At mealtimes every day, I do not easily lose sight of two important food supplements on the dining table. One of them is POTATO leaf powder. The other is PUMPKIN leaf powder. Like SPINACH powder, Jute Mallow Ewedu, Yoruba) powder and some other leaf powders, they are powerhouses of nutrition in a country such as Nigeria where there is a prevalence of carbohydrates on the dining table and a harvest of diseases such as diabetes, elevated blood cholesterol, calcified and plaque blocked blood vessels, heart challenges, osteoporosis, easily fractured bones, young boys and girls with genitalia too small for their ages, reproductive-age men and women beset with fertility…and a lot more health headaches.
Where we are heading is not these troubles. But they are important ports of call on the way. Many Nigerians do not eat potato leaves as a vegetable such as Pumpkin leaves. We are still unlike Asians, Pacific Ocean Islanders and some Africans who recognize that even Banana peel and Plantain peel are more nutritious than banana and plantain and eat them! What got me into taking potato leaf powder as a food supplement?
Goats eat potato leaves. Out of ignorance, many humans do not. Yet, potato leaves are one of the sources of plant nutrients which not only build and maintain radiant but can prevent cancer and kill healthy cancer cells as well. Isn’t this good news for people who are challenged with all sorts of cancers? The cancer-fighting ability of plant nutrients such as potatoes is now recognised due to their POLYPHENOLIC compounds. If you ask Mr OLAJUWON OKEUBENA, whose Nigerian plant product JOBELYN is the only plant medicine product in this country listed on the UNITED STATES NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE DRUG DICTIONARY of plant medicines worldwide recommended for cancer therapies, he would gladly and quickly reply that JOBELYN made it to this enviable list only because the rare specie of SOGHUM BICOLOUR which is the major ingredients has a high rating of POLYPHENOLIC contents.
In his opinion, these compounds may even have outstaged ANTIOXIDANTS in the onward march of medicine, even though they themselves are antioxidants. Science and medicine are ever on the march, expanding the understanding of our bodies and of our environment as well. Only about a hundred years ago, LOUIS PASTEUR ushered in the Pasteurisation Age. Today, I would not touch Pasteurised food because they are devitalized food. The GERM THEORY OF DISEASES lost its hold on researchers because several persons are exposed to the same germs in the same environment, a few may succumb to diseases which the germ may cause while other persons may be unaffected. The difference is all about individual differences which, in this case, boils down to IMMUNITY. From Immunity, we have journeyed to STEM CELL medicine using plant stem cells to regenerate dying organs. And from there, STEM CELL SURGERY has come about in which stem cells are surgically taken from a patients bone marrow and transferred to the help-requering organ. Now, it is being whispered that POLYPHENOLIC compounds are those materials that activate all those processes in the body, be they antioxidants or the immune systems, to do their work and make us disease-free and energetic. Thus, a plant and its materials are rated high or low in terms of the rating of phenolic or polyphenolic compounds they parade.
Potato leaves are not only rich sources of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants but also of Phenolic and Polyphenolic compounds. Although they are not the concern of this column, they are, nevertheless, important bus stops or signposts on the way to the go. So, in the interim, what are some of the health benefits to derive from eating potato leaves as vegetables.
We grow potatoes in the flowerbeds at home for their leaves. Eaten raw or lightly cooked, it provides lots of VITAMIN A which is good for vision, immunity, healthy skin, hair, nails and bones. It is a good manager of elevated blood sugar, stress inflammation, ulcer, heart and blood vessel diseases. It is a builder of immunity, is antimicrobial, and a promoter of digestion. Most of these attributes come from a high presence of Vitamin K in the leaves. The high amount of Vitamin K in the leaves helps to prevent excessive bleeding, as it also prevents the calcification of the arteries, a cause of elevated blood pressure and heart attacks. It does not permit plaque formation in blood vessels, healthy support for friendly blood pressure. Calcium needs Vitamin K to settle properly in the bones, prevent and heal fractures and prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin K is a friend of the menstruating woman with a tendency to over bleed and succumbs to the pains of cramping uterine muscles.
Sufferers from gum disease and tooth decay should appreciate potato leaves. It is fortified with Vitamins A, C, D and K. These fat-soluble vitamins helps to prevent teeth and gum decay by eliminating bacteria in the mouth and teeth which cause them. Vitamin K works with these vitamins to eradicate these bacteria.
