Scientific Name(s): Corchorus olitorius L.
Common Name(s): Bush okra, Jew's mallow, Jute, Jute mallow, Meloukia, Molokhia, Moroheia, Moroheiya, Mulukhiyah (and other spelling variations), Nalta jute, Tassa, Tasso, Wild okra
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jul 22, 2021.
Moroheiya leaf is used to alleviate hunger, nutrient deficiency, and malnutrition in Middle Eastern and African cultures. The plant possesses antioxidant activity and offers protective effects against certain toxicities, including arsenic and lead. The leaves also show potential antimicrobial, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory effects, although there are no clinical trials to support these uses. Folkloric uses include as a laxative, carminative, and diuretic.
15 g of freeze-dried C. olitorius powder preparation with 75 g of glucose in the morning (fasted state) has been used to suppress elevation of postprandial blood glucose levels.
Contraindications have not been identified.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
No known adverse reactions.
A few toxicity-related events have been reported.
The genus Corchorus consists of 50 to 60 species including Corchorus olitorius, a tropical, fast-growing herb reaching a height between 2 and 4 m and with angular stems containing simple, shiny, dark-green, oblong leaves (5 to 15 cm in length) with hair-like teeth at the base. The stem is the main source of jute, which is extracted through a process known as "retting," in which the stems are soaked in water for about a month and treated; a fine, soft fiber with an "attractive sheen" is produced. The mall, bisexual, bright yellow flowers form clusters in the axils of the leaves. The fruits of the plant are cylindrical, ribbed capsules (2 to 5 cm in length) that contain many angular seeds. C. olitorius prefers moist soil. Regions of plant distribution include tropical Africa, Southern and Eastern Asia, Brazil, the Middle East, and the Caribbean.Cumo 2013, DAFF 2012, Jansen Van Rensburg 2007, PFAF 2017, USNPG 2011, WVC 2017
Corchorus cultivation dates to ancient times. Fourth century Greek botanist Theophrastus referred to cultivation of the plant, and Pliny the elder (Roman naturalist and philosopher) was aware that the Egyptians grew Corchorus.Cumo 2013 The renowned 1849 text The Genera of the Plants of the U.S., written by American botanist Asa Gray, includes a description of Corchorus and states the etymology derived from the ancient Greek name for "wild asparagus, or some other wild herb, of unexplained meaning."Gray 1849 Folkloric medicinal uses of C. olitorius include as a laxative, carrninative, and diuretic. It has also been used to treat gonorrhea, cystitis, pain, fever, and tumors.Khan 2006, Ndlovu 2008, PFAF 2017
C. olitoriushas been cultivated for centuries for use both as a fiber and food in Africa, Asia, and India.Cumo 2013, DAFF 2012, Jansen Van Rensburg 2007 The leaves of the plant are consumed as a vegetable in Africa and the Middle East. Rich in nutrients, moroheiya leaf serves as a main dietary source in several tropical countries.Al-Yousef 2017, Ndlovu 2008 When cooked or used as a soup ingredient, the leaves have a mucilaginous, "slimy" texture.Jansen Van Rensburg 2007, WVC 2017 Dried leaves are used as a thickener in soups or to make tea.DAFF 2012 In Egypt, moroheiya is considered a national dish.
Moroheiya leaf contains many vitamins and minerals. Beta-carotene, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, niacin, vitamin C, vitamin E, and phosphorus have been found in the plant.Cumo 2013, Jansen 2004, Ndlovu 2008, WVC 2017 The leaf is one of the best sources of folate (folic acid), containing 32 parts per million on a dry weight basis. Other plants that follow for folic acid content are spinach, endive, asparagus, parsley, okra, and cabbage.Duke 2003 Another report confirms the high folate content of moroheiya leaf and finds that drying the leaves can not only serve to preserve the plant, but does not affect folic acid content.Chen 1981
C. olitorius also contains relatively high amounts of protein and fiber. Protein content in the mucilage is 44.8% compared with 20.3% for okra. Fiber content in moroheiya leaf is 8.25% compared with 2% in okra.Adetuyi 2014 Another study demonstrated the leaves of the plant contain more crude protein and fiber than cabbage.Ndlovu 2008 Gum has been extracted from C. olitorius fresh leaves and used for its binding properties in formulation of experimental tablets; certain parameters demonstrated comparative efficacy to the commercial binder sodium carboxymethylcellulose.Osonwa 2012
Other compounds found in moroheiya leaves include triterpenes, ionones, and sterols.Khan 2006 Polysaccharides are also present, and consist of rhamnose, glucose, galacturonic, and glucuronic acids.Ohtani 1995 Phenolics isolated from the leaves include astragalin, isoquercitrin, and 2 coumarin glycosides (scopolin and cichoriine), as well as chlorogenic acid.Yoshikawa 1998 Six phenolic antioxidants were identified from C. olitorius leaves, with 5-caffeoylquinic acid being the most predominant.Azuma 1999 Omega-3 fatty acid concentrations in the leaves (49% of total fatty acid content) were among the highest of any other reported vegetable.Mahmoud 2016 In addition, other fatty acids have been described.Yoshikawa 1997 Leaf dry oils, rich in hydrocarbons and fatty acids, were also identified in the plant.Al-Yousef 2017
Uses and Pharmacology
In vitro data
