Recently On my way back from a friend’s place just behind Lagos state university, I happened to pass by a mini leafy vegetable plantation very close to the main road filled with lots of indigenous leafy vegetables and herbs in Nigeria.
Luckily for me, I had my camera in the backpack I was carrying to document everything. When I approached the farmer to ask for permission to snap, he was quite surprised but more than willing to let me take pictures. In fact, he also helped out with the local names while I jotted down excitedly…lol!
I’ve come to realize, there are lots of plants that have been well-researched in Nigeria but due to the fact that most people do not know the local/foreign names, most of the information has been lost in translation. As they say, knowledge is power and since we learn every day I’ve decided to throw this post open to everyone out there. Please do shed more light on any herb/plant whose local and English names you know of. If you also know the uses, please add them. This is for research purposes and with your help, the indigenous nutritional / health benefits and uses would also be known. Below are some of the indigenous names of plants and some of their uses.
List Of Leafy Vegetables
1. English Name: Fluted Pumpkin Leaves Local Name: Ugu (Igbo), kabewa (Hausa) Botanical Name: Telfairia Occidentalis Get It Here : Click to view vendor
Ugu is a leafy vegetable that is used in Nigeria for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It is rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and folic acid which makes it highly nutritious. It is also a good source Of vitamins A, C and, k and lots of minerals. Researchers also found out that eating meals rich in fluted pumpkin leaves and seeds helps prevent Cancer, Improves blood count, Beats diabetes, and Reduces blood glucose & cholesterol levels. it’s Used for soups like Efo Riro, Ugu Juice and more. Click here to learn more about this vegetable
2. English Name: Jute leaves, saluyot leaves, Jews mallow Local Name: Ewedu (Yoruba), Rama Ayoyo (Hausa/Fulbe), Kerenkere (Igbo) Botanical Name: Corchorus
In the western part of Nigeria, it is used in the preparation of Ewedu soup. Once ground, it’s got a slimy consistency just like Okra. It’s a good source of fibre, low in calories but high in vitamins. In herbal medicine, it is used to control or prevent dysentery, worm infestation and constipation. Ayurveda (ancient Hindu system of healing) use the leaves for pain, piles, and tumours. Elsewhere, the leaves are used for cystitis, dysuria, fever, and gonorrhoea. The cold infusion is said to restore appetite and strength. Learn More about Ugu Leaves HERE
3. English Name: Bitter Leaf Local Name: Onugbu (Igbo), Efo Ewuro (Yoruba), Shakwa shuwaka (Hausa), Etidot (Cross River State of Nigeria) Botanical Name: Vernonia amygdalina
As the name implies, the plant is actually bitter and is used in preparing the popular Nigerian bitter leaf soup. Most times, its sold already pre-washed in the Nigerian market. There are several species of bitter leaf-some large, leafy and deep green leaves, while some have comparatively smaller broader leaves. The bitterness is usually removed by boiling before the leaves are cooked as soups or added to soups made with other vegetables or eaten like spinach. it is rich in vitamins and minerals. In traditional Nigerian medicine, it is used to treat Fever, malaria, hepatitis, diarrhoea, dysentery, and cough. The leaves are also used as medicine for Stomach ache, Headache, Scabies, Gastrointestinal disorders. Bitter leaf also reduces the sugar level of the body drastically and repairs the pancreas and kidneys which makes it great for diabetic patients.
4. English Name: Eru "wild spinach" or African Jointfir Local Name: Afang leaves (Ibibio),Okazi/Ukazi (Igbo) Botanical Name: Gnetum Africanum
5. English Name: False cubeb leaves (The seeds from the plant is known as mkpuru uziza (uziza seeds) ) Local Name: Uziza leaves/ Ashanti pepper leaves/ Benin pepper leaves/ Guinea cubeb leaves Botanical Name: Piper guineense
In the local Nigerian market, it is known as hot leaves. it’s peppery and is usually used in small quantities to add flavour and a very nice aroma to soups like Ofe nsala, Vegetable soups and sometimes Egusi soup. It is rich in anti-oxidants and has preservative properties.
6. English Name: Bushbuck Local Name: Utazi (Igbo), ‘arokeke’(Yoruba) Botanical Name: Gongronema latifolium
Utazi leaves is very Sharp-bitter and sweet and is used in small quantity in preparing soups like Nsala soup, Ugba Sauce, Yam and also in garnishing dishes like Abacha Ncha, Isi ewu, Nkwobi e.t.c. It is also used locally in the treatment of cough, intestinal worms, dysentery, dyspepsia and malaria. It is also taken as a tonic to treat loss of appetite and also In the treatment of diabetes and high blood pressure.