Many Nigerians eat pumpkin leaves. Some drink the juice to improve blood count because of the high iron content. Pumpkin leaves are as endowed as potato leaves in vitamins and minerals which confer several health benefits. In the 1980s, I wondered if pumpkin leaves would not be rich sources of Zinc, which is plentiful in pumpkin fruits. That was when pumpkin seeds became popular as dietary sources of Zinc for Benign Prostate Hyperplasia(BPH) and inflammation of the prostate gland. If the fruit can be a Zinc provider, why not the leaves? I wondered. I was right on the mark. Every 100grams of pumpkin seed hold about 7.99mg of Zinc, whereas every 100grams of pumpkin leaf stocks about 22.3mg of Zinc. Many people who eat pumpkin leaves do not know what good they do themselves because the human body requires Zinc for more than 250 of its activities. The potato obliges 0.35mg in every 100grams. Potato leaf gives 0.3mg of Zinc or 3% of the daily requirement. While potato leaf may not rank high as pumpkin leaf in terms of Zinc supply, it makes up seven phenolic compounds just as pumpkin leaf. Additionally, potato leaf provides five Chlorogenic acids. Chlorogenic acids lower blood concentrations of glucose, which means they help the burning of blood sugar and, thereby, check diabetes. This is why potato leaf may be combined with pumpkin leaf in a potato tuber diet or any carbohydrates-laden diet. Potato leaf powder is, therefore, recommended for diabetics and people who wish to lower their blood glucose levels either as a tea or a food supplement. This is good news as we pick out nutrients every day from various food sources. Although from Zinc, I need to mention that potato leaf offers 30mg of CALCIUM(or 3% of daily value), 25mg of MAGNESIUM(7%), 47mg of PHOSPHORUS(7%), 37mg of POTASSIUM(7%) and 55mg of SODIUM(5%).
Google tells us we can obtain a higher Zinc value for potato leaves harvested from Zinc enriched soils. The only problems with that will be that the Vitamin C content will be high, TYROSINE and PHENOLIC levels in the tuber will reduce. Just as humans exhibit Zinc deficiency in various ways, potato leaves also do. The leaves grow smaller and stunted, deformed with inward folds. In the middle, the leaves may spot greyish brown to bronze blotches and all over, later on. Since researchers have been suggesting that POLYPHENOLS are like the enrichers and activators of plant nutrients and their antioxidants, including Zinc, in the case of potato leaf, it is heartwarming to note that several experiments have shown no fewer than seven POLYPHENOLIC compounds and five CHLOROGENIC acids are present in potato leaves.
ZINC IN LEAVES
Here is where we are heading…Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Phosphorus, all very important for health, but more specific for today, Zinc. With Zinc presence in potato and pumpkin leaves…..what makes the powders of these leaves regular features on my dining table.
This macromineral which the average adult human requires at about 15mg every day is wonderful for radiant health in many respects. Matted hair is a sign of Zinc deficiency. In other words, Zinc promotes healthy hair. Zinc plays a crucial role in the functions of the central nervous system. A flood of Zinc during epilepsy or seizures, for example, may upset this system as a deficiency of the mineral, causing neurodegenerative conditions. Zinc deficiency in the brain have been linked as well to such mental disorders as Schizophrenia, a condition in which the challenged person does not think straight, is always fearful, misbehave due to faulty perceptions and withdraws from relationships.
NIGHT BLINDNESS…may be a sign of Zinc deficiency. In other words, Zinc promotes healthy vision. If we didn’t realise that Vitamin A promotes healthy vision, we should not at least guess when we see babies taken to the hospital till they are about five years old for periodic sublingual dosing with Vitamin A to avert vision challenges. But of what value is Vitamin A in the eyes of everyone if the eyes can hardly use it in the absence of Zinc? Zinc is highly concentrated in the eye. It has been suggested that Zinc deficiencies in the eye, along with other nutrient deficiencies, causes cataract of the eye lens and changes at the back of the eye where images are registered on the optic nerve. My generation of children and young adults enjoyed ZINC LOZENGES which we chewed and let slowly trickle down the throat to offset cough and sore throat. We also knew about CALAMINE LOTION which our mothers draped our bodies with at the slightest sign of MEASLES or other dangerous skin eruptions. Zinc is one of the dominants ingredients in Calamine Lotion.
Zinc is important for GROWTH and FERTILITY…….Zinc deficiency causes stunted growth. It may make the ovaries and the testes under-function. It helps to maintain the lining of reproduction tracks. Being alkaline and antioxidants, it protects the sperm against acidosis and free radical attacks. Adequate Zinc blood levels support the production of healthy cells. There is evidence of testicular degeneration in Zinc deficient in males. REX ADAMS reports in his MIRACLE MEDICINE FOODS that, in a popular Egyptian study, boys and girls who came to puberty with underdeveloped male organs and breasts were given Zinc food supplements for three months. At the end of the study, they not only grew taller, but they also achieved as well big and longer organs and bigger breasts. They also grew taller. Alone or along with such herbs of VITEX, DONG QUAI, BLACK COHOSH, PERUVIAN MACCA and ASHWA GHANDAH, Zinc has helped many women correct hormone imbalances which may cause conception delays or sustenance of pregnancy or period pains and premenstrual syndrome. For men, the Zinc diet supplement has helped to increase sperm count, improve sperm morphology and motility and overcome acidic passages in a woman’s reproductive channels which may kill off the sperm.
