Bitter Leaf

Vernonia amygdalina

Herbs gallery - Bitter Leaf

Common names

  • Bitter Leaf
  • Mujonso

The herb known as the bitter leaf is a shrub or small tree that can reach twenty three feet in height when fully grown. Bitter leaf has a gray or brown colored bark; the bark has a rough texture and is flaked. The branches of the shrub are brittle and break off easily.

The green leaves are oblong to lance like in shape, they are veined, and bear pale soft hairs on the underside. Bitter leaf bears small white flowers, these flowers bloom in clusters during the spring. This herb bears small fruits, which have slightly hairy small nuts inside.

Bitter leaf is obtained from the leaves of a diminutive evergreen shrub called Vernonia, which grows throughout Africa. The genus Vernonia comprises roughly 1,000 species of shrubs as well as forbs which belong to the Asteraceae family. A number of species belonging to this plant family are called ironweed. Moreover, some species of Vernonia can be consumed and have commercial worth.

These species are well known for the deep purple flowers borne by them. The genus Vernonia has derived its name from the noted English botanist named William Vernon. This genus comprises several prominent sub-genera as well as sub-sections, which has encouraged a number of botanists to categorize this vast genus into much smaller sections dividing the species into different genera.

For example, the Flora of North America identifies just roughly 20 species, and 17 of them are found either in North America or in Mexico, while the remaining two or three are in South America.

A number of Vernonia species, counting V. amygdalina, V. calvoana and V. colorata, are consumed in the form of leaf vegetables. Some of the common names of these species are ewuro, bitterleaf, onugbu and ndole. These species grow extensively in the countries in Central Africa and West Africa.

In Cameroon, the leaves of these plants are used extensively as leaf vegetable and form a major constituent of a stew called ndole stew. The leaves of these species have a bitter and sweet flavor and are available commercially both fresh as well as dried and they form a common constituent of egusi soup.

The species called V. amygdalina is a familiar remedial herb that has several therapeutic uses and is employed for treating various conditions like reducing fever, diabetes and, in recent times, a non-pharmaceutical solution has been developed to cure headaches, unrelenting fever and joint aches related to AIDS - in this condition patients take an infusion prepared from the herb internally as per requirements.

Many African nations export the leaves of bitter leaf plant and you may purchase them at economic rates from the grocery stores selling products to their African clients. People have been traditionally using V. amygdalina roots to treat toothache and gingivitis, as they possess proven antimicrobial actions.

The 17 species of Vernonia that are found in North America, such as V. altissima, V. flaccidifolia, V. fasciculate and others all possess similar useful therapeutic attributes and work in the form of blood cleanser, and a toner for the uterus. These species enclose a chemical substance called sesquiterpene lactone that also aids in putting off development of atherosclerosis.

Another species, V. galamensis is utilized by people in East Africa for its seeds that yield oil. This species is cultivated in several regions of Ethiopia, particularly in the vicinity of its main city Harar. On average, the plants yield seeds about 2 tons/ ha to 2.5 tons/ ha.

It is said that the strains of Vernonia grown in Ethiopia contain the maximum amount of oil - roughly 41.9 per cent, in addition to a maximum of 80 per cent vernolic acid. This oil is employed in formulating paints; coatings plasticizers as well as in the form of a reagent for several chemicals used in industries.

Very dissimilar to many other leaves that only grow in specific locations and at particular temperatures, bitter leaf plant has the aptitude to thrive in any place they start growing. In fact, their growth enhances the beauty of the place. Its bitterness is the most typical characteristic of the bitter plant.

Right from its leaves to its roots all parts of this herb have a bitter flavour. In effect, the bitterness of this herb is beneficial for our health and it offers us plenty of health benefits. This herb makes people remember that our life is not sweet all the times and it needs some amount of bitterness before you are able to obtain the sweetness. The bitter leaf herb is extremely helpful for toning some vital body organs, particularly the kidneys and the liver.

As is well known, the liver is a very vital organ of our body and it has lots of major roles that are necessary for the working of the entire system of our body. In the absence of the liver, the entire vital functions of our body would be paralyzed.

