Indigenous leafy vegetables and herbs found in Nigeria


Recently On my way back from a friends place just behind Lagos state university, i happened to pass by a mini leafy vegetable plantation very close to the main road filled with lots of Nigerian leafy vegetables. Luckily for me, i had my camera in the backpack i was carrying to document everything. When i approached the farmer to ask for permission to snap, he was quite surprised but more than willing to let me take pictures. Infact, he also helped out with the local names while i jotted down!

I've come to realize, there are lots of plants that have been well researched in Nigeria but due to the fact that most people do not know the local/foreign names, most of the information has been lost in translation. As they say, knowledge is power and since we learn every day I’ve decided to throw this post open to everyone out there. Please do shed more light on any herb/plant whose local and English names you know of. If you also know the uses, please add. This is for research purposes and with your help the indigenous nutritional / health benefits and uses would also be known. Below are some of the indigenous names of plants and some of their uses.

1. English Name:    Fluted Pumpkin Leaves
    Local Name:        Ugu (Igbo)
    Botanical Name: Telfairia Occidentalis

Ugu is a leafy vegetable which is used in Nigeria for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It is Rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and folic acid which makes it highly nutritious. It is also a good source Of vitamins A, C and, k and lots of minerals. Researchers also found out that eating meals rich in fluted pumpkin leaves and seeds helps prevent Cancer, Improves blood count, Beats diabetes, Reduce blood glucose & Cholesterol levels. it's Used for soups like Efo Riro, 
2. English Name:    Jute leaves, saluyot leaves
    Local Name:        Ewedu (Yoruba), 
Rama Ayoyo (Hausa/Fulbe) 
    Botanical Name: Corchorus
In the western part of nigeria, it is used in the preparation of Ewedu soup. Once grinded, it's got a slimy consistency just like Okra. It's a good source of fibre, low in calories but high in vitamins. In herbal medicine, it is used to control or prevent dysentery, worm infestation and constipation. Ayurveda (ancient Hindu system of healing) use the leaves for ascites, pain, piles, and tumors. Elsewhere, the leaves are used for cystitis, dysuria, fever, and gonorrhoea. The cold infusion is said to restore the appetite and strength.

3. English Name:   Bitter Leaf
    Local Name:       Onugbu (Igbo), Efo Ewuro (Yoruba), Shakwa shuwaka
 (Hausa), Etidot                                               (Cross River State of Nigeria)
    Botanical Name: Vernonia Amygdalina
As the name implies, the plant is actually bitter and is used in preparing the popular Nigerian bitter leaf soup. Most times, its sold already pre-washed in the Nigerian market.There are several species of bitter leaf-some large, leafy and deep green leaves, while some have comparatively smaller broader leaves. The bitterness is usually removed by boiling before the leaves are cooked as soups or added to soups made with other vegetables or eaten as spinach. it is rich in vitamins and minerals.
In traditional nigerian medicine it is used to treat Fever, malaria, hepatitis, diarrhea, dysentery, and cough. The leaves are also used as medicine for Stomach ache, Head ache, Scabies, Gastro intestinal disorders.
Bitter leaf also reduces the sugar level of the body drastically and repairs the pancreas and kidneys which makes it great for diabetic patients.

4. English Name:     Eru "wild spinach" or African Jointfir
    Local Name:         Afang leaves (Ibibio), Okazi/Ukazi (Igbo)
    Botanical Name: Gnetum Africanum
Okazi for example is a climbing plant like Ugu and Uziza. It's got a tough (hard) papery glossy texture and is somehow tasteless without any distinctive smell. it is used in the preparation of Afang soup and okazi soup. Some people also add it to egusi soup. locally, it's used as a remedy for sorethroats, nausea , reduction of pain during childbirth or as a dressing for warts. it's a rich source of protein and is strong in essential and non-essential amino acids. it also has an anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antioxidant properties. It contains iron and iodine.

5. English Name: False cubeb leaves (The seeds from the plant is known as mkpuru uziza (uziza seeds))
    Local Name:      Uziza leaves/ Ashanti pepper leaves/ Benin pepper leaves/ Guinea cubeb leaves
    Botanical Name: Piper guineense
In the local Nigerian market, it is known as hot leaves. it's peppery and is usually used in small quantity to add flavor and a very nice aroma to soups like Ofe nsala, Vegetable soups and sometimes Egusi soup. It is rich in anti-oxidants and has preservative properties.

6. English Name:    Bush buck
    Local Name:        Utazi (Igbo), ‘arokeke’(Yoruba)
    Botanical Name: Gongronema latifolium
Utazi leaves is very Sharp-bitter and sweet and is used in small quantity in preparing soups like Nsala soup,Ugba Sauce,Yam and also in garnishing dishes like Abacha Ncha, Isi ewu, Nkwobi e.t.c. It is also used locally in the treatment of cough, intestinal worms, dysentery, dyspepsia and malaria. It is also taken as a tonic to treat loss of appetite and also In the treatment of diabetes and high blood pressure.

7. English Name: Clove Basil
    Local Name:     Nchuawun(Igbo), Efirin(Yoruba), Daidoya (Hausa), Ntong(efik), Aramogbo (Edo)
    Botanical Name: Ocimum gratissimum

Scent leaves is used in the preparation of foods such as pepper soup, Ofe Akwu, Yam porridge, Vegetable soups e.t.c and as the name implies, it gives a wonderful aroma to the meals it's prepared with. In traditional medicine, it is used to lower blood pressure as well as reduce blood sugar level. it is used in the treatment of piles. it is said to be useful in the medication for people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome virus AIDS, In Congo, scent leaf decoction is used for diarrhoea, gonorrhoea infection, vaginal douches for vaginitis and used in treatment of mental illness. In Nigeria it is used as a strong mosquito repellent as well as other insects.

