Utazi leaves are spicy and medicinal part of Utazi plant. Utazi widely grow in the southeastern part of Nigeria, and sometimes confused with Uziza leaves. However, unlike uziza, utazi does not have peppery taste, and uziza does not have bitter taste. It is used in preparing pepper soup, fried meat, pepper meat, in soup making and as a medicine for treating various health challenges.
Utazi is a climbing perennial shrub that can climb up to 5 meters long. Utazi leaves are ever greenish in color with a slight bitter taste. It climbs by twining around a support and can also run along the ground producing adventitious roots.
Phytochemical properties of utazi leaves
Utazi leaves are fortified with various nutritional and medicinal bioactive compounds such as
Nutritional benefits of Utazi leaves
Utazi leaves has several nutritional benefits, which set it aside among spice vegetables. Due to its nutritional benefits, utazi leaf powder is added to beverages and fruit making. The leaves are added to white soup, porridge yam and plantain, and in vegetable soups.
Utazi leaves possess vitamin A
Vitamin A is essential for cell growth, fetal development in pregnant women, boost immune function and enhance vision. It prevents night blindness and age related decline in vision.
The fact that utazi leaves possess this vitamin makes it a must have vegetable for the young, as well as the old. The good news is that utazi leaves are a preferred vegetable among the elderly, which may soup their vision and enhance cell growth. The younger ones usually do not like utazi leaves in foods, probably due to its bitter taste. But when added to pepper soup, or the local nkwobi delicacy.
It contains vitamin E
Vitamin E (tocopherol) is a well known antioxidant that can mitigate lipid oxidation and helps to reduce the occurrence of atherosclerosis which predisposes to increased risk of heart diseases.
This vitamin is essential for your heart health. It is a strong antioxidant that can prevents lipid oxidation and helps to reduce the occurrence of atherosclerosis which predisposes one to increased risk of heart diseases.
Vitamin E also prevents eye disorder, improve cognitive functioning and may protect you from carcinogenic agents. It also boost immune system and enhances fertility in both men and women.
Vitamin E also improves your skin color and texture by scavenging free radicals, which cause cell death and DNA mutations.
Utazi leaves possess B vitamins
Some of the B vitamins such as B1, B2, and B3 are present in utazi leaves. The B vitamins are good for a pregnant woman, as the prevent the occurrence of birth defect, and ensure that the fetus grow and develop properly.
These class of vitamins also function as co-enzymes and help in metabolism of foods, converting them to energy. They also help in blood cell production, and maintain healthy skin, improve brain cell functioning and other body tissues. When your body lacks B vitamins, you would begin to experience fatigue and a change of mood.
They possess vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for wound healing, as an antioxidant, and is needed in your body for the formation of blood vessels, collagen, cartilage and muscles. As an antioxidant, vitamin C also helps in lowering your blood pressure.
Utazi leaves are rich source minerals
Some of the minerals your body needs, such as Sodium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, Colbath, magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, lead, and cadmium. These minerals are essential for your body functioning, bone formation, immune regulation and maintenance of body homeostasis.
Iron is needed for the production of hemoglobin and for the transportation of oxygenated blood to the various parts of the body.
Presence of essential amino acids
For your body to synthesis proteins, it must have the essential amino acids. These are the amino acids which your body cannot synthesize; it must depend on the foods you eat to supply them. This therefore means that when you eat the utazi leaves in your soup, meat or drinks, you are fortifying your body with these essential amino acids.
Health benefits of Utazi leaves
You have just seen the nutritional benefits of utazi leaves, and probably you are amazed at what this plant can do to your body. What you are going to read below is the medicinal values of utazi leaves.
May improve male fertility
Utazi leaves are good for improving male fertility. It enhances sexual health and boost males. Studies also showed that it can be useful for the management of erectile dysfunction. Also, utazi leaves possess phytochemicals that have androgen stimulatory action that is responsible for increased sex hormones, which enhance sexual activity and spermatogenesis. Some of the hormones increased by utazi leaves are testosterone, Leydig cells, follicle stimulating hormones, and luteinizing hormone.
These hormones play very important roles in development of male sexual character, sperm production and functioning. Utazi leaves also enhance sperm motility, and volume.
May improve asthma
If you are suffering asthma, chew the fresh utazi leaves to release wheezing. You may also drink cold maceration of the roots, as it is taken as a remedy for asthma.
Utazi leaves lower cholesterol level
Hyperlipidemia is not good for your body. It may lead to increased risk of atherosclerosis and further more, to cardiovascular diseases.
Gongronema latifolium possess bioactive compounds that help lower total cholesterol, low density lipoproteins, and triglyceride. According to a study conducted by Analike Rosemary, the decrease in serum triacylglycerol coupled with an increase in high density lipoprotein -cholesterol suggests that utazi leaves may offer protection to cardiovascular disease.