The liver is also considered to be the largest organ within our body and in any healthy adult, it weighs roughly anything between 1 kg and 3 kg on  average. The liver performs many important functions daily, including bile acid production which aids in metabolizing fats.

If we did not have a liver, it would have been impossible to digest the fats and assimilate them into the body for being utilized in the form of energy. It has been found that ingesting bitter leaf can prove to be extremely effective in sustaining the utmost health of our liver to secrete bile acid whenever people consume foods rich in fat content.

The liver has another vital function and that is to make glycogen, which is stored in the body and released in the form of energy, when the energy levels in the body are low, especially when people undertake fasting.

Therefore, it is essential that we look after the health of the liver and this can be done by consuming bitter leaf. Remember, if the liver has been damaged once, it is impossible to reinstate its normal functioning. Here is a little piece of advice: people suffering from liver disorder would find it useful if they drink one glass of solution prepared by boiling bitter leaf in water daily.

Apart from the liver, the kidneys are also vital internal organs, because they help us to get rid of all the toxic and waste materials formed and accumulated in our body. In case of malfunctioning of the kidney, it results in multiple problems in our body. Hence, the herb bitter leaf is one of the natural remedies that is very effective in maintaining the health of the liver as well as the kidneys.

People with diabetes may also utilize bitter leaf as a remedy for decreasing their high blood sugar levels. In fact, this herb is not only helpful in reducing the level of blood sugar, but also useful in mending the impaired pancreas. As is well known, the pancreas is a vital organ that produces insulin and ensures that glucose is transported to all the cells of our body for being utilized in the form of energy.

When the pancreas is impaired it is not able to make or release enough insulin that is necessary for maintaining the blood sugar levels. Therefore, there is no doubt that the bitter leaf plant is actually a wonder presented by nature. If you wish you may use this herb and take the benefits offered by it by compressing its leaves in about 10 litres of water and drink it daily.

Parts used

Pith, leaf, root.


Bitter leaf is eaten as a vegetable in many areas of East Africa, it is known as mujonso in Tanzania. Soups and stews are made from the leafy greens of the plant in many countries of east Africa, where the herb is prepared in the same way the spinach is used in the west.

An appetizer is made from the "chew sticks" of the plant - the root and the twigs. The bitter leaf is believed to help restore the stamina when consumed in the form of a tonic food called ndole.

Even animals use this herb to cure themselves and chimpanzees inhabiting the Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania, have been observed chewing the pith of the bitter leaf possibly due to its ability to ward off parasites and to get at other medicinal properties in the plant. Intestinal parasitic infestations are treated by African people using the bitter leaf.

Traditionally, native healers may have come to know of the beneficial properties of this plant by studying the behaviour of sick animals in the wild - many animals eat this plant when they become sick.

Some of the principal chemical constituents found in the bitter leaf herb are a class of compounds called steroid glycosides - type vernonioside B1 - these chemical substances possess a potent anti-parasitic, anti-tumor, and bactericidal effects. The bitter leaf is mainly employed as an agent in treating schistosomiasis, which is a disease caused by parasitic worms.

At the same time, the bitter leaf also helps bring relief from related problems in the body such as diarrhea and general physical malaise. Remedies made from the bitter leaf are used in treating twenty five common ailments in sub-Saharan Africa, these include common problems such as fever, and different kinds of intestinal complaints, as well as parasite induced diseases like malaria and other vector borne diseases.

The leaves of this herb are consumed by people, but only after rinsing them thoroughly to do away with their bitter taste. Bitter leaf greens are used in the form of a vegetable with a view to promote the digestive system, in addition to reducing fever. In addition, bitter leaf is also applied externally to protect against leech that transmit bilharziose. Chimpanzees living in wild consume the leaves of this herb when they have been invaded by parasites.

Habitat and cultivation

The bitter leaf herb is an indigenous African species; it grows in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The east African country of Tanzania is traditionally linked to this herb. The herb is found growing wild along the edges of agricultural fields.