The antitumor effects of moroheiya leaf have been investigated. An ethanolic extract of C. olitorius leaf demonstrated apoptosis via a mitochondriadependent pathway in human hepatocellular carcinoma cells.Li 2012 A methanol extract of the plant demonstrated antitumor activity, with one of the tested compounds found to be related to curcumin, a known anticancer agent.Taiwo 2016 Both seed and leaf extracts of C. olitorius demonstrated cytotoxic actions in human multiple myeloma cells.Darcansoy 2013 Another report describes taxol and related compounds produced by a fungus (Grammothele lineata) isolated from C. olitorius. Not only was G. lineata determined to be an excellent source of taxol, the extracted taxol exhibited cytotoxic activity, and the fungal extract also exhibited antifungal and antibacterial actions against various pathogens.Das 2017
Animal and in vitro data
Anti-inflammatory effects from several C. olitorius fractions, including plant leaf parts, have been reported.Yan 2013 Other studies confirm these actions, demonstrating reduction of carrageenan-induced rat paw edema from certain extracts and plant parts.Handoussa 2013, Owoyele 2015
Animal and in vitro data
Pain-relieving activity was observed in mice given an aqueous extract of the leaves; the authors concluded the antinociceptive activity may be partially peripherally mediated via an opioid receptor.Zakaria 2005 Certain leaf isolates of the plant inhibited histamine release from rat cells.Yoshikawa 1997 Fatty acids from moroheiya leaves demonstrated an inhibitory effect on lipopolysaccharide-induced nitric oxide production in mouse macrophages.Yoshikawa 1998
In a study investigating C. olitorius leaf fiber in both rats and humans, blood glucose elevations were decreased in rats given the preparation compared to those administered placebo.Innami 2005
In 7 adult males given 15 g of freeze-dried C. olitorius powder preparation with 75 g of glucose in the morning (fasted state), postprandial blood glucose level suppression was observed compared to control subjects. This effect is possibly explained by delayed absorption of glucose due to the mucilaginous property of the soluble dietary leaf fiber preparation.Innami 2005
Animal and in vitro data
Antimicrobial activity of C. olitorius leaves has been reported. Moderate antimicrobial activity has been observed with leaf oils.Al-Yousef 2017 One report found strong growth inhibition (in excess of 96%) of C. olitorius against malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.Sathiyamoorthy 1999 Different extracts of moroheiya leaf were tested against certain bacterial and fungal organisms. The petroleum ether extract was most active, inhibiting all bacterial strains tested, including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Yersinia enterocolitica. An ethyl acetate plus water extract of C. olitorius demonstrated good activity against Geotrichum candidum and Botlytis cinerea fungal strains.Ilhan 2007 Antibacterial activity has also been demonstrated against Corynebacterium diptheria, Kocuria rhizophila, S. aureus, Bacillus cereus, and Staphylococcus epidermidis, among others; C. olitorius was comparable with standard antibiotics.Zakaria 2006 A later report investigated antimicrobial effects of the roots, seeds, and leaf parts of the plant, with the leaves exhibiting the least amount of antibacterial activity.Kalhoro 2014 A West African study distributing questionnaires to farmers and "traditherapists" regarding medicinal plants they use for human and animal salmonelloses found C. oliturius was among the most cited for treatment of typhoid fever in humans.Dougnon 2017
In vitro data
Antioxidant properties of both hydrophilic and lipophilic extract constituents of the leaves (flavonoid and nonflavonoid polyphenols, ascorbic acid, and carotenoids) have been demonstrated.Oboh 2009 Caffeoylquinic acid in C. oliturius leaf was found to be a predominant antioxidant in another report.Azuma 1999 A powder made from the leaves and added to rice flour increased antioxidant activity compared with nonenriched controls.Morsy 2015
C. olitorius leaves are consumed as a vegetable in Middle Eastern and African cultures. Due to moroheiya's high nutritional profile, it has been studied as an inexpensive source of protein and fiber, and for use in alleviating hunger, nutrient deficiency, and malnutrition.Adetuyi 2014, Jansen 2004, Ndlovu 2008 Its high folate concentration may aid in infertility and may prevent spinal birth defects.Duke 2003
Due to considerable amounts of flavonoids, phenolics, and other similar compounds, moroheiya leaf possesses protective effects from certain toxicities. It has demonstrated protection against ethanol-induced gastric mucosal hemorrhagic lesions in rats.Al Batran 2013 In one study, rice contaminated with arsenic, a toxicant affecting organs such as the liver, kidney, spleen, and heart tissues, was administered in rats. Several of these toxicities were minimized with C. olitorius leaf supplementation.Hosen 2016 Similarly, treatment with the leaves prior to arsenic intoxication offered protective effects in myocardial tissues in rats.Das 2010 Reports concluded protective effects occurred when C. oliturius leaves were used against arsenic-induced oxidative stress in rat brainDas 2010 and arsenic-induced hepatic and renal toxicity in rats.Das 2010 The leaves also offer protection against lead,Dewanjee 2013 cadmium,Dewanjee 2013 and potassium dichromate toxicities in rats.Akinwumi 2016
15 g of freeze-dried C. olitorius powder preparation with 75 g of glucose in the morning (fasted state) has been used to suppress elevation of postprandial blood glucose levels.Innami 2005
None well documented.
No known adverse reactions.
A few toxicity-related events have been reported with use of moroheiya leaf. A report analyzing heavy metal levels in edible vegetables grown in certain areas of Nigeria concluded that C. olitorius has the ability to absorb more copper and nickel, and less cadmium, compared with the other plants tested.Yusuf 2003 A mold contamination study conducted on moroheiya leaves in Egyptian regions found the collected samples were free of mycotoxins.Youssef 2008
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