Ukazi, oha, uziza, iru are common vegetables and spices used in cooking delicious local dishes, but researchers at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) say they have natural anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive properties useful for boosting the immune system.
They advised Nigerians to fortify their meals with these herbs and spices to strengthen their immunity against the coronavirus disease.
The COVID-19 is known to cause inflammation of the lungs leading to damage of the vital organ or death in severe or critical cases. Also, oxidative stress has been identified in development of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cancers.
However, food experts from FUTA said since spices, herbs and seasoning/flavouring agents contain bioactive compounds that are antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hypertensive in nature they could help to fight off diseases by strengthening the immune system.
They advised Nigerians to consume the vegetables and spices in sufficient quantity using proper preparation methods to boost their immunity against COVID-19 and other infections.
Professor of Food Science and Technology Oluwatoyin Osundahunsi, who led the research team that identified the foods, also advised against consumption of processed flavourings.
Other local foods and spices on the researchers’ list are: ginger, garlic, onions, alligator pepper, lemon grass, utazi leaves, arokeke, calabash nutmeg, ehuru, uda, tumeric (ata ile pupa), pepper, mmimmi (pepper fruit) efinrin (sweet basil or scent leaf); curry leaf; and condiments like locust beans (iru, ogiri, dawadawa) “ogiri-okpei“, and achii.
According to their most recent work on soup preparation, the researchers said ukazi, oha and uziza contain antioxidant properties – with Uziza having the highest, followed by ukazi and oha.
Speaking on how the food works in the body, they said: “The remarkable free radical scavenging effect of all the ingredients may be connected with the high phenolic content of the spices/vegetables.
The mechanism of action may involve the prevention of free radical production or neutralisation of existing free radicals.
Another work on ehuru demonstrated that the potent antioxidant property of the spice suggest their potential in combating free radical-mediated diseases and other health complications.
The prominent antioxidant effect of ‘ehuru‘ in the study was due to its highest content of phenolic compounds. Consequently, phytoconstituents that are present in the spices may contribute to their overall health-promoting activities.
“Using adequate amounts and regular consumption of spices provides the body with strong immunity against infection and diseases.
Even when an infection seems unavoidable by a sudden outbreak as witnessed in the case of COVID-19, the effect will be controlled and curtailed by the strengthened/balanced immunity,” they said.
FUTA Vice Chancellor Prof. Joseph Fuwape said the university has urged its faculty and researchers to intensify their contributions to ideas and products that solve societal problems.