By Dr. Mrs. Hadiza Nuhu
(B.Sc, M.Sc, Ph.D)
Managing Director herbal point services.
Email: Herbal[email protected] Website: www.herbalpointservices.com
Address: No. 164 Gambian mall, Tipper garage. Phone number: 7387699
Mankind across the globe recently realised the value of natural and traditional foods in the health and wellbeing of humanity.
Natural foods that are cultivated from the earth are usually easily available accessible and are biologically and ecologically friendly to the environment.
They are also safer and more beneficial to the body compared to their chemical counterparts
Gambia is blessed with so many plant species that have been used across ages for food health, and economic wellbeing of our society.
This column intends to identify those commonly found useful plants and demonstrate how they can be used in a professional manner to achieve beneficial results.
Today, our plants of choice are: Na’a Na’a (mint), Wonjo (hibiscus flower)
This consists of the leaves and flowering tops of menthe piperita plant family labiatae. It is cultivated in many countries especially in the Asian continent mainly as a commercial plant.
The plant is rich in volatile oils mainly menthol which is responsible for its minty flavor. Other constituents are resins, tannis and gums.
a. The mint plant is an aromatic herb that is well used for flavoring of foods & drinks and as a stimulant in foods, beverages and pharmaceutical preparations.
b. Its squeezed leaves can be used to relieve body pain
c. Its hot tea can be used to relieve stomach ache and diarrhea
d. the oil is highly used in pharmaceutical and dental preparations, mouth ulcer, cough, soaps, gums, candies, etc.
e. The oil is used to relieve stomach bloating, flatulence, nausea and for toothache. However, the oil should be used in small quantities as it has a depressant effect on the heart.
f. The leaves alone could be used to prepare drinks and food at home or they can be used along with other fruits and herbs such as wanjo, lemon, orange, baobab etc.
g. To relieve cold, boil the mint with ginger and cloves for few minutes then when it has cooled down, add honey and take as tea.
h. It boosts memory and brain function.
Caution for using mint:
a. Its leaves should not be dried under the hot sun because they will lose the volatile content of the leaves.
Wonjo refers to the flowery tops from the plant of Wonjo or hibiscus as it is called in English. There are three varieties of Wonjo in Africa they are; the red Wonjo, the black Wonjo and the white Wonjo.
The plant is rich in vitamin C, fibers and pigments.
Wonjo is highly valued for its nutritional use as a source of vitamin c especially for young children. It should be the natural drink of choice for families instead of artificial drinks made from preservatives and flavors. Such soft drinks should be avoided due to the numerous harm they cause to the body. Its fibers also have important dietary components.
The practice of using the hibiscus flower is traditional in many societies especially in Africa. It is used most often used as a beverage at both domestic and public gatherings. and it is prepared hot or cold depending on preference. In some countries where its nutritional knowledge is high amongst the population, Wonjo drink is more expensive than other domestic drinks such as coke, pepsi and the others due to its vitamin C and natural origin.
It is prepared by soaking the flowers in cold water, hot water or boiling them slightly. And then it is sieved and sweetened with sugar or honey. Wonjo can aslo be used along other herbs and spices such as ginger, cloves, lemon grass, mint etc.
a. Those with sensitivity to acidity should be cautious of using this plant such as ulcer patients, gastritis patients etc.
b. The common culture of making Wonjo drink with artificial flavors and artificial colorings for taste and coloring should be strongly avoided as these materials are not healthy instead, one should use natural flavors (such as mint, ginger, cloves, lemongrass etc.)