Growing up in West Africa with six children in a household, I never recall our ever getting sick from things like the flu, the cold, or malaria; ever.
My mother was a very modern, contemporary woman yet like most African mothers, she believed in the healing power of herbs. Once a week, she would gather all six children around the family dining table, and give us a purging type of concoction that made your stomach reel in convulsions just from the sheer and utter bitterness. Sometimes, she would throw in some cod liver oil; I think she really liked to see us children squirm. But you know what? We never got sick. We never picked up any viruses or spreadable diseases when we went to school. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall any of my school mates ever not coming to school because they were sick; it would have been a rare occasion indeed.
Cleansing and working with herbs is an ancient African tradition. When we get fevers, female problems, aches and pain, or whatever else, we use herbs and plants that grow in the field, mud from the earth, water from the stream, and pot liquid from the decocted bitter greens to heal ourselves and our families.
One such plant is okra. Okra or Okro, Abelmoschus esculentus, is valued for its edible green seed pods and frequently found in various African soups across the continent.
Okra has a highly nutrient-rich profile containing significant amounts of magnesium, folate, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants such as Vitamin C, K1, and A.
Okra is not commonly eaten here in the West mostly because of its slimy texture. The slime okra is known for is called mucilage, and is most beneficial so removing it or cooking okra at high heat strips all of its healing benefits. African women eat okra during pregnancy to facilitate an easier and fast natural delivery and because of its high folate content. Okra's high fiber, low calorie, and mucilage content are also ideal for helping with digestion, lowering blood sugar, and removing toxins from the body.
Cooking okra the Nigerian way with herbs, spices, and bitter greens creates such a flavorful profile that is deeply satisfying to the body.