Worldwide anaemia is the commonest red blood cell disorder. It occurs when the concentration of haemoglobin falls below what is normal for a person’s age, gender and environment, resulting in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood being reduced.
Anaemic persons are easily fatigued, have little energy to work, are often breathless on exertion, have palpitation and experience headaches and dizziness.
Local studies have shown that extracts of date palm, beetroot, nettle, fluted pumpkin, cowhage or velvet bean, pawpaw, fig tree and sorghum could be effectively used to improve blood count, as an alternative or complement to blood transfusion.
But of these, the most commonly used for the treatment of anaemia is fluted pumpkin (Telfaira occidentalis) leaves popularly called “Ugwu, Aworoko or Ikong”.
In fact, the case of two severely anaemic patients, whose parents refused a blood transfusion and were subsequently managed with oral intakes of the fluted pumpkin vegetable extracts, with a satisfactory rise in the haematocrit levels was reported in The Internet Journal of Alternative Medicine and Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research.
Moreover, an expert’s assessment of fluted pumpkin leaves, milk and raw content of local egg mixture in the treatment of anaemic pregnant women in rural communities also observed a higher packed cell volume in pregnant women after the administration the Ugu (pumpkin) mixture.
The pregnant woman drank the mixture three times a day for seven days.
In the 2005 edition of the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, the researchers said the mixture is very rich in iron, folic acid, vitamin B12 and protein, which are active ingredients required for blood formation.
Howbeit, not all mixtures of Ugwu and other food items or other blood-boosting vegetables are beneficial. For instance, a mixture of Ugwu and Mucuna prurien (velvet Bean) Leaves, also another effective blood-booster is a wrong combination to use to boost the packed cell volume.
Experts in a comparison of the effect of water extract of Mucuna prurien and Ugwu on some red blood cell parameters in Wister albino rats reported that the use of the mixture to boost blood level is not advisable.
It was a 2019 study in the Journal of Science, Engineering and Technology, which involved Ada A. Akwari at the Cross River University of Technology, Calabar.
According to them, the combination of the extracts of M. pruriens and Ugu reacts to reduce some blood parameters and as such it reduces the level of blood instead of increasing it.
For the study, a total of 20 Wister albino rat strains weighing between 174gm and 290gm were grouped into four of five animals per cage. Group one served as the control and received only normal rat feed and water for 21 days, the remaining groups served as the experimental group.
At the end of the 21 days, the animals were sacrificed and their blood is taken for various blood tests.
Following the administration of the leaf extract, there was an increase in red blood cell count in the experimental animals fed with fluted ugu when compared with the control.
Also, there was no significant increase in red blood cell count of the animals fed with mucuna pruriens when compared with the control (drinking water). In addition, when the extract was administered to the animals as a combination therapy, there was a significant decrease in red blood cell when compared with the control.
Similarly, there was an increase in haemoglobin concentration of experimental animals fed with fluted pumpkin when compared with control whereas there was a decrease in haemoglobin concentration of experimental animals fed with M. pruriens when compared with control.
The animals fed with the combination of fluted pumpkin and M. pruriens showed a significant decrease in haemoglobin concentration when compared with control.
They researchers declared, “Ugwu appeared to be more effective than M. pruriens in its blood-boosting activity as evidenced by the levels of the red blood cell indices after the 21 days of treatment.
“Mucuna pruriens may have good potential for other clinical applications but our study showed that it may not function well as a blood booster because it reduces the level of red blood cell count, haemoglobin, packed cell volume and so on. This present study debunks the claim that M. prurien is a good blood booster.”
All parts of Mucuna pruriens commonly called werepe in Yoruba and Agbala or Agboloko in Ibo, possess valuable medicinal properties. In the eastern part of Nigeria M. pruriens, popularly known as agbala leaf within the Igbo populace, is used as a blood tonic traditionally.
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