8. English Name:   Curry leaf "sweet neem leaves"
    Local Name:       Efirin Oso(Yoruba), Marugbo sanyan(Yoruba)
    Botanical Name: Murraya koenigii
In Nigerian meal preparation, it is added to stews, meats, fish to add flavor to the dishes. Its got small pinnate leaves which are highly aromatic. Other uses include it being used as a good remedy for nausea and indigestion, The leaves are chewed to lose weight, it is known to improve eyesight and also prevent cataract, it is used to improve hair color.

9. English Name:   Water leaf
    Local Name:       Gbure (Yoruba)
    Botanical Name:Talinum Triangulare

Water leaves are used in the preparation of soups such as Efo riro, Edikaikong, vegetable yam e.t.c. It's mostly abundant during the rainy season and once added to soups, it tends to increase the volume of water/ liquid in it hence the name "Water leaves". According to scientific studies, it is said to be rich in mineral salts and amino-acids as well as having anti-scorbutic properties i.e prevention against the scurvy disease.

10. English Name: Lagos Spinach, plumed cockscomb, quail grass, silver cock’s comb (En);                                    célosie, célosie argentée, crête de coq (Fr); borlón, cresta de gallo
      Local Name:     Shoko yokoto
      Botanical Name: Celosia Argentia
 Shoko yokoto is a leafy vegetable mainly popular in the western part of nigeria. it is also the main leaf used in the preparation of efo riro, a popular vegetable soup. Sometimes, the leaves are crested with Purplish/Red discolorations in the middle. It is rich in Beta- Carotene, Folic Acid, Ascorbic acid, Calcium, Iron, Protein.

11. English Name:    African spinach, "Green"

      Local Name:        Inine (Igbo), Efo Tete (Yoruba), tete eleegun(yoruba),
      Botanical Name: Amaranthus Hybridus  

Known as "Green" in the local market due to its colour, this leafy vegetable is the second most popular leafy vegetable after Ugu. it's used in the preparation of various Nigerian dishes. 

12. English Name:   African eggplant leaf (Garden egg leaf), Gboma
      Local Name:       Efo Igbo(Yoruba)
      Botanical Name: Solanium marcrocarpon 
Garden Egg leaves are used in the preparation of vegetable stews and yam dishes by some people.The leaves have a very bitter taste. 

Update: Aside from the fruit, every other part of S. macrocarpon has been reported to cause heart failure, digestive problems, and lethargy in dogs. Because S. macrocarpon is part of the Solanaceae family, it contains alkaloids, giving the plant and fruit its bitter taste. Consuming the plant in large frequencies may potentially be poisonous.S. macrocarponcontains glycoalkaloids and the levels found in the fruit were 5-10 times higher than what is considered safe, and may not be safe for humans to eat. Source

13. English Name: Moringa leaves
      Local Name:
  Igbo: "Odudu oyibo","Okwe oyibo", "Okwe olu", "Uhe", "Oku-ghara-ite"
                               Yoruba: ("igi iyanu","malero", "Ewele", "Ewé ilé", "Ewe igbálé", Idagbo monoyé )
                                Hausa: Zogale
      Botanical name: Moringa olefera

14. English Name:   ???
      Local Name:        Oha / Ora leaves
      Botanical name: ???

Oha leaf is really popular in the eastern part of nigeria. it's the major ingredient in the preparation of the famous Oha/ Ora soup. It is an uncommon leafy vegetable which is not a climbing plant like ugu instead, it is rather a kind of leafy tree called Oha tree! The tree can grow from 1 year to up to 100 years and from a small feet to tower up to 200 feet or more. It bears no fruits or seeds compared with other leafy vegetables. All the young shoots of the leaves are eatable. It starts to yield or to produce eatable leaves from one year. As it grows and towers in height, people always employ climbers to climb and pluck the leaves for sale and for home consumption.

15. English Name: Mint leaves Scientifically known as Mentha
      Local Name:    Na'a Naa (arabic)
     Mint leaf is an aromatic herb which is mostly used as to make things like breath fresheners i.e peppermint. It's NOT the same as scent leaf (Efinrin/nchuawun). In the local market especially with the hausa vendors, mint is known as " Na'a naa ".

16. English Name: Spring onions, Scallion
      Local Name:    Alubosa elewe (yoruba)
A scallion is one of various Allium species, all of which have hollow green leaves (like the common onion), but which lack a fully developed root bulb. It has a relatively mild onion flavour, and is used as a vegetable, either raw or cooked. Many other names are used, including green onion, spring onion, salad onion, table onion, green shallot, onion stick, long onion, baby onion, precious onion, yard onion,gibbon, syboe or scally onion.

17. English Name:  Roselle or Sorrel
      Local Name:      Yakwa leaves 
This leaf is really popular with the Hausas and is used in the preparation of Miyan Taushe.
Yakwa is called roselle or sorrel in English. The come in two flowering varieties, the red and white. The red flowers are used to make our popular zobo drink. The white flowers are sour and used to make soups in some part of the country. The yakwa leaves themselves are used to make different kinds of soup including groundnut soup...

18: English Name:    English spinach , Indian malabar spinach
      Botanical Name: Basella alba; the red type is Basella rubra
      Local Name:        Amunututu (Yoruba)   

19: English Name: ???
      Local Name: Atama leaves / Beletientien
This is an annual Herb cultivated in the delta areas. It smells and taste like tarragon; usually used fresh or dried in the preparation of Banga soup. 

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