Towards the end of last year, I created a Facebook group in furtherance of creating awareness about plants and their health benefits to mankind. Recently, one of the group members, Mr Babalola Olaosebikan, an academic worker with Rufus Giwa polytechnic, Ondo State, shared with us his experience about the Mucuna pruriens (Werepe) he stumbled on in his garden. Immediately I saw his post, I approved it being the admin of the group and I started eulogising the plant in Yoruba.
He understood that the eulogies were to warn him about the itchiness the plant can cause. He said he roasted the seeds, blended and brewed it and in his words, “it packs a punch like coffee.”
He told us it has a calming effect on his nerves. On his next harvest, he was not lucky because the plant itched him seriously. That is not even the most hilarious part. One of his neighbours who loves the aroma and taste drank with him. The man woke up the next morning, thanked him and gave him a mischievous smile and said, “So, God hid a very good benefit inside an itchy velvet bean plant?”
I discussed Mucuna pruriens while on the medicinal plants series. The truth is that it increases sexual drive in men and women due to its dopamine-inducing properties.
More commonly, it is used to promote muscle growth, increase strength and has been proven to raise testosterone levels. So, the mischievous smile that man gave my group member meant that the Mucuna powder had an aphrodisiac effect on him and he got busy with his wife. For the calming effect it has on my group member, it is because dopamine is an important neurotransmitter that is essential for sleep, memory, mood, mental functions and calming the nervous system.
I am a Yoruba woman, I have a good command of the language and this is why I provide Yoruba names of plants mostly. I am not tribalistic. I believe in one Nigeria. There was a situation where an Enugu man gave a different name to what an Anambra woman gave me. On the same plant, a Langtang (Plateau State) man gave a name that is different from what a Kano man gave and I ended up being confused. Bringing such confusion here will mislead you all. In cases like this, I make sure I provide the botanical names and this is what removes all doubts because there are no dialectal variations to it. For the sake of this column, start seeing yourself as a scientist and as jaw-breaking as botanical names are, you have to start loving them.
I will like to close the series this week. Let me quickly run through all I discussed. The series started with an introduction and the first plant I discussed was pineapple peels and leaves.
I mentioned that the medicinal qualities of pineapples are attributed to an enzyme called Bromelain. I said that this enzyme is abundant in the pineapple stems/leaves and even the peels that we throw away. I mentioned that bromelain is a meat tenderizer, so, this means that instead of using nails and paracetamol as meat tenderizers, you can use pineapple leaves. Banana peels was the second I discussed. I talked about its several uses for the skin, I talked about all its health benefits and I also said you could boil the peels and be drinking the water as tea. Orange peels came next. I talked about its several beauty uses as a skin lightener, body scrub, bath oil, bath powder, face mask and deodoriser. I also said it’s used as a mosquito repellent, for cooking and in cake making. I said the peels could be boiled and the water taken as tea. I also said one could grate the peels into your yogurt, oatmeal and salad. Some people complained about the bitterness of the orange peels tea and I suggested that they should it sweeten with honey. For watermelon seeds, it can be eaten with the fruit, dried, roasted and eaten as a snack. The rind is like a vegetable which means it can be tossed in a pan and stir fried alongside other vegetables. You can also scrape or cut the rind into salads and they can be blended too.
The discussion on plantain peels came after watermelon seeds and rinds. Unripe plantain peels can be soaked or blended and taken to manage high blood pressure and diabetes. Ripe plantain peels is used for making herbal soap. I mentioned that one could cut the unripe peels into small pieces, cook, then, add the cooked peels into all one’s recipes.
Also, one can boil one’s peels and drink the water. I remember I said when next I have to make plantain flour, I would make sure I dry the plantain with the peels and grind them together when dry.
I discussed pawpaw peels and seeds. I talked about Papain which is the enzyme present in higher concentration in green Papaya. I also said the peel and the area surrounding it are the real money makers of this fruit because they contain the highest concentration of Papain. For the seeds, I said they can be chewed raw, you can dry them and grind. You can make tea out of the powder or add them into your smoothies. Talking of papaya seeds, it has to be the seeds from the ripe fruit because you hardly find seeds in unripe pawpaw. For potato peels, whatever form you want to eat it, make sure you keep the peels on. Garlic and onion peels came after potato peels. They can be boiled and the water taken as tea. I also said the peels can be baked in the oven and they are eaten as a crispy snack.
Pumpkin seed was the next. They can be roasted and can be added to smoothies and yogurt. You can incorporate them into salads and cereals. I am sure the article on coconut shells and husks must be shocking. No one will ever believe they can be that useful. The burnt shells are a good source of activated charcoal and the husks can be boiled and the water taken as tea. The last plant I discussed was cocoa pods. They can be boiled and the water is then taken as tea.
I discussed 12 plant wastes in all and all of them except pumpkin seeds can be made into tea. So, instead of getting store-bought teas, nature has provided us with many. It is also interesting that despite the fact that they are plant wastes, there are peer-reviewed studies on them. However, there are exceptions to rules. It doesn’t mean that everything in nature is edible. For example, apple seeds contain amygdalin, a substance that releases cyanide when it comes into contact with human digestive enzymes. Small amounts can be detoxified by enzymes in your body. However, large amounts can be dangerous.
If you see any plant waste apart from the ones discussed in this series, please make findings about them before you consume them to avoid poisoning.
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