Eating healthy is one of the keys to living a good life. What you eat contributes a lot to your health, that is why you are advised to eat foods that are rich in nutrients. The good thing is one does not have to look far to find food that is rich in vitamins and minerals. Some plants are packed with a lot of nutrients that would keep your body healthy. One of such plants is Utazi. Utazi is a plant native to the tropics, and it is very abundant in West Africa. In Nigeria, the plant holds a special place in the hearts of many and Utazi leaves can be used for so many things, including food preparation and herbs. This article discusses the health benefits of utazi.
Utazi, or, going by its biological name, Gongronema latifolium has a mildly bitter, spicy taste, that enhances the taste of food it is used to cook. It is known as Utazi in South-Eastern Nigeria, while those from the South West (Yorubas) call it arokeke. Utazi is widely used in the preparation of soups because it enhances both the taste and aroma of the food. It is also used because of its immense health benefits. That is why Utazi leaves are also a common ingredient in the preparation of local herbs.
In this post, we would be looking at some of the health benefits of Utazi. But before that let’s find out the nutritional composition of utazi.
Nutritional & Chemical Composition of Utazi Leaf
A 2007 study in the chemical composition of utazi leaf found that it contained crude protein, lipid extract, ash, crude fibre and nitrogen. It also contains flavonoids, saponins and tannin, vital minerals, vitamins and some essential amino acids. They main essential amino acids found in utazi are leucine, valine and phenylalanine. Aspartic acid, glutamic acid and glycine. 
1. Antioxidants properties
Utazi is rich in powerful antioxidants, stored in saponins and flavonoids in the plant, that remove toxins from the body and get rid of free radicals that could damage cells. One study revealed that Gongronema latifolium leaves can have an antioxidant effect on rats. 
2. Pain Relief
Utazi is also used to relieve pains in parts of the body. For example, rubbing Utazi leaves on cuts and bruises can help to significantly reduce the pain from the injury as well as stop the bleeding, if any. It is also used to treat and manage internal pain, like pain in the muscles and joints.
3. Anti-inflammatory Properties
Utazi has properties that could help to treat and reduce inflammation in people. That is why it is used in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions in the body. This is another Important health benefits of Gangronema latifolium leaves, because multiple studies have attested to the anti-inflammatory abilities of this plant. 
4. Improve Digestion
Eating Utazi also helps one to maintain a healthy eating habit by making it easier to digest food without running into problems like constipation or stomach ache. Utazi is effective in treating said conditions. It helps to normalize metabolism and increase one’s appetite. 
5. Malaria Treatment
Before the introduction of pills and drugs, Utazi has been used in treating malaria. It is either used alone or mixed with other plants to create a potent herb that would remove malaria from the body and help restore good health. Some studies have found out that utazi leaves have antiplasmodial properties.  
6. Cough Treatment
Utazi was also very helpful in treating cough and cough-like symptoms. The leaves were cheered, or the juice was directly extracted from the leaves, and once it was taken, the cough would subside to an extent. It is also used to manage asthma and eliminate or reduce asthmatic symptoms. 
7. Cancer Prevention
The antioxidants that are present in the plant are very effective in eliminating free radicals in the body. Free radicals could damage cells and turn them cancerous. Utazi helps prevent cancer by getting rid of cancerous cells.
8. Liver Protection
Utazi also helps protect the liver by detoxifying it and getting rid of anything harmful or damaging to it. It counters the effect of alcohol on the liver and prevents drunkenness or intoxication. 
9. Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
Taking utazi also helps to keep one’s cholesterol levels in check and also reduces blood sugar levels. Utazi has been shown to reduce glucose in the blood, helping people with diabetes manage their condition better. By reducing bad cholesterol levels, utazi helps to keep your heart healthy. 
10. Post Pregnancy Treatment
Utazi is taking by nursing mothers to counter the effect of pregnancy, like to reduce the size of the stomach following delivery, to clean the uterus, and also to help with weight loss. It is used to restore the body after the period of pregnancy.
Utazi is a common plant that grows in Nigeria. It is mainly used to prepare soups because of its ability to improve the taste and aroma of the food. Utazi has many important nutrients and vital compounds which possess medicinal properties. The health benefits of utazi include, malaria treatment, pain relief, and liver protection etc.
You can enjoy these health benefits of utazi by using the leaves in preparing your pepper soup, egusi soup, and ogbono soup. You can also add it to your nkwobi, isi ewu, abacha, and porridge.