Bitter Leaf Tree (Gymnanthemum extensum)

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The best use for components of bitter leaf tree (Gymnanthemum extensum, syn. Vernonia amygdalina, Pim Pai Lin; 展枝斑鸠菊 zhan zhi ban jiu ju in Chinese; หนานเฉาเหว่ย nan chao woe in Thai) will vary, depending on your ailment and who you ask. It has a number of folkloric uses that vary by different regions throughout the world, especially in parts of Asia and Africa. Leaves of bitter leaf tree can apparently be used for everything from a crispy substitute for salad greens, to treating parasitic worms, to regulating issues for diabetics, to treating Malaria symptoms. Simply put: Bitter leaf tree is an edible plant that aligns with the thinking that bitter foods are key to digestion support and general well-being.

Bitterness in plants like Gymnanthemum extensum is an evolutionary trait to discourage animals from grazing on it. However tempted herbalists learned that you can offset the bitter taste of the leaves by boiling or soaking them in multiple changes of water. This member of the Asteraceae family varies in size, growing anywhere from a small shrub in some regions, to twenty-foot-high trees in other parts of the world. In the wild, it can be found by a sweet trademark scent, thriving near sources of water like rivers and lakes, or areas with high rainfall and humidity.

Prime harvesting time is during the rainy season, when clipping shoots when water is high will encourage new shoots to grow. Traditional uses of bitter leaf tree include ingestion of water-based extracts for alleged treatment of liver diseases, gastrointestinal issues, bacterial infections, malaria, diabetes, kidney problems, and more. We highly suggest consulting medical professionals before any DIY-doctoring for these issues.

Plant Type:
Evergreen Shrub

Harvest Season:
Year-Round

Mature Size:
Up to 20 ft. Tall

Soil & Moisture:
Rich, Well-draining soil

Light Requirements:
Full Sun

Self-Fertile:
Yes

Growth Rate:
Fast 

Zone Hardiness:
Outdoors 9-11 with frost protection; Patio/Greenhouse 4+

Propagation:
Grown from cutting, ready to harvest within growing season

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