and Azadirachta indica mimic nsulin in time-course body weight and
glucose regulation in diabetic and non-diabetic rats. Nigerian Journal of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
25(1): 44-49.
7. Babalola O. O., Anetor J.I., Adeniyi F. A.(2001). Amelioration of CCl4 - induced hepatotoxicity by
Terpenoid extract from leaves of V. amygdalina. Journal of Medical Sciences 30(1-2): 91-3
References cont’d
8. Eleyinmi A. F., P. Sporns, and D. C. Bressler(2008). Nutritional Composition of Gongrenema latifolium and V.
amygdalina. Nutrition and Food Sciences 38:99-109.
9. Eljoh, R. A., D. V. Nkonga, G. Innocent and M. C. Moses(2007). Nutritional components of some nonconventional leafy vegetables consumed in Cameroon. Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 6:712-717.
10. Erasto, P., D. S. Grierson and A. J. Afolayan(2006). Bioactive sesquiterpene lactones from the leaves of V.
amygdalina. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 106:117-120.
11. Godwin O. Igile, Wieslaw O. Marian Jurzysta, Stanislaw Burda, Michael Fafunso and Adetunde A.
Fasanmade(1994). Flavonoids from V. amygdalina and their antioxidant activity. Journal of Agricultural and Food
Chemistry 42(11): 2445-2448.
12. Ibrahim, T. A., A. Lola, F. O. Adetuyi and B. Jude-Ojei(2009). Assessment of the antimicrobial activity of V.
amygdalina and Ocimum gratissimum leaves on selected seed borne pathogens. Journal of Environmental, Agricultural
and Food Chemistry 8(11): 1212-1218.
Ref. cont’d
13. Igile, G. O., W. Pleszek, M. Jurzysta, R. Aquino, N. De Tommasi and C. Pizza(1995).
Vernoniosides D and E, two novel saponins from V. amygdalina. Journal of Natural Products
14. Ijeh, I. I. and C. E. C. C. Ejike(2011). Current perspectives on the medicinal potentials of
V. amygdalina Del. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 5(7):1051-1061.
15. Izevbigie, E. B. (2003). Discovery of Water-soluble Anticancer agents(edotides) from a
vegetable found in Benin city, Nigeria. Experimental Biology and Medicine 228:293-298.
16. Jisaka, M. H. Ohigashi, T. Takagaki, H. Nozaki, T. Tada, M. Hiroto, R. Irie, M. A. Huffman,
N. Nishida, M. Kagi and K. Koshimizu(1992). Bitter steroid glucosides, vernoniosides A1, A2,
A3 and related B1 from a possible medicinal plant- V. amygdalina, used by wild chimpanzees.
Tetrahedron 48:625-632.
Ref. cont’d
17. Jisaka, M. H. Ohigashi, K. Takegawa, M. Hirota, R. Irie, M. A. Huffman and K.
Koshmizu(1993). Steroid glucosides from V. amygdalina, a possible chimpanzee
medicinal plant. Phytochemistry 34:409-413.
18. Kamatenesi-Mugisha, M. (2004). Medicinal plants used in reproductive healthcare
in Western Uganda: Documentation, phytochemical and bioactivity evaluation, Makerere
University(PhD Thesis in Botany), Kampala.
19. Khalafalla, M. E. Abdellatef, H. D. Daffalla, A. A. Nassrallah, K. M. AddoulEnein,
D. A. Lightfoot, A. Cocchetto and H. A. El-Shemy(2009). Antileukemia activity from
root cultures of V. amygdalina. The Journal of International Medical Research3:556-562.
Ref. cont’d
20. Koshimizu, K., H. Ohigashi and M. A. Huffman(1994). Use of V. amygdalina by wild
chimpanzee: possible roles of its bitter and related constituents. Physiology and Behavior 56:12091216.
21. Munaya, C. (2013). Bitter leaf-based extracts cures hepatitis co-inferation and others. The
Guardian Newspaper, July 25, 2013.
22. Ohigashi, H. (1994). Towards the chemical ecology of medicinal plants used in
chimpanzees: The case of V. amygdalina Del., a plant used by wild chimpanzees, possibly for
parasite-related diseases. Journal of Chemical Ecology 20: 541-553.
23. Ojiako, O. A. and Nwanjo, H. U.(2006). Is V. amygdalina hepatotoxic or hepatoprotective?
Response from Biochemical and Toxicity Studies in rats. African Journal of Biotechnology 5(18):
Ref. cont’d
24. Okoli, R. I., Aigbe, O., Ohafu-Obode, J. O. and Mensah, J. K.(2007). Medicinal
herbs used for managing some common ailments among Esan people of Edo State,
Nigeria. Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 6(5): 470-490.
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Hermans, S. Van Miret, L. Pieters, J. Totte and A. J. Vlietink(2004). In vitro
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Democratic Republic of Congo. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 93:27-32.
26. Udensi, E. A., I. I. Ijeh and U. Ogbonna(2002). Effect of traditional processing on
the phytochemical and nutrient composition of some local Nigerian leafy vegetables.
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Ref. cont’d
27. Ugwu, C. E., C. E. C. C. Ejike, E. O. Alumana and L. U. S. Ezeanyika(2010). Effect of
dietary incorporation of Gongronema latifolium, V. amygdalina and Telfairia occidentalis leaves at
various levels on the lipid profile of rats. Indian Journal of Animal Nutition 27(3): 303-308.
28. Wazis CH, Timothy SY, Zakam SG, Balla HJ, Maspalma ID(2013). Phytochemical screening
and purgative activity of Ethanolic extracts of V. amygdalina Del. Leaf. International Journal of
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39 .
30. S.M Kupchan et al., 1969; 1971; 1969
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