By Blessing Okpala
I grew up realizing that one of my mum’s favourite fruity snacks right from her childhood is the ukpa fruit. Infact, she dearly loved every bit of this fruit that she planted the trees in our compound as well as our farmlands. As a child, I had my curiosity over her great attachment to this fruit which prompted me to start bombarding her with several questions on why this fruit and other parts of its plant are actually important to human health. Well, she gave me some impressive reasons on the importance of this fruit, which have been equally confirmed by several scientific studies. But let me quickly give you a synopsis of what ukpa fruit is all about before detailing why you really need to include this fruit in your daily diet ~ ~ ~
African walnut is a powerful plant that has been notable for its remarkable benefits to human health. Botanically known as Plukenetia conophora or Tetracarpidium conophorum, the African walnut is of the family of Euphorbiaceae. Apart from its nuts, researchers have revealed that other parts of this plant are highly important for both medicinal, therapeutic and pharmaceutical reasons. The African walnut (ukpa) is a climber in the sense that it grows as a vine and then settles at the apex of a supporting tree forming a canopy and shade to other smaller plants and herbs.
It is best planted very close to a tall, strong tree that can offer strong support and balance to this heavy-weighted plant especially when it has finally settled on the apex of the tree. Walnut acts is both medicinal, therapeutic and stimulating in nature due to its high constituent of anthraquinones, tannins, saponins and alkaloids. Different countries and tribes have different names for this fruit ranging from the African walnut (ukpa), Gabon nut, sida, conophor nut, howôtou, mpengwa, atsan, anamemila, bogüe, asala kaso, ouatou, Apopo, ngak, awusa, okwe, dibetou, akiouhia, séatou, sratou, okhue and asala.
Tetracarpidium conophorum African walnut is a popular Central and Western Africa plant where it is planted mainly for its nuts, which are usually eaten as snacks. The ukpa pods, which are four ridged-winged between wings and upto 3 inches in diameter with four brown round nuts usually fall off its tree once matured to be removed, cooked and eaten. The nut measures about 2.5cm long and is distinguished by thin woolish strands that attach it to the shell. Walnuts are preferably eaten cooked however, it can still be eaten raw but has a bitter taste in its raw state.
Nutritional Values of the African Walnut
African walnut is an excellent source of essential minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients needed for the healthy functioning of the human’s body and they include; thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid, cyanocobalamin (vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C and E), niacin, manganese, l-arginine, pyridoxine, selenium, melatonin, ascorbic acid, pantothenic acid, tocopherol, ellagic acid, polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids and oleic acid.
20 REASONS YOU NEED THE AFRICAN WALNUT (TETRACARPIDIUM CONOPHORUM)
- Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases
Researchers reveal that the African walnut is very effective for minimising the risks of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and coronary artery disease (buildup of plaque in the arteries thereby restricting blood supply to the heart). Consuming walnuts as an after-meal dessert has been proven effective for keeping the arteries flexible and for reducing the damage caused by fatty food to the arteries. This is due to the high content of phytosterols, omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants in this fruit.
Walnuts equally contain high amounts of L-arginine, which is an essential amino acid that can be converted to nitric oxide. It is noteworthy that nitric oxide is a chemical that is essential for smoothing the inner walls of the blood vessels thereby helping the blood vessels to relax. Individuals suffering from hypertension usually find it hard to have a balanced nitric oxide levels thus they are prone to heart problems, however, adding walnuts to their diet is an effective way of combating this problem.
- Treatment of Infertility
Walnut seeds have been reported effective for tackling male infertility issues by boosting sperm productions in the testicles. Researchers reveal that men who include more African walnuts in their diet stand higher chances of improving their sperm health, sperm development and spermatozoa count. This is attributive to the high amount of healthy fatty acids present in these nuts. The leaf extracts of the African walnut (ukpa) can also be used for boosting fertility in women as well as for treating fibroids.
- Promotes Quality Sleep
Studies reveal that regular intake of walnuts before going to sleep is an effective way of facilitating good sleep due to the presence of melatonin in the nuts. It is noteworthy that melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which acts as a sleep aid as well as a remedy for tackling certain sleep disorders.
- Reduces the Cholesterol Level
African walnut is an excellent source of healthy polyunsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven effective for reducing the body’s cholesterol level.
- Treatment of Gastroenteritis Diseases
African walnut leaves and barks are used in folk medicines for treating individuals suffering from gastroenteritis diseases such as dysentery, stomach pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. Decocted African walnut leaves and seeds are effective for relieving abdominal pains.
- Anti-microbial Properties
African walnut possesses anti-microbial properties thus can be used for treating disease-causing pathogens such as bacillus subtilis, candida albicans, staphylococcus aureus, aspergillus niger.
- Ideal for Pregnant Women
In folk medicines, the leaves extracts are usually taken by pregnant women to prevent the risk of miscarriages.
- Culinary Purposes
Although the African walnuts can be eaten raw, but it is preferably eaten cooked, sun-dried or roasted and snacked on. The nuts can equally be ground and used for soup preparations. Ukpa has a similar flavour with that of a chestnut and hazelnut and serves as the perfect spices for flavouring meat, fish and several dishes.
- Prevention of Cancer
Studies reveal that the African walnut extracts are effective for minimizing the risk of cancerous growths such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. This is due to its high constituent of ascorbic acid, omega 3 fatty acids, phytosterols and antioxidants which help to slow down the onset of cancer.
- Boosts Cognitive Functioning
African walnut is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which are both important vitamins for boosting the healthy functioning of the brain. This suggests why the fruit is often referred to as the brain food.
- Anti-inflammatory Properties
African walnut is an excellent source of tannin which is very effective for tackling body inflammation thus can be used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, bronchial inflammation or asthma.
- Anti-aging Properties
African walnut is a rich source of antioxidants such as ellagic acid, melatonin, manganese, vitamin E, polyphenols and selenium thus can be used for preventing the onset of early ageing as well as prevents cellular damage.
- Regulation of Menstrual Flow
The leaf extracts of the African walnut (ukpa) can be used for regulating menstrual flow in women suffering from irregular menstruation.
- Promotes Healthy Immune System
African walnut is an excellent source of essential minerals and vitamins such as manganese, iron, copper, magnesium, calcium and zinc, which are all essential for boosting stronger immune system as well as for preventing anaemia.
- Headache Cure
Studies reveal that the leaf extract of the African walnut is very effective for treating headache.
- Relief from Hiccups
The leaves extracts of the African walnut are taken to stop and relief constant and prolonged hiccups.
- Relief from Malarial Attack
African walnut leaves extracts offer relief from malarial attack and fever.
- Treatment of Toothache
Both the nuts, leaves and barks of the African walnut are believed to be effective for treating toothache.
- Serves as an Antidote
Both the nuts, leaves and barks of the African walnut act as an effective antidote for counteracting poisons, insect stings, scorpion stings etc. It is also effective for treating certain types of toxic metal poisoning.
- Commercial Purposes
African walnut oil, which is produced from the nuts can be used for producing vulcanised oil, stand oil and wood varnish.
This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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