May aid weight reduction
Gongronema latifolium leaves possess hypoglycemic activity, which may beneficial to you, if you are looking for home remedies that will lower your blood glucose level, burn some fats, especially belly fats, and reduce your weight by certain kilograms.
Excessive intake of foods with high calories and fats are factors contributing to over weight, obesity, and diabetes in an individual. Is usually advised to eat more foods with low calories and low fat content, for optimum health. This makes utazi leaves such an appealing spicy and herbal remedies for lowering your sugar level, body weight, and fats.
To lower your body weight using Gongronema latifolium, make tea with the leaf powder and take every morning before breakfast or later after dinner.
Utazi leaves offer protection to your kidneys
Several studies have suggested that gongronema latifolium possess nephroprotective activity. According to Onuoha and Chinaka, the aqueous leaf extract of Gongronema latifolium at doses of 1ml once daily and 1ml twice daily showed a significant dose dependent reduction in urea and creatinine levels in rats induced with carbon tetrachloride (CCl4).
Urea and creatinine levels are biomarkers of kidney dysfunction. When the creatinine or urea level goes up, it is an indication that your kidney is not functioning well. You may need to consult your doctor urgently.
However, just as the studies by Onuoha and Chinaka pointed out, a regular intake of utazi tea may protect your kidney from damages caused by oxidative stress and some toxic agents.
Read also (11 health benefits of drinking bay leaf tea)
May help in regenerating your body tissues
Utazi leaves help in regenerating and restoring worn out tissues. Some of the organ tissues are inflamed during oxidative stress. Studies, however, have shown that the leaf extract of utazi possess bioactive compounds which restore and regenerate tissues of the organ that were destroyed due to toxicity.
May be used in treating ulcer
Aside Heliobacteria pylori, some chemicals can induce the onset of ulcer in the body. Some of this chemicals, such as nonsteroidal corticosteroids like ibuprofen, can cause injury in the stomach, leading to gastric ulcer. Utazi leaf extract can however prevent this injury by increasing mucus weight around the gastric wall. This may be different from the anti-ulcer activity of okra water. Okra water inhibit the bacteria activity of heliobacteria pylori. It may be said that addition of utazi leaves to okra water may work as synergy in combating ulcers.
Utazi leaves can prevent constipation
Utazi leaves have high fiber content which aids in gastric emptying. It thus prevent constipation, protect you from gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhea. The fiber present in Gongronema latifolium helps in absorbing water from watery stool, and make them solid. Thereby stopping a running stomach.
Utazi leaves benefits for balancing your electrolyte
Alcoholic drinks can alter your body electrolyte, and so affect your body’s homeostasis. But the leaves of utazi helps to restore the electrolyte balance due to its sodium, potassium, calcium, zinc and bicarbonate contents.
Utazi leaves benefits for suppressing cancer cell growth
In a study carried out by a group of scientists, the anticancer activity of utazi leaves were studied. According to the study, the leaf extract of Gongronema latifolium exhibited strong inhibition of human lung carcinoma and human breast adenocarcinoma in vitro. What this means is that utazi leaves may be used as an alternative to chemotherapy. It can however be eaten as vegetable while undergoing chemotherapy.
May be used in treating urinary tract infections
Utazi leaves possess strong antibacterial activity against staphylococcus aureus. This property may be due to the strong presence of saponins and other bioactive chemical compounds such as tannins and alkaloids.
Staphylococcus related infection is one of the many sexually transmitted diseases ravaging both genders. It can cause infertility in both men and women when left untreated for a long time. One of the challenges facing the present antibiotic is the increasing resistance of bacteria to treatment. This has led to search for more medicinal products that have multiple target in their growth inhibitory activities.
Prolong use of utazi may affect male fertility
Although utazi leaves are beneficial for men and women, alike, studies have warned that prolonged exposure to utazi leaves may affect sperm motility and viability. Just like scent leaves, utazi leaves should be consumed in moderation. A couple trying to conceive may not involve utazi leaves in their diet.
Morebise, Olugbenga. (2015). A Review on Gongronema latifolium, an Extremely Useful Plant with Great Prospects. European Journal of Medicinal Plants. 10. 1-9. 10.9734/EJMP/2015/19713.
Onuoha SC, Chinaka NC (2013). Carbon tetrachloride induced renal toxicity and the effect of aqueous extract of Gongronema latifolium in wistar rats. Drug Discov., 4(11): 15-16.
Analike, Rosemary, (2015). Effects of Gongronema latifolium on blood lipids, lipoproteins and glucose values in adult Nigerians. International Journal of Research in Medical sciences.3.891-895.
Iweala EEJ, Liu F, Chang R, Li Y (2015). Anticancer and free radical scarvenging activity of some Nigerian food plants in vitro. Intern. J. Cancer Res., 11(1): 41-51.Etta, Hannah & Egomi, Uzong & Ekpo, Uwem & Okon, Essien. (2012). A review on Gongronema latifolium (Utasi): A novel antibiotic against Staphylococcus aureus related infections. International Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology. 1. 204-208.