Lady fingers to big pharma (or how to treat acne & more with a vegetable)

This post is all about okra. Yes…I know you’re not going to be able to forage okra in the UK like I’ve been able to in Mombasa, but I thought I’d talk about it anyway as it’s widely available in any Asian supermarket near you!

Okra is a member of the same family as hibiscus and marsh mallow. It has gorgeous flowers that are followed by long, pointy seed pods that someone, somewhere, thought looked like lady’s fingers. I’m in Mombasa at the moment and lucky enough to be able to forage this amazing vegetable right in the garden where it’s thriving. Like its cousin marsh mallow, it is full of mucilage that helps to soothe the gut, tons of dietary fibre, plenty of vitamins and lots more!

 
Also known as lady fingers, binda, or “that snotty vegetable”, okra was my least favourite vegetable growing up, second only to spinach. But as I grow older, it’s starting to grow on me. And now that I’ve learned more about it, it is something that I will be eating a lot more of. Did you know that okra can help you to balance your hormones if they’re out of whack? Did you know that you can use them to make your periods more regular, help in the management of Type 2 diabetes*, banish acne, condition your hair and stop your constipation? Neither did I!

  

Okra Water for balancing your cycle, conditioning your hair & battling acne

At night, take 3 small okra, chop them into 1cm pieces and put them into a glass and cover with water. The next morning, drain out the okra and drink the water for balancing your cycle and spread it onto your face for acne. If you want to use it as a leave in conditioner, just pour into your hair and comb it through.

  

If you have irregular periods and acne, you need to continue this treatment for 3 months to see real changes. My aunt has now treated so many people with this simple home remedy in her herbal clinic. The first one she treated was my cousin who has been plagued with truly horrible acne since she hit puberty. Her periods were always very irregular and could go on for weeks at a time. She has tried every pharmaceutical drug her dermatologist could think of and spent hundreds of pounds on pills, ointments, hormone therapy and injections and none of them worked. She’s now been able to ditch all of the expensive drugs and treats herself with nothing more than 3 okra a day.

Swahili Okra Curry – the tastiest and most gentle laxative ever

1 cup chopped Tomatoes (tinned is fine)

3 whole Green chillies

3 cups Okra (chopped into 1cm pieces)

2 large Red onions (thinly sliced)

Carrots (diced)

1.5 cups Potatoes (diced and parboiled until cooked)

1tbsp tomato paste

2tbsp chopped green capsicum

3 garlic cloves (minced)

Juice of 1 small lime

To give you a better idea of how much the above list of ingredients is, there’s a photo of all of the prepped ones below to give you a better idea.

Cook your onions in olive oil until translucent and add garlic.

Add your carrots and cook over a low heat until they’ve softened slightly.

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Add tomatoes.

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Cook until pulpy.

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Add tomato purée, okra and 1 cup of water and cook until okra soften.

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Add potatoes, capsicum and chillies. Cook for a further 8 minutes on a low heat. Don’t worry about the chillies making your curry spicy. As long as you don’t burst them when stirring, all they will do is give a wonderful fragrance to your curry.

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Serve with chapatis or rice.

*A recent study about okra done on diabetic lab rats had the following conclusion: “Use of dietary fiber has been correlated with the prevention of many life-threatening diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancers and so forth. Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus L.) is a rich source of dietary fibers and is traditionally used in the management of diabetes mellitus. Moreover, hypolipidemic effect of Abelmoschus esculentus L has been reported which also benefits the diabetic patients. In this study, we also found that viscous soluble dietary fiber of Abelmoschus esculentus L. significantly reduced the intestinal absorption of glucose in fasting rats. So, okra may be beneficial for diabetic patients to control the postprandial blood glucose level. But, we also observed that both CMC and WSF of okra significantly reduced the absorption of metformin in vivo. These observations suggest that type 2 DM patients should be careful in taking metformin with a meal that contains lady’s fingers. Further studies are required to elucidate the effects of other fiber-containing foods on the effect of antidiabetic drugs. This study was done in experimental rats. To properly interpret these interesting findings, the study should be done using human subjects.”

The full paper can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3263724/ If you have the time and fancy some very interesting reading, search for the latin name of okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) in that database. So much research has been done into it!

Muhaimina Said-Allsopp