7. English Name: Clove Basil Local Name: Nchuawun(Igbo), Efirin(Yoruba), Daidoya (Hausa), Ntong(efik), Aramogbo (Edo) Botanical Name: Ocimum gratissimum
Scent leaves is used in the preparation of foods such as pepper soup, Ofe Akwu, Yam porridge, Vegetable soups e.t.c and as the name implies, it gives a wonderful aroma to the meals it’s prepared with. In traditional medicine, it is used to lower blood pressure as well as reduce blood sugar level. it is used in the treatment of piles. it is said to be useful in the medication for people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome virus AIDS, In Congo, a scent leaf decoction is used for diarrhoea, gonorrhoea infection, vaginal douches for vaginitis and used in the treatment of mental illness. In Nigeria, it is used as a strong mosquito repellent as well as other insects. Click Here For More
8. English Name: Curry leaf "sweet neem leaves", Lemon Basil Local Name: Efirin Oso(Yoruba), Marugbo sanyan(Yoruba) Botanical Name: Murraya koenigii
In Nigerian meal preparation, it is added to stews, meats, and fish to add flavor to the dishes. Its got small pinnate leaves which are highly aromatic. Other uses include it being used as a good remedy for nausea and indigestion, The leaves are chewed to lose weight, it is known to improve eyesight and also prevent cataracts, it is used to improve hair color. Click Here For More
9. English Name: Waterleaf Local Name: Gbure (Yoruba) Botanical Name: Talinum Triangulare
Water leaves are used in the preparation of soups such as Efo riro, Edikaikong, vegetable yam e.t.c. It’s mostly abundant during the rainy season and once added to soups, it tends to increase the volume of water/ liquid in it hence the name “Water leaves”. According to scientific studies, it is said to be rich in mineral salts and amino-acids as well as having anti-scorbutic properties i.e prevention against the scurvy disease.
10. English Name: Lagos Spinach, plumed cockscomb, quail grass, silver cock’s comb (En); célosie, célosie argentée, crête de coq (Fr); borlón, cresta de gallo Local Name: Shoko yokoto Botanical Name: Celosia Argentia
Shoko yokoto is a leafy vegetable mainly popular in the western part of Nigeria. it is also the main leaf used in the preparation of efo riro, a popular vegetable soup. Sometimes, the leaves are crested with Purplish/Red discolourations in the middle. It is rich in Beta- Carotene, Folic Acid, Ascorbic acid, Calcium, Iron, Protein.
11. English Name: African spinach, "Green" Local Name: Inine (Igbo), Efo Tete (Yoruba), tete eleegun(yoruba), allayahu (Hausa) Botanical Name: Amaranthus Hybridus
Known as “Green” in the local market due to its colour, this leafy vegetable is the second most popular leafy vegetable after Ugu. it’s used in the preparation of various Nigerian dishes.
12. English Name: African eggplant leaf (Garden egg leaf), Gboma Local Name: Akwukwo Anara (Igbo), Efo Igbo(Yoruba), Ganyen gauta (Hausa) Botanical Name: Solanium marcrocarpon
Garden Egg leaves are used in the preparation of vegetable stews and yam dishes by some people. The leaves have a very bitter taste. Indigenous leafy vegetables and herbs Nigeria
Update: Aside from the fruit, every other part of S. macrocarpon has been reported to cause heart failure, digestive problems, and lethargy in dogs. Because S. macrocarpon is part of the Solanaceae family, it contains alkaloids, giving the plant and fruit its bitter taste. Consuming the plant in large frequencies may potentially be poisonous.S. macrocarpon contains glycoalkaloids and the levels found in the fruit were 5-10 times higher than what is considered safe, and may not be safe for humans to eat. Source
13. English Name: Moringa leaves Local Name: Igbo: "Odudu oyibo","Okwe oyibo", "Okwe olu", "Uhe", "Oku-ghara-ite" Yoruba: ("igi iyanu","malero", "Ewele", "Ewé ilé", "Ewe igbálé", Idagbo monoyé ) Hausa: Zogale Botanical name: Moringa olefera
14. English Name: - Local Name: Oha /Ora leaves Botanical Name: Pterocarpus mildbraedii
Oha leaf is really popular in the eastern part of Nigeria. it’s the major ingredient in the preparation of the famous Oha/ Ora soup. It is an uncommon leafy vegetable which is not a climbing plant like ugu instead, it is rather a kind of leafy tree called Oha tree! The tree can grow from 1 year to up to 100 years and from a small foot to tower up to 200 feet or more. It bears no fruits or seeds compared with other leafy vegetables. All the young shoots of the leaves are eatable. It starts to yield or to produce eatable leaves from one year. As it grows and towers in height, people always employ climbers to climb and pluck the leaves for sale and for home consumption.