Men who face prostate gland challenges may be helped with Zinc supplements. The Prostate gland is believed to be the largest storehouse of Zinc in the body. Zinc must accompany the sperm with an alkaline and antioxidants semen environment. It also checks an enzyme in the prostate gland called 5–ALPHA REDUCTASE, from becoming too garrulous as it were in its own functions there. Overactivity of this enzyme may overstimulate prostatic cells to overgrow and cause prostate gland enlargement. Zinc stocks in the gland may reduce for various reasons and pay the way for this misnomer. If the body is becoming acidic due to an acidic diet, stress, negative emotions or unbridled sexual engagements and consequent Zinc losses through ejaculations, Zinc levels in the prostate gland may reduce. This is if the diet does not bring more into the pantry. In such a situation, 5–ALPHA REDUCTASE may have free rein in the conversion of TESTOSTERONE, the male hormone, into DIHYDRO TESTOSTERONE(DHT) a powerful agent. This is why in cases of hormone fuelled prostate gland, doctors prefer to surgically remove the testes to reduce the amount of testosterone in the system. Happily, nowadays, the knowledge of the place of Zinc in these matters is growing.
It is in the activity of the immune system that Zinc again reveals its value. Many people do not know they have a gland called the THYMUS and of its role in the defence of their bodies. The Thymus is behind the breast bone. It produces a Zinc dependent nonapeptide enzyme called thymulin. The job of Thymulin is to complete the development and maturation of T-cells and Natural killer cells(NK) of the immune system. In many Zinc deficient middle-aged persons, the Thymus gland, located behind in the sternum, between the lungs, may have shrunken to about a quarter of its natural size. That means restrained capacity in the maturation of T-Lymphocytes, and, immune responses in a way. The good cheer is that two months of Zinc supplementation often regularises Thymus gland size and capacity.
Zinc deficiency causes poor wound healing. Thus, Zinc supplementation before and after surgery is advisable. Ulcers may accompany the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-histamines. Thus, Zinc as a part of the protocols is not out of place for healing ulcerations. Dr F. BATHMANGHELIDY showed the importance of Zinc to the immune system when he used it to kill the once feared Human Immunodeficiency Virus(HIV) in test tubes. He believed there was no HIV but cells that lack Zinc and the amino acid cysteine. So when he added both to cultured so-called HIV cells, and they reverted to normal cells, Zinc and cysteine, like Selenium, joined HIV therapy protocol. Diabetics and sufferers from Rheumatoid Arthritis(RA) and urinary excrete the pancreas requires a lot of Zinc and make Insulin replenishment and lower high blood cholesterol. Zinc improves libido in men and women. A deficiency in pregnant women may cause low birth weight, pregnancy-related problems such as spontaneous abortions or low progesterone levels, an invitation to cravings for sweet and salty foods. Diminished taste and smell acuity also go back to Zinc. People with low stomach acids who cannot easily digest Zinc, such as old people, may profit from Chelated Zinc. This type of Zinc is attached to another substance which makes Zinc easily soluble and which also attaches to other minerals, including heavy metals. Chelated Zinc is known for removing heavy metals from the organs and the cells to prevent damage to them by these metals.
I would like to wrap it up with the voice of Dr ROBERT ATKINS, who lived ahead of his time as I always say, because his prescriptions as far back as when he documented some of them in one of his books, DR. ATKINS VITA-NUTRIENT SOLUTION, is being validated everywhere on the globe today, after much detours from nutritional medicines. His books are well recommended by this column for the health libraries of serious health seekers. Hear DR. ATKINS, for example, in respect of Zinc and Neurological Illnesses:
“As part of my introduction to nutritional medicine, Dr Carl Pfeiffer taught me that Zinc (along with its supporting mineral, Manganese) is the essential treatment for such serious psychiatric disorders as schizophrenia and clinical depression. He saw schizophrenia as a “misperception syndrome” caused by biochemical imbalances. Hearing voices, for example, was simply a flawed perception that often could be eliminated by giving Zinc, Manganese and B-vitamins. A Zinc deficiency, we now recognize, can be implicated in a whole range of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, dyslexia, acute psychosis, dementia, anorexia nervosa, attention deficit disorder and depression.
Zinc supplements may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The presence of the Zinc-dependent thymus hormone, thymulin, is almost undetectable in people with Alzheimer’s, implying that a Zinc deficiency plays a role in the disease’s onset”.
How else can I conclude all of this but to say (1) our knowledge of Zinc has grown beyond the use of ZINC LOZENGES for cough and sore throat (2) Zinc has also gone beyond use in Calamine Lotion for skin challenges (3)Zinc is that multipurpose mineral which we must seek from foods, from soil that has not been depleted of it and, if we suspect Zinc is gone from the soil, from Zinc supplements of salts.