Interesting Facts About Gnetum africanum (Okazi Leaf)

Gnetum Africanum Leaves

This article focuses on unraveling some interesting facts about Gnetum africanum (okazi leaf). Green leafy vegetables remain an important part of human diet in the universe and these vegetables contribute immensely to the well being of human race. Okazi or afang leaf, botanically known as Gnetum africanum is a climbing leafy vegetable that belongs to the family of Gnetaceae.

This greenish climbing plant is prevalent in the tropical regions especially Nigeria, Congo, Gabon, Angola, Asia and South America. The two main species found in Africa are Gnetum buchholzianum and Gnetum africanum.

The okazi vine is a non-seasonal perennial plant that can grow as new shoots from the section where the stem has been cut out or as a rhizome. Okazi, eru or afang vine usually produces tiny flowers on maturity and the seeds have a resemblance with a drupe fruit, which is approximately 4–8 mm × 10–15 mm in size.

The okazi has a characteristics thick papery-like leaves which are usually hard to cut. Due to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties of Gnetum africanum, the leaf can be used as a remedy for certain ailments and diseases. While the Western world refer to okazi leaf as wild spinach or wild vegetable, different African countries have different names for okazi leaf examples; Congo call it fumbua, KoKo; Nigerians call it afang, okazi, ukazi; Cameroonians call it okok, m’fumbua, or fumbua, eru.

The edible leaves are usually cut into small strips that are used by different countries for different cuisines and recipes ranging from stew and soups for example; the Nigerians use the leaf for preparing vegetable or edikang ikong soup, egusi soup, oha soup etc.

The afang plant is not usually planted but normally grows as a forest vine and the leaves are gathered as forest vegetables for culinary and medicinal purposes. Ukazi leaf is an excellent source of aspartic acid, dietary fibre, cysleine, protein, vitamins, sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, manganesse, potassium, copper, glutamic acid, leucine and essential amino acids that are required by the body. The relatively high protein content of G. africanum suggests why this plant contains a high amount of essential acids that can act as an alternative energy source especially when the carbohydrate metabolism is damaged due to glucogenesis.

The Gnetum africanum leaves can be used for treating sore throats, boils, warts or nausea.

Gnetum africanum stem can be eaten raw for reducing childbirth pain as well as menstrual pain.

Tisane of a cut stem of Gnetum africanum can be used for reducing pain during childbirth.

Apart from the leaves, the okazi tuber and seeds can be cooked and eaten as food.

Both the seeds and the leaves of Gnetum africanum have been proven medically efficient for treating enlarged spleen.

The pedicles can be cut, crushed and mixed with soap, which is used for washing the hair in other to stimulate hair growth.

Researchers claim that the okazi vine contains a high level of iodine.

The seeds can be chewed raw for controlling excessive urination.

It serves as an antidote for poisons.

Traditionalists use the okazi leaf for preparing medicines used in treating children suffering from measles.

The seeds of the Gnetum africanum can be used as fungicide for dressing wounds.

The G. africanum bark can be used for producing fishing nets and rope.

This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your health care provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.

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Iheanacho, K.M.E. and Udebuani, A.C. (2009) Nutritional Composition of Some Leafy Vegetables Consumed in Imo
State Nigeria. Journal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management, 13, 35-38.

Iloh A. C., Isu N. R. and Kuta D. D. (2009), In vitro Callus Initiation of a ‘threatened’ Nigerian leafy Vegetable, Gnetum africanum (WILW), International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation Vol. 1(4) pp. 82.

Okerulu, I. O. and Onyema, C. T. (2015), Comparative Assessment of Phytochemicals, Proximate and Elemental Composition of Gnetum africanum (Okazi) Leaves, American Journal of Analytical Chemistry, 6, pp. 604-606.

Francis V. U. (2012), Effect Of Ethanolic Extract From The Leaf Of Gnetum Africanum On Endocrine Function In Female Rats, Journal of Natural Sciences Research, vol.2, no.8, p.68.

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