Bracheilema paniculatum R.Br.
Cacalia amygdalina Kuntze
Cheliusia abyssinica Sch.Bip. ex A.Rich.
Decaneurum amygdalinum DC.
Gymnanthemum abyssinicum Sch.Bip. ex Walp.
Vernonia adenosticta Fenzl ex Walp.
Vernonia amygdalina Delile
Vernonia eritreana Klatt
Vernonia giorgii De Wild.
Vernonia randii S.Moore
Vernonia vogeliana Benth.
Vernonia weisseana Muschl.
Common Name: Bitterleaf
Gymnanthemum amygdalinum is a much-branched, evergreen shrub or small tree, growing up to 10 metres tall with a bole up to 40 cm in diameter[
A very popular edible leaf in parts of Africa, where it is often cultivated, as well as being gathered from the wild, and is commonly sold in local markets[
]. The tree is sometimes grown as an ornamental[
Tropical Africa - widespread, in most countries from Guinea to Mali and south to Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Along rivers and lakes, in forest margins, woodland and grassland, at elevations up to 2,000 metres. Often found in disturbed localities such as abandoned farmland and in secondary woodland[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
A plant of the tropics, where it is found at elevations from 600 - 2,800 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 26°c, but can tolerate 16 - 35°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 750 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 600 - 2,400mm[
Requires a position in full sun[
]. Succeeds on most soil types, though it grows best in well-drained, humus-rich soils[
]. Plants prefer a moist environment, though they are fairly drought tolerant once established[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, tolerating 5 - 7.5[
Plants can be coppiced[
Cultivated forms have been selected that are less bitter than the wild plant[
Flowering is induced by short days[
Young leafy shoots - cooked[
]. Eaten as a potherb or added to soups[
]. The leaves often have an intensely bitter flavour, but forms exist that are nearly free of bitterness[
]. The plant should be harvested by trimming off the ends of whole shoots[
]. This encourages new growth whereas simply removing leaves can slow down growth[
Bitterleaf is commonly used in traditional medicine in Africa. Leaf decoctions are used to treat fever, malaria, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis and cough, as a laxative and as a fertility inducer[
]. They are also used as a medicine for scabies, headache and stomach-ache. Leaves are placed on a wound as a substitute for iodine[
The bitterness in the leaves is caused by sesquiterpene lactones and steroid glucosides. Some of these compounds have significant antiparasitic activity, especially vernodalin and vernonioside B1. Vernolepin showed platelet anti-aggregating properties. Vernodalin and vernomygdin have cytotoxic activity[
Young twigs are chewed as a stomachic tonic and appetite stimulant[
]. One of the most common medicinal uses of Vernonia amygdalina is as a treatment against intestinal worms including nematodes[
]. Not only humans but also chimpanzees ingest the bitter pith of Vernonia amygdalina for the control of intestinal nematode infections[
Root extracts are used as treatment against malaria and gastrointestinal disorders[
]. In Zimbabwe a root infusion is used to treat sexually transmitted diseases[
]. Bark infusions are also taken to treat fever and diarrhoea, dried flowers against stomach disorders[
The plant is sometimes grown as a hedge[
]. The branches are termite resistant and are used as stakes to line out fields and as a live fence[
The tree is sometimes planted to prevent soil erosion[
Bitterleaf is useful as a control agent against diseases in plants[
]. The ash from burnt branches is used to control seed-borne fungi, thus ameliorating seed viability and germination capacity[
Young twigs are used as toothpicks or chewing sticks[
]. They have been shown to contain substances that have a marked activity against bacteria that cause gum diseases[
]. They also act to stimulate the appetite[
The wood is used for timber[
The wood is used for fuel and to make charcoal[
]. Dry stems and branches provide fuel[
Seed - takes 2 - 3 weeks to germinate[
Cuttings of mature wood.
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