The bitter leaf encloses a number of therapeutic elements, such as saponins, venomygdin and vernodalin - all of them possessing antibacterial properties and are useful for maintaining the health of the liver and kidneys.


From Lizzydun - May-18-2020
Bitter leaf smooth the face. Simple squeeze the leaves and use it to scrub on the face.
From Sparkle Esin - Mar-09-2020
I have been suffering form headache, general fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness, general itching. I started drinking bitter leaf juice and results are tremendous. Thank God for this miraculous plant.
From Allan Waigonda - Jul-20-2018
Kampala Uganda, a friend of mine about 45 yrs old was complaining of constant malaria and body weakness, and these had made him a frequent visitor to the hospitals in his surroundings. I advised him to make daily use of an infusion of bitter leaf powder. Locally known as Omululuza/Olubirizi, he has reported an improvement in life with no more fevers and feels energetic. I also used it to clear a stubborn cough.
From Queen Royal Eboh - May-02-2015
I am a known diabetic, and bitter leaves help to reduce my sugar level. I chew 12 leaves after each meal, and this helps to bring down my sugar level, it's no more bitter for me, in fact I enjoy chewing it. Thank God for the gift of this medicinal plant.
From Sarpong Kumankumahn - Dec-07-2014
Though I have bitter leaf in my garden I rarely used it until one day I was down with piles. Even this I didn't go straight to bitter leaf. No, I went and bought drugs from a pharmacy shop. After taking the drugs for two days I realised that I was bloating because I could not pass urine.
I went and picked some few bitter leaves, washed in salty water, boiled and drank two cal bashful. Within some few minutes I started passing water, the bloating subsided. I am going to leave it for ever now that I have learnt about other health benefits especially removal of wrinkles.
From Chinyere Onwubiko - Sep-14-2014
Bitter leave juice is very good because it builds the blood, for sometime my menstrual flow has being scanty and watery, but when I started taking bitter leave juice the result was tremendous.
From Naomi Gyim - Jun-26-2014
I use reading glasses, but am reading now without it and the only medicine I have taken for some time now is to chew four bitter leafs 2x daily.
From Abushe Jones - Feb-25-2014
Bitter leaf is a herb that I use and I don't play with. It makes my blood look fresh and young, no wrinkles, it reduce sugar level, it gives me strength. I chew it to the extent it is becoming very sweet, that I no more taste the bitterness.
From Prince Uzochukwu - Feb-17-2014
I've been having constant headache, body weakness and high blood pressure, I used bitter leaf juice for two days and the symptoms disappeared. Since then, I can't stop taking freshly prepared bitter leaf juice every morning and night. Great thanks to this wonderful plant from nature.
From Charles Emmanuel - Oct-24-2013
Bitter leaf is a wonder leaf, I recently started taking a glass of squeezed raw bitter leaf water every morning before eating, and it has been doing wonders in my digestive system. I will recommend it for everybody that want to live healthy; just endure the bitter taste, after the first day of taking it, you will be used to it and you will not like to stop taking it. Bitter leaf is tag by me - the black thing is g---------o-----o---------d.
From Iyke - Jul-01-2013
Drinking raw liquid of bitter leaf and saint leaf can help in weight lose.
From Tosin Oke - Dec-18-2012
I take raw of it after 11am in the morning. I consume six to ten leaves and I discovered I became stronger and full of life.
From Adekunle Onifade Esq - Jun-25-2012
Bitter leaf (called Ewuro) in Yoruba language is a medicinal and food plant in Nigeria. It is used in the various types of native soups, like Egusi (melon) for Iyan (pounded yam), okra, Apon/Ogbonno native soups. The leaves, stem and roots are used for various herbal preparations in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa.
The water from the squeezed leaves cures malaria, and typhoid fever amongst others. The stem and roots are also used as chewing sticks in Nigeria and has anti-bacterial properties for preventing tooth decay.
From Ajike Eziyi Emea - May-27-2012
Bitter leaf has a natural organic substance which lowers the high level of glucose. Thereby reducing the risk of insulin malfunction.
From Victor, Imo State Univesity, Owerri - Apr-21-2012
Squeezed liquid of bitter leaf is good for diabetic people and reduces upset with malaria.