15. English Name: Mint leaves Scientifically known as Mentha Local Name: Na'a Naa (arabic)
Mint leaf is an aromatic herb which is mostly used to make things like breath fresheners i.e peppermint,Juice, Smoothie, Ice Cream , Popsicle. It’s NOT the same as scent leaf (Efinrin/ Nchuawun). In the local market especially with the Hausa vendors, mint is known as ” Na’a naa “.
16. English Name: Spring onions, Scallion Local Name: Alubosa elewe (yoruba), Lawashi / Ganyen Albasa(Hausa)
A scallion is one of the various Allium species, all of which have hollow green leaves (like the common onion), but which lack a fully developed root bulb. It has a relatively mild onion flavour and is used as a vegetable, either raw or cooked. Many other names are used, including green onion, spring onion, salad onion, table onion, green shallot, onion stick, long onion, baby onion, precious onion, yard onion, gibbon, syboe or scally onion.
17. English Name: Roselle or Sorrel Local Name: Yakwa leaves
This leaf is really popular with the Hausas and is used in the preparation of Miyan Taushe.
Yakwa is called roselle or sorrel in English. They come in two flowering varieties, the red and white. The red flowers are used to make our popular zobo drink. The white flowers are sour and used to make soups in some part of the country. The yakwa leaves themselves are used to make different kinds of soup including groundnut soup…
18: English Name: English spinach, Indian Malabar spinach Botanical Name: Basella alba; the red type is Basella Rubra Local Name: Amunututu (Yoruba), Gborongi (Igbo)
19: English Name: English bush apple leaves Botanical name: Heinsia crinita Local Name: Atama leaves / Beletientien
This is an annual Herb cultivated in the delta areas. It smells and taste like tarragon; usually used fresh or dried in the preparation of Banga soup.
20. English Name: Soursop Leaf Botanical Name: Local Name:
21. English Name: Botanical Name: Local Name: Ebolo
“Dongoyaro” is a term used in some regions, particularly in Nigeria, to refer to the Neem tree (Azadirachta indica). The Neem tree is a large evergreen tree that belongs to the mahogany family (Meliaceae) and is native to the Indian subcontinent. It has been widely cultivated and naturalized in many tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Click Here To Learn More
23. English Name: Broad Leaf Thyme, Cuban Oregano, Spanish Oregano, Spanish thyme, Poor man’s pork, Indian Borage, Country borage, Pudina, French thyme, Indian mint, Mexican mint, Soup mint Botanical Name: (Coleus amboinicus, synonym Plectranthus amboinicus benth) Local Name:
Broad Leaf Thyme(Coleus amboinicus, synonym Plectranthus amboinicus benth) also known as Cuban Oregano, Spanish Oregano, Spanish thyme, Poor man’s pork, Indian Borage, Country borage, Pudina, French thyme, Indian mint, Mexican mint, Soup mint, is a sprawling large herb that is fleshy and highly aromatic with an agreeable and refreshing oregano-like flavor. It is native to Southern and Eastern Africa, from South Africa to Angola and Mozambique, and north to Kenya and Tanzania, where it grows in woodland or coastal bush, on rocky slopes and loamy or sandy flats at low elevations. Click Here To Learn More
24. English Name: Magenta Plant Botanical Name: Peristrophe roxburghiana Local Name:
Peristrophe roxburghiana, commonly known as the Magenta Plant, is a flowering plant that belongs to the Acanthaceae family. The plant is known for its striking magenta-colored flowers, which give it its common name. In traditional medicine, it is believed to have various health benefits. It is often used to prepare tonics, infusions, or extracts for conditions such as digestive disorders, respiratory issues, fever, and inflammation. It is also used as a general health tonic and to support overall well-being. Click Here for More
25. English Name: Lemon grass Botanical Name: Cymbopogon citratus Local Name:
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a tropical herb that is widely cultivated and used for culinary, medicinal, and aromatic purposes. It is known for its strong and pleasant lemony fragrance, which makes it a popular ingredient in various cuisines and herbal preparations. Lemongrass belongs to the grass family (Poaceae) and is native to regions such as Southeast Asia, India, and Africa. Click Here For More
25. English Name: "Miracle Leaf Plant" Botanical Name: Kalanchoe pinnata Local Name:
One plant that is often referred to as the “Miracle Leaf” is the “Miracle Leaf of Life” or “Miracle Leaf Plant” (Kalanchoe pinnata). It is also known by various other names, such as “Life Plant,” “Wonder of the World,” and “Cathedral Bells.” This succulent plant is native to Madagascar but has spread to various tropical and subtropical regions around the world. believed to have exceptional health benefits or healing properties. However, it’s important to note that this term can be used in a sensational or marketing-driven manner, and the actual effects of these plants may vary based on scientific research and traditional use. Click Here To Learn More
