Utazi is a climbing shrub with a broad heart shaped leaves. The botanical name of this plant is Gangronema latifolium from the family Asclepiadaceae
It has a characteristic sharp, bitter and slightly sweet when it is eaten fresh. It can be found in majorly West African countries like Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Senegal, etc.
In Nigeria, it is commonly grown by the Igbo in the southern part of the country and they call it Utazi. Also, the Yorubas call it Arokeke while the Efik and Ibibio call it utasi.
Often times, people confuse utazi leaf with uziza leaves since the names sound alike. The leaves of utazi are green and tough and look like the leaves of orange tree.
On the hand, the leaves of uziza are also green but it has a spicy scent unlike utazi leaves.
In this post, we’ll highlight some of the health benefits of Utazi leaf.
Nutritional and Other Health Benefits of Utazi Leaf
In the laboratory, the leave have been observe to exhibit analgesia, antitumor, antimicrobial, antipyrexic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, hepatoprotective, digestive tonic and laxative properties.
The fresh leaves or stem can be chewed to enjoy these effects. Also, the sap can be extracted with water or palm wine or the whole plant can be infused with boiling water as a tea of decoction
Apart from its medicinal properties, the plant can also be used to make traditional soups. Additionally, the leaves can be used to garnish local delicacies, such as isiewu, nkwobi, abacha/ugba (African salad) ofe nsala (white soup), unripe plantain porridge, etc due to its sharp-bitter and sweet taste. Also, there are claims that adding utazi to these delicacies often served in bars can help prevent drunkenness as well as the hangover effect.
Here are some of the health benefits of Utazi leaves
- Utazi leaves can be used as a stimulating tonic for the digestive system.
- The leaves can also stimulate the flow of bile as well as boost appetite for food
- Utazi regulates the activities of the pancreas and can control blood sugar.
- Utazi leaves can be used as a home remedy for loss of appetite, dyspepsia, colic, stomach-ache, constipation, dysentery and intestinal worms.
- The leaves can also be used to cleanse the womb and treat abdominal pain after childbirth
- Utazi leaves have been shown to have hepatoprotective action and can be used to prevent liver damage associated with alcoholism and viral hepatitis. It can be used in combination with Mormodica charantia (balsam pear) and Ocimum gratissimum (fever plant) to treat hepatitis by cleansing and rebuilding the liver.
- Utazi leaves can also be used to relieve pain. This is done by applying a paste of the leaf to the affected area. If it’s headache or an internal pain, the aqueous extract can be taken to relieve the pain
- Research has shown that Utazi leaves have anti-cancer properties
- The stem bark extract of Utazi plant has shown anti-ulcer properties
- Traditionally, Utazi has also been used in the treatment of common ailments like cough and malaria.