African Oil Bean Seed: 20 Amazing Health Benefits Of Ukpaka/Ugba You Never Knew

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African Oil Bean Seed – Many developing countries in the world are faced with the problem of meeting up with the increasing food demand.

Consequently, different ways of dealing with the situation have been adopted as a means of supplementing other main staple food in order to deal with the challenge of malnutrition and poor feeding in these parts of the world.

Nigeria is not left out in this quest to meet up with the needed daily measure of nutrients necessary for a healthy life and although the country has several staple foods such as rice, maize, beans, cassava, etc, there is still a great need to supplement these food products with certain unpopular food that are equally packed with loads of essential nutrients and vitamins needed for the healthy functioning of the body.

One of such not-so-popular yet essential food is the African oil bean seed.

Many foods like the African oil bean seed is a nutrient-packed natural food that has been under-exploited and as a result it calls for immediate attention to be massively tapped into.

For those who do not know, the African oil bean seed, also known by its scientific name, Pentaclethra macrophylla, is a native to the tropical regions of Africa and has been cultivated since 1937. The crop belongs to the leguminoseae family and the mimosoideae sub-family.

The African oil bean tree grows approximately 6 meters in girth and 21 meters height.  The tree is low-branched with low wide buttresses and an open crown that allows light to penetrate under its canopy.

Its bark has a reddish-brown to gray colour with irregular patches that usually flakes off while the leaves are characterised by a big angular stalk that measures about 20-45 centimeters long.

The leaves are also glabrous in appearance and are equally covered with rusty hairs with 10 to 12 pairs of stout pinnae. The tree trunk gives out reddish orange coloured fluid when cut. It is also buttressed and crooked.

Different Nigerian tribes identify the African oil bean by different names. For instance, the Igbos call it ukpaka or ugba, in Yoruba, it is known as Apara while the Efik tribe call it Ukana.

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The glossy, brown seeds which is the most widely used part of the African oil bean average eight in number and are contained in a flattened pod that explodes when ripe, dispersing the seeds all over the area close to where the tree is situated.

The pods are black in colour, quite hard and woody in appearance.

African Oil Bean Seed

As nutritious as the seed is, studies have revealed that unfermented African oil bean seeds contain traces of a poisonous alkaloid known as paucine, small amounts of caffeoylputrescine, a growth depressant, bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, as well as molds that can produce mycotoxins in foods. Hence, before it becomes fit for consumption, it must undergo fermentation process to eradicate any unwanted toxins.

Even though the African oil bean seeds is a proven source of energy, protein, amino acids (44 percent protein, with all twenty essential amino acids), phosphorus, magnesium, iron, vitamins, calcium, manganese and copper, as well as an excellent source of phytonutrients such as tannins, alkaloids, flavonoids, sterols, glycosides and saponins, studies reveal that the fermentation process which they undergo before consumption usually removes most of these minerals and vitamins such as phosphorus.

Health Benefits Of African Oil Bean Seed

1. Eating a good amount of African Oil bean seed reduces the likelihood of developing cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil,  varying in degree from slight to complete opacity and obstructing the passage of light.

In addition to relieving the impaired vision that comes with the eye disease, oil bean seed can also help in the prevention of cataracts as well.

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2. Studies have shown that the African oil bean seed has the capability of reducing cancer growth. A comparative study carried out in Nigeria revealed that cancer patients who ate fermented African oil bean seeds during the research period recorded a great reduction in cancer risks unlike those who did not.

3. The rich mineral composition of fermented seed makes it a good, low-cost source of protein. Increased intake of the seed as food increases haemoglobin values in test animals according to the Journal of Nutrition and Wellness.

Increased oxygenation of tissue enhances specific hormones that stimulate the production of red blood cells important in proper cardiac function.



4. Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the African oil bean, both the bark and seeds can be used for producing local ointment for treating itches, insects bites, cuts and wounds.

5. From a little research conducted, it was found out that 87% of working class people are suffering from insomnia. Insomnia can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and lack of energy. It also can make one feel anxious, depressed, or irritable.

To solve this problem easily, mix the liquid of the fermented seed with honey and take one spoon every day for two weeks and sleep like a baby.

6. African oil bean seeds contain saponins and alkaloids that possess antibacterial properties thus can be used for fighting Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumonia and Bacillus subtilis.

7. Researchers in Africa discovered that the fermented seed of African oil bean could be used to prevent and cure heart failure. So, it has both preventive and curative ability.

8. African oil bean seeds can be used for preparing herbal medicines for treating infertility.

9. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

Some people call this fowl sickness because of the similarity with neurological disorder in fowls but whatever be the case. This African oil bean corrects such neurological disorder not immediately but with two or three years.

10. The African oil bean seed can be crushed and mixed with red ants for inducing abortion while the seeds, bark and leaves of the tree have been proven effective for tackling gonorrhea.

11. Oil extracted from the seed is found to be effective for the treatment of diarrhea. The seed can also be used to treat anemia since it increases the amount of hemoglobin.

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12. The seed of African oil bean is a rich source of saponins, which have been proven effective for reducing the plasma cholesterol, however, it is important to note that saponins are toxic.

13. African oil bean contains sterols which have proved to be effective for tackling microbes such as Staphylococcus aureus.

Other benefits of the African Oil Bean are as follows:

14. For the treatment of leprosy sores, the anthelmintic bark of the African oil bean tree can be crushed and decocted then applied to the affected areas.

15. The pods can be used for treating convulsion while smoke from burnt African oil bean leaves can also be used for treating convulsion.

16. Because the bark of the African oil bean tree exhibits anthelmintic properties, it can be used for preparing herbal medicines for treating and destroying parasitic worms.

17. The leaves of the African oil bean tree can be extracted with bush pepper and taken for treating fever.

18. For controlling overweight and obesity, African oil bean plant can be taken as a nutritional and vitamin supplement since it is a rich source of phytoestrogens.

19. The oil bean seeds are used for the treatment of stomach disorders and inflammation. The pods are burnt to ashes by the Yoruba, added to oil or shea butter and applied to boils and inflammations.

20. The African oil bean seeds are an excellent source of oil thus can be used commercially for producing soap, candles and cooking oil.

The edible seeds are enclosed in brownish shells, which can be used for decoration and for making beads, traditional dancing costumes, dresses, rosaries, hand bangles, bags and necklaces. The wood serves as firewood and can also be used for generating charcoals.