25. English Name: Aloe vera Botanical Name: Aloe barbadensis miller Local Name:
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) is a succulent plant known for its gel-filled leaves, which have been used for centuries for various medicinal and cosmetic purposes. It is native to arid regions and is now cultivated worldwide for its valuable gel and potential health benefits. Click Here To Learn More
25. English Name: Blue Porterweed Botanical Name: Stachytarpheta jamaicensis Local Name:
Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) is a flowering plant that belongs to the Verbenaceae family. It is native to tropical regions, including parts of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Blue Porterweed is known for its vibrant blue to purple flowers and is often cultivated as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes. It is also recognized for its traditional medicinal uses in various cultures. Click Here For More
25. English Name: Thai Basil Botanical Name: Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora Local Name:
Thai Basil, also known as Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora or Asian basil, is a type of basil with a distinctive flavor and aroma commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisines, particularly in Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian dishes. It is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and shares some similarities with the more common Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum), but it has its own unique taste and appearance. Click Here For More
25. English Name: Sweet Basil Botanical Name: Ocimum basilicum Local Name:
Sweet Basil, also known simply as basil or Ocimum basilicum, is a popular culinary herb with a sweet and aromatic flavor. It belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is native to regions in Asia and Africa. Apart from its culinary applications, sweet basil also has some traditional medicinal uses. It has been used in herbal remedies for its potential anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. Click here to learn more
25. English Name: Sage Botanical Name: Salvia officinalis Local Name:
Sage, scientifically known as Salvia officinalis, is a perennial herb with a long history of culinary and medicinal uses. It belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is native to the Mediterranean region. Sage has gray-green leaves that are slightly fuzzy and emit a strong, earthy aroma when crushed. Click Here To Learn More
25. English Name: Rosemary Botanical Name:Rosmarinus officinalis Local Name:
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a fragrant, evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the Lamiaceae family, which also includes other well-known herbs like mint, basil, and oregano. Rosemary has been valued for centuries for its culinary, medicinal, and aromatic properties. The name “Rosemary” is derived from the Latin words “ros” (dew) and “marinus” (sea), which together mean “dew of the sea,” reflecting its natural habitat near the Mediterranean coast. Click Here To Learn More
25. English Name: Alfalfa Botanical Name: (Medicago sativa) Local Name:
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a flowering plant belonging to the legume family, Fabaceae. It is a highly versatile and widely cultivated plant that is primarily grown as a forage crop for livestock and as a cover crop to improve soil fertility. However, Alfalfa also has various other uses and is valued for its nutritional content and potential health benefits.– Click Here To Learn More
More indigenous leafy vegetables and herbs in Nigeria coming soon….
. English Name: Bay Leaf Botanical Name: Local Name:
. English Name: Parsley Local Name: Lansil (Hausa)
. English Name: Fenugreek (a.k.a Methi) Botanical Name: Trigonella foenum-graecum Local Name: Fenugreek is not an indigenous leafy vegetable or herb in Nigeria therefore ther e's no local name yet
. English Name: Cocoyam Leaf Botanical Name: Local Name:
. English Name: Botanical Name: Local Name: Editan Leaf
. English Name: Botanical Name: Local Name: Cassava leaf
. English Name: Dandelion Botanical Name: Taraxacum Officinale Local Name: Yanrin "Yoruba"
. English Name: Botanical Name: (Found in the Solanum /Nightshade family) Local Name: Odu (Yoruba)
Could be mistaken for pepper plants.
. English Name: Sweet potato leaves Botanical Name: Local Name:
Especially the red variety is also very tasty either eaten in salads or cooked –