IN recent time, copious attention has been focused on the use of medicinal plants in the management and treatment of ailments such as anemia, diabetes and malaria. Due to the local availability, easy access and relatively low cost, medicinal plants are gaining attentions in health care programmes.
Despite the therapeutic importance of medicinal plants, toxic substances have been shown to be present in large numbers of these plants. Consumption of medicinal plants without scrutinizing its efficacy and safety can result in unexpected toxic effects, particularly organs in the body such as the liver and kidney.
Justicia carnea, commonly called Hospital Too Far or Blood of Jesus, “Ewe ajeri” or “Ewe eje” in Yoruba and “Ogwu-obara” in Igbo is a flowering plant used in various parts of Africa in traditional medicine for the treatment of anemia, inflammation, fever, diarrhea, liver diseases and arthritis respiratory and gastrointestinal disorder. Gastrointestinal disorders are diseases that affect the tract from the mouth to the anus.
In Nigeria, the leaf of Justicia carnea is usually prepared with edible vegetables to make soup, boiled separately in water to make tea or prepared by cooking with other medicinal plants for therapeutic purposes.
Leaves extract of J. carnea is shown to be a rich source of B2, B12, B9 and B1. The riboflavin content of J.carnea was higher when compared with a similar plant like Telfeira occidentalis (fluted pumpkin or ugwu). B vitamins play a vital role in the function of the nervous system, aid in the formation of red blood cells and help to build tissues.
Despite the avalanche use of this medicinal plant, researchers at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Ogbomoso Oyo State who validated J. carnea leaf as a blood tonic, cautioned against its intake in large dose and over a prolonged period of time.
The researchers in the journal, Clinical Phytoscience, had evaluated the safety of J. carnea leaf as a blood tonic in healthy male wistar rats. The animals were given different doses of the ethanol extract of J. carnea leaf, with water serving as a control. Organs and blood samples of the animals were assessed at the end of two weeks.
The results of this study suggests that although extract of J. carnea leaf is relatively safe and could be beneficial in elevating red blood cell, hemoglobin, packed cell volume and platelet count, its intake at a higher dose and over a period of time because it caused noticeable liver and kidney injury.
Howbeit, they suggested that the blood stimulating effects of the plant could be due to the presence of dietary constituents that stimulate activities of blood producing cells and stabilization of blood in circulation.
In Nigeria, there are many plants which have proven effective in this area and have been locally used to boost blood in anaemic patients. Researchers had listed fluted pumpkin leaves, velvet bean, garden egg leaves, Jatropha Tanjorensis, Sida rhombifolia and Parquetina nigrescens, all beneficial in boost blood level. Fluted pumpkin leaves are called Ugu (Igbo), Ewokoro (Yoruba) and Ikong (Efik). Velvet Bean can also be called the Devil’s Bean, Agbala (Igbo) and Werepe (Yoruba).
Jatropha Tanjorensis (Hospital too far) also has numerous names that people call it such as Independence Leaf, Chaya, Catholic Vegetable, Ugu Oyibo (Igbo) and so on. Garden egg leaves has some other names as eggplant, African eggplant, Akwukwo-anara or anyara (Igbo), Efo Igbo (Yoruba) and Ganyen Gauta (Hausa).
Sida rhombifolia is also known as the jelly leaf, flaxweed or wireweed while Parquetina nigrescens is called mgbidin gbe in Igbo, ewe ogbo or orewe afa eje in Yoruba and kwankwanin in Hausa.
So, instead of getting a blood transfusion, these plants are used to speedily boost up the red blood cell count. It serves as an alternative for blood tonics and transfusion. This works well if the condition doesn’t require immediate attention or calls for emergency.
Moreover, foods that are rich in iron and vitamins are also used to beat anaemia and boost blood levels. These include beans, pigeon peas, spinach, green leafy vegetables, fish, oysters, and organ meat, such as kidney and liver.
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