Eru is the dark green leaf of a creeping plant, which actually belongs to the family of vines and grows in shades. It is wide-spread and used in soups in Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon, Angola, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. Its local names are Eru or Kok in Cameroon, Okasie or Afang in Nigeria, Koko in Gabon, Central Africa Republic and Angola; and Fumbua in Democratic Republic of Congo.
For our botany friends, it is scientifically called Gnetum africanum, which belongs to the Kingdom Plantae; Division Gnetophyta; Class Gnetopsida; Order Gnetales and Family Gnetaceae.
Its health benefits stem from its high protein, water as well as fat-soluble vitamins, mineral, fibre and antioxidant content. Eru is low in energy. Eru has hypoglycemic action for reasons mentioned below, thus its use in the traditional management of Diabetes mellitus.
What are the health benefits of Eru
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) in Eru helps improve energy levels by facilitating carbohydrate metabolism . Vit B2 is also said to help against migraine attacks.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) in Eru increases blood flow in the body. It thus helps against stiffness and pain caused by arthritis and improves cardiovascular health. It also helps lower blood lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides).
- Vitamin E (Tocopherol) in Eru is a powerful antioxidant which protects the red blood cell from hemolysis, boosts the immune response, reduces the risk of myocardial infarction by reducing the oxidation of low density lipoprotein.
- Eru has carotenoids which are well-known for their antioxidant effects in the body. Antioxidants help protect against cell damage, in so doing it protects against cancer, early aging and is good for heart health. Carotenoids have also been said to be good for male reproductive health.
- Eru has flavonoids, alkaloids and tannins with antioxidant properties that have been associated with hypoglycemic activity by inhibiting brush boarder enzymes. This could be another explanation for the usage of Eru in the traditional management of diabetes mellitus.
- Eru’s high dietary fibre decreases the absorption of cholesterol from the gut in addition to delaying the digestion and conversion of starch to simple sugars; an important factor in the management of diabetes mellitus.
- Eru is good for bone and teeth health: Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorous are important minerals found in Eru which are important constituents of the bones and teeth.
- Calcium in Eru functions as calmodulin binding regulatory protein, and mediates the excitation and contraction of the muscle fibers.
- Eru is rich in Magnesium which plays a role in insulin sensitivity. Another reason why ERu is good in the management of diabetes.
- Eru is rich in Iron, which transports oxygen to body tissues, and is involved in cellular respiration. It also influences glucose metabolism, insulin action as well as interferes with insulin inhibition of glucose production by the liver
- Zinc found in Eru helps in the healing of wounds. It also plays a key role in the regulation of insulin production by pancreatic tissues and glucose utilization by muscles and fat cells. Yet another reason why Eru is used in diabetes management.
- Last but not least, Eru has also been found to have high levels of iodine, which is important for the good functioning of thyroid gland. Iodine prevents against goiter.
Niacin in Eru could lead to high levels of uric acid in the body and this can cause gout attacks.Eru’s high fibre and niacin content may cause bowels irritation. If not properly washed, Eru may contain spores of organisms like Amoeba which could lead to Diarrhea.