Utazi, is a climbing shrub with edible heart-shaped leaves that have a sharp, bitter and sweet taste. The plant is native to Africa and is called utazi in Igbo.
Utazi leaves are mostly used for culinary purposes IN Nigeria but all the parts of the plant have medicinal properties.
The leaves of utazi have high nutritional values and have nutrients like sodium, proteins, potassium, calcium, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium, fatty acids and fiber.
The fruits, seeds, leaves and stem bark are used medicinally because of the following properties Antioxidant Anti-inflammatory, Antitumor, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Antiviral, Analgesic, Antiparasitic, Antipyretic, Anti-sickling, Hypoglycemic, Hypotensive, Hepatoprotective, Hypo-lipidemic, Antiulcer, Anti-asthmatic, Expectorant, Tonic, Laxative properties.
As a result of the above listed properties, this wonder plant has been widely used in traditional medicine to resolve the following issues
- Reduce high blood pressure levels
- Stimulate appetite
- Respiratory issues like asthma, wheezing, cough, chest congestion, etc.
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Viral hepatitis
- Treat malaria
- Used as part of herbal concoctions for sickle cell anemia
- Treat infections
- To treat dysentery and diarrhea
- Eradicate intestinal worms and parasites
- For body pains and aches
- For weight loss
- To treat inflammatory issues
- For treating Bilharzia
- For healing ulcer sores
- To cleanse the body
- As a purgative
- The stem is used as a chewing stick for oral hygiene and dental caries
Utazi leaves are also used to spice foods and local delicacies like abacha, Nkwobi, ugba, isiewu, plantain porridge and soups like Nsala soup giving one an opportunity to use food as medicine.