COVID-19/Immune Booster: Fortify Soups with Ukazi, Oha, Uziza, Iru, Ogiri, Others- FUTA Researchers

Uziza leaf

The combiation

Ukazi, oha, uziza, ogiri, iru and related Spices, herbs, seasonings and flavouring materials that are derived from plant origin contain bioactive compounds that are anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hypertensive in nature. A group of food experts from the Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA said when these are consumed in sufficient quantity under proper method of preparation; they can boost/balance the immune system to fight against infections especially as in the case of corona virus. The researchers led by Oluwatooyin Osundahunsi , a Nutrition Expert and Professor of Food Science and Technology , have therefore advised Nigerians to identify the natural spices available in their localities; make more use of them in their food preparation and consume less of the processed flavorings. This, according to them will strengthen/balance immune system and give them a better defense against infection

Other common spices , herbs, seasonings and flavouring materials identified by the researchers who described them as Primer for Health and Wellness and agents for balancing immune system include ginger; garlic or Ayu; onions, ‘alubosa; alligator pepper, ‘atare’; lemon grass; ‘utazi’ leaves, ‘arokeke’, bushbuck; uziza; calabash nutmeg’, ‘ehuru’ ‘ariwo; uda; turmeric, ‘ata ile pupa’; pepper, ‘ata’; mmimmi bark; efinrin’; sweet basil or scent leaf; curry leaf; cloves and condiments like ‘iru’, ‘ogiri’, “ogiri-okpei”, ‘achii’ and ‘dawadawa’. They said Oxidative stress has been implicated in development of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cancers. However, 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. According to their most recent work on soup preparation using locally available spices such as: Ukazi, Oha and Uziza the antioxidant capacity showed Uziza had the highest antioxidant, followed by “Ukazi”, while “Oha” had the least.

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 neutralization 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.

The researchers said using adequate amounts and regular consumption of spices provide 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. This can be attested to based on patients that recovered from Covid-19 pandemic, while most of the death cases were said to have had underlining sicknesses that probably have lowered the immunity of the deceased. Oxidative stress has been implicated in development of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cancers.

Unlike fruits and vegetables, spices are seldomly eaten alone but in company of other foods like soups, gravies, stew, drinking soup, and pepper soup. On some occasions for medicinal purposes, they are blended with some vegetables in traditional medicine. Spices are rich in phytochemicals active in immune-balancing or immune-boosting natural properties. Phenolic acids of both hydroxybezoic and hyroxycinnamic acids like gallic, protocatechuic, caffeic, coumaric, ferulic and sinapic acids with some flavonoids of the classes; flavonols, flavones, flavanones, flavanols or catechins, isoflavones, flavanonols and anthocyanidins occur naturally in these plant-based food materials. The researchers advised Nigerians, while cultivating the habit of eating healthy through the application of the identified spices in controlled and moderate quantities in soups, to observe the guidelines prescribed by the appropriate health authorities in the ongoing battle against the Corona Virus pandemic

The Vice Chancellor of FUTA, Professor Joseph Fuwape, said the University has tasked its leading faculty members and researchers to intensify their contributions to the generation of ideas and development of products that will solve societal problems and lead to the advancement of the country.