Nigerian Herbs

Written by b. maté
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Nigerian Herbs
Nigeria is a country rich with herbs and natural resources. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is native to many natural resources, including herbs that are rich in flavour and useful in medicine. Whether dried or fresh, these native herbs are used to enhance regional stews and soups, and some can be eaten as vegetables. Other applications include toiletries and topical ointments, and there have been many studies of using the different herbs to fight diabetes, thrush, and breast cancer.

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African Lemongrass

In Nigeria, there is a type of lemon grass popular in teas and used to spice pepper soups. This herb is similar to the lemon grass found in Asia (Cymbopogon citrates), which has a citrus fragrance and taste. The African plant is also used for medicinal purpose, to relieve thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth and throat. In toiletries, it's also a key ingredient in black soap products, a line of facial and body cleanser that can help alleviate acne and eczema.

Beletientien

Another herb native to Nigeria is Beletientien (Laurus nobilis), which is cultivated close to the Niger delta, in the southern part of the country. The leaves of the plant, also known as "atama," are broad and flat and can be bought fresh or in a dried ground powder. The flavour of the herb is similar to tarragon and it's often incorporated into a Nigerian a dish called "banga," a soup that incorporates beef or oxtail, dried fish and a palm nut sauce.

Bitter Leaf

Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) is an herb that gets its name due to its taste. In Nigeria, the leaves are harvested from shrubs, and can be used fresh or dried to flavour soups. Bitter leaf can also be eaten as a vegetable, usually accompanying egusi, a soup made from ground seeds similar to those found in pumpkins. The herb is also valued for its medicinal qualities, as both the leaves and herbal tea infusions are used to treat a plethora of maladies from nausea and diabetes to breast cancer.

Partminger

Related to the basil family, partminger (Ocimum canum) is a soft leafy herb used in teas and cooking. Sometimes called "tea-bush," it's often found as a weed, rather than being cultivated. Fresh leaves can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable, served raw in salads or flavouring soups and stews. Boiled partiminger tea is used to aid digestion, while crushed leaves are made into a paste and applied to the inside of the nostrils to stop nosebleeds.

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