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Okra, Nutritional and Medicinal Powerhouse of Benefits

 

Okra, Abelmoschus esculentus, or Hibiscus esculentus

Family:  Malvaceae

Description:

Flower: a lovely flower that looks like a small lemon colored hibiscus with a dark center.

Vegetable: color of fresh corn husk, shape of a spike, texture of grooved cucumber.

Name:  The words Okra and gumbo are of African origin. Gumbo is believed to be of Portuguese origin, quingumbo of the word quillobo, a native name for the plant in the Congo and Angola area of Africa. It is also known as lady’s fingers and bamia pods.

Origin: Okra, is a warm weather crop, found in tropical climates such as Africa, South America, and the Middle East and the Caribbean.

History: It may be as old as the Pyramids. The earliest account of it is by a Spanish Moor who visited Egypt in 1216. It is said to have been a favorite of Cleopatra of Egypt and Yang Guifei of China.

It was likely introduced to the U.S. by a French colonist of Louisiana in the early 1700s.

Harvesting the Okra: They are best when harvested a few days after they flower, to avoid toughness and excessive mucilage (slime.) And they should be harvested every few days. Cutting the lower leaves will help them to produce faster.

Okra can be frozen uncut and uncooked, and will taste as though it had just been picked from the garden.

Culinary Preparation: Okra can be eaten raw, steamed with other vegetables as in a stir fry, as an ingredient in gumbo or any soup, also with meat or fish dishes.

It is quite versatile once you get the knack of cooking with it. There are many varied recipes that can be found on the internet.

If you don’t care for the mucilaginous nature first cook it in slightly salted water. However, this gelatinous quality can be a plus for the texture of soups and stews. Okra greens can be eaten raw or cooked like any other green leaf.

Okra seeds were used as a coffee substitute during World War II

Skin Care:

The vitamin A antioxidants protect and repair the skin (cells) as they promote faster healing, reducing the appearance of scars, acne scars, and wrinkles.

Traditional Medicinal Use:

The leaves were used for pain relief and urinary problems.

In the Congo it was used to help ensure a safe delivery for pregnant mothers.

In Malaya the root has been applied for treatment of syphilis.

The mucilage has been used as a plasma replacement and topically as a moisturizer.

Cooked down and added to water it has been used to alleviate weakness or depression.

It is still used to treat lung inflammation and sore throat, and to add bulk to stools as a laxative, as well as to rid the liver of toxins. It is noted as effective for acid reflux, atherosclerosis, cataracts, colorectal cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Roasted Okra seeds have been used in Turkey to treat diabetes and have been proven to lower blood sugar.

Nutritional Benefits:

The high content of soluble fiber of Okra makes one feel full faster and longer, thus making it ideal for   the impoverished. This is also beneficial for weight loss, and helping to maintain a feeling of being satisfied and reducing cravings.

It is recommended for constipation, as the mucilage is beneficial for moving food through the gut. It is also an excellent fiber source to aid healthy digestion.

Okra is a wealth of important nutrients that are otherwise difficult to attain. Besides the minerals calcium, iron and magnesium, it is a great source of vitamin K, an important co-factor to blood-clotting enzymes, and important for strong bones.  It is a good source of folate, which is particularly important during pregnancy, as well as to reduce risks of a variety of cancers.

Okra has a positive influence on lowering blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that it may alleviate diabetic effects due to its myricetin content.

Okra regulates cholesterol levels in the blood and thereby prevents clogging of arteries and protects from heart disease like atherosclerosis. The best results are experienced with using the dried form of the seeds.

Beneficial forms of Okra:

Dried Okra seed powder, Okra Water and grated Okra peel are all beneficial forms of Okra to be used for nutritional and/or medicinal purposes.

Caution:

It has been noted that eating Okra may reduce the effectiveness of the diabetes drug metformin. 

Okra contains oxalates.  Overconsumption can cause risk of kidney stones. 

It also contains fructan, a carbohydrate that in some people can cause diarrhea, cramps and bloating. Those with irritable bowel syndrome should avoid foods with fructan.

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Author, Eve Stahl, is a Health Consultant, Herbalist and Skin Care expert. She specializes in using nature's plants to enhance the health of people and to protect the health of our planet. To achieve this purpose she has created Garden of Eve Skin Care products for sensitive skin and all skin types. You can visit her company at: www.gardenofeve.com Prospective Affiliates visit: www.gardenofeveskincare.com/affiliate-application. 

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