Vernonia amygdalina, a member of the daisy family, is a small shrub that grows in tropical Africa. V. amygdalina typically grows to a height of 2–5 m (6.6–16.4 ft). The leaves are elliptical and up to 20 cm (7.9 in) long. Its bark is rough.
V. amygdalina is commonly called bitter leaf in English because of its bitter taste. Other African common names include Congo Bololo (D. R. Congo), grawa (Amharic), ewuro (Yoruba), etidot (Efik), onugbu (Igbo), ityuna (Tiv), oriwo (Edo), Awɔnwono (Akan), chusar-doki or shuwaka (Hausa), mululuza (Luganda), labwori (Acholi), olusia (Luo), ndoleh (Cameroon), Umubirizi (Kinyarwanda) and olubirizi (Lusoga).
The leaves are a staple vegetable in soups and stews of various cultures throughout equatorial Africa. They are washed to reduce their bitterness, after which they are dried and used to prepare meat dishes. In Nigeria, leaves are also used in place of hops to brew beer.The leaves can also be used to make bitter leaf soup, a delicacy which is one of the most traditional soups in Nigeria. It is native to the Igbos of Eastern Nigeria.
In Nigeria, twigs and sticks from this plant are used as a chewing stick for dental hygiene and the stems are used for soap in Uganda. In Ghana, the young leaves rather than the old, has gained credence for its potent anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory activity; and have been proven using animal models.
In the Northern part of Nigeria, it has been added to horse feed to provide a strengthening or fattening tonic called ‘Chusar Doki’ in Hausa.The leaves have also been used in Ethiopia as hops in preparing tela beer. The leaves are widely used for fevers and are known as a quinine–substitute in Nigeria and some other African countries. The young leaves are used in folk medicine as anthelmintic, antimalarial, laxative/purgative, enema, expectorant, worm expeller and fertility inducer in subfertile women. Many herbalists and naturopathic doctors have recommended the aqueous extracts for their patients as treatment for emesis, nausea, diabetes, loss of appetite-induced abrosia, dysentery and other gastrointestinal tract problems.
- Ijeh II; Ejike CECC (2011). "Current perspectives on the medicinal potential of Vernonia amygdalina Del". J Med Plant Res. 5 (7): 1051–1061.
- Farombi, E. O.; Owoeye, O. (2011). "Bitter leaf". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 8 (6): 2533–2555. doi:10.3390/ijerph8062533. PMC 3138040. PMID 21776245.
- Egedigwe CA (2010). Effect of dietary incorporation of Vernonia amygdalina and Vernonia colorata on blood lipid profile and relative organ weights in albino rats (Thesis). Department of Biochemistry, MOUAU, Nigeria.
- Kokwaro, John (2009). Medicinal Plants of East Africa (3rd ed.). Nairobi, Kenya: University of Nairobi Press. ISBN 978-9966-846-84-6.
- Appiah, Kwame (2018). "Medicinal Plants Used in the Ejisu-Juaben Municipality, Southern Ghana: An Ethnobotanical Study". Medicines. 6 (1): 1–27. doi:10.3390/medicines6010001. PMC 6473417. PMID 30577439.
- Pieroni, Andrea (2005). Prance, Ghillean; Nesbitt, Mark (eds.). The Cultural History of Plants. Routledge. p. 31. ISBN 0415927463.
- Asante, Du-Bois; et al. (2016). "Antidiabetic Effect of Young and Old Ethanolic Leaf Extracts of Vernonia amygdalina: A Comparative Study". Journal of Diabetes Research. 8252741: 8252741. doi:10.1155/2016/8252741. PMC 4884890. PMID 27294153.
- Asante, Du-Bois; et al. (2019). "Anti-inflammatory, anti-nociceptive and antipyretic activity of young and old leaves of Vernonia amygdalina". Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 111: 1187–1203. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2018.12.147. PMID 30841432.
- Huffman, M.A.; Seifu, M. (1989). "Observations on the illness and consumption of a possibly medicinal plant Vernonia amygdalina (Del.), by a wild chimpanzee in the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania". Primates. 30: 51–63. doi:10.1007/BF02381210. S2CID 12090279.