From Pufredy Green - Mar-10-2012
Bitter leaf, when drank, cleanses the blood, remedies infection in the body, and also helps digestion.
From Nwachukwu Grace - Jan-26-2012
Bitter leaf clears the eye if your having problems with your eye, especially blurred vision. It reduces excess sugar from the body, and it helps people sick of diabetes. It's indeed good.
From Ria - Oct-24-2011
As a child I remember we had two metallic pots, one was for bitter leaf extracted in boiled water and the other was for efirin (I don't know it's English name). My life consisted of a daily one cup ritual which I hated so much, so once I turned 21 years old I did my own thing, and ate everything that was bad for me.
However, I still had onugbu occasionally. When I turned 45 years my bones started squeaking and hurting badly and could hardly move. I was told I needed surgery as they said I had rheumatoid arthritis and was given walking aid.
Then I remembered my father and those pots and I started drinking two cups a day of bitter leaf soup two times a week. I don't enjoy it but it has become second nature for me. I drink it instead of tea or coffee.
I am now 52 years old and very strong, no wrinkles and no joint pains.
From Olufemi Gbelee - May-10-2011
Bitter leaf helps to reduce sugar in the body, I tried it and it really helps me. I recommend it to everybody.
From Erike Ukpogu - Mar-04-2011
You can take bitter leaf herb for general body cleansing. Though it is bitter but when you start drinking it often, it will be part of you. I drink it like sprite.
From F.U. Achebe - Feb-02-2011
Bitter leaf water obtained after washing/crushing the leaves in clean water takes good care of constipation, malaria and general feeling of unwell. It has a side effect of a discomforting feeling for a little time. It's also good for removing wrinkles and making people feel stronger.
From Uzoma Chris - Feb-01-2011
Bitter leaf in the eastern part is known as "olugbo" which has multi function purpose, the leaf is known for its ways of curing sickness, when you mixed bitter leaf and milk, it helps to stop headache, it helps to wage malaria , it cleans the dirt from the blood, and lastly it helps in reducing sugar.
From E. Courage - 2010
Bitter leaf is really good because this plant is very useful in toning the vital organs of the body especially the liver and the kidney. The liver is one of the most important organs of the body. It has a lot of vital functions that are needed for normal functioning of the whole system of the body.
Without the liver all major process in the body will be paralyze. The liver is known as the largest organ inside the body. It has an approximate weight of 1-3 kg in an average adult individual. There are a lot of major functions that the liver should do every day and this includes the production of bile acid that helps in fat metabolism.
Without the liver, fats will not be digested inside the body to be use as energy. Bitter-leaf can be very helpful in maintaining the liver's optimum health to release bile acid every time people eat fatty foods. Another major function of the liver is the production of glycogen. Glycogen is stored energy that is release in times of low level of glucose especially for people who do fasting.
From Mary Mensah - 2010
I have used bitter leaf for Candida and itching and it worked. I squeezed or boiled the leaves and drank the liquid.
From Debby - 2010
Bitter leaf is used for curing cough. Chew it before going to bed at night and early in the morning before eating.
From Bello Danfulani - 2010
Bitter leaf (Shuwaka in Hausa) is believed to increase milk production and quality in nursing mothers.
From Obiora Ibeh - 2010
Bitter leaf is the best soup for many people from Eastern Nigeria. The leaf is often used to treat various ailments ranging from malaria to stomach upset. It is a wonderful gift from God to mankind.
From Princess Monivi - 2010
Bitter leaf can also be used to treat skin infection like ringworm. Simply rub the leaves between your palm to obtain the liquid and then apply it directly onto the affected parts.
From Grace Ibok - 2010
Bitter leaf helps for easy digestion of food in the stomach.
From Monisola Agbenla - 2010
Bitter leaf helps in body weight loss.
From Ajiboluwa Saheed Oluwaseyi - 2010
This is a remedy for upset stomach, running stomach and pile. Just squeeze out the juice from the leaf, mix with small quantity of water. Drink it 2 times a day.
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