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Vernonia amygdalina in West African cuisine, medicine and folklore

Vernonia amygdalina, also known as bitter leaf, is a small shrub that grows in tropical Africa. It belongs to the daisy family and has elliptical leaves that are up to 20 cm long. The plant has a bitter taste and is widely used in African cuisine, medicine, and folklore.


In cuisine - 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, the 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 native to the Igbos of Eastern Nigeria. 


In medicine - the leaves have a long history of use for their health benefits. They are used by generations of West Africans, particularly Nigerians, as a remedy for various ailments including malaria, fever, gastrointestinal issues, pain relief, immune system boosting, antimicrobial and anti-parasitic properties, nervous system regulation, cardiovascular health maintenance, digestive aid, fever reduction, diabetes management, stomach ache and others.


In folklore - bitter leaf is often exchanged as a symbol of hospitality and goodwill during traditional events in West Africa. In some cultures, it is believed to have anthelmintic (anti parasitic) properties and fertility-inducing effects in sub-fertile women. In the wild, chimpanzees have been observed to ingest the leaves when suffering from parasitic infections.


Bitter leaf is a herb with a rich history and significance in African cuisine, medicine, and folklore.


We, at Respite Tea, have cut the workload and time to prepare a bitter leaf infusion by presenting five awesome flavours in pyramid teabags and we also bring a taste of Nigeria to